I was appointed a "personal" handler from the Company, a charming, very efficient young lady called Etsuko and the fun began. Confirmation of purchase and dollar transfer of funds was quickly done (well done TSB in UK) and my car was put on a mammoth car transporter, the American Highway, on 30 August. There followed a couple of interesting months while I used a Maritime Tracking site, following it's progress from country to country, until it finally docked at Zeebruge in Belgium on 17 October and my car was trans-shipped to a much smaller ship called the Opal Leader, bound for Bristol. This ship wandered around a bit, presumably waiting for tides and berthing but finally docked at Bristol on 20th October. I picked the car up the following week and apart from having immediately having to replace the battery, all was well and it went like a dream:
1: I have a seemingly excellent car which sailed through it's MOT effortlessly. The garage said that they had never seen a car in such good underbody condition for it's age.
2: I have saved a considerable amount of money compared to UK market prices, even with the cost of shipping taken into account.
3. I have had the most immense fun and satisfaction out of importing the car myself.
1: The overall condition of the car is fabulous but the Japanese company didn't photograph the roof. There is the normal Granvia/Grand Hiace problem of the cracks on the roof gutter strips, but these seem worse than usual and not easy to put right.
2: Nearly everyone involved was fabulously cooperative and efficient except for Her Majestys Customs and my normal Insurance company LV. The Customs, although helpful, led me astray terribly, as I applied to their Manual Inputs Section using form C.384 and had many emails back and forth confirming all was OK, I formally informed them of the ship's arrival and they issued me with a form C130 to obtain release of the car from the port. The thunderbolt then hit when I discovered that Bristol is a "Computerised Customs Port" and cannot accept C130's. I then had to pay a Shipping Agent a lot of money to make a computer input so that I could get the car from Bristol. Then the Customs wasted days before the issued me a DVLA release, as they kept "losing" my paperwork, even after I had paid the duty.
Then LV decided that they could not insure my car, even though I had two cars already with them (one a Granvia). However, Churchill came up trumps and insured the car using the chassis number, good for them. Good for DVLA too, who were speedy and efficient in everything they did, with registering and personalised number plate (why not, I'm 71...have a bit of fun, David).
This was a terrific adventure and is ongoing, the research now is apace, and I'm trying to translate parts of the handbook the Granvia one doesn't cover. If any one wants any further information, ask me and I'll help where I can....but you will need plenty of spare time and patience. David
Of course I am happy to do a Part 3 but I didn't want to bore people with too much information unless they were genuinely interested! So much happened during the Import process that I could probably do Parts 4-100 and still miss out something. I realise also that there is a moral issue here, in that I have 'done' professional Importers out of their profit by doing this myself, so I must stress that: a) It was not that easy, b) I was taking a big risk in buying a car sight unseen, c) There are, of course no guarantees, and d) My retired situation gave me plenty of time to attend to problems as they arose. I came across a couple of UK Import companies during the process and I am sure that they do a fine job and deliver a good product. I would not recommend importing yourself to anyone unless the criteria that existed for myself suited them!!!!!
Look out for Part 3 in the next couple of days!
*Note: I was determined to do as much of the process myself but because the car was trans-shipped at Zeebruge I was forced to pay Shipping Agent 'A' £70, simply to tell me what ship it was transferred to and because of the Customs 'cock-up' (see Part 2 of story), I was forced to pay Shipping Agent 'B' £50, to make a Computer request for release of the car from Bristol Docks. Had the voyage been from Nagoya(Japan) to Bristol Docks in the same ship, I would have avoided the £70 by simply using a Marine Tracking site and then I could have told the Customs exactly when the car transporter had arrived and even which berth it was in at Bristol! Also, had I opted for the car to arrive at Southampton, there would not have been the Customs problem, because Southampton still accepts Manual application for vehicle release! Thus I would have saved the £50 to the second Shipping Agent also.
The sellers, Autorec, were great and all contact was done by email.The car preparation was faultless and Etsuko, the Japanese lady assigned to my purchase, even spent some of her lunchbreaks sitting in the car and then emailing me with answers to my questions.......well, I've run out of space again..any questions, I'm here!.......David
The forum is here to help others - if anyone thinks the postings are boring, they can just skip to something else! The most valuable posting I've ever found was a detailed, spanner-by-spanner, set of instructions on how to remove the rear bench seat - how esoteric is that!
I have to disagree with you however on there being a "moral issue". Professional importers have no legal or moral monopoly. They provide a commercial service and should expect competition. Indeed, since you're giving an honest account including the problems you faced, such as having to pay unexpectedly a shipping agent to get your Granvia released, their sales pitch of "no-hassles" importation becomes all the more attractive. And if you can estimate the number of hours you spent on the project, although you and I might cost our time at £zero, some forum members will inevitably say that they'd rather spend money with a commercial importer and than spend x hours on a personal import.
I, for one, look forward to the next instalment....
PS: You can go back and use the edit facility to correct/expand any of your own postings.
Is it legal to drive it home ?
I have a good relationship with my local garage ( with whom I had already formally booked an MOT for the Grand Hiace later the same day ) and they kindly loaned me a set of trade plates, so there was no problem. I considered hiring a car trailer locally but the biggest I could hire was only 2cm longer than the Grand Hiace length, so I was reluctant to risk any damage to the body in transit. Of course, at the Port, I had to temporarily fit a fog light and switch and the kph/mph convertor (which still doesn't work!). These two items were a condition of my Insurance company, Churchill. (who used the VIN no. to insure the car.)
With the fog light, I prewired everything before I left, including the switch and created an aluminium bracket shaped to fit the rear bumper and temporarily taped it in place and then had a long live feed running through the interior of the car to the switch. This was done to save time at the Port. Since then I have wired the foglight to one of the reversing light positions and fitted a red bulb....works fine!
Regarding the kph/mph convertor, I bought one on eBay but the supplier didn't know the exact wiring for the Grand Hiace, so sent me diagrams for the Granvia and the Hiace van. Most logical to me was the Granvia diagram, which I used, however the conversion is not working. It's either my wiring or a different wire connection than I used. Hope this helps.
....................................David PS: It is legal to drive the car to an MOT test not for any other purpose, as far as I can tell!
Rugbyman wrote:....It is legal to drive the car to an MOT test not for any other purpose, as far as I can tell!
I thought the same but just found on internet :
"After arrival you are only entitled to drive the vehicle on foreign registration plates from the port of entry to your home address, place of destination or to a pre-arranged test." http://www.import-car.info/registration.shtml
And one more :
"I arrive in Southampton by train, and leave in my new car.
Buy new battery. Wire up rear foglight."
It confused me. But maybe all of them had trade plates
The question of Trade Plates is a murky legal area! If you take a car for a test run with a view to purchase, there is no problem with using Trade Plates but of course you generally have someone from the garage with you! I wonder if you could use them for a "test run" on your own? Furthermore, do you actually have to be an employee of the Garage to use them to collect a car, especially if you are trying to fulfil the legal requirement of getting an MOT done? My "friendly" garage wasn't sure on these points when they loaned me the plates!
I think overall that, if I had no access to the plates, I would have searched harder for a slightly bigger trailer and swallowed the extra £100 or so for the sake of peace of mind.
Sorry if all I've done is add to the confusion and raise more questions than answers....................Regards................David
You can drive home your imported vehicle to get home as long as you have got a valid insurance.
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