Can a US Citizen Buy a Car in Europe?

Embarking on a European road trip is a coveted dream for many Americans. The idea of traversing majestic landscapes in one’s own vehicle sounds exhilarating, but can one actually buy a car in Europe as a US citizen? The resounding answer is yes!

If you’re going on a long European vacation or travel there for work often, renting a car in another country can make your experience more exciting. If you enjoy exploring new destinations, getting a car abroad can enhance your adventure.

Yet, the process involves more than simply entering a car dealership and driving off the lot. For you to own a European car, multiple steps must be taken. These steps include purchasing the vehicle, registering it, and importing it. In this blog, we’ll give you helpful tips to help you achieve your goal of owning a European car.

Buying a Car in Europe: Where to Start?

Europe offers many options for car enthusiasts, whether you’re looking for a new or used vehicle. Many European countries offer good deals for people from other countries who want to buy cars, which makes it a very appealing idea. You can find famous car brands in Europe like Mercedes-Benz, BMW, and Audi in Germany and well-known manufacturers like Fiat in Italy. Europe has many different cars to choose from.

However, thorough research is crucial before you embark on your car-buying journey. Look into European car dealerships, buying conditions, prices, and available models. You can find valuable insights from reputable online portals and forums that focus on “buying a car in Europe.”

If you need help determining where to begin, CarTurf recommends considering Germany as your destination for buying a car. Germany has a more extensive variety of cars than many other European countries, and the prices are usually lower.

Moreover, when it comes to used cars, Germany is known for keeping them in great shape, which is often better than in nearby European countries. 

To help you kickstart your search, consider these recommended websites:

  1. Mobile.de: As one of the largest online car marketplaces in Germany, Mobile.de offers a vast selection of used vehicles from dealerships and private sellers. It also includes other European countries.
  2. Autoscout24: Autoscout24 is another popular platform, providing a wide variety of used cars from both dealers and private sellers across Germany.
  3. Kleinanzeigen: Formerly eBay Kleinanzeigen, this is the German version of eBay Classifieds, where you can find used cars from private sellers and dealerships.

When buying a car in Europe, keep in mind that European laws may require you to pay the local Value Added Tax (VAT). The VAT rates vary between countries, typically from 17% to 25%. However, if you plan to export the car back to the U.S. In that case, you might qualify for an exemption from VAT, subject to specific conditions.

It’s worth noting that VAT is charged when dealerships and companies sell cars to you. In contrast, when purchasing a car from a private seller, the VAT has already been paid by them. While buying from a private individual might require more effort, it can result in better deals. Buying a car is quite easy if you know which car you want and have the money for it. The real challenge for U.S. citizens comes when registering a car in Europe.

Registering a Car in Europe

One of the most significant advantages of buying a car in Europe is the opportunity to explore the continent in your own vehicle. However, for U.S. citizens without a presence in Europe, registering a car can be a daunting task.

CarTurf can help U.S. citizens buy and register a car in Europe, even if they don’t live there or need to be physically present. For just €49 per month, CarTurf can take care of the registration process in Germany. Hence, your European car is ready to go when you arrive.

If you want to handle the registration process on your own, remember that most European countries will need you to have a local address. You may also require a residence permit. The specific conditions might differ from one country to another.

If your goal is to travel across several European countries, getting residency in just one of them may not be practical. Residency often requires you to spend some time in that country. This could lead to tax obligations within the European Union. This might not be in your best financial interest, especially if you’re from a place with lower taxes.

Car Insurance in Europe

Car insurance is a legal requirement in most European countries. It’s important to understand that your U.S. car insurance typically only extends to cover you in Europe. Fortunately, many European insurance companies offer foreigners temporary or long-term insurance packages. However, remember that this coverage can be more expensive for non-locals. It’s advisable to explore various insurance providers to secure the best deal.

When you’re limited to buying car insurance as a foreigner in Europe. In that case, it’s a good idea to compare the costs with what local policies would cost. You can use websites like check24.de to compare car insurance options in Germany to see if you’re getting a good deal as a foreigner. You can also opt for CarTurf, which makes registering your car easier and offers you cheaper car insurance rates. The best part is that you don’t need residency or an address in Germany or Europe for this.

Importing Your European Car to the U.S

Suppose you intend to return your newly acquired European car to the United States. In that case, you’ll need to navigate the car-importing process. Your car must meet the strict rules set by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the Department of Transportation (DOT).

European cars are often designed for the European market and may not meet U.S. emission and safety standards. Modifications are usually necessary to import such vehicles, which can be costly. However, cars 25 or older are considered classics and exempt from these regulations.

Importantly, sending your car from Europe to your home country can be financially beneficial. You can usually request a VAT refund from the dealership once you show you’ve registered your car in your home country.

Shipping Your Car to the US

Shipping a car across the Atlantic can be a significant expense, so exploring various shipping options is essential. Costs can vary depending on the chosen shipping method (RoRo or Container) and the departure and arrival ports. Additionally, be prepared for other charges, such as import duties, which typically stand at 2.5% for cars.

If you discover the perfect classic or a one-of-a-kind car in Europe, the effort and expense of importing it may be well worth it in the long run.

You can sell it locally with the help of a friend or using services like CarTurf. That is if you want to avoid exporting/importing and shipping challenges.

However, consider other options if you intend to use the car elsewhere. CarTurf can assist in selling your car even after you’ve returned to the U.S., making the process smoother and more convenient.

Final Thoughts

In conclusion, as a U.S. citizen, you can buy a car in Europe, making your dream of a European road trip a reality. But it’s important to realize that getting a car from Europe includes multiple steps. Such as purchasing, registering, insuring, and making changes to the vehicle. Followed by importing and registering it in the U.S.

This journey can take time and involve some costs. But the excitement of owning and driving a European car usually makes the challenges worthwhile.

Remember that thorough research on buying a car in Europe and registering a car in Europe is vital to avoiding unexpected obstacles. Patience and careful planning will be your allies in this exciting endeavor.

If you’re seeking to expedite the process of buying and registering a car in Europe as a U.S. citizen, reach out to CarTurf. They can assist you in understanding your choices and getting your car registered and ready for the road in Europe before you arrive. And you can fulfill your dream of a European road trip.

So, pack your bags, have your credit card ready, and embark on a European adventure with a car rental from a reputable Rental Company in Europe. Watch out for additional expenses, especially when dealing with yellow plates or deciding where to buy your European car. Happy road-tripping!

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