I'm new to this site and this is my first post. I apologize in advance for this lengthy inquiry but I must confess I am having difficulty finding accurate answers to the questions I ask below.

A bit about me: I am a dual British/Canadian citizen holding both passports but have lived in Canada most of my life, live there currently and will continue to call Canada my home for at least 7 months per year for the next 10 years or so until I retire. I visit England regularly and my partner and I are planning to buy a used camper van on our next trip over to England to explore the country more fully with the aim of finding a piece of land to buy and homestead and ultimately move to permanently when I retire. We would park this vehicle on a relatives driveway when  we leave several months later until we return on subsequent trips to England.

My PRIMARY questions are as follows:

1) Can a NON-UK resident buy and register a used vehicle in the UK? 2) Would I be able to DRIVE and INSURE it using my CANADIAN DRIVERS LICENCE? 3) If this is possible does anyone know the process involved? 4) Does that fact that I hold both Canadian and British passports help in the above questions?

Any advice from anyone else who has experience as a non-resident buying a used vehicle in England, registering and insuring it etc. would be greatly appreciated!

Thanks and regards, David Shurvell


So I'm also dual Canadian/British, have spent most of my life in the UK, but just moved back to Canada, so have been in a similar (although opposite) position.

  1. Buying a vehicle - no problem in purchasing, the only thing they will be bothered about is you have insurance and can show them a cover letter before taking the camper away (most insurance in the UK is online, so you can quote, buy and get a cover letter in a few mins). You will also normally need to pay for the vehicle using a UK bank card/draft. A difference to note is that VAT (the equivalent of HST or sales tax) only applies to NEW vehicles and will be shown in the quoted price. If the dealer tries to charge you on top or on a used vehicle they are cheating you.
  2. Registering - The dealer will give you the V55 registration doc section to fill in and send to the dvla (they send the rest), you can put your relative's address with your name and the new V55 registration doc will be sent there. The dealer will also arrange the road tax initially (you'll be charged for it) and you can manage it online (paying monthly through your UK bank if you wish). Once the vehicle is 3 years old it will need a yearly inspection (the MOT), and this needs to be done before road tax renews, but when this is done the garage will notify the dvla so the road tax can continue, so you don't need to be involved in sending forms etc. You can declare the vehicle off road, but will need the MOT to get the tax before you get it back on. Also if the vehicle is already 3 years+ make sure to ask the dealer how long is left on the MOT, a good dealer will get the test done as part of the sale giving you the full year before you need to worry.
  3. Licence - this is likely your biggest issue. In each country you can only drive for 60 days on your foreign drivers licence, and although you will qualify to gain the other licence without a test the process is AN EXCHANGE, you need to hand in your Canadian licence when they process your UK one (and having just spent 6 1/2 hours in a queue waiting to exchange my UK one in Ontario you don't want to do this every 6 months). They will send it back to the other licence authority so I don't think you can game it by using one to get the other and then replacing the original one, you'll likely nullify one country's insurance cover
  4. Insurance - you have an address in the UK to use so only two likely issues, first is credit history, the insurance company will credit search you, mostly in case you want to pay monthly, but may want to charge you more (or decline you) if your credit is non-existent (I used to work for a large UK insurance company and this happens). They will also want paid from a UK bank, even if you are using a credit card to pay. Second issue is they will want you to have the UK licence before you can get the insurance (you may be able to enter your Canadian licence in the quote form but guaranteed the quote will be 10x what you'll be quoted for a UK licence).
  5. Passports - main advantage will be in opening the relevant bank account, the bank in the UK will prefer the UK passport as proof of ID.

Process wise,

  • Open your bank account
  • get plastic sorted
  • get UK licence
  • find a camper
  • get quotes online
  • buy camper
  • buy insurance
  • get covering letter
  • pick up camper
  • enjoy!

I have avoided the private sale scenario, but I'm sure you can work out where it varies.

  • Hi Wandering, Thanks so much for your extensive reply! Most informative. Based on what you have said I am now thinking it might be easier - at least for the first few years - to ask a relative to put the vehicle in their name, insure it etc. and allow me to drive it while visiting England. So what do you think about the idea of asking a relative to register and insure a van in their name with the appropriate insurance allowing me and or my partner to drive it? Cheers and thanks again for your great reply! Regards David – Canadian Brit Dave Jul 25 '16 at 1:02
  • Would probably work, just make sure you are a named driver on the policy. You might hits an issue around being not the main driver but doing most (all) of the driving if the insurance find out, like the way people used to insure a car for their kids with them as main driver and kid as named driver (to save money) until the insurance companies got wise, but in practice might not be an issue. Still doesn't help the licence issue though! – The Wandering Dev Manager Jul 25 '16 at 1:49

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