United Kingdom’s Top 10 Imports

United Kingdom’s Top 10 Imports

by Flagpictures.org

The United Kingdom imported US$644.1 billion worth of goods from around the globe in 2017. That metric reflects a -2% drop since 2013 but a 1.2% uptick from 2016 to 2017.

UK imports represent 4% of total global imports which totaled $16.054 trillion one year earlier during 2016.

As of June 2018, UK’s import purchases were valued at $338.1 billion up 10.1% compared to the first 6 months of 2017.

From a continental perspective, well over half (58.6%) of United Kingdom’s total imports by value in 2017 were purchased from fellow European countries. Asian trade partners supplied 22.7% of import purchases by the United Kingdom while 12.2% originated from North America. Smaller percentages came from Oceania (1%) led by Australia and New Zealand, Latin America including the Caribbean but excluding Mexico (1.2%) and exporters in Africa (2.7%).

Given United Kingdom’s population of 64.8 million people, its total $644.1 billion in 2017 imports translates to roughly $9,900 in yearly product demand from every person in the UK.

United Kingdom’s Top 10 Imports

Top 10

The following product groups represent the highest dollar value in United Kingdom’s import purchases during 2017 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.

At the more detailed four-digit HTS code level, the UK’s most valuable imported products are cars, gold, crude oil, turbo-jets, smartphones and medicines.

  1. Machinery including computers: US$82.5 billion (12.8% of total imports)
  2. Vehicles: $72.8 billion (11.3%)
  3. Electrical machinery, equipment: $63.9 billion (9.9%)
  4. Mineral fuels including oil: $51.8 billion (8%)
  5. Gems, precious metals: $49.8 billion (7.7%)
  6. Pharmaceuticals: $33.1 billion (5.1%)
  7. Plastics, plastic articles: $18.4 billion (2.9%)
  8. Optical, technical, medical apparatus: $17.8 billion (2.8%)
  9. Aircraft, spacecraft: $14.9 billion (2.3%)
  10. Furniture, bedding, lighting, signs, prefab buildings: $11.6 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 (64.7%) of the overall value of its product purchases from other countries.

Mineral fuels including oil had the fastest-growing increase in cost among the top 10 import categories, up 30.5% from 2016 to 2017 thanks largely to higher charges for imported crude oil, refined petroleum oils and petroleum gases.

In second place for improving import sales was electrical machinery via an 11% gain, trailed by an 8.3% uptick for machinery including computers. Imported plastics and items made from plastic went up 7.3%.

Three categories sustained cutbacks in value. Gems and precious metals fell -29.7% thanks to lower gold purchases while the aircraft and spacecraft category depreciated by -20.3%. UK’s imports of vehicles decreased by a modest -1.9% year over year.


In 2017, UK importers spent the most on the following 10 subcategories of machinery:

  1. Turbo-jets: US$20.6 billion (up 17.6% from 2016)
  2. Computers, optical readers: $12.6 billion (up 2.4%)
  3. Computer parts, accessories: $4.2 billion (up 58.3%)
  4. Piston engine parts: $3.9 billion (up 14.3%)
  5. Printing machinery: $2.8 billion (down -3.8%)
  6. Taps, valves, similar appliances: $2.8 billion (down -12.6%)
  7. Air or vacuum pumps: $2.1 billion (up 3%)
  8. Liquid pumps and elevators: $2.1 billion (down -3.1%)
  9. Machinery parts: $1.8 billion (down -4.4%)
  10. Engines (diesel): $1.8 billion (down -20.5%)

Among these import subcategories, UK purchases of computer parts or accessories (up 58.3%), turbo-jets (up 17.6%) and piston engine parts (up 14.3%) grew at the fastest pace from 2016 to 2017.

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 2017, UK importers spent the most on the following 10 subcategories of vehicles:

  1. Cars: US$43.3 billion (down -4.9% from 2016)
  2. Automobile parts/accessories: $15.7 billion (down -0.4%)
  3. Trucks: $7 billion (down -0.5%)
  4. Tractors: $1.5 billion (down -4.4%)
  5. Trailers: $784.5 million (down -12.1%)
  6. Motorcycles: $617.7 million (down -6.1%)
  7. Motorcycle parts/accessories: $524.1 million (down -11.6%)
  8. Automobile bodies: $505.2 million (down -8.6%)
  9. Bicycles, other non-motorized cycles: $487.3 million (down -7.5%)
  10. Public-transport vehicles: $388 million (up 4.8%)

Only UK purchases of public-transport vehicles increased in value, up 4.8% year over year.

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


In 2017, UK importers spent the most on the following 10 subcategories of electronics:

  1. Phone system devices including smartphones: US$18.4 billion (up 8.3% from 2016)
  2. Integrated circuits/microassemblies: $5.1 billion (up 171.9%)
  3. TV receivers/monitors/projectors: $4.5 billion (up 2.8%)
  4. Insulated wire/cable: $4.4 billion (up 1.4%)
  5. Lower-voltage switches, fuses: $2.6 billion (down -3.6%)
  6. Unrecorded sound media: $2.6 billion (up 0.5%)
  7. Electric water heaters, hair dryers: $2.2 billion (down -3.8%)
  8. Electrical converters/power units: $2 billion (up 0.7%)
  9. Electrical/optical circuit boards, panels: $1.6 billion (up 3.5%)
  10. Electric storage batteries: $1.4 billion (up 17.6%)

Among these import subcategories, UK purchases of integrated circuits or microassemblies (up 171.9%), electric storage batteries (up 17.6%) and phone system devices including smartphones (up 8.3%) grew at the fastest pace from 2016 to 2017.

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 2017:

  1. Crude oil: US$20.9 billion (up 45.9% from 2016)
  2. Processed petroleum oils: $16.6 billion (up 15%)
  3. Petroleum gases: $11.2 billion (up 31.2%)
  4. Electrical energy: $1.1 billion (up 6.1%)
  5. Coal, solid fuels made from coal: $932.5 million (up 40.1%)
  6. Petroleum oil residues: $325.2 million (up 29.3%)
  7. Coke, semi-coke: $269.9 million (up 33.6%)
  8. Coal tar oils (high temperature distillation): $196.6 million (up 77.4%)
  9. Petroleum jelly, mineral waxes: $61.6 million (down -17.6%)
  10. Peat: $41.1 million (down -21.3%)

Among these import subcategories, UK purchases of high-temperature distilled coal tar oils (up 77.4%), crude oil (up 45.9%) and coal or solid fuels made from coal (up 40.1%) grew at the fastest pace from 2016 to 2017.

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, gold, crude oil, turbo-jets followed by mobile phones then medicines.

The following searchable table displays 200 of the UK’s most in-demand imported goods during 2017. Shown beside each product label is its total import value then the percentage increase or decrease since 2016.

RankUK Import Product2017 Value (US$)Change
1Cars$44.1 billion-3.2%
2Gold (unwrought)$34.4 billion-40.6%
3Crude oil$20.9 billion+45.8%
4Turbo-jets$20.6 billion+17.9%
5Phone system devices including smartphones $18.5 billion+8.9%
6Medication mixes in dosage$17.5 billion-7%
7Processed petroleum oils$16.6 billion+15%
8Automobile parts/accessories$16 billion+1.6%
9Computers, optical readers$12.5 billion+1.6%
10Petroleum gases$11.2 billion+31.2%
11Blood fractions (including antisera)$10.3 billion+2.7%
12Aircraft, spacecraft$9.6 billion-30.1%
13Trucks$7.2 billion+1.6%
14Aircraft parts$4.9 billion-0.3%
15Miscellaneous furniture$4.8 billion+9.8%
16Insulated wire/cable$4.5 billion+5%
17TV receivers/monitors/projectors$4.5 billion+3.4%
18Medication mixes not in dosage$4.2 billion+48.5%
19Wine $4.1 billion+0.7%
20Piston engine parts$4 billion+16.7%
21Women's clothing (not knit or crochet)$3.7 billion-1.5%
22Electro-medical equip (e.g. xrays)$3.7 billion-0.8%
23Seats (excluding barber/dentist chairs)$3.6 billion+2.9%
24Platinum (unwrought)$3.5 billion+52.7%
25Jewelry$3.1 billion-14.6%
26Cases, handbags, wallets$3 billion+2.5%
27Taps, valves, similar appliances$3 billion-5.8%
28Jerseys, pullovers (knit or crochet)$3 billion-1.4%
29Footwear (leather)$2.9 billion-7.7%
30Silver (unwrought)$2.8 billion+15.5%
31Lower-voltage switches, fuses$2.8 billion+4.3%
32Models, puzzles, miscellaneous toys$2.8 billion-2.5%
33Printing machinery$2.8 billion-5.3%
34Rubber tires (new)$2.7 billion+15.2%
35T-shirts, vests (knit or crochet)$2.6 billion+3%
36Miscellaneous meat (preserved/prepared)$2.6 billion+5.4%
37Bread, biscuits, cakes, pastries$2.5 billion+6.4%
38Beauty/makeup/skin care preparations$2.5 billion+7.6%
39Diamonds (unmounted/unset)$2.4 billion+10.1%
40Miscellaneous plastic items$2.4 billion+1.5%
41Plastic packing goods, lids, caps$2.4 billion+7.3%
42Unrecorded sound media$2.4 billion-7.9%
43Electric water heaters, hair dryers$2.3 billion-1.4%
44Liquid pumps and elevators$2.2 billion+3.9%
45Air or vacuum pumps$2.2 billion+9.2%
46Computer parts, accessories$2.2 billion-18.7%
47Orthopedic appliances$2.2 billion+1.9%
48Men's suits, trousers (not knit or crochet)$2.1 billion-9.4%
49Heterocyclics, nucleic acids$2.1 billion-5.1%
50Electrical converters/power units$2.1 billion+6.3%
51Footwear (textile)$2.1 billion+18.3%
52Lamps, lighting, illuminated signs$2.1 billion-3.2%
53Plastic plates, sheets, film, tape, strips$2.1 billion+2.2%
54Sawn wood$2.1 billion+8.5%
55Cheese, curd$2 billion+10%
56Chocolate, other cocoa preparations$2 billion+2.3%
57Machinery parts$2 billion+3.4%
58Precious metal waste, scrap$2 billion+26%
59Integrated circuits/microassemblies$1.9 billion+2.3%
60Aluminum plates, sheets, strips$1.9 billion+13.6%
61Centrifuges, filters and purifiers$1.9 billion-0.7%
62Other food preparations$1.9 billion-8.8%
63Engines (diesel)$1.9 billion-18.3%
64Ethylene polymers$1.9 billion+10.3%
65Hand-drawn paintings, drawings$1.8 billion-14.6%
66Women's clothing (knit or crochet)$1.8 billion-0.1%
67Refrigerators, freezers$1.7 billion+5.2%
68Transmission shafts, gears, clutches$1.7 billion+16.5%
69Table games, bowling equipment$1.7 billion+25.3%
70Electrical/optical circuit boards, panels$1.7 billion+7.3%
71Miscellaneous machinery$1.6 billion-0.3%
72Poultry meat$1.5 billion-3.4%
73Regulate/control instruments$1.5 billion+8%
74Tractors$1.5 billion-2.4%
75Electric storage batteries$1.4 billion+20.8%
76Polyacetal/ether/carbonates$1.4 billion+10.3%
77Coated paper$1.4 billion-4.3%
78Flat-rolled iron or non-alloy steel products (plated/coated)$1.4 billion+20.4%
79Base metal mountings, fittings$1.4 billion+3.9%
80Printed books, brochures$1.4 billion+2.1%
81Railway/streetcar coaches, vans, trucks$1.4 billion+52.3%
82Miscellaneous animal feed preparations$1.3 billion+10.6%
83Heavy machinery (bulldozers, excavators, road rollers)$1.3 billion+13.7%
84Miscellaneous iron or steel items$1.3 billion-0.7%
85TV receiver/transmit/digital cameras$1.3 billion+8.2%
86Physical/chemical analysis tools$1.3 billion+4.5%
87Microphones/headphones/amps$1.3 billion-1.5%
88Iron and steel screws, bolts, nuts, washers$1.3 billion+2.6%
89Sports equipment$1.3 billion-4%
90Fuel wood, wood chips, sawdust$1.3 billion-1%
91Miscellaneous fresh/chilled vegetables$1.3 billion+2%
92Electrical machinery$1.3 billion+0.05%
93Footwear (rubber or plastic)$1.2 billion-2.9%
94Other organic cleaning preparations$1.2 billion+1.9%
95Swine meat$1.2 billion+14.7%
96Light vessels, fire boats, floating docks$1.2 billion-28.3%
97Electrical lighting/signaling equpment, defrosters$1.2 billion-0.6%
98Miscellaneous iron and steel structures$1.2 billion-1.7%
99Fresh or chilled beef$1.1 billion+0.4%
100Perfumes, toilet waters$1.1 billion+4.8%
101Electrical energy$1.1 billion+6%
102Other diagnostic/lab reagents$1.1 billion+5.9%
103Women's shirts (not knit or crochet)$1.1 billion+0.1%
104Non-alcoholic drinks (not water/juice/milk)$1.1 billion-10.7%
105Other measuring/testing machines$1.1 billion-5.1%
106Chemical industry products/residuals$1.1 billion+17.2%
107Linens$1.1 billion-0.6%
108Fruit and vegetable juices$1.1 billion+5.9%
109Temperature-change machines$1.1 billion+3.8%
110Coffee$1.1 billion+4.6%
111Fish fillets, pieces$1.1 billion+0.7%
112Electric generating sets, converters$1 billion+51.7%
113Pneumatic hand tool$1 billion+6.8%
114Uncoated paper for writing/printing$1 billion-4.3%
115Propylene/olefin polymers$1 billion+18.7%
116Print/write/draw inks$1 billion+33.5%
117Electric motors, generators$1 billion-1.2%
118Alcohol (including spirits, liqueurs)$1 billion+9.3%
119 Dishwashing, clean/dry/fill machines $1 billion+5.4%
120Optical fiber cables, sheets, plates$1 billion+14.9%
121Air conditioners$989.7 million+14.9%
122Wood carpentry, builders' joinery$986.9 million+6.3%
123Lifting/loading machinery$986.3 million+17.9%
124Harvest/threshing machinery$984.7 million-1.6%
125Paper containers, cellulose wadding$977.4 million+1.4%
126Fresh or dried flowers (for bouquets, ornamental)$962.8 million-4.7%
127Fish, caviar (preserved/prepared)$950 million+1.8%
128Wrist/pocket watches (no precious metal case)$949.8 million-6%
129Women's coats, jackets (not knit or crochet)$947.6 million+0.6%
130Coal, solid fuels made from coal$946.3 million+42.2%
131Plastic plates, sheets, film, tape, strips$943.8 million+0.2%
132Packaged insecticides/fungicides/herbicides$932.8 million+5.2%
133Solar power diodes/semi-conductors$929.2 million-36.2%
134Scents used for beverage or industrial manufacturing$921.9 million+0.7%
135Fork-lift trucks$899.2 million+10.6%
136Vulcanized rubber items$893.3 million+4.8%
137Miscellaneous fruits (fresh)$887.5 million+2.9%
138Miscellaneous engines, motors$883.4 million+2.2%
139Trailers$869.9 million-2.5%
140Sauces, mixed condiments, seasonings$865.4 million+6.7%
141Grapes (fresh or dried)$859.1 million-3.6%
142Salted/dried/smoked meat$853.3 million-5.7%
143Electric ignition/start equipment$831.7 million+4.4%
144Bananas, plantains$829.3 million-0.2%
145Fresh or dried citrus fruit$822.3 million-0.2%
146Tufted carpets/textile floor coverings$819 million-2.8%
147Wrist/pocket watches (precious metal case)$816.2 million+7.9%
148Sanitary towels, baby napkins/liners$814.5 million-5.2%
149Washing machines$809 million-6.1%
150Radar, radio communication items$802.9 million-16.7%
151Central heating boilers$799.1 million-3.1%
152Liquid/gas checking instruments$796.8 million-0.5%
153TV/radio/radar device parts$792.6 million+17.5%
154Iron ores, concentrates$786.9 million+37.6%
155Men's coats, jackets (not knit or crochet)$783.3 million+10.4%
156Men's shirts (not knit or crochet)$782.2 million-11.8%
157Stockings, hosiery (knit or crochet)$780.4 million+2.4%
158Electric sound/visual signal bells or alarms$773.6 million+0.8%
159Motorcycles$770.6 million+17.1%
160Miscellaneous iron or steel tubes, pipes$753.6 million+21.9%
161Yachts, other pleasure/sports vessels$740.9 million+89%
162Navigational aids including compasses$736.9 million-5.1%
163Soya-bean oil-cake, other solid residues$730.9 million-11.2%
164Hair preparations$729.1 million+5%
165Women's underwear, pajamas (knit or crochet)$708.1 million-0.6%
166Cellulose fiber paper$700.3 million-3.4%
167Dates/figs/pineapples/mangoes/avocadoes/guavas$689 million+9.2%
168Personal toilet/shaving preparations, deodorants$687.2 million+4.2%
169Tomatoes (fresh/chilled)$671.4 million+9.4%
170Self-adhesive plastic in rolls$670.8 million+5.9%
171Laminated wood (including plywood, veneer panels)$669.4 million+4%
172Whole fish (fresh)$665.5 million-3.9%
173Plastic tableware, kitchenware, toiletry$658.4 million-0.1%
174Electric circuit parts, fuses, switches$652.4 million+9.1%
175Other prepared/preserved vegetables (frozen)$650.3 million+16.9%
176Acyclic alcohols$649.5 million+34.8%
177Miscellaneous railway/streetcar parts$638.5 million+9.6%
178X-ray equipment$627.1 million-0.6%
179Malt beer$626.9 million-13%
180Gas/liquid/electricity/production meters$623.6 million+34.7%
181Mattresses, quilts$618.9 million-0.6%
182Bras, corsets (not knit or crochet)$618 million+0.6%
183Titanium$615.3 million+6.7%
184Safety glass$608.4 million-3.2%
185Apples, pears (fresh)$601.7 million+4.1%
186Sausages$601.5 million+12.5%
187Spray/dispersing mechanical appliances$598.2 million+3%
188Iron or steel tubes, pipes$597.8 million+31%
189Flour/meal/starch/malt extract food preparations$596.8 million-17.4%
190Plastic tubes, pipes, fittings$596.8 million+13.4%
191Sugar confectionery (no cocoa)$595.7 million+5.1%
192Telecommunication receivers$594.4 million+5.5%
193Hot-rolled iron or non-alloy steel products$590.5 million+23.2%
194Chemical woodpulp (non-dissolving)$586.1 million+15.3%
195Miscellaneous preserved fruits$583.4 million+0.8%
196Oscilloscopes, spectrum analyzers$582.3 million+0.2%
197Motorcycle parts/accessories$570.9 million-3.7%
198Bridge structures, parts$563.4 million-7%
199Lead (unwrought)$560.2 million+44.4%
200Vacuum cleaners$559.9 million-4.4%

These 200 imported goods were worth a subtotal of US$505.4 billion or almost four-fifths (78.9%) by value for all foreign products sold to the United Kingdom during 2017.

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 European Union’s Top 10 Exports

Research Sources:
International Monetary Fund, World Economic Outlook Database (GDP based on Purchasing Power Parity). Accessed on August 8, 2018

The World Factbook, Country Profiles, Central Intelligence Agency. Accessed on August 8, 2018

Trade Map, International Trade Centre, www.intracen.org/marketanalysis. Accessed on August 8, 2018