Are you moving to the UK on a temporary basis and need access to a car?

If so, leasing - also called Personal Contract Hire - could be a great solution to your transportation needs. And it may not be as complex as you think…

Leasing a car in the UK as a non UK residentCredit: M-Production -

Perhaps you're in the UK on a temporary work contract, or you're visiting family for an extended period.

Whatever the reason for your UK stay, gaining access to a car will give you the freedom to travel from A to B, without having to rely on public transport, which can be expensive, time consuming, and not-always-reliable.

Benefits of expat car leasing in the UK

  • Freedom and flexibility of road travel for work or leisure
  • All-in-one monthly cost
  • Terms as short as one month
  • May be more practical than public transport
  • Could be better than buying a cheap second hand car
  • Many lease firms deliver the vehicle to your chosen location

What do I need to lease a car in the UK as a non-resident?

  • UK bank account
  • International driving licence (no convictions; issued at least 12 months prior)

You'll need a UK bank account because obtaining your car lease will involve some credit/affordability checks.

This is a universal requirement among lease providers. But if you're here for work, the chances are you'll have a UK bank account set up already.

Non-UK residents looking to lease a car often wonder: Can I lease a car with an international licence?

In short, yes. You can use the driving licence issued by your home country, but only for one year. After that you must exchange it for a UK licence.

If you decide to become a UK resident, you can swap your existing licence for a UK version after six months.

In order to use the driving licence issued by your home country, you'll need to have held it for 12 months, without any convictions.

Lease cars are generally aged three years or less, so paying for an MOT won’t be an issue.

Other documents the leasing firm may request

  • Proof of address
  • Copy of your passport
  • Current employment details


Driving in the UK: Beachy Head

Car lease for overseas visitors: The best option?

Leasing a car could make sense for many long-term visitors to the UK.

You can find leasing deals that include insurance, maintenance (including oil changes), road tax and emergency assistance.

And since your lease car is likely to be nearly-new, you'll also benefit from the manufacturer's warranty - which means most major repairs will be handled by them.

Do check what is and what isn’t covered under a given agreement before you sign up.

Leasing is also likely to be better than buying a cheap used car.

To buy a second hand car you need to spend time finding and buying a suitable vehicle, then set aside funds for unexpected repairs. And you'll also need to sell/dispose of the vehicle before you leave the UK.

A leased car has none of these drawbacks.


What's the minimum car lease period for an expat in the UK?

It's possible to lease a car in the UK for as short a time as a month.

This means you can terminate the lease as and when you need - which could be especially useful if you're unsure of your plans.

28-day rolling contracts are offered by a number of leasing firms.


Will I need insurance?

To drive legally in the UK you'll need insurance. Many leasing firms include this as part of the package.

It is possible to take out your own cover, but this is likely to be more costly - because non-UK drivers are viewed as higher risk by insurers.


Will I need to make a deposit on my lease car?

A deposit is not always required to lease a car in the UK.

You pay the initial month’s payment up front, then continue paying the same amount every month until the contract ends.

If a deposit is required, this is paid at the same time as the initial payment - and is refunded at the lease's end (assuming the car is undamaged and the agreed mileage has not been exceeded).

Tyre Retreading

What if my tyres get damaged during the lease?

If your tyres get damaged during the lease you'll need to pay for them to be replaced.

Since you'll need to get a damaged tyre replaced asap, you may be forced to use the nearest tyre dealer - which may not be cheap.

It’s important to be prepared for such unexpected expenses.


Consider fuel costs

Fuel costs can really add up - especially given prices have soared in recent years.

Research the MPG figures for your prospective lease car, and factor them into your budget. Also remember that official MPG figures may not reflect "real-world" driving.


Is it worth leasing a car in London?

While leasing a car could make sense in many parts of the UK, if you're based in London, this might not be the case.

London has an extensive, mostly-reliable public transport system. Using TfL Tube, trains and buses could be less stressful than driving in the capital, which may incur the London Congestion Charge (£15) and the Ultra Low Emission Zone charge (£12.5), depending on where you're travelling and how 'clean' your vehicle is.

London at rush hour is also not for the faint-hearted.

Additionally, using London transport will almost certainly be cheaper than leasing.

On the other hand, a lease car will enable you to explore outside London - from the beaches of the Southwest, to the Highlands of Scotland.

Can I lease a car as a long-term tourist in the UK?

Unless you have a UK bank account, it won't be possible to lease a car in the UK.

Since opening a bank account requires certain documentation (utility bills, for example) this is unlikely to be an option for a tourist exploring Britain for a month or two.

In conclusion

Obtaining a lease car if you’re not a UK resident is a relatively straightforward task, particularly if you already have a UK bank account set up, have a good credit score, and have a clean driving licence from your home country issued no less than 12 months prior.