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Last checked : 22/02/2018

Car registration documents and formalities

Wherever you live in the EU, you must register your car in the country where you have your permanent residence.

You are not usually allowed to register your car in a country where you have a secondary residence or holiday house.

There is no EU‑wide law on vehicle registration. The following information reflects the practices in many member countries.

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To register your car, you will have to submit the following documents:

Certificate of conformity for new cars

The certificate of conformity is issued by the manufacturer and shows that the technical characteristics of the vehicle meet safety and environmental standards. It can be either a European (EC) or a national certificate.

EC certificate of conformity

The EC certificateof conformity is valid in all EU countries.

If your car has a valid EC certificate, national authorities cannot request any additional technical documentation - unless your car has been modified since leaving the factory (they can then require it to undergo a new approval).

National certificate of conformity

The national certificate of conformity is valid only in the country that issued it.

It is generally issued for buses, trucks, vans, trailers and custom-built before May 2009 or vintage cars.

If your car is already registered and you move it to another EU country, the authorities in your new country will often require additional technical checks or certificates before registration.

Registration certificate for cars that were already registered

When you wish to register a car that was already registered (by you or by the previous owner) in another EU country, you should submit the previous certificate to the registration authorities.

This certificate contains useful information about the car, so registration will be faster and more efficient.

Proof of insurance cover

When you register, you will have to present proof that you have insurance cover.

The authorities should accept insurance cover from any insurance company:

  • based in that country or with an office there
  • without an office in that country but authorised to provide services there

Proof of ownership

You may be asked to prove that you are the legal owner of the vehicle. Invoices used as proof of purchase should clearly state the VAT number of the car dealer.

Proof of value added tax (VAT) payment

National authorities are entitled to check, when registering vehicles, whether VAT has been correctly paid.

VAT rules vary depending on whether your car is new or used and whether you buy it from a professional dealer or a private individual.

For VAT purposes, a new car has done no more than 6 000 km OR has been in use for no more than 6 months.  

Check where you have to pay VAT for a car bought in another EU country.

Proof of roadworthiness

The authorities in the country where you want to register your vehicle may first require it to undergo a roadworthiness test.

Nevertheless, they are obliged to recognise a roadworthiness certificate issued in another EU country.

Payment of vehicle registration / road tax

There is no EU‑wide law on vehicle registration and road tax. You will have to pay these taxes as required by law in the country where you live or are moving to.

You may be eligible for a tax exemption on your vehicle registration when you change countries, if you meet the relevant conditions and deadlines.

Before moving to your new country, contact the national authorities there.

Sample story

Save money by doing things on time!

Alex and Flora have just retired, having worked in Germany for the last 30 years. They now want to move to Portugal and take their car with them.

In Portugal, they are exempt from Portuguese registration tax (ISV) if they register their car within 6 months of leaving Germany. The Portuguese authorities simply require a certificate from a German administration stating the date on which they left the country.

Since Portuguese registration tax can be very expensive, it's definitely worth Alex and Flora registering on time.

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