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Buying a Car in the UK: FAQs Answered

New to the UK and need to buy a car? 

Buying a car can be quite a complicated process, especially when you’re new to the country. To help you get settled here in the UK, we’ve answered some common questions about buying a car. 

Can I buy a car without a UK credit score?

There isn’t a minimum credit score (sometimes called credit history) to buy a car in the UK, but it can be tricky if you don’t have one at all.

If you’re going to pay for the car in full, you won’t need a UK credit score. But if you’re getting a loan to buy the car or if you’re buying your car on finance, there’s a high chance that you’ll get asked about your credit score. 

Some car manufacturers are more concerned about UK credit scores than others. During our chat with expat influencer Ashika D’Souza (@AbsolutelyAshika), she revealed that Skoda, Volkswagen, Seat and BMW sell cars to expats on finance. 

She said: “We went to BMW and they were extremely efficient. They asked for my husband’s pay slips, saw the salary bracket and were able to give us a car without a credit history.” For more tips on moving to the UK from Ashika, you can read our blog here.

Remember, buying a car on finance often has different rules in the UK compared to other countries. Make sure you check all the paperwork properly before signing anything.

Do I need to do any checks on the car?

Yes, there are a few things to look at in terms of paperwork and ownership. Make sure to check:

  • that the car has a logbook, sometimes called V5C document. 
  • the MOT history for any issues. Make sure the car has had regular MOTs, look at the mileage and find out when the next MOT is due. 
  • that the car matches the DVLA’s records by using this online form here.
  • that the manufacturer or the Driver and Vehicle Standards Agency hasn’t recalled the car, or any part of the car, for safety reasons.  
  • that the car hasn’t been stolen. To do this, see if the logbook (V5C) has a DVL watermark and make sure it has the correct serial number. The government website has information on how to do this here. If you find out that the car being sold is a stolen car, you’ll need to let the police know.   

You should also check the physical condition of the car itself, especially if you’re buying a used car. Make sure to look at:

  • the condition of the car. A used car will probably have some scratches, but make sure you’re getting a fair price for any noticeable wear and tear. Take a look at the interiors too. 
  • the engine. To do this, turn the car on and make sure the engine isn’t making any strange noises. If you can, let the seller know that you’d like to test the engine cold before you go and view the car. It’s much easier to spot issues when testing a cold engine.
  • the tyres, using a tyre tread depth gauge. Make sure the tread on the tyres is above the legal minimum (1.6mm), though 3mm is the recommended tread depth for safe driving. 
  • the brakes. Do a test drive and, only if it’s safe to, an emergency stop to check the brakes work properly. But remember - you can’t take the car for a test drive if you and/or the seller don’t have insurance that will cover you. 
  • any modifications made to the car as you’ll need to let your insurer know about them. Think wheel arches, changes to the exhaust, new seats, and so on. Remember, car modifications can make your car insurance more expensive.

How do I register a car in my name?

If you’re buying a new car, the dealer will probably register it for you. You’ll then get sent a logbook (V5C) in the post. 

If you’re buying a used car, the seller can also register it for you. They can do this online or by post. At the end of this process, you should get a new logbook (V5C) and a green new keeper slip. 

What is UK road tax? 

Road tax is a tax that car owners legally have to pay in the UK. If you buy a used car, the previous owner’s car tax does not automatically transfer to you.  

To road tax your car, you can use the reference number from the car logbook (V5C) - just make sure the logbook is in your name first. Or use the reference number on the green new keeper slip (again it needs to be in your name). When your road tax is due to be renewed, you’ll get a V11 letter in the post with a reference number. You can then use this letter to renew your road tax. 

If you get caught driving your car without your road tax properly set up, you could be charged with a fine. Make sure to tax your car before driving it. 

Do I need car insurance to drive my new car home?

In the UK, car insurance is a legal requirement. That means you cannot drive home from the dealership or garage unless you have UK car insurance

Need UK car insurance? We can help with that. We save expats and migrants up to 45% on their premium by getting to know their driving experience better. Find out more here

Will my insurance be cheaper if I buy a new or a used car? 

Unfortunately, there’s no clear answer to this. The age, make, model and general condition of the car all affect the price of your insurance. New cars tend to be safer on the road, which can lead to cheaper insurance. But, sometimes, new cars actually cost more to insure as they’re more likely to get stolen than older cars. 

Confused? We would be, too.

Don’t worry too much about the price of insurance when buying a car in the UK. Prioritise finding a safe, affordable car that supports your new life here. You’ll probably use your car a lot more than you originally planned to - especially if you’re based outside of a city. 

Where can I find cheaper UK car insurance for expats? 

Once you’ve bought your car, get a quote from us. Here at Marshmallow, we’re on a mission to make car insurance more affordable.

In fact, we save expats and migrants around £230 a year on car insurance by looking at their claim-free driving outside of the UK. Find out more here.