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A guide to American Cars

Purchasing your first Yank Published: 7th Jun 2011 - 1 Comments

A guide to American Cars
A guide to American Cars
A guide to American Cars
A guide to American Cars
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Want to live the American dream? US classic expert Paul Bussey shows how to do it right and so not become a nightmare!

With the cost of that Middle Eastern liquid gold steadily rising year by year, and bearing in mind that a huge variety of classic Yanks gulp fuel down like it’s going out of fashion, don’t put off purchasing your Detroit Iron dream too much longer! Now is the time to buy, so fix your budget and go shopping, especially if your penchant is for a muscle car. Even now, many models have sky rocketed in value and are beyond the reaches of most average enthusiasts and are only within the grasp of wealthy collectors. In the USA muscle cars are fetching top dollar and one of the most expensive cars to sell at auction in recent times was a Plymouth Hemi-Cuda convertible that went for over $1 million! Most Shelby Mustangs cost big bucks, but there’s plenty of cars that are still very affordable.

Sourcing the Yank of your dreams

It’s quite amazing when you start looking at the classified ads, just how many American cars actually reside in the UK, and the chances are you’ll be able to find just what you’re looking for on our shores. Having decided exactly what make and model you desire, your first move should ideally be to join a car club that caters for them. Unless it’s quite an obscure and rare model, then you shouldn’t have any problems making contact with a club who will be able to help in numerous ways. They may be able to arrange for a club member to inspect a car, advise on best buys, even models to avoid, advise on insurance, spares availability, etc. Nowadays a good many enthusiasts look further afield to purchase their car, and decide to scour the USA, in many cases via the Internet. For many it’s the thrill of the chase that appeals, or perhaps the car that they are looking for simply isn’t available in the UK. What may appear as a good cheap purchase, could soon work out to be expensive by the time it arrives here, after transportation, shipping, import duty, SVA testing, and so on.

Importing a car from the USA

Having found the car of your dreams for sale in the States, how do you know you are getting a sound car and not buying a lemon, and how do you get it back to the UK? Well, in a nutshell it’s always going to be a case of caveat emptor, buyer beware. I know of numerous enthusiasts who have purchased cars unseen in the USA (apart from seeing photographs) and most ofthem have been delighted with their purchases, but you are still taking a chance. Nowadays there are a number of companies who can get a car inspected for you, many contact details are available via website forums for particular models. Again, clubs can play a vital role here and it’s possible an American club member could inspect a car for a fee. Should that car unsuitable you’ll still have paid for the inspection, and may have to go through this process several times until your are completely satisfied. Alternatively you can employ the services of a specialist who will get the car professionally inspected for you and then handle all the transportation and shipping, so you don’t have to worry about a thing! We spoke to Ron Fenton of STS Imports of Braughing, Herts (01920 822969), an American car dealer with highly reputable contacts in the USA for checking cars out, and who can handle all the paperwork for you. “Depending on where your car is located in the USA, it’s usually cheaper to ship it via the Eastern seaboard rather than the western, as it’s not so far to sail to the UK,” explains Ron. “It’s worth bearing in mind that if the car has to be transported internally in the US over a long distance to a sea port, this can work out to be quite expensive.”

Getting the paperwork sorted

“Once the money has been wired over from your bank account to the vendor’s, your car has been taken to the docks to await a ship sailing to the UK, the other most important thing is to make sure the car’s Title, our equivalent of the log book is with the shipper,” Ron continues. “Without this Title, the car won’t be released from the docks and onto the ship. Once the car’s on the ship, then get the shipper to post the Title to you by special delivery, never ever have the Title left in the car at any time “Should the car get stolen with the Title, you’ll probably never ever see it again! Transporting a car in a container from an Eastern port will be around £1000, from a western port add another £200-£300. Your UK insurance company will require a Pre-Condition Report, prior to shipping, containing a full appraisal of the car’s condition and photos too. “Roll-on-Roll-off shipping will be around a few hundred pounds cheaper. Once your car arrives in the UK, you will then be required to pay import duty, 10 per cent for cars and 22 per cent for trucks, on the value of your vehicle, the cost of shipping, insurance, and then there’s VAT to pay on the whole amount! Then on top of that there will be a port clearance fee, demurrage etc, of around £300- £350. Cars built prior to 1950 are not subject to import duty, but you will have to pay five per cent VAT. If you are in any doubt as to what will pass as an historical vehicle, obtain the Document binding tariff agreement from HM Customs. Fill in the form with as many details of the car as possible, and be prepared to wait three weeks for a reply.” Ron adds. “It’s perfectly legal to drive your car home from the docks on US license plates, and then on for the SVA test as long as it’s insured. If your vehicle is under 10 years old it will require SVA testing. This effectively involves getting the lights UK approved, and checking the brakes etc, which will be another cost involved when importing a car”. Cost of the SVA test is £60 for a truck and £150 for a car, plus of course the cost of the work which would be approximately £750 plus VAT. If your truck requires an SVA test and it isn’t fitted with ABS brakes, it may not meet their criteria, so having ABS is a very desirable. You then have to get your vehicle UK registered via your local DVLA office who may require duties etc, you could end up by spending half as much again . Buying a more expensive car will be just the same to ship, and may be more cost effective, though you will pay more for import duty. The biggest issue is ensuring that you’re purchasing a sound car in the first place, a full inspection is advisable. Photos can hide a multitude of sins! You can get an idea of the integrity of the vendor from talking to them over the telephone. If you’re not getting good vibes, then maybe it’s time continue with your search. Always ensure the vendor has the Title of the car in their possession, and never ship the car with the Title.

Price guide

Yank ownership needn’t break the bank, some of the cheapest cars around for under £5000 include the Chrysler LeBaron, Mustang MK2 and MK3, Buick Regal, and Pontiac Fiero. An excellent original Mustang will be £10,000 to £15,000, more for concours cars. A good Corvette C3 will be £9000 - £12,000, a C4 £8000 - £13,000, though fine Trans-Ams can still be purchased for under £10,000. Muscle cars will be over £10,000, and classic fin’s ‘n’ chrome Cadillacs will fetch £9000 - £20,000, as will a huge variety of 1950’s classics. you to take the car to them to for a inspection. You will also require a an MoT, andeven though your car may not require SVA testing it still has to have lighting that’sUK legal, and could be another expense.” If you don’t relish handling the importation yourself, STS Imports will do all the work for you. It recently imported a modern truck for a customer which cost him £1250 plus shipping and duties.

Verdict

Think carefully as to the wisdom of importing a fairly cheap car from the USA, as by the time you have paid for someone to inspect it, the cost of internal transport to the docks, shipping import



User Comments

This review has 1 comments

  • What a thoroughly well thought-out piece to find. Lots of essential do's and Don't's for the unwary.
    Covers so many often-overlooked info. Think you know it all when it comes to buying importing appraising examining a 'Yank' over here in Blighty ?
    You probably Don't.
    I have found some real gems here, which I cannot believe I didn't already know myself, and I ought to know stuff like this, if I do import my 1959 Mercury Park lane, from California next month !
    Thanks to Paul Bussey for this Great check-list of an encyclopaedia for people just like myself.
    You're ALWAYS gonna be better off Having this sort of info BEFORE you part with your hard-earned cash, and make the splash.
    Well worth a look.

    Comment by: Jonathan Griffiths     Posted on: 24 Sep 2011 at 11:14 AM

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