Five things to consider before purchasing a car abroad

  • couple buying a car
Published 2018-08-06 08:35

If you have arrived at your expat destination without your vehicle, and your employer isn’t providing a company car, you should research your options regarding your mode of transport. Owning a car may be the most convenient way of moving from A to B, especially if you have children, or you don’t live in the city, but before you decide to buy a car abroad, keep in mind the following.

Valid driving licence

driving licence

Before you begin any discussions about buying a car in your expat destination, make sure you hold a valid driving licence, which enables you to drive in your host country. While some countries accept an international licence, they do so only for a short period of time. For example, in the United Kingdom, you are allowed to drive with your national, non-EU licence for up to one year. If you wish to continue driving legally in the UK, you must take a theory and practical test to obtain a Great Britain issued licence. Singapore, on the other hand, requires its permanent residents to convert their foreign driving licence within three months of gaining citizenship or permanent resident status.  

Local transportation system

transport system

A private car isn’t always the best available mode of transport. However, if you are unsure about what are the alternative options in your host country, and more specifically in your new city or town, a good start would be to seek advice from other expats. For example, if you are moving to New York City, you may find it useful to know that owning a car is about USD 1300 more expensive per year than using the public transport. Apart from the gas, insurance, and maintenance costs which come along with car ownership, you should also consider the practicality of driving. How convenient and affordable it is to park in the area you live and work in? Besides, how confident and safe do you feel driving in your host country? In some countries, it may be wiser to rent a car with a local driver, who is familiar with the infrastructure, which may not be well-maintained and modern, and is used to the domestic traffic laws.

Import of car

import of car
Peteri /

Have you considered shipping your car from your home country instead of purchasing one abroad? It’s true that the paperwork and shipping process may put you off the idea, but with thorough research, you may find out that you will cut costs. Depending on the destination, when shipping your car, you may be required to make some modifications, such as converting the hand drive, headlights, and speedometer. Also, it’s likely that the imported car will have to undergo a safety and emission standards test, the cost of which you will have to cover yourself. The good news is that you can assign the import to a vehicle importer specialist, who is going to deal with manufacturers, insurance, customs, and shipping paperwork.

Type of vehicle

baby in car seat

If you have made up your mind that buying a car abroad is the best option for you, then you should decide what type of vehicle better corresponds to your needs. To find out, try to answer the following questions. What is the terrain you will be driving on and how wide are the roads? Will you fit a baby car seat or a car booster? What is the weather like in the country? To what extent are you concerned about security? An SUV is a great option if you have many off-road routes, but a compact car is more economical and practical for city driving. Also, note that vehicles must meet different requirements in different countries, depending on the national laws. For example, in Germany, all vehicles must have winter or all-season tires during winter conditions, otherwise drivers are subject to fines.

End of expatriation project

selling your car

Regardless of whether you have purchased a car in your host country or imported your car from home, you will have to deal with it again when your expat project comes to an end. Thus, it’s wise to have an idea as to what you will do with it when you leave the country. Probably, the most reasonable option is to sell it. However, note that it may have lost much of its value, and may now worth much less. Also, be prepared to spend some time on finding potential buyers, convincing them about the purchase, and completing the paperwork, so try to organise the selling of your car in advance to avoid last-minute stress. Before you decide to ship the car to your home country, calculate the shipping costs, import duties, insurance, and check the availability of car parts and services for repair in your home country.