United Kingdom’s Top 10 Imports

United Kingdom’s Top 10 Imports

by Flagpictures.org

The United Kingdom imported US$673.1 billion worth of goods from around the globe in 2018. That metric reflects a -3.1% drop since 2014 but a 5% uptick from 2017 to 2018.

UK’s imports represent 5% of total global imports which totaled an estimated $17.788 trillion one year earlier during 2017.

From a continental perspective, well over half (59.3%) of United Kingdom’s total imports by value in 2018 were purchased from fellow European countries (compared to 52.5% from the European Union). Asian trade partners supplied 22% of import purchases by Britain while 12.2% originated from North America. Smaller percentages came from Africa (2.9%), Latin America (1.2%) including the Caribbean but excluding Mexico, then Oceania (0.8%) led by Australia and New Zealand.

Given United Kingdom’s population of 65.1 million people, its total $673.1 billion in 2018 imports translates to roughly $10,300 in yearly product demand from every person in Britain.

United Kingdom’s Top 10 Imports

Top 10

The following product groups represent the highest dollar value in United Kingdom’s import purchases during 2018 at the two-digit Harmonized Tariff System code level. Also shown is the percentage share each product category represents in terms of overall imports into United Kingdom.

  1. Machinery including computers: US$87 billion (12.9% of total imports)
  2. Vehicles: $75.1 billion (11.2%)
  3. Electrical machinery, equipment: $69 billion (10.3%)
  4. Mineral fuels including oil: $66.9 billion (9.9%)
  5. Gems, precious metals: $40.2 billion (6%)
  6. Pharmaceuticals: $30.3 billion (4.5%)
  7. Plastics, plastic articles: $19.5 billion (2.9%)
  8. Optical, technical, medical apparatus: $18.8 billion (2.8%)
  9. Articles of iron or steel: $12.1 billion (1.8%)
  10. Furniture, bedding, lighting, signs, prefab buildings: $11.8 billion (1.8%)

Note that the results listed above are at the categorized two-digit Harmonized Tariff System (HTS) code level. For a more detailed view of imported goods at the four-digit HTS code level, see the section Searchable List of UK’s Most Valuable Import Products further down near the bottom of this article or under the adjacent product folder tabs.

United Kingdom’s top 10 imports accounted for almost two-thirds (64%) of the overall value of its product purchases from other countries.

Items made from iron or steel had the fastest-growing increase in cost among the top 10 import categories, up 35.1% from 2017 to 2018.

In second place for expanding import purchases was the mineral fuels including oil category thanks to 29.6% increase mostly due to thanks largely to higher charges for imported petroleum oils and gases.

Britain’s total bill for imported electrical machinery and equipment rose 8.8%.

Year over year, two categories sustained cutbacks in value. Gems and precious metals fell -17.9% thanks to lower gold purchases. UK’s imports of pharmaceuticals dropped -8.3% year over year.

Also see the section Searchable List of UK’s Most Valuable Import Products further down near the bottom of this article.


In 2018, UK importers spent the most on the following 10 subcategories of machinery.

  1. Turbo-jets: US$20.3 billion (down -1.8% from 2017)
  2. Computers, optical readers: $14.8 billion (up 18.5%)
  3. Piston engine parts: $4.4 billion (up 9.8%)
  4. Printing machinery: $3.1 billion (up 6.5%)
  5. Taps, valves, similar appliances: $3.1 billion (up 0.8%)
  6. Computer parts, accessories: $2.5 billion (up 15%)
  7. Air or vacuum pumps: $2.3 billion (up 1.9%)
  8. Liquid pumps and elevators: $2.2 billion (down -0.7%)
  9. Centrifuges, filters and purifiers: $2.1 billion (up 9.8%)
  10. Machinery parts: $2.1 billion (up 5.5%)

Among these import subcategories, British purchases of computers including optical readers (up 18.5%), computer parts or accessories (up 15%) and piston engine parts (up 9.8%) grew at the fastest pace from 2017 to 2018.

These amounts and the percentage gains within parenthesis clearly show where the strongest demand lies for different types of imported machinery among UK businesses and consumers.


In 2018, UK importers spent the most on the following 10 subcategories of vehicles.

  1. Cars: US$42.7 billion (down -3.3% from 2017)
  2. Automobile parts/accessories: $16.9 billion (up 5.5%)
  3. Trucks: $7.6 billion (up 5.9%)
  4. Tractors: $1.5 billion (up 0.9%)
  5. Trailers: $845.9 million (down -3%)
  6. Motorcycles: $642.6 million (down -16.8%)
  7. Automobile bodies: $624.4 million (up 21.4%)
  8. Motorcycle parts/accessories: $499.5 million (down -12.6%)
  9. Bicycles, other non-motorized cycles: $453.8 million (down -11.9%)
  10. Public-transport vehicles: $404.3 million (down -0.5%)

Among these import subcategories, British purchases of automobile bodies (up 21.4%), trucks (up 5.9%) and automobile parts or accessories (up 5.5%) grew at the fastest pace from 2017 to 2018.

These amounts clearly show where the strongest demand lies for different types of imported vehicles among UK businesses and consumers.


In 2018, UK importers spent the most on the following 10 subcategories of electronics.

  1. Phone system devices including smartphones: US$20.2 billion (up 9% from 2017)
  2. Integrated circuits/microassemblies: $6.8 billion (up 251.7%)
  3. TV receivers/monitors/projectors: $4.9 billion (up 8.8%)
  4. Insulated wire/cable: $4.5 billion (up 0.6%)
  5. Lower-voltage switches, fuses: $2.7 billion (down -3.2%)
  6. Unrecorded sound media: $2.5 billion (up 5.4%)
  7. Electric water heaters, hair dryers: $2.3 billion (up 1.6%)
  8. Electrical converters/power units: $2.1 billion (down -1.4%)
  9. Electrical/optical circuit boards, panels: $1.8 billion (up 8.4%)
  10. Electric storage batteries: $1.6 billion (up 13.7%)

Among these import subcategories, British purchases of integrated circuits and microassemblies (up 251.7%), electric storage batteries (up 13.7%) and phone system devices including smartphones (up 9%) grew at the fastest pace from 2017 to 2018.

These amounts and the percentage gains within parenthesis clearly show where the strongest demand lies for different types of imported electronics among UK businesses and consumers.


UK importers spent the most on the following 10 subcategories of mineral fuels-related products during 2018.

  1. Crude oil: US$25.9 billion (up 25.3% from 2017)
  2. Processed petroleum oils: $22.1 billion (up 32.7%)
  3. Petroleum gases: $14.5 billion (up 29.2%)
  4. Electrical energy: $1.7 billion (up 55.3%)
  5. Coal, solid fuels made from coal: $1.3 billion (up 32.5%)
  6. Coal tar oils (high temperature distillation): $490.1 million (up 148.5%)
  7. Petroleum oil residues: $348.4 million (down -14.2%)
  8. Coke, semi-coke: $286.4 million (up 4.5%)
  9. Petroleum jelly, mineral waxes: $64 million (down -3.6%)
  10. Peat: $47 million (down -11.7%)

Among these import subcategories, British purchases of high-temperature distilled coal tar oils (up 148.5%), electrical energy (up 55.3%) and processed petroleum oils (up 32.7%) grew at the fastest pace from 2017 to 2018.

These amounts and the percentage gains within parenthesis clearly show where the strongest demand lies for different types of imported mineral fuels-related goods among UK businesses and consumers.


Searchable List of UK’s Most Valuable Import Products

At the more granular four-digit HTS code level, the United Kingdom’s top import products are cars, crude oil, gold, refined petroleum oils and turbo-jets followed by mobile phones then automotive parts or accessories.

The following searchable table displays 200 of the UK’s most in-demand imported goods during 2018. Shown beside each product label is its total import value then the percentage increase or decrease since 2017.

RankUK's Import Product2018 Value (US$)Change
1Cars$42.7 billion-3.3%
2Crude oil$25.9 billion+25.3%
3Gold (unwrought)$25.7 billion-25.5%
4Processed petroleum oils$22.1 billion+32.7%
5Turbo-jets$20.3 billion-1.8%
6Phone system devices including smartphones$20.2 billion+9%
7Automobile parts/accessories$16.9 billion+5.5%
8Medication mixes in dosage$16.6 billion-5.6%
9Computers, optical readers$14.8 billion+18.5%
10Petroleum gases$14.5 billion+29.2%
11Blood fractions (including antisera)$9.2 billion-10.3%
12Trucks$7.6 billion+5.9%
13Integrated circuits/microassemblies$6.8 billion+251.7%
14Aircraft, spacecraft$5.6 billion-41.7%
15Aircraft parts$5.5 billion+11.7%
16TV receivers/monitors/projectors$4.9 billion+8.8%
17Miscellaneous furniture$4.6 billion-4.4%
18Insulated wire/cable$4.5 billion+0.6%
19Piston engine parts$4.4 billion+9.8%
20Wine $4.1 billion+0.2%
21Platinum (unwrought)$3.8 billion+8.1%
22Electro-medical equip (e.g. xrays)$3.7 billion-0.8%
23Seats (excluding barber/dentist chairs)$3.5 billion-3.5%
24Women's clothing (not knit or crochet)$3.4 billion-9.8%
25Medication mixes not in dosage$3.2 billion-24.8%
26Printing machinery$3.1 billion+6.5%
27Jewelry$3.1 billion+1.1%
28Cases, handbags, wallets$3.1 billion+1.2%
29Taps, valves, similar appliances$3.1 billion+0.8%
30Rubber tires (new)$2.9 billion+5.5%
31Jerseys, pullovers (knit or crochet)$2.8 billion-8.6%
32Miscellaneous iron or steel items$2.8 billion+108.7%
33Footwear (leather)$2.8 billion-7.2%
34Models, puzzles, miscellaneous toys$2.7 billion-2.3%
35Lower-voltage switches, fuses$2.7 billion-3.2%
36Diamonds (unmounted/unset)$2.7 billion+11.1%
37Heterocyclics, nucleic acids$2.6 billion+23.1%
38Bread, biscuits, cakes, pastries$2.6 billion+2.3%
39Miscellaneous meat (preserved/prepared)$2.5 billion-0.9%
40Unrecorded sound media$2.5 billion+5.4%
41Computer parts, accessories$2.5 billion+15%
42Miscellaneous plastic items$2.4 billion-1.4%
43Beauty/makeup/skin care preparations$2.4 billion-5.6%
44Plastic packing goods, lids, caps$2.4 billion-2.4%
45T-shirts, vests (knit or crochet)$2.3 billion-9.4%
46Electric water heaters, hair dryers$2.3 billion+1.6%
47Air or vacuum pumps$2.3 billion+1.9%
48Orthopedic appliances$2.2 billion+3.6%
49Miscellaneous iron and steel structures$2.2 billion+91.4%
50Liquid pumps and elevators$2.2 billion-0.7%
51Cheese, curd$2.2 billion+8%
52Precious metal waste, scrap$2.1 billion+6.7%
53Sawn wood$2.1 billion+1.5%
54Centrifuges, filters and purifiers$2.1 billion+9.8%
55Electrical converters/power units$2.1 billion-1.4%
56Machinery parts$2.1 billion+5.5%
57Hand-drawn paintings, drawings$2.1 billion+12.7%
58Chocolate, other cocoa preparations$2 billion+3.1%
59Silver (unwrought)$2 billion-29.3%
60Plastic plates, sheets, film, tape, strips$2 billion-4.1%
61Other food preparations$1.9 billion+2%
62Men's suits, trousers (not knit or crochet)$1.9 billion-10.2%
63Aluminum plates, sheets, strips$1.9 billion-0.6%
64Footwear (textile)$1.9 billion-10.2%
65Engines (diesel)$1.9 billion+0.8%
66Electrical/optical circuit boards, panels$1.8 billion+8.4%
67Lamps, lighting, illuminated signs$1.8 billion-13.1%
68Transmission shafts, gears, clutches$1.8 billion+4.4%
69Electrical energy$1.7 billion+55.3%
70Ethylene polymers$1.7 billion-9.5%
71Refrigerators, freezers$1.7 billion-3.9%
72Electric storage batteries$1.6 billion+13.7%
73Table games, bowling equipment$1.6 billion-6.9%
74Women's clothing (knit or crochet)$1.6 billion-13.3%
75Poultry meat$1.6 billion+2.8%
76Heavy machinery (bulldozers, excavators, road rollers)$1.5 billion+16.4%
77Tractors$1.5 billion+0.9%
78Fuel wood, wood chips, sawdust$1.5 billion+18.1%
79Miscellaneous machinery$1.5 billion-6.7%
80Regulate/control instruments$1.4 billion-4.9%
81Base metal mountings, fittings$1.4 billion+1.5%
82Electrical machinery$1.4 billion+12%
83Printed books, brochures$1.4 billion+1%
84Coated paper$1.4 billion-0.6%
85Flat-rolled iron or non-alloy steel products (plated/coated)$1.4 billion-1.8%
86Physical/chemical analysis tools$1.4 billion+4.5%
87Microphones/headphones/amps$1.4 billion+4.5%
88Chemical industry products/residuals$1.3 billion+24.4%
89Iron and steel screws, bolts, nuts, washers$1.3 billion+2.7%
90Miscellaneous animal feed preparations$1.3 billion-0.7%
91Polyacetal/ether/carbonates$1.3 billion-5.5%
92Sports equipment$1.3 billion+1.5%
93TV receiver/transmit/digital cameras$1.3 billion-2.5%
94Coal, solid fuels made from coal$1.3 billion+32.5%
95Electric motors, generators$1.3 billion+21.6%
96Other organic cleaning preparations$1.2 billion+0.9%
97Miscellaneous engines, motors$1.2 billion+37.5%
98Electrical lighting/signaling equpment, defrosters$1.2 billion+3%
99Miscellaneous fresh/chilled vegetables$1.2 billion-5%
100Radar, radio communication items$1.2 billion+47.2%
101Other diagnostic/lab reagents$1.2 billion+4.8%
102Non-alcoholic drinks (not water/juice/milk)$1.1 billion+4.4%
103Perfumes, toilet waters$1.1 billion+0.1%
104Footwear (rubber or plastic)$1.1 billion-10.5%
105Other measuring/testing machines$1.1 billion+1%
106Fruit and vegetable juices$1.1 billion+2.4%
107Fresh or chilled beef$1.1 billion-3.8%
108Alcohol (including spirits, liqueurs)$1.1 billion+5.7%
109Fish fillets, pieces$1.1 billion+1.7%
110Swine meat$1.1 billion-11.6%
111Uncoated paper for writing/printing$1.1 billion+1.9%
112Coffee$1.1 billion+0.1%
113Propylene/olefin polymers$1.1 billion+2%
114Scents used for beverage or industrial manufacturing$1 billion+10.5%
115Temperature-change machines$1 billion-3.9%
116 Dishwashing, clean/dry/fill machines $1 billion-0.9%
117Pneumatic hand tool$1 billion-4.1%
118Fish, caviar (preserved/prepared)$1 billion+5.1%
119Optical fiber cables, sheets, plates$989.1 million-3%
120Acyclic alcohols$985.4 million+51.1%
121Air conditioners$984 million-1.5%
122Linens$977.3 million-9.2%
123Light vessels, fire boats, floating docks$976.2 million-17.3%
124Paper containers, cellulose wadding$967.9 million-1.1%
125Packaged insecticides/fungicides/herbicides$938.8 million+0.3%
126Railway/tram coaches, vans, trucks$933.1 million-31.1%
127Miscellaneous fruits (fresh)$922.5 million+3.8%
128Print/write/draw inks$916.8 million+3.5%
129Wrist/pocket watches (no precious metal case)$910.2 million-4.3%
130Women's coats, jackets (not knit or crochet)$906.9 million-4.7%
131Plastic plates, sheets, film, tape, strips$897.8 million-5.1%
132Wood carpentry, builders' joinery$897 million-9.5%
133Women's shirts (not knit or crochet)$891.4 million-18.9%
134Fork-lift trucks$890.2 million-1.1%
135#N/A$881.1 million+1.4%
136Sanitary towels, baby napkins/liners$874.2 million+7.1%
137Grapes (fresh or dried)$873.5 million+1.5%
138Lifting/loading machinery$870.9 million-9.9%
139Electric ignition/start equipment$870 million+4.4%
140Vulcanized rubber items$852.3 million-4.8%
141Harvest/threshing machinery$846.4 million-14.2%
142Trailers$845.9 million-3%
143Soya-bean oil-cake, other solid residues$845.2 million+15.5%
144Fresh or dried flowers (for bouquets, ornamental)$835.1 million-13.4%
145Liquid/gas checking instruments$831.3 million+4.2%
146Central heating boilers$828 million+3.5%
147Fresh or dried citrus fruit$822.6 million-0.1%
148Salted/dried/smoked meat$810 million-5.2%
149Men's coats, jackets (not knit or crochet)$804.9 million+2.4%
150Washing machines$798 million-1.3%
151Iron ores, concentrates$781.8 million-0.8%
152Hair preparations$780.8 million+6.8%
153Electric sound/visual signal bells or alarms$779.1 million+0.2%
154Miscellaneous railway/tram locomotives$776.8 million+21.5%
155Bananas, plantains$766.8 million-7%
156Chemical woodpulp (non-dissolving)$764.5 million+30.3%
157Hot-rolled iron or non-alloy steel products$760.6 million+28.6%
158Navigational aids, compasses$760.2 million+3%
159Wrist/pocket watches (precious metal case)$752.8 million-7.9%
160Titanium$744.3 million+20.8%
161Laminated wood (including plywood, veneer panels)$743.7 million+11%
162Electric generating sets, converters$732.6 million-30.6%
163Men's shirts (not knit or crochet)$725.8 million-7.4%
164Other prepared/preserved vegetables (frozen)$725 million+11.4%
165Tufted carpets/textile floor coverings$721.8 million-12.2%
166X-ray equipment$716.9 million+14.1%
167Solar power diodes/semi-conductors$714.5 million-23.2%
168Cellulose fiber paper$700.8 million-0.3%
169Malt beer$697.4 million+11%
170TV/radio/radar device parts$691.2 million-12.9%
171Whole fish (fresh)$683 million+2.5%
172Dates/figs/pineapples/mangoes/avocadoes/guavas$664.1 million-3.8%
173Miscellaneous iron or steel tubes, pipes$664 million-12.2%
174Stockings, hosiery (knit or crochet)$655.7 million-16.1%
175Nitrogenous fertilizers$653.4 million+25.5%
176Tomatoes$649.2 million-3.5%
177Bridge structures, parts$648.4 million+14.9%
178Electric circuit parts, fuses, switches$648 million-1.4%
179Motorcycles$642.6 million-16.8%
180Plastic tableware, kitchenware, toiletry$636.7 million-3.5%
181Automobile bodies$624.4 million+21.4%
182Mattresses, quilts$623.7 million+0.5%
183Apples, pears (fresh)$622.6 million+3.3%
184Vacuum cleaners$620.1 million+10.7%
185Personal toilet/shaving preparations, deodorants$613.7 million-11.1%
186Acyclic hydrocarbons$610.9 million+39.1%
187Sutures, special pharmaceutical goods$610 million+9.2%
188Aluminum (unwrought)$593.4 million+14.4%
189Safety glass$593.2 million-2.6%
190Miscellaneous preserved fruits$593 million+0.8%
191Oscilloscopes, spectrum analyzers$588.8 million+1%
192Sausages$586.7 million-2.9%
193Women's underwear, pajamas (knit or crochet)$583.1 million-17.8%
194Flour/meal/starch/malt extract food preparations$579.4 million-3.1%
195Plastic tubes, pipes, fittings$577.3 million-3.4%
196Ball, roller bearings$573.3 million+10.4%
197Self-adhesive plastic in rolls$571.7 million-14.9%
198Sugar confectionery (no cocoa)$571.6 million-4.2%
199Biodiesel$569.8 million+80.5%
200Spray/dispersing mechanical appliances$569.3 million-5%

These 200 imported goods were worth a subtotal of US$516.7 billion or almost four-fifths (76.8%) by value for all foreign products sold to the United Kingdom during 2018.

See also United Kingdom’s Top 10 Exports, United Kingdom’s Top Trading Partners, UK Major Trade Balances with America, United Kingdom’s Top 10 Major Export Companies and United Kingdom’s Exported Services

Research Sources:
International Monetary Fund, World Economic Outlook Database (GDP based on Purchasing Power Parity). Accessed on February 19, 2019

The World Factbook, Country Profiles, Central Intelligence Agency. Accessed on February 19, 2019

Trade Map, International Trade Centre, www.intracen.org/marketanalysis. Accessed on February 19, 2019