Japanese import car registration: MOT & IVA test

Applying for a Japanese import car registration number in the UK

Picture of the front cover of a Japanese import car registration document from the DVLABefore applying for a Japanese import car registration number, the DVLA (UK registration authority) require you to submit the car for some sort of test.  Despite being in better condition than many of the cars on the road in the UK, Japanese import cars are no exception.

There are 2 tests: MOT and IVA.  Well actually there are more than this, but these are the two key tests we need to consider.


Picture of MOT test certificates - Jap imports are not always MOT failuresThis stands for Ministry of Transport, referring to the government department that first introduced the test in 1960.  There is nothing different about the MOT test for an imported car:  it is the same test as required for every vehicle over 3 years old that is used on the road.  General condition, brakes, tyres, suspension, lights, safety equipment and exhaust emissions are tested.  The test costs (up to) £55 and is all that cars over 10 years old need before being registered.  Be wary of super cheap MOTs – the garage in question may be planning on making some money back from you in doing essential work for your vehicle to pass the test.

Note that the 10 years old stipulation isn’t done in whole years or even months, so the car only needs to be 10 years and 1 day old to meet this requirement.

The one thing on which almost all Japanese import cars will fail the MOT is the lack of a rear fog light.  This will need to be fitted before the test (there only needs to be one) and I’m going to write some instructions on how to do this in a future post and will add the link here when I’ve done so.

You may read that the speedometer must be converted from km to miles for the test.  This isn’t true – I’ve written more on speedometer and odometer conversion here.


This stands for individual vehicle approval and is a test required in addition to the MOT for imported vehicles under 10 years old at the time of registration.

Think of it as a super MOT or MOT plus.

The test costs £199.

I’m not going to go into detail on the whole test.  Please don’t think of me as lazy – the official DVSA inspection manual is 300 pages long!

In my view, a car imported from Japan is most likely to fail the test on the following areas:

  • Exterior projections.  This will mostly apply to modified cars.  Common examples would be: rear wings wider than the body of the car and wheels wider than their arches.
  • Fog light.  I mentioned above that almost all cars imported from Japan will need a rear red fog light fitting to pass the MOT.  Obviously the same is true for the IVA.  More care needs to be taken with fog light placement and aim.
  • Headlights.  Some headlights won’t have the necessary markings or washers to meet EU regulations.
  • Speedometer.  Needs to read in miles per hour and will be checked for accuracy.  Japanese imports generally have speed and distance measured in km only.
  • General construction.  As with exterior projections, I think it will be the modified Japanese import that will risk falling foul of this section.  Poor quality modifications involving cables/hoses that aren’t secured properly and safely, will require attention before the test.
  • Emissions.  Again this will likely only apply to tuned/modified vehicles.  The car exhaust is tested for carbon monoxide, hydrocarbons and air:fuel ratio.  Most cars will be fine but some heavily modified cars might need a few tweaks to pass.


Picture of an example DVLA V948 japanese import car registration number authorisation certificateNow you have a better idea of why I’m always going on about importing cars over 10 years old.  The registration process is cheaper and simpler.

But please don’t let this put you off wanting a younger car – the IVA test isn’t something to be feared, it’s just a slightly higher and more expensive hoop to jump through.  Remember it is designed to cover all possibilities on a huge range of vehicles:  I’m thinking of botched self-built / kit cars here in particular.

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