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Re-importing a car from Spain back to the UK [the procedure]

Re-importing a car from Spain back to the UK [the procedure]

Re-importing a car from Spain back to the UK can be well worth it if you have a classic car, specialist vehicle or simply a car you don’t want to leave behind or sell.

In 2020 our Mitsubishi Shogun arrived outside our warehouse in Spain. The import process was long, tedious, complicated and at times just farcical – read the full post on how we imported the Mitzy in 2020.

After we’d made the decision to relocate back to the UK we had two options as far as the Shogun was concerned and that was to sell it and fly over or keep it and drive home. For me it was always going to be the latter, the vehicle was certainly worth it, difficult to replace and an easier option. There would of course be the small matter of re-importing the vehicle once we got back to the UK.

re-importing a car from spain to the uk
filling up in France on the way home fully loaded

This post is about how we re-imported our Shogun back into the UK from Spain.

Re-importing a car from spain back to the uk

The first thing we did was get our driving licenses changed – it is worth noting that if you swapped your UK license for a Spanish one you will have lost your C1 classification however when you submit your Spanish license to change it back to a UK one you will get your C1 classification back so you can legally drive up to 7.5t again. We also re-attached our old towbar which had to be removed in Spain.

When you are moving back to the UK from abroad you can do what is called a ‘transfer of residency’. This allows relief from paying tax and import duties an certain items [vehicles included] When filling out the forms you have the option to give the details of any vehicles you are bringing back to the UK with you. You have to notify HMRC of your intention to permanently import the vehicle within 15 days of arrival.

You will also need to get a V55/5 form the DVLA. The V55/5 looks like a complicated form to fill in and you will need to sit with it armed with all your vehicle details. Note: Having spoken to the DVLA we were informed that the V55/5 is a form designed to cover almost every vehicle and as such not all information requested on the form will be relevant so don’t worry if you can’t fill in every box or answer every question.

online vehicle checker
declared SORN automatically while import procedure in progress

As soon as you receive your UK driving license back [takes around 2 weeks] then you can no longer legally drive your foreign registered car on UK roads which is problematic. What you can do however is drive to a pre booked MOT station so get your MOT booked as soon as possible. ***The MOT will be done using the chassis number.***

Once the vehicle has passed the MOT you can now tax the vehicle – This is done by enclosing a cheque with the V55/5 form. You will also need to enclose a copy of your UK driving license, MOT cert and the Spanish documents for the vehicle.

Now you play the waiting game, it pays to keep tabs on the .gov website and keep checking the vehicle status – when it changes from SORN to ‘taxed’ then this pretty much means that the vehicle has been imported and your new V5C will be on it’s way.

re-importing a car from spain to the uk
we still had the old plates to stick straight back on

We spoke to two people at the DVLA. The first said we had to wait until the V5 arrived in the post before we could drive the car. The second said we could go ahead and drive the car so long as it was insured… We insured the Shogun, put on the plates and started driving, the car was legal.

Costs & fees

  • Vehicle tax [dependent on vehicle]
  • MOT £54.00 [depending on garage]
  • DVLA £55.00 [not always required/details on document]

Do I go back on the old number plates?

We did but it is not guaranteed. The quickest way to find out is to enter your old reg into the .gov website and if your tax status changes you’ll be keeping the old plates.

In brief step by step

  • Fill in the transfer of residency form [if you are moving back to the UK to live]
  • Apply for UK driving license
  • Get vehicle MOT’d
  • Fill out the V55/5 form and send to DVLA with car tax payment, MOT cert, copy of driving license + Spanish car docs
  • Wait for your new V5C logbook to arrive [or keep checking online]
  • Fit UK number plates and insure the vehicle

How long does it take?

The length of time it all takes is going to vary, in our case it took two weeks and this was just prior to Christmas [we got sorted on Dec 21st]. On the DVLA website it says it can take up to six weeks so plan for that, if you get sorted out earlier then it’s a bonus.

What do you get back?

Arriving in the post separately you will receive a letter from the DVLA stating that the vehicle has been registered and you have paid the road tax etc. You also get your foreign paperwork back as well as the hard copy of the UK MOT.

uk car details online
All done, taxed, mot’d and re-imported

A word on insurance

The MOT will be done using the vehicle’s chassis number not the registration so when it comes to obtaining a car insurance quote many companies [especially low risk companies] won’t do it as your car will show up as having no MOT even though you’ve just had one done. This makes sense as while your vehicle is still roadworthy in it’s country of ‘registration’ that means nothing when it comes to the details held on the UK database.

The only way around it is to wait until you get the nod from the DVLA and they send you your new V5. Up until that point the car will still be being ‘imported’ as far as paperwork is concerned. Once you have your new V5 then the vehicle status for tax/mot etc will be updated and you can get UK insurance. Note that it can take 5 working days for the system to catch up.

It is worth noting that as soon as your car is registered on the UK database again as re-imported your existing foreign insurance will not be valid as the vehicle will now have a different registration and be registered in another country [UK]. It is therefore very important not to drive the vehicle until you have received the V5/or are sure the vehicle is on UK database – and bought insurance from a UK provider.


k90 overland
1600 900 Mac


K90overland is Mac and Gayle, they lived in Andalucia for 19 years before moving back to the UK. Overlanding since 2019 the pair have built up a 'budget rig' and now enjoy a relaxed approach to discovering Scotland and the north of England.

  • Hi
    Can I ask you if this was the process before or after the EU Withdrawal Agreement on 1st February 2020.

    We are returning with our UK car in April 2024, which will still be on Spanish registered plates. Just wondering if the process will be different now that we’ve left the EU.

    • Hi Jacqui, I completed the process in December 2023 so it was all done after Brexit, I also went back onto the same original number plates. As long as the vehicle was originaly exported from the UK then you won’t have any problems. Mac

  • Hi,
    Can I ask, what did you need to do on the Spanish side in terms of DGT? Did you need to deregister the car in Spain? How do you cancel the car circulation tax in Spain?

    Or can we literally drive out of here and start the registration on the UK side? (Car is also originally from UK exported in 2019 and returning April 2024)

    • Hi Sean, according to our gestor once you register the car back in the UK it is no longer registered in Spain [I have have however read several differing stories on this]. As far as the tax is concerned, this is cancelled when you de-register from your town hall. There will no doubt be differing opinions on this… Essentially we just left, cancelled our padron registration and re-imported the car back to the UK with no intention of returning to Spain in any capacity. My best advice would be to speak to your gestor to be double sure.

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