Importing a Car From the UK to Ireland in 2021

Before Brexit, there could be big financial savings when importing a used car from the UK to Ireland. The low value of Sterling against the Euro helped to make the importing of used cars from the UK to Ireland very affordable in recent years . However in 2021 , because of Brexit, it is no longer as cheap to import most cars into Ireland from the UK .

In  2019 – the number of imported private cars licensed for the first time in Ireland here was 108,895 an increase of 9.5% on 2018 . There were only 113,305 new car registrations so almost  49% of all new car registrations in Ireland in 2019 were on imported cars.

As well as lower prices (historically) – the UK has a bigger choice of used cars than here in Ireland. Many cars have better specs and it’s close enough to keep transport costs fairly low. (Especially if you are buying in Northern Ireland)

Private Used Car Imports From the UK (Not NI)

Importing second-hand cars from the UK to Ireland from 2021 is not as simple or as cheap as it was before.
Prior to Brexit , VAT only had to be paid on privately imported used UK car imports if the imported car was less than 6 months old or had done less than 6000 km. There was no import duty payable.
Since Jan 1st 2021 – if you are an individual or a business and you import a used vehicle from Great Britain you are required to:

  • complete a customs declaration
  • pay possible customs duty of up to 10% (Duty is charged on vehicle price plus shipping).
  • pay VAT at 21% (calculated on total price incl duty and shipping).
    (There is a possibility of not paying UK VAT if you buy off a UK dealer)

Duty On Used Cars Imported to Ireland From the UK

Many people thought that the Brexit trade deal would mean no duty or tariffs at all on goods traded between the UK and the EU. That’s how it sounded when it was first announced. Everyone was so glad to hear there was a deal – the small print was ignored for a while.
The truth is there can be import duty on some goods sold between the UK and the EU
All goods sold from the UK to the EU with a country of origin of the UK will have 0% duty.

Country of Origin

The definition of “country of origin” for import duty purposes is very important and it can get complicated. It doesn’t just refer to the location of the goods. It is based on the country where it was made can involve the materials used to produce the goods.

  • Goods made in the UK exclusively from materials that were produced in either the UK or the EU are classed as UK Origin.
  • Goods made in the UK containing materials from countries outside the EU and UK need to meet product-specific rules of origin to be classed as UK Origin.
    • for example – a new car made in the UK must have at least 55% UK or EU content to be classed as UK Origin.

Some categories of goods can also be imported into the EU with a zero per cent rate of duty – regardless of the country of origin. Some examples here. (Used cars are not 0% Duty)

Getting the Best Exchange Rate

The savings to be made when buying a car in the UK and bringing it back to Ireland will vary alongside the euro sterling exchange rate. A stronger Euro or weaker Pound will result in even bigger savings. The weakness of Sterling seems to be a significant driver of UK car imports.

The easy option might seem to be to let your bank take care of the currency exchange. However, if you do this you are guaranteed to lose a few hundred euro. The Banks don’t all use a “standard”  rate – it will vary depending on the amount involved and they usually add a profit margin of 2% to 5 %. But there are other ways of converting your Euros to Sterling .

Currency Fair
is an Irish online currency exchange service regulated by the Central Bank of Ireland. You can lodge Euros with a debit card or bank transfer. If you use them, they say you could save as much as £250 on a £10,000 transfer to the UK compared to using one of the main banks.
First Ten transfers for free using this link

Fexco  is based in Ireland, with operations in 29 countries worldwide. They can usually offer car buyers better exchange rates than the main banks.  You can quickly request a quote online on their dedicated page for Irish UK car imports.

Read more details about other options for paying for a car in the UK. 

Duty on Used Cars Imported From the UK To Ireland

Note – – the rules on import duty do not apply in the same way to new cars and used cars. It looks like that once a car is used it loses its country of origin status.

According to Revenue – the following types of used vehicles imported from the UK (not NI) will not qualify as UK origin under the rules of origin:

  • Vehicles of EU origin used in the UK
  • Vehicles of other third country origin used in the UK. (Even if the EU has a Trade Agreement with the third country such as Japan/ South Korea)

Customs Duty on Used Cars From the UK Imported to Ireland (Not From NI)

(Figures obtained from Revenue May 2021)

Used Vehicle Country of Origin Customs Duty PayableVAT
Any EU Country10%23%
Any other Country
(Even if they have an EU Trade Deal )

(Do not rely on this information as being correct. Rules could change . Check with Revenue yourself before buying).

Some examples (based on the above)

  • A car produced in a UK factory – with 40% content from Japan would be classed as UK Origin with 0% duty on import as a used car to Ireland.
  • A car made in Germany sold new in the UK and then sold as used to Ireland 2 years later – 10% Duty
  • A Car made in South Korea registered and used in the UK for 3 years and sold to Ireland – 10% duty

Car Imports from Northern Ireland to Ireland in 2021

  • A vehicle brought into NI before 1 January 2021, and which has remained there since.
    • can be registered in Ireland with no customs obligations or import duty . However, proof of the vehicle’s status in NI prior to 1 January 2021 will be required, for example a ferry ticket, an invoice or the V5 document.
  • Vehicles whose first UK registration after Dec 2020 was in NI
    • If the registration in NI was the first registration of the vehicle in the United Kingdom (UK) and the vehicle has never been exported and, or re-registered in, Great Britain or any other country outside the European Union. 
      Then – Import duty will NOT apply and 23% Irish VAT will NOT be charged
  • Vehicles with a second UK registration in NI, or imported to Ireland via NI
    • These must be declared to customs and are liable to Value-Added Tax (VAT) on importation, and customs duty, if applicable.

Before purchasing a vehicle from NI with either a GB registration or which had previously been registered in GB, you should ensure that you have documentation to prove that the vehicle was declared to customs in NI.

See – Revenue Guide for more details.

Japanese Car Imports

After Brexit – it might be just as easy and sometimes as cheap to import a car from Japan instead of the UK !
All the cars in Japan have a right-hand steering wheel because they also drive on the left. There is a good market in used cars in Japan and the prices seem cheap. A quick search here found a few 2016 Nissan Leafs with low mileage priced at around 2 million Yen
Don’t panic – at current exchange rates that is about €15,800 Euro .
Add on shipping etc – and it comes to about €17,400 Euro. Add on 7.5% duty of 1300 and 21% VAT and it comes to about €22,600.

Garton Global Payments have experience of dealing with currency exchange from Euro to Yen. If you need to send money to Japan from Ireland they can do it for you. .
Call +44 20 8004 3288


VRT: When importing a car into Ireland  – buyers need to be aware that VRT (Vehicle Registration Tax) also has to be paid  The VRT is calculated on the Revenue’s assessment of the car’s  “open market selling price ”  (OMPS) in Ireland rather than its UK price.  VRT is calculated as a percentage of the OMPS – with lower CO2 emission cars having a lower rate of VRT.
You can get an estimate of the VRT to be paid on an imported car here