American car insurance

Insuring an imported American car is unlikely to ever be "cheap", but if you follow our tactics you can keep costs to a minimum.

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Whether it’s a muscular Ford Mustang, or a “little red Corvette” made famous by Prince, it’s hard to deny the iconic draw of many all-American cars. But while some brands are launching their flagship models into the UK market, many others are only available as imports. Read on to find out what this means for American car insurance.

What’s defined as an American car?

This may sound like an odd question, but it’s an important one in terms of insurance.

There are plenty of American-style cars that are built specifically for the UK market. For example, there’s a UK version of the American classic, the Ford Mustang. You can insure these in the same way as any other car sold on the regular UK market.

But it is also possible to buy cars that were designed and intended for sale on the American market. These can be a little more complicated to insure, as they are what’s known as “grey” imports.

What is a “grey” imported car?

Grey imports are usually cars that are imported from outside the EU. America and Japan are popular countries to import these cars from. You can arrange for a car to be imported directly from its “home” country, or you may come across grey imports on the used car market.

Unlike cars imported from EU countries (known as “parallel imports”), which are often very similar to cars you can buy on the UK market, you’re unlikely to find a UK equivalent to a grey import. Key differences include:

  • They are likely to be left-hand drive and not designed with UK roads in mind.
  • Cars in this category don’t conform to EU standards. This means they might not immediately meet UK safety or emissions standards.
  • There’s a good chance they’ll need to be modified to make them UK road-ready. If you buy from a reputable UK dealer, they should have already made modifications that are necessary for the car to be legal. Ask, to be certain. If you arrange an import personally, you may need to get essential modifications done yourself.

You can find out more about the differences between parallel and grey imports and how to get your hands on one in our guide to imported car insurance.

Can I insure an American car?

Like any car you drive on UK roads, car insurance is a legal requirement for American cars. While it is possible to find insurance, not every mainstream insurer will cover American cars.

If a mainstream insurer is willing to cover you, it may add restrictions. For example, it may only insure over-25s or those who have held a licence for a minimum number of years.

There are also specialist insurers that have policies designed for unusual cars, such as grey imports.

How do I get insurance for an imported American car?

The process of getting an American car insurance quote is very similar to insuring one made in the UK. The key differences are:

  • You may need to do a bit more work to find insurers willing to cover an American import, including checking specialist insurers. A standard search on a price comparison site may not get you a comprehensive picture of what’s available.
  • You’ll probably be asked for more details about the car. For example, whether it’s right or left hand drive, and for confirmation that it’s been modified to make it UK roadworthy.

Before you look for insurance, make sure your car has gone through the UK’s vehicle approval process and is registered in the UK.

Once you’ve found a provider that offers American car insurance, as with any car, you’ll need to choose your level of cover (third-party, third-party, fire and theft or fully comprehensive). You’ll also need to decide whether you want any add-ons such as breakdown cover.

Is American car insurance more expensive than regular insurance?

Usually, yes. American cars are often more powerful (which automatically bumps up insurance premiums) than those built for the UK market.

But that’s not the only thing that can make insurance underwriters apprehensive about the risks of covering an American car. Other factors that can push up your premium include:

  • Expensive repairs. In the event of an accident, replacement parts are often time-consuming and expensive to source, as they may need to come from America. Depending on the car, the repairs themselves might require a specialist mechanic, too.
  • Higher risk of being stolen. You probably wouldn’t bother with the effort of importing a run-of-the-mill car. High-end, unusual cars are a greater temptation for thieves.

Do I need a specialist insurance policy to cover my American car?

Not necessarily. Some mainstream insurance providers will cover American cars, though they’re likely to ask more questions as part of the quote process. They may also have certain requirements (you may need to be over 25, for example).

But it’s also a good idea to get quotes from providers that specialise in insuring unusual cars. They may offer competitive cover, or include features targeted towards imported cars.

There are also cases when a specialist policy may be necessary, for example, if you’re insuring a classic American car. This is more likely to be the case if you plan to take it to shows or race courses.

All-time American greats that are popular among car enthusiasts in the UK include:

  • The Ford Mustang. Ford’s high-performance, flagship sportscar. There’s a right-hand drive version of the Ford Mustang, designed for the UK market, but you can also buy imported models. If you’re buying second-hand, make sure you know which version you’re buying.
  • The Chevrolet Corvette. This sleek speedster dates back more than half a century, to 1953. A right-hand drive version of the Chevrolet Corvette, designed for sale on the UK market, is due to hit our shores in October 2021.
  • The Cadillac Eldorado. Not yet available in a UK version, the only way to get your hands on this iconic classic is as a grey import. The visually-striking 1959 version features rocket-shaped brake lights and huge tailfins.

Why might I need to insure an American car in the UK?

If you’re importing an American car purely for your own driving pleasure, insure it in the usual way. Bear in mind that there may be fewer mainstream insurers willing to cover you. If you want to take your car to shows or race tracks, make sure that your policy covers you for this.

There are also a couple of use cases where you might need a different type of insurance. For example:

  • Wedding hire. If you want to hire your car out (on a paid basis) to drive people to events such as weddings, you’ll need insurance that covers this type of use. If you want to do this regularly, you may need a business car insurance policy.
  • While you’re restoring an American car. If you’re restoring a car before it’s ready for the road, consider a “laid-up” insurance policy. This will cover you for things like theft or damaged parts, but not for driving the car.

How can I cut the cost of American car insurance?

As always, doing your research and getting quotes from multiple insurers is one of the best ways to secure a good insurance deal. There are other tactics you can use too.

  • Manage your mileage. As with any car, the fewer miles you drive annually, the cheaper your insurance is likely to be. Make sure you give an accurate estimate when you get a quote. Don’t be tempted to dramatically underestimate. If the insurer finds out, this could cause issues when you come to claim.
  • Minimise modifications. Some modifications are likely to be essential to make your car UK road-legal, but try to avoid non-essential modifications. Even tinted windows, for example, could bump up your premium.
  • Drive safely and carefully. Building up several years of no claim bonus will give you a decent discount on your insurance premium.
  • Boost security. Whether it’s parking your car in a locked garage or adding an alarm, anything you can do to reduce the risk of theft will cut costs.
  • Consider joining an American car club. If you’re a member of an official club, it may be able to help secure insurance discounts.

Bottom line

If you have your heart set on an exciting and iconic American imported car, one of the trade-offs is likely to be a hefty insurance bill. If you consider it a price worth paying for the thrill of driving an American classic, make sure that your policy has all of the features you need. And don’t let your premium be higher than it needs to be. Shop around among mainstream and specialist insurers, and follow our cost-cutting tactics.

Frequently asked questions

*Based on data provided by Consumer Intelligence Ltd, www.consumerintelligence.com (Mar ’24). 51% of car insurance customers could save £539.54

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