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Driving and buying a car in EU

This article is provided by the European Commission

In Europe there are a host of reasons why you would want to drive a car in another EU country. Perhaps you want to take the whole family for a trip through the scenic beauty of France’s Provence or Italy’s Tuscany? Perhaps you want to enjoy a cultural sojourn in Prague or Ljubljana? Or perhaps you live as a non-native in an EU country and want to buy your own car. In each case, knowing what laws and regulations apply to you can save you hassle.

According to EU, law if your license is from an EU country, you can use it throughout the EU. No matter if you take your test in Romania or Germany, your driving license will be valid in every EU country. If you are not from the EU this may be a different matter in which case you will need to check with the relevant authorities. Also check to make sure that where you are going you are above the minimum driving age limit. In Italy, for instance, the minimum age limit for moped riders is 14 years old but in Belgium the minimum age is 16.

Your insurance from home will always cover you if you injure someone else (third-party damages) in any EU country. However, cover for other types of damage such as injuries you suffer (first-party insurance), fire, theft and so on suffered while abroad is not a standard part of insurance policies. If your current insurance contract is not valid in the country you are moving to, contact the national green card bureaus/information centres to ask which insurers offer car insurance in that country.

EU law guarantees minimum liability coverage. If you are in an accident in another EU country, you will be covered for at least €1 000 000 per victim for personal injuries or, €5 000 000 per claim (whatever the number of victims). For damages to property the amount is €1 000 000 per claim (whatever the number of victims). If your insurance policy comes from a country that applies higher liability coverage than the EU minimum, you will be covered up to that amount throughout the EU. If the actual damage exceeds the maximum amount in the country where the accident happened and you do not have higher cover in your insurance policy, you will have to pay the difference.

When buying a new car in another EU country, you will go through the same procedures as any other resident, such as paying road taxes and buying car insurance. If you want to take the car back to your home country you will need to consider carefully how to transport it home, because it will not yet be registered in the country where you live. You can tow the car home, hitching it to a fully insured and registered vehicle, you can hire a specialised shipping and transport company, or you can drive it yourself. However, if you take the latter option you will need valid insurance (for all the countries you will drive through) and a temporary number plate.

Lastly, when buying a new car in another EU country intending to take it back with you to the EU country where you live, you are exempt from paying VAT in the country where you bought it. Instead you will have to pay VAT in the country where you register the car.