Buying a car in Portugal
Can I pay for a car in cash?
Yes, for amounts of up to EUR 1 000. Payments of more than EUR 1 000 should be made to the trader's bank account by means allowing identification of the recipient (a bank transfer, a bank debit or a nominative cheque).
If you travel within the EU, you don't need to declare money you take with you to customs. When entering or leaving the EU, you must declare any sum of money of or equivalent to EUR 10 000 and above to customs using a specific form.
What about payment of VAT?
Within an intra-EU transaction new cars should be sold without VAT. A car is considered new if no more than 6 months have passed since the date on which it was first registered or if its mileage does not exceed 6 000 km. In practice, some sellers may require payment of VAT as a deposit, to be refunded once the car is registered in the buyer's country. Check in advance with the seller how to claim the VAT refund, i.e. what documentation the seller needs from you.
All other cars are considered second hand (more than 6 months since the date of first registration and mileage of more than 6 000 km). They are generally sold inclusive of VAT (23 %) if the supplier is a commercial seller (the supply is not liable to VAT if the supplier is a private person). You don't have to pay VAT in your country of residence.
Is the seller obliged to provide a vehicle inspection?
No, but if the car does not have a valid inspection certificate to drive the car home, you will have to get an inspection carried out at apt (for a category B vehicle, i.e. weighing no more than 3 500 kg and with seats for no more than nine people) at your own expense.
In Portugal, a roadworthiness test must take place 4 years after the car is first registered, then every 2 years until the car is 8 years old, and after that, every year. The average costs are EUR 30.54 for mandatory periodic inspections, EUR 7.66 for re-inspection following a periodic inspection and EUR 106.64 for extraordinary inspections.
Is the Portuguese vehicle inspection recognised in my home country?
Some countries recognise it. Check in advance with your national authority to avoid unnecessary costs.
Can I have an expert carry out a check on the car at the seller's premises?
Yes, if the seller agrees. Technical centres, car mechanics or organisations providing this kind of test can be found on the Internet (average cost: EUR 50).
What should I look out for in the contract of sale?
Read the contract carefully and only sign contracts you understand. Some traders try to exclude legal guarantee rights by claiming that the contract is a business-to-business contract or that the car is sold "without warranties" (only in business-to-consumer contracts would such a clause be considered null and void). Make sure that the name of the seller is the same as the name given in the registration document, or that the seller has power of attorney to sell the car in the registered owner's name. If you buy from a trader, make sure that the name of the company is mentioned in the contract and that there is an indication regarding VAT.
Can I cancel a signed contract?
- If the contract is signed on the seller's premises, you have no legal right to withdraw (unless the purchase is financed by a loan and the contract includes a clause allowing you to cancel if credit is declined or if you use your legal right of withdrawal from the credit agreement).
- If the contract is a distance sale contract and you have not yet collected the car from the seller's premises, you can withdraw from the contract before delivery. You can also withdraw up to 14 days from delivery of the car to your address. If you collect the car at the seller's premises, the contract is usually signed there and either will not foresee or will exclude the right to a cooling off period.
What documents should the seller provide?
- The contract of sale or an invoice
- The registration certificate (Certificado de matrícula)
- The European Certificate of Conformity (COC) (the original for new cars, a copy for second-hand cars). If no COC is available from the seller, you can contact the manufacturer in your country of residence.
Check if other documents are needed in the country where you intend to register the car.
Should I apply for temporary plates to drive the car home?
A temporary plate is needed for new cars (the car cannot leave the seller's premises without it).
For information, contact the competent authority: Autoridade Tributária (Serviços Aduaneiros)
Average price: EUR 20 for the plates (approximate purchase price of a plate in a store) + EUR 3
Timeframe: 3-6 days
Validity: 90 days
For second-hand cars, the new owner will have to reactivate the registration before driving the car home by following the adequate procedure with the competent authority for car registration: Instituto da Mobilidade e dos Transportes (IMT, I.P.)
- EUR 45 for a car with a COC or national approval number
- EUR 160 + EUR 45 for a new car without a COC or national approval number
- EUR 165 for a used car without a COC or national approval number.
You may be able to apply for transit plates from your home country. Check with your relevant national authority.
Regular national plates
If you wish to drive home with the national plates still on the car, are you obliged to return them to the competent registration offices, either in the country of previous registration or in the registration country?
If a car is purchased from Portugal, you should ask the authority of your residence country to ask the Portuguese regulatory entity (IMT) to cancel the transit plate. If this is not done, the vehicle owner should ask the competent entity (IMT or the embassy of his/her residence country) to cancel the transit plates. The transit plates should be destroyed, but no proof of this is required.
You should verify that the car has been deregistered here. If this has not been done, you should request cancellation of the plates.
Do I need temporary insurance?
When driving the car home, you must be covered by insurance allowing you to drive on public roads. Ask your insurer or their representative in Portugal if they can provide you with short-term insurance.
If I have a complaint about a cross-border purchase, whom do I contact?
Contact your local ECC: cec.consumidor.pt
What out of court dispute resolution body is available in Portugal?
Centro de Arbitragem do Sector Automóvel (CASA)
Address: Av. da República, 44 -3º Esq.º 1050-194 Lisboa
Tel.: +351 217827330
To whom do I report cases of fraud?
To the local police station and to the criminal investigation department (Polícia Judiciária) by submitting a complaint form, available on their website, with an electronic signature, or by phone (+351 211967000).
Information provided by ECC-Net in March 2016 - see our legal notice.