Shipping A Car Across The Pond

Don’t Try This

Have you every tried this? Take my advise – DON’T! Especially if you’re shipping from a Left Hand Drive Country to a Right Hand Drive Country.

Why Ship at All?

See I was supposed to be in the US of A for about three years, and one day as I’m driving to work in my car, the Mercedes GL 450, I get a call from the boss of my boss. He’s a man named Carr.

He and I get on well, and after the initial preliminaries he starts telling me what a fantastic job I’ve done. We aren’t exactly stupid, we just look it, so when the Bosses’ Boss makes a transatlantic call, the game is afoot.

Now I’ve been in the US just over 10 months when this call came in and  so my antennae did go up a bit, and then he spilled the beans.

He said he had another job for me to do, he was facing a problem and he wanted someone to go fix it. Off the bat I told him, I was a team player but could I think about it and possibly speak about it in person. Which we did, and as things then panned out I got shipped, and so did a lot of my stuff to London!

Now about the car ….. The only reason why I bought a car that some consider to be up market or expensive, was that I wanted to ship it back to India which has relaxed tariffs on self owned used cars purchased abroad. Well that’s not completely true, I always dreamed owning a Mercedes and I got a really sweet deal on this. Read …. I negotiated the hell out of the dealer on the last day of the month when they were pressed to make a sale. (This tale deserves a full rendition, so let’s just save that for some other time).

Company Policy is a Hurdle – Time to Negotiate

Now as per company policy, I’m not allowed to ship the car, well I’m allowed, but the company does not pay for it. But my boss agreed that if I negotiated with the shippers to lower the cost of relocation to squeeze the car in, he would agree.

Did The Sumir hear negotiate? He did. Bring it on! And so the car make it’s way to London, along with furniture, clothes, CD’s, books, papers, and the like.

The Fun Begins

Watching the packers and movers, pack clothes, and stuff, no feelings at all, but, watching them take away the car on a skiff, now that is something else! Will it reach in one piece, will it be damaged, will it be scratched. All valid concerns and all come to naught! It’s arrived free of any customs duty, vat, or any other major expense. Until now, that is.

Dead Battery

They deliver the GL in a container, and I’m summoned to back it out. I’m handed the keys to do so. Turn the key so, no response. Try again, no response. And again, and again, and again. The dammnnn battery is dead!

Have you every tried to get a battery out of a GL series? I’m guessing few have. For starters, it sits under the front passenger seat. The seat needs to be moved all the way up front, the seat needs to be tilted forward all the way, and then you take off the matting/carpet, under which, you find a plate that needs to be unscrewed, and only then can you even access the battery. With no power at all, fancy moving that huge seat. Can’t be done manually. Finally we get a set of cables, jump start the engine, get the car off the container, and I drive it around for an hour in an attempt to charge the battery. Does not work. The battery is done for. Reason? some idiot turned on the lights and let the settings to stay on, even after the engine was shut down. It died of natural causes, in the container, in a rather confined space.

The Pain Begins

Now stupid as I am, even I know that I cannot just drive the thing off the container and on to UK roads. And so the process is to go to the SVA, VOSA, DVLA, (they are not expletives, though they might as well be), step by step, to finally drive the car that I’ve grown to love.

What’s not to love about your first Mercedes, fully loaded, V8 petrol driven engine, off road package, rough and tough speed machine. Despite its size (full size SUV), turns ona  dime, refused to skid what with traction control, frigging broad bad ass tires, amazing sound system.

But, before I go into full drool, I’d better get back to talking about the aftermath, post shipping.

What’s mandatory, is an inspection for it’s suitability to be driven in the UK, cost 190 quid. Emissions, lights, ground clearance. If any adjustments are necessary, visit a Mercedes workshop, and make prescribed adjustments, more cost possibly? A follow up inspection and then go to the DVLA to get the car registered.

The car is still parked in my parking spot, waiting to be unleashed (I’m allowed to drive it to the inspection and back legally until I get it registered) on the roads. Not that I’m going to drive a lot in London, given that I live just minutes from the office, and the average speed through the City of London is 8 KPH. The odd weekend trip out into the country, to meet “Ness”, maybe to Europe, let’s see ….
 The driving to work did happen, as did the visit to Lochness, as did the drives into Europe, Netherlands, France, Germany, Switzerland, Slovakia, Czech Republic, Austria.

Delighted in Some Ways

But here’s the real story on this …. I was growing used to getting poor service from utilities and service providers in the UK in general, but DVLA, VOSA and SVA have been a treat! I was able to download the application form for the inspection, easy enough to fill, attached the payment and sent it off.

To my surprise I received a call the very next day from VOSA and they found that the VIN number I’d entered did not match the VIN number that the Customs’ Certificate. I found that I had erred in entering the information in the application, and was pleasantly surprised when the voice on the phone corrected it on my authorization.

The appointed date was bit of a disappointment and I was given a date 3 weeks into the future. But the story of good service continues, when they called back and said they had a cancellation and could I please bring the car around a week earlier? Pleasantly surprised, and I hoped that the rest of the processes will be painless as well.

Fingers, toes, you name it, all crossed …. not much left to cross, is there?
 The inspection at VOSA went well, and all I really needed to do is get the headlights changed, and the fog lights adapted to EU standards. The head lights from a car in the US align on the wrong (or as the Americans would say right side) of the road, and in the UK that needs to be adjusted to suit driving on the left (or wrong) side of the road, and the fog light needs to be changed as well. So there was a 1000 quid trip to Mercedes, and back to the VOSA to get the clearance certificate.

The inspector was ab absolute gem! The lights though changed, were angled incorrectly, and despite the fact that he was not supposed to make any adjustments, he voluntarily did so, saving me yet another trip the the workshop.

Then the next step was to go to the DVLA (Driver and Vehicle Registration Agency), and actually have the car registered, which was very smooth. I get the permission to make a set of plates, and now I’m driving around in the car. It feels good to drive one’s own car…….
, especially a fully loaded, Mercedes GL 450, petrol (or gasoline), depending on which side of the pond you’re on.

The rush to get the care registered, was driven primarily by the fact that my son, Krishanu, was planning to visit me in the UK, and spend his 18th birthday with me, and I wanted him to get a feel of that mean machine. Come, he did, experience he did, and there is a topic for yet another blog on the live and times of yours truly.

Now I’m one to make comparisons between places I’ve lived in, and I have lived in a few countries. India (the land of my birth), USA in 1978 for a couple of years, Singapore on deputation from work, the Middle East again on work.

Guess what? More memories to document, more blogs……

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