[tl:gallery index=0 size=103×155]Our Gentleman Jack Bancroft is an irredeemable motorcaravaning enthusiast. His family have been camping, caravanning and motorcaravanning since 1928. Jack and his wife Flora are now on their tenth motorhome, a 2003 Auto-Sleeper Pollensa on a Ford Transit base. They have toured extensively at home and abroad, including a period of full-timing. Here, Jack answers your motorcaravanning queries:
Q: We are contemplating buying a new ’van from either France, Belgium or Holland in the next two or three months but we’re a bit confused about its registration.
We would bring the ’van back to the UK where we live until April of next year when we would be off around Europe for a period expected to be more than 12 months.
Can we leave the ’van on foreign plates while we’re still living in the UK? And what do we do once we’ve left?
Roger and Julia Newman
A: The official standpoint is that in any EU country you are allowed to drive a vehicle on another EU country’s registration plates for up to six months in any 12. This can be extended by a maximum of 12 months by approaching the highway and vehicle licensing authority in the country the vehicle is a guest in.
In practice, a ‘blind eye’ is frequently turned providing the vehicle is licenced, insured and (M0T) tested, if applicable, in the home country for the entire duration of the visit of up to 12 months. Having said that, I’m pretty sure that the default position remains that it is illegal for a UK resident to use a foreign registered car in the UK for anything longer than a ‘visit’.
The most common way of importing a new ’van is to pay for temporary registration plates and insurance in Europe, buy the vehicle tax free, drive it to the UK and then re-register it in the UK and pay UK VAT. (Only buy from a dealer who can arrange the temporary insurance and registration plates.) You can pay the VAT at source in another European country and then import it to the UK and register it. However, I’ve been advised that the Inland Revenue have the power to demand the difference between the rates of VAT.
While savings over buying a LHD ’van in the UK can be dramatic, they are often illusory. I would buy pre-owned and save the first year’s depreciation hit instead. There are companies that will source a ’van for you in Europe and bring it back to the UK and make all the necessary arrangements regarding taxes, registration etc. I have no experience of them myself but several readers have recommended Bundesvan (www.bundesvan.co.uk).
Personally, I would buy a pre-owned, UK-registered LHD ’van from a UK dealer who performed well in our annual Qwner Satisfaction Awards. Remember you don’t want the cheapest but the best value.