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Buying a Left Hand Drive Car in the United Kingdom

By James | Last updated: October 2019* | 8 Comments

This post is part of a series on importing a car into Portugal. This post covers the actual buying of the car in the UK. Other posts in this series discuss importing a car into Portugal, UK car insurance companies that offer long-term European cover, and breakdown cover for long-term European stays.

Both new and second hands cars are expensive in Portugal — and other European countries like Spain and France for that matter — and many people choose to save money by buying a LHD car in the UK and importing it into Portugal.

The upside to this is that it’s usually cheaper to buy a second hand LHD car in the UK than it is in Portugal. Although there are specialist LHD dealerships in England, it’s still a very niche market. Most LHD cars that arrive in the UK are brought in by expats returning to live in the UK, or continental Europeans moving to the UK for work. In both cases, the sellers are usually looking to get rid of them so that they can purchase a right-hand drive.

The downside is the cost (and often challenge) of importing the car. This is discussed more in another article; however, the main point here is that you should decide if financially it would be cheaper to import a car or to simply buy a car in Portugal.

Where to find Portuguese registered cars in the UK

  • Autotrader – Most LHD dealers will list their cars on Autotrader and it’s quite common for private sellers to use Autotrader to sell their cars as well. Click ‘more options’ to use the advanced search and add the ‘lhd’ to the keywords. You can also try searching for ‘Portuguese’ if you’re looking specifically for Portuguese plates.

Normal car dealerships will sometimes end up with a LHD if it gets used as part of a trade in. They’ll normally post on Autotrader.

  • Gumtree – Gumtree is another good place to look as its used by both private and commercial sellers. Again, search for ‘lhd’. You can also trying searching for ‘lhd Portuguese’ but don’t expect to find too many cars.
  • Preloved – Similar to Gumtree. Always worth a look.
  • eBay – As well as the auctions that it’s famous for, Ebay also offers classifieds adverts (like Gumtree or Craigslist). Quite a few LHD dealers advertise here, so it’s always worth taking a look to see what’s available.
  • Piston Heads – This tends to be more where you get a LHD Porche than something for going to the shops with.

LHD car specialists

There are a few car dealerships that specialise in LHD cars. These companies mainly deal with expats living in Europe, but a few also deal in specialist LHD imports of high-performance cars.

  • LHD Place – Specialist LHD dealership in Basingstoke, Hampshire.
  • My LHD – Cars can be delivered to any address worldwide. They also have offices in the UK and in France.
  • LHD Car Supermarket – Based in Nottingham, Nottinghamshire.
  • Heathrow LHD Centre – Located near Heathrow airport. If you find a car you like it’s easy to get to from most of Europe.
  • Switching Sides – Located in Leeds, West Yorkshire.
  • Chesham LHD Centre – Located in Chesham in Buckinghamshire.
  • London Left Hand Drive Centre – Although you’ll find a few expat-type cars, this dealership tends to have a lot of high-performance imports. It’s located in an underground car park in Chelsea harbour in London and viewings are by appointment only.

You’ll notice that the vast majority of LHD cars will be located in the South of England. This is where the majority of the LHD dealerships are and where the expats that are selling these cars are usually located. Occasionally, you will find a LHD car in Scotland, Wales, or the Far North of England but the majority will be in the South. 

Finding Portuguese registered cars in the UK

Yes, it’s possible to find Portuguese reg cars in the UK. Unfortunately, there isn’t a quick and easy way to do it: it’s a case of keeping an eye on all of the sites above and looking out for ones with Portuguese plates.

The majority of LHD cars in the UK have either UK, French, or Spanish plates. You’ll also find cars from a few central European countries (e.g. Germany and Belgium) and also Eastern European countries (e.g. Poland and Romania). Portuguese reg cars do pop up, but they’re few and far between. If this is what you’re specifically looking for, expect to spend a few months searching.

Do I need to import my car into Portugal?

If you are spending more than six months in another EU country, you are supposed to import your foreign reg car into that country. The reality is that many expats that live in Portugal (and other European countries like France and Spain) do not.

Whether you do or do not is up to you, but at the very least you should have valid insurance. If you have a UK reg car, that insurance will most likely need to be with a UK car insurance company.

Unfortunately, you can’t simply go with any insurance company. With the exception of Saga (for over 50s), and a few specialist insurance brokers, most car insurance companies only offer European cover for up to six months at a time. If you spend half the year in the UK, this won’t be a problem. If you are planning on spending longer outside of the UK, you will need to go with either Saga or a specialist car insurance company.

Assuming your car is second-hand, you will need to get an MOT each year in order for the car insurance to be valid. Unfortunately, you can’t get an MOT anywhere but the UK. A Portuguese MOT doesn’t count, and you can’t do your MOT in Gibraltar unless your car is registered there.

It’s also worth highlighting that the annual MOT pilgrimage adds up over time. Ferries from Spain to the South of England aren’t cheap and then there’s the cost of getting from Portugal to the North of Spain, which for most people will include at least one overnight. Some people chose to drive to France where ferries (and the Eurotunnel) are cheaper however this involves quite a bit of driving and a few overnight stays.

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8 comments on “Buying a Left Hand Drive Car in the United Kingdom”

  1. Thank you. I am moving to France , and looking at buying LHD car in the UK. Your article is comprehensive and brought up several sites that I was unaware of. I have done plenty of research , and you have added to that. Much appreciated , and in due course will be visiting Portugal.

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