Buying a car in the Netherlands: 7 things to know

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Have you thought about buying a car in the Netherlands? Is your old car crumbling to pieces? Or have you just moved and are in search of your perfect Dutch car?

You’ve gone through opening a bank account in the Netherlands, worked yourself silly, and stuffed that account full of euros for your car.

Although it may seem like scary foreign territory, we can help you make sense of it all. Here are seven things you need to know about buying a car in the Netherlands — if we can do it, then you can do it too!

Buying a car in the Netherlands is a big investment — so naturally, you’ll want to do it right. We’ve teamed up with Univé, the experts in car insurance, to tell you everything you need to know when buying a car in the Netherlands.

1. You need to have the correct driving license

Before you even begin the whole task of buying a car in the Netherlands, you need to hold a valid driver’s license in order to actually hit the road. In the Netherlands, that means you need to have an EU/EFTA license.

If you already hold one, then this means that you can drive on this license for 15 years or until it runs out (then you must switch to a Dutch one).

Making sure you have the right driver’s license to buy a car in the Netherlands is easy! Image: Depositphotos

If you have a foreign licence, you can exchange it for a Dutch one as long as it’s on this list. To do so, you will need to make an appointment with your local Stadhuis (city hall) and bring the following documents:

  • Valid passport or ID
  • Your Dutch residence permit
  • A recent passport photo
  • Your foreign driving licence (and a translation, if issued in a foreign language)
  • Evidence of the 30% ruling (if applicable)
  • A certificate of medical fitness

Then, the municipality will forward your documents to the Driving Test Organisation, who will exchange your licence. The whole process takes between 2 and 4 weeks. After that, you’re good to go!

People with a licence from a country that’s not on the list will have to pass a theoretical exam and a practical driving test to obtain a Dutch licence.

2. You need to research your cars beforehand

Make sure you do your research before buying a car in the Netherlands. You don’t want to end up with a car with a reputation for being unreliable (or expensive to run!) or a car that was not looked after by its previous owners.

Check out as many cars as you need before you commit to something. Image: Depositphotos

Buying a car is an investment, so you must choose a car that’s right for you. Consider a few things, like whether you’re using the car for your daily commute, for road trips, or just for convenience, the size of the car (especially important for road tax!), and the mileage.

After you’ve thought about these factors, you can narrow your car search and save time only by looking at cars that’ll fit your preferences.

3. Know where to look for cars (and be prepared to haggle)

When buying a car in the Netherlands, you have the choice between going to a car dealership or finding a private seller.

The biggest Dutch car dealerships include Broekhuis, Emil Frey NL, Van Mossel and Hedin, and they have locations throughout the Netherlands. You can also use RDW’s locator tool to find dealerships in your area.

Alternatively, you can find a second-hand car online and buy it from a private seller. The most popular websites for this are, and

Tip: If needed, you can use your browser’s built-in translation tool to translate these websites into English.

Whether you’re going to a car dealership or a private seller, nine times out of 10 you should be prepared to haggle! This can be stressful if you’re someone who doesn’t like to haggle (or even know how to haggle in the Netherlands).

4. You must register with the RDW to buy a car in the Netherlands

You may have found your dream car by now, but now what? The car is not officially yours until you officially register it in your name. You need to go to the RDW for that. The RDW (Rijksdienst voor het Wegverkeer) is the Dutch authority for vehicles and transport.

You must register your cars with them because they deal with road tax and liability insurance, and you agree to those terms. It is illegal to drive a car which isn’t registered with the RDW.

Make sure you go through the proper steps to register your car. Image: Depositphotos

How do you go about this? If you’re an expat, the chances are that you don’t have a Dutch ID. If you do, all you have to do is turn up at your local post office with your ID and all car/registration documents, and you’re all set.

If you don’t have a Dutch ID, you’re going to have to go to an RDW inspection station. Bring your gemeente (municipality) documents, car documents, certificate of ownership, passport, and driver’s license!

Tip: Before you start looking into buying a car in the Netherlands, make sure you set up your BSN (citizen service number) and DigiD. The car-purchasing process will be so much easier if you have these two things set up beforehand.

Thankfully, there is a way to avoid all of this. If you buy your car from a good car dealership, they take care of the official registration at RDW. It’s one less thing not to worry about.

5. Double-check your road tax and parking permits

Part of the reason why buying a car in the Netherlands is so expensive comes from all the associated costs you have to consider. Road tax (known as BPM in the Netherlands) is the tax you have to pay if you own any type of motor vehicle in the Netherlands.

READ MORE | Having a car in the Netherlands: everything you need to know

Road tax is calculated based on your car’s CO2 emissions, so generally, the larger the car, the higher the road tax.

If you live in an area where you have to pay for car parking (usually in big cities like Amsterdam and Rotterdam), you can apply for a parking permit with the municipality. This permit is particularly handy because it lets you park in the city without paying at a parking meter or via a parking app.

A parking permit can save you a lot of money. Image: Freepik

Most homes don’t have their own parking spaces or garages, and if you’re travelling a lot within a city using your car, a parking permit could be extra handy.

6. Consider Dutch sustainability efforts

The Dutch pride themselves in their sustainability efforts. The result? You can’t just go out and drive any car you want wherever you want. Instead, there are some sustainability regulations you have to keep in mind.

As of 2020, national rules apply to certain municipalities that have low-emission zones. In these zones, municipalities may ban older diesel cars, lorries and buses that cause a lot of air pollution.

In Amsterdam, for example, you may not enter the low-emission zone with a diesel car with an emissions standard of Euro 3 or lower.

The Netherlands also strongly encourages the use of electric cars, and the government offers various benefits to electric vehicle owners, such as tax incentives, reduced registration fees, and even free parking in some areas.

Tip: If you plan to own an electric vehicle, look into and sort out what you’re going to do about your charging station. If you don’t have the option to charge at home, you can work out your situation with shared charging stations around your neighbourhood with your neighbours.

7. Don’t forget about car insurance

It’s official, you have a car! Before you get too excited and drive off with it, you’ve forgotten one more thing: car insurance. It’s illegal not to have car insurance in the Netherlands, so this is an absolute must before taking your new ‘whip’ for a spin.

Don’t have car insurance yet? Better be safe than sorry! Image: Depositphotos

When you get car insurance in the Netherlands, the car is insured, not the person. This means that, as long as they have your permission, anybody can legally drive your car. This may be different from what you’re used to in your home country.

You can go on online comparison sites (some are in English too). Pick the best deal, register with them, and you’re all set. (Now it’s just the monthly payment you have to worry about 😉).

Buying a car in the Netherlands is a big investment — so naturally, you’ll want your car to be insured. Don’t wanna deal with the hassle of price comparisons and reading through policies? We recommend Univé! Univé’s car insurance offers 24/7 road assistance, a replacement vehicle in case of damage, and competitive prices. Sounds like a good deal to us! 🤝

Once you’ve got all of these in the bag, then you’re well on your way to buying your perfect car in the Netherlands. Enjoy the ride! 😉

Did these tips help you on your car-purchasing journey? Tell us what you think in the comments!

This article was originally published in June 2018, and was fully updated in October 2023 for your reading pleasure.

Feature Image:Freepik
Emma Brown
Emma Brown
A familiar face at DutchRevew. Emma arrived in Holland in 2016 for a few weeks, fell in love with the place and never left. Here she rekindled her love of writing and travelling. Now you'll find her eating stroopwafels in the DutchReview office since 2017.

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  1. Fact number 7. When you are due for your APK (MOT) the Dutch garage will automatically assume you are an idiot and try to trick you into thinking there are a number of things wrong with your car that need to be repaired. Survey proved that 70% of garages in Holland do this. Especially if you are a foreigner!

  2. Its the same as in every country,even if I bought and atill buy my trucks in the states.You have to check it yourself and if you havent the experience just call a garage and ask if they check your car which you want to buy and you can always search for car clubs and post you questions.There is always one who wants to help you out.Its just that you find the one who has the same ” feeling” about that kind of car you looking for.
    I found somewhone who has the same intrest inClassic Ford Trucks in Colton and I fully can trust the guy.There will be always persons who You can trust,sometimes it takes a while but I m happy to find him and he is a friens for life.
    Thanks Justin

  3. Some points like no 6 are not entirely correct. If you insure a car but the main driver is your child, as in a beginning driver, this will be a peoblem.
    Btw there are a lot of sites with cars. Of your Bynco I never heard. But AutoScout24 and marktplaats sell the most cars here.
    Haggling is fun and gets you a good deal! Don’t be shy!

  4. I must say, I am impressed with this article. It includes all the necessary information which is required to buy a car. I would like to appreciate your efforts and the time that you have had spent to write this article. Great work!! Keep it up ! 🙂

    • Hello

      Any advice in how to get a very cheap car( less than 1000 e)?, I need it for sleeping untilI find a room in Amsterdam. i dont want to pay 1000-2000 e for a month on a hostel, so I think is better this way so I can later sell the car and get my money back.


  5. Hello!
    Good tips!
    But I don’t have an adress in Netherlands or Europe. I have portuguese and brazilian passport.
    Do you know if can I buy and do a regular registration a car without adress there?

    • Lety, If you don’t have an address, you don’t have a BSN and thus you can get nothing. If you have both passports the one that matters is your PT one.
      Exchange driving license depends on which country your license is issued but again, everything starts with a settlement.

  6. Is there a way to pay another person to buy a car on you behalf? I have no idea about car mechanics and I’d like to buy a really cheap car. I do not really need it, is just for convenience. I will use it maybe once or twice per month, no more than 1k per year, so paying more than 2k would be stupid.

    Bynco sounds great BUT they only have cars from 5k euro.

    • If you just use a car once or twice per month, it might be better to look into car renting such as with Greenwheels. The tax and insurance is so high that it’s a lot better to just rent a car if you wouldn’t use it much. I use a car about 4-5 times a month and I still use Greenwheels as it saves me money.

    • Why dont you get a electric scooter?, no insurance, no bs paper work, etc.

      I am in a similar situation I also want to get a cheap car, but for sleeping inside until I find a room in Amsterdam

  7. Thank you very much for this Article. It is very helpful. We bought a car on Bynco and so far we are very happy with the service.
    What I would add to the article would be some information about parking permission. How to get it, where etc. Since it’s not less complicated than the all the steps mentioned above

  8. We bought a var but we have been told that we need a Dutch or EU driving licence.
    My licence is Turkish,
    Can not i get insurance?
    I bought the car with my bsn.

  9. Hello, What do you know about the situation when Someone buy a car from a privat person, paying with cash 5500 euro, and after the documentation on RDW the check engine button was open, seller said he will fix it, after 20 days that button was fixed but another problem appear (oil consumption 1 liter per 200 km!!!) and the car could not be use? The seller don’t want to give me the money back… I paid with cash which is nooooot good, but I did it… What can I do? Thank you

  10. This is what I don’t understand. My application to exchange my license (Malaysian) to a Dutch one was rejected by RDW because I don’t have the 30% Ruling. I am also not entitled to it.

    However, Malaysia has a reciprocal agreement with Netherlands where driving is concerned. I have also been driving in the EU for the last 3 years.

    I am interested to buy a used car and is concerned this will hamper my desire to have my own car. Currently, I am leasing a car.

    Can anyone advise?


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