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Economics of importing an RV into the UK

We periodically see members from the UK or Europe who plan to come to the USA and purchase an RV that will later be shipped home. In some cases, folks plan to sell the RV when they get home. RV Forum member Paul Chatwin (UK-RV) provided these number to illustrate the costs involved, the potential savings and the potential profit at the other end. These figures were posted in May, 2007.


  • RV Cost = Whatever
  • Shipping = $3,000-$5,500 depending on overall cubic metres of RV (37ft will be $5,500)
  • Shipping Insurance = 1.1% of declared value (optional)
  • Shipping Agent Charges in UK = £150
  • Import Duty = 10% of RV Cost PLUS 10% of Insurance PLUS 10% of Shipping Cost
  • VAT = 17.5% of Total Import Duty figure
  • UK Registration = £50
  • UK Road Tax = £165 max (12 months)

* Someone suggested adding 29.2% to the cost of the RV to get a VAT & Duty total figure (remember you are adding in the shipping and insurance too)

Is it worth doing?

The more expensive the RV the more you will save.

An RV costing $20,000 (£11,000) will sell for £25,000-£35,000 in the UK - it will have cost you approx £20,000 (£11k + £2k shipping + 29.2% taxes)

An RV costing $140,000 (£75,000) will sell for £150,000 in UK - it will have cost you approx £110,000 (75k + £2.5k shipping + 29.2% taxes)

Take our experience, you can buy a ONE YEAR OLD RV for £125,000 in the UK or you can go to the US and buy a NEW ONE for £75,000

If you stay outside the EU for 12 months and own the RV for minimum 6 months, you can import it free of VAT and Duty (saving £24,000). You will save a further £28,000 by not buying that year-old RV in the UK.

So, you can enjoy a years travel around the USA and use that total £52,000 saving to fund your holiday. That's £1,000 PER WEEK in spending money - a free holiday !!! (I shouldn't think you will manage to spend £1,000 per week so you will even come home with money in pocket).

When you import it into the UK after 1 year, you will have a UK-priced vehicle worth £125,000.

P.S. My figures for buying new in the UK are VERY conservative. I know dealers who import new RVs and make £40,000-£50,000 on each one. Can you believe they even have people ORDERING them - they don't even have the expense of them sitting on the forecourt for a few weeks first.

A few caveats:

Currency exchange rates fluctuate, so Paul's pound sterling numbers could vary up or down.

The UK DVLA has been known to refuse to register RVs imported from the U.S. on the grounds that they exceeded the UK width restriction. You are advised to check with the DVLA before spending your hard-earned money on the purchase and shipping of an RV.

Buying an RV can be fraught with problems, not the least of which is the fact that few RVs are delivered defect-free. Getting the issues fixed in a timely manner can cause some frustration for the unsuspecting buyer. You are advised to read about the problems that Paul and others encountered in our Visitors to the USA message board.