UK car prices still a rip-offMotorists continue to pay too much for some models

09 September 2006

UK motorists are still getting a poor deal on the price of a new car, Which? can reveal.

In the late 1990s Which? launched a campaign against rip-off Britain by highlighting the astonishingly high cost of buying a new car in the UK compared with the rest of Europe.

Our Great British Car Rip-Off campaign was widely credited with making manufacturers reduce UK prices nearer to the level of those in the rest of Europe.

But nearly a decade on, the latest European Commission survey into the pre-tax price of Japanese and European cars found that UK car buyers are still paying up to 30 per cent more for some models than their continental counterparts.

Import hurdles

For example, a VW Golf costs about £2,150 more in London than in Helsinki, while an Alfa Romeo costs £2,600 more in London than in Amsterdam.

However, importing a car may not be worth the hassle because 17.5 per cent VAT is added as soon as a car arrives in Britain.

Which? motoring expert George Marshall-Thornhill says: ‘It’s true that some cars are still sold more cheaply in other countries, but the hurdles that UK buyers have to overcome in getting a right-hand-drive car into the country mean that most people opt for the rip-off British prices.’

Credit card protection

If you do decide to import a car, find a major dealer in your chosen country and agree a price for a right-hand-drive model, with headlamps set for the UK and a speedometer in miles an hour. You should also buy with a credit card for extra protection.

Which? Editor Neil Fowler said: ‘Prices of new cars in Britain have fallen slightly but are still too high, which is why we award them our first “Rip off Britain” stamp.’

Each month Which? will be assessing a different product to see whether you are better off buying it in this country or abroad.