Buying an EU Import Car

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Buying an EU import car may be cheaper, or can sometimes be better equipped for the same money, than when you buy from your local dealer. You may even find an unusual or special model that isn’t available in the local car market. If you’re wondering how to buy an EU import car and legally get it on the road in your country, CARFAX has put together a comprehensive explanation of the process.

Conformity requirements for EU import cars

When buying an EU import car, it needs to have a certificate of conformity to prove it adheres to the road safety standards set by the European Union. Since 1996, manufacturers have been required to provide an “Operational Standard Certificate” to allow importation of vehicles bought inside of the EU without requiring a technical conformity inspection.

If the vehicle you would like to buy doesn’t have this certificate (for example, it is too old), it will need to be inspected by an official authority. If the car meets the required standards, the inspection authority will issue the certificate.

Buying a new or used EU import

The first step in the process of buying an EU import car is determining whether you’d like a new or used vehicle. There are specific taxation rules depending on which option you choose.

Buying a new EU import car

An EU import car is classified as “new” if it is less than six months old and has been driven less than 6,000km.

Most countries within the EU do not charge an import duty for new cars as long as they are purchased within the European Union. Cyprus and Portugal are two exceptions to this rule.

Although, if you buy a new EU import, you will need to pay value added tax (VAT) to the local tax office. Generally, you have around 10-14 days after the purchase date to do this. Even if you already paid VAT on the purchase in another country you will have to pay it again; but it is possible to reclaim the VAT paid in another country. Proof of VAT payment will be needed to register your EU import car.

You are except from this rule is if you have an original receipt showing payment of VAT as well as proof of foreign registration in another EU country.

Buying a used EU import car

The same rule for duty applies to used EU import cars. Most countries, with the exception of Cyprus and Portugal, do not charge an import duty.

Additionally, you will not need to pay VAT on your used EU import, provided the vehicle is for personal use, you have already paid VAT in the EU country of origin, and it has been driven more than 6,000km prior to arrival.

You will need the following documents to import a used vehicle from another EU country:

  • Proof of ownership (e.g. original bill of sale or receipt)
  • Original vehicle registration documents
  • Current documentation of vehicle insurance
  • EU certificate of conformity
  • Certificate of an exhaust emissions test (for all vehicles 3+ years old)
  • A tax clearance certificate confirming the vehicle has not already been registered in the country

Documentation required for registration of EU import car

In order to register your EU import, you will need to bring the following documentation to your local vehicle registration office:

  • Proof of identity
  • Proof of residency
  • Proof that duty has been paid (if applicable)
  • Proof of vehicle insurance
  • Original vehicle registration documents
  • Tax clearance certificate
  • European Certificate of Conformity
  • Vehicles without a European Certificate of Conformity must have a roadworthiness certificate
  • Proof of ownership
  • License plates

In addition to this documentation, you may have to pay a fee based on the cubic volume of the vehicle’s engine.

reimported cars

Buying reimport cars

Reimport cars are those that, for example, have been manufactured in Germany, acquired outside of Germany, and later returned to Germany. This may seem illogical, but this procedure quite common within the automotive market. The difference in price, which makes reimport cars so interesting, has its origin in the different tax rates applied across many EU member states. These price differences can reach almost 30% compared to the domestic price of a vehicle.

When purchasing used cars, it is important to know both the origin and history of the vehicle. Whether import cars or reimport cars, there is a reliable and secure source of information which can provide this information: the CARFAX report.

The CARFAX report provides consumers and sellers of used cars detailed information about a vehicle. In the CARFAX report, you can identify whether or not a car has been imported, and even if it is a reimport car. On top of this, the CARFAX report also provides key data for helping with the purchase of a used car, such as a record of the number of owners, the vehicle’s usage history (e.g. private, taxi, rental, etc.), mileage information, service history, inspection and maintenance records, and much more.

If you're buying a used car, check the CARFAX report to help ensure you make the right investment.