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Driving American Cars in the UK

So you've acquired a big shiny American car! It's comfy, plush, loaded with gadgetry and accommodates the whole family. Even the colour is special. There's only one little problem: the steering wheel is on the wrong side! Fortunately, the drive mechanisms are standard across the board: every car, regardless of origin, conforms to the "ABC" (accelerator, brake, clutch in the case of manual shift) configuration, reading from left to right. However, accustoming yourself to driving on the left side of the centre line will take a bit of time, so a few practice sessions on a sparsely-travelled road is highly recommended.

Before taking this step, however, attention must be focused on modification and important paperwork. Because headlamps are designed to "bend" to the right when the car is made to drive on the right, and vice versa, the lights on American cars must be shaded or tilted in order not to blind oncoming traffic. This modification, along with one or two others, is mandatory in the UK.

As for the paperwork, in addition to the standard documents pertaining to taxes, registration, licensing, etc. keep in mind that motor insurance is also mandatory. Do not assume that your current insurer will automatically insure your new left hand drive vehicle. Since right hand drive cars are considered "standard" in the UK, American cars do not fall into this category and therefore may not be covered by your present provider. A large number of companies will not insure LHD cars, whether or not they have been modified.

It's important to shop carefully when purchasing motor insurance for your American vehicle. Brokers eager to make a sale may sell you a policy on the basis of your car's similarity to some other make or model with which they are familiar. Unfortunately, you may discover, too late, that some minor difference between your vehicle and what they had in mind will prevent a payout in the event of an accident. It's essential to cover every detail of your new ride with your insurance broker before signing up for a policy.

Generally speaking, and all things being equal, insuring your American car should not be much more expensive than the same cover on a similar right hand drive vehicle. But it is vital to do your homework and shop carefully for the proper policy at the best rates. Fortunately, the internet is replete with information and finding what you need can be as quick and simple as a mouse-click. Many sites will do all the legwork for you, including answering questions concerning legal requirements, what cover you need, where you can get it and how much it will cost.

So check the 'net, insure your car and have fun behind that left-handed wheel!

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