Importing a motorhome to the UK from Germany

After sound advice to shop for my new motorhome (which I wanted to be left hand drive) amongst German dealers late August, when good deals are to be had, I found the motorhome I wanted with a dealer in Mannheim, and took on the task of importing it to the UK myself.

Whilst I’m hoping this will serve as a guide for anyone else wanting to do the same, the impeding Brexit and how the UK might exit from the EU will certainly impact some of the processes I undertook, but maybe not that much, since it seems the UK government will continue to recognise the EU standards and vice versa, for some time to come.

I also followed this post where the author detailed their steps, though that was for a new motorhome where it was marginally different for some steps.

Your steps should be:

  • Order a vehicle import pack from the DVLA
  • Buy the vehicle you want from a dealer, tell them you need to export it
  • They will arrange for export plates to be fitted close to your pick-up date. You have to tell them to which country you’re exporting
  • Whilst they will arrange insurance for a short time (2 weeks to a month), it will only be 3rd party. I managed to convince my insurer (arranged via Staveley Head) to give me full insurance on the VIN number from collection day
  • Collect the vehicle, do a PROPER inspection
  • Make sure you have the ORIGINAL registration and certificate of conformity documents
  • An invoice with your UK address clearly showing how much you paid, and that you’ve paid VAT. It MUST show the dealer’s VAT number
  • Drive to the UK, and head straight to an MOT test centre where they need to confirm the headlights have been adjusted, the speedo is in both MPH and KPH and the foglights at the back are either dual or there’s one, on the off side. Most never motorhomes and cars now have dual rear fog lights.
  • Submit your NOVA (HMRC), online. You need a UK GOV login for this (same one you use for your tax and other GOV stuff)
  • Submit your application to DVSA for the technical comformity confirmation. Mine came back within a week.
  • Submit your V55/5 application to DVLA to get the V5C. This took about two anxious weeks of waiting. You can’t really phone them about this either …

Tips / things to look out for:

VAT Payment: The UK government views a vehicle as used provided it is more than 6 months old (since first registration) AND it has done more than 6 000km. This is important for the VAT payment. Ideally, you’ve paid the VAT with the German dealer, and then the UK goverment will view VAT as paid. The exact conditions are:

  • VAT has already been paid in any EU country including the UK
  • the vehicle has been in use for more than 6 months
  • the vehicle has done more that 6,000km (about 3,728 miles)

In my case this was a bit tricky since the vehicle was first registered in May 2019, and I was doing the import in late October, one month away from 6 months. So the initial NOVA submission suggested I had to pay VAT again, and claim the German VAT back from the German government. I did not rate my chances of success on this very high, and I phoned HMRC, gave them my NOVA reference and had them confirm to me that yes indeed, VAT is due. My heart sank a bit but when I said the vehicle had 12 500 miles on it, and was rented out in the summer, she told me to wait a minute or so, and I could hear her typing away on her keyboard. A minute or two later she said “all done, no VAT is due now”! I did not expect that! She basically said common sense prevails and it’s clear the vehicle is not new. Wow. A lot of pain, paperwork and so forth avoided there, in a simple call.

Again with Brexit I would think the VAT payment will change, but all it will mean is you WON’T pay the VAT in Germany, but will upon import into the UK.

MOT test station paperwork for DVSA: It’s very important you get this bit right. My local MOT test station was very co-operative, and they performed the headlight adjustment and checks, and then on the invoice wrote the following (copied from that original post I referenced):

Reference: Inspection of motorhome, chassis number (enter your chassis number here)

We have today inspected the motorhome as described above and confirm that:

1) The vehicle has rear fog lights fitted as standard to both the left and right hand side of the rear of the vehicle

2) The headlights fitted to the vehicle are left dipping headlights. As such, there comply with the requirements of the UK. (We are advised that this was done by the German motorhome dealer)

3) The speedometer within the vehicle is dual marked. Primarily in miles per hour and also in kilometres per hour”.

Note – the invoice MUST itself comply with certain criteria, the exact detail is contained within this link), then I was able to apply for “type approval” for the motorhome. This involves completing the VCA paperwork and paying a £100 fee. If you are in a hurry, you will probably wish to avoid the “pay by cheque” option and use postal orders or a credit card instead.

Speedometer: For the DVSA, your speedometer must show at least MPH but ideally also KPH (kilometers per hour) if you’re planning on using the motorhome in Europe. By default a German motorhome, likely on a Fiat chassis, will only show KPH. Don’t stress about this – contact Lockwood International and discuss your motorhome with them, they are excellent in knowing what to send you. Also, their guides are brilliant and it really took less then 10 minutes for me to replace the speedometer face, despite me being very worried about this.

It’s not as bad as it looks

A tip: I used cooking / surgical gloves in this process to avoid getting fingerprint smudge marks on the dials and faceplate etc.

The DVSA step to get a UK vehicle approval certificate issued was easy enough, took less than a week to get back, but the most complicated one was the V55/5. This form is a nightmare and you might ask your friendly mechanic/MOT engineer to assist you here. However, you can leave certain boxes blank if you’re not sure of the answer (rather than filling in the wrong answer) as the DVLA can pick up the blanks from the original conformity documents, it seems.

Posting of original documents: Be aware that the DVSA and the DVLA will require the original documents (e.g. original certificate of conformity etc). They do send these back, of course. I read some online postings of things going missing whilst en-route to DVLA etc, so I made colour scans of all my documents and kept them all together in a backed up folder on my computer, just in case. Also, send these things signed for and keep the post office proof of postage slip.

Why import? I probably should have started with this but I was keen to get a left hand drive motorhome, as I will be doing most of my touring on the continent. I might even take this motorhome to the US at some stage. The biggest consideration for me was potential cost savings, which I did achieve firstly with a reduction in the sale price as I was buying ex-rental / ex-showroom stock late August using the mobile.de site (excellent), and since I avoided a UK dealer mark-up on left hand drive models. Obviously if you’re after a right hand drive model, you’ll be buying from a UK dealer.

It can be a bit stressful and you obviously need to have the time available to do this, including the going there, driving it back etc and doing all the bits mentioned above – but if you do, the savings can be immense – I estimate in total I saved about 20 to 25% of what I would have paid a UK dealer, and I have a 2019 registered UK plated motorhome now. The process took less than a month, though I was at the MOT garage on the same day as I arrived into the UK, to make sure I get this done as soon as I could. In the meantime my insurer reminder me from time to time to let them know of the new registration – they gave me 1 month to do this in, which I just about made. I’m not sure what would have happened with my insurance if it took longer! However, I’m happy I did this and I’m thoroughly enjoying my new motorhome. So, I’m off to Spain for the rest of the winter soon!

Setting up the new home

The new motorhome is really just amazing – here she is:

Whilst I’m dealing with all the paperwork to get the import process finished (and I’ll write about this process in a dedicated post soon) I’ve had to make decisions such as two single beds at the bed, or one big bed etc. Olli loves the new motorhome as well! It certainly is warmer and quieter inside, and feels very luxurious.

I even had a visitor test out the front double guest bed – and it got a big thumbs up.

Most of the paperwork has been done and I’m now waiting, fingers crossed, for the UK registration to come through. I am also due to have the solar, lithium, 4g router and antenna as well as an underslung LPG tank installed which will see me in Devon for most of next week. Then she’ll be able to be mostly off-grid whilst still supplying power…I’ll document this as well and write a post about this, soon.

I hope to finish the “moving” in process soon so I can see what I need to get rid of or leave behind .. I’m quite keen to only put back in this motorhome what I’ll actually use – but with her massive garage it’s not that easy!

Homeless without Rayquaza

Today I handed over my home for the last three years, my motorhome Rayquaza, to the new buyers. Whilst I’m very happy she went to a young, enthusiatic and absolutely lovely couple who want to make her their new home, I’m quite sad now!

She looked after me well, and took me from Denmark to Turkey without moaning, ever.

Here’s to you Rayquaza, may you bring your owners the same joy you gave me.

Now for the next big step, getting my new motorhome! I’m expecting to go collect on 21 October in Germany and to be honest, till now I’ve not thought about that much but now I’m getting very excited!

Getting a feel for the new home

So as I’m preparing to sell my current motorhome, Rayquaza, I stopped at the motorhome show in Dusseldorf on the way to the UK. It’s an insanely big event (the world’s largest motorhome show) but exceptionally well organised.

I went to see the dealer who is selling me the new motorhome and also, to physically see a model similar to the one I’m buying, as I’ve never actually seen it in person.

I was not disappointed. Wow, this is going to be one massive upgrade. Everything feels just so fresh, new and spacious!

This is the size of the garage! I’m sitting in it and it still has a ton of space. What is especially good is that it has two big doors on either side.

I was concerned the two beds at the back might be too small as individual beds, but they are not, I tried them!

I really like the fact I can sleep like this and not require a ladder to get up and down.

The new motorhome (a Burstner Ixeo 728) is a “integrated” model meaning the front is as wide as the body. I was a bit worried about the new steering position but I tried it out and wow, this thing is going to be a dream to drive!

I also went to see some suppliers of solar and lithium and got some ideas on how to always have 230v available, and I’m going to see if I can squeeze this into the destroyed budget.

Exciting times ahead!

Updating RayQuaza

My motorhome, named RayQuaza, will be 12 years old next year. For most motorhomes, that is not too old but for one in which you live full-time, it’s perhaps time to be replaced. It’s still a great motorhome for occasional use and I hope to find a good buyer for her! (and if you know of anyone, let me know…)

So the big question of course was, which motorhome to get? I have a specific list of “must-haves” and then some optional nice-to-haves, and then of course there was the budget. The latter quickly went out the window (!) but I’ll make it work, somehow. I have saved a tremendous amount of money the last 2-3 years living full-time in a motorhome and I have worked out I can part-finance a new one and have it all paid off relatively soon, whilst still saving plenty of money. Ideally my new one will last me at least 10 years, so as an “investment” it’s actually pretty good.

Initially I had my heart set on a Hymer – lovely German motorhomes, but terribly expensive. Then at the campsite I’m now I got some really good advice from a fellow (German) nomad, Ulli, who told me to approach German dealers wanting to get right of demo and rental stock in the September / October period. He was right – there were loads of stock that was relatively new with low mileage, discounted by about 25% off the retail price, and packaged with extras like awning, sattelite TV etc.

And so I saw and fell in love with a Bürstner model “Ixeo”, initially a smaller one (same size as current motorhome) but then I saw the (even more expensive….bye bye budget) longer version at 7.49m which gave me a type of “en-suite” bathroom at the back with a seperate shower. I really like this as it gives you more privacy, it’s safer if parked at night not in a campsite, as you have an extra door between you and the outside and so on.

This is the view from the bed at the back with the toilet door closing off the passage.

I also really like the fact there is a seperate shower with air vent and hanging rail – perfect for wet clothes, towels etc and not in the way of the toilet.

Overall what attrached me most to this motorhome (Ixeo I 728 G) was the light colour scheme, and the fact the body has no wood in it (so a lower risk from damp) and the XPS frame which improves it’s resistance to hail damage. She also has a double floor (great for insulation) and the water tanks are in there as well, meaning they are well protected from the cold. The split beds at the back can be made into a huge queen bed, and there is a big drop-down bed in the front. So if you wanted to visit …. now there’s space!

Overall, she’s just super beautiful and quite perfect! I have a lot to do before I can get her (late October) from the dealer in Germany, including upgrading my driving license which I will do in the UK in September, as this motorhome has a max permissible weight of 3 850kg, whilst a “normal” license allows you to drive a vehicle to 3 500kg. But it does mean she can take about 650kg in extra weight, which could mean I don’t have to use a trailer.

I am also keeping a close eye on the outcome of Brexit, especially in a no-deal scenario, as if that happens I will consider registering this motorhome in an EU country in order to avoid disruption at borders or limitations on my allowable stay. Bulgaria is the likely option since I already have residency there.

So I’m very excited at the prospect of getting RayQuaza II – it’s more than a dream come true, and a long long way from my first fold-open small trailer tent I started with!

Summer at Lake Balaton (again!)

I’ve been back at my usual camping spot in the South of Lake Balaton, but the first few weeks were still a continuation of the rain I experienced in Budapest. Then, around early June, summer arrived properly, and I saw days of continued sunshine (upper 30’s) and fantastic evenings (early 20’s) – just right.

It reminded me this is really why I love being here – a fantastic setup right next to the lake with my office all set up and allowing for a great working environment whilst breaks during and at the end of the day can be enjoyed swimming, cycling, running or even just taking Olli for a long walk.

This year I got a raised “deck” in the form of pallets with chipboard over it to form the base of the side tent – this keeps it nice and dry (and the ground sheet clean) when heavy rains come, and as it turns out, provides for a great spot for our neighbourhood hedgehog to roam around under after he’s finished picking through Olli’s food bowl.

Here’s the setup with the tent – similar to last year.

The side tent uses air instead of metal poles
I get a spacious interior and with the mosquito nets it’s great for use at night

Whilst it’s been great to be back I have to admit I should move around a bit more in the summer months – I keep chatting to other campers who tell wonderful tales of the Croation coast, or places they’ve discovered in Romania, Poland or Greece and I’m jealous! So I think next year I’ll make it more of a touring trip and come back here for a few weeks only.

It’s cold and wet in Buda and Pest

I’ve managed to get to Budapest where I have about ten days to sort out a few things including a series of follow up visits to a (brilliant) dentist I visited last year. Since her practise is on the Buda side, I decided to try a different than my usual campsite and stayed at “Niche Camping“, which was only about 5 km from the dentist, making for a much easier bike ride there. (Great little campsite btw, even throwing in a breakfast which was unexpected.)

How different the Buda side is from how I generally know Budapest is! Much greener, more spacious and in the area of the campsite, very big houses and lush properties!

Just next to the campsite is a chairlift that takes you up to a scenic lookout, but Ollli and I took to the steps below it for our daily walk. It was a great walk offering some super scenery.

 

We also made a few new friends on the walk!

Over the weekend I moved to my “usual” campsite in Budapest, Haller Camping since it’s fantastically located providing for easy access to the heart of the Pest side. But we’ve had 3 days of non-stop rain meaning quite a bit of Netflix, reading and the occasional walk, as Olli is a very fair weather dog.

When he can hear the rain on the roof….

The forecast is looking up though and we should get sunnier weather as of tomorrow. I certainly hope so as I’m quite sure I won’t be able to drive out of the mudpit we are currently in…

I’ve also been experimenting more with quite an alternative diet recently – more vegetarian / Indian / natural and I’ll write a post about this soon, it’s been quite an interesting experience for me to discover new tastes and learn how to cook without meat being the primary element of the dish!

By the end of the week we should be heading to the south of Lake Balaton where as usual I’ll spend the summer months.