So, you’re thinking of having a car in the Netherlands in 2020? You’ve joined the very few (like me), who want to know about having a car in the Netherlands.

Hey, I’m not going to judge you about it, especially when we moan about public transport so often. When I first got a car, I was shocked at how little information is out there for us. Even when writing this article I was trawling the internet to fact-check the process I went through and it was almost impossible. So you have my personal experience, RDW and Reddit to thank for this. 😉

In this article about having a car in the Netherlands, I’ll be covering:

  • Driving licenses – obtaining and exchanging
  • How to buy a car in the Netherlands – registration and insurance
  • Selling a car in the Netherlands
  • Importing a car in the Netherlands

Just a pre-warning before we get started: having a car in the Netherlands is really expensive! One of the most expensive places in Europe in fact. Still interested? Read on.

Driving license

Lets get started on having the most important piece of documentation you’ll need. Without a valid driving license, you can kiss goodbye to having a car in the Netherlands. Also, you can’t drive legally until the age of 18, so if you’re 17, you’re out of luck for now. So, what are the first steps of having a car in the Netherlands?

I don’t have a driving licence

Ah, so you’re new here. Welcome to the world of driving a car. I can imagine wanting to learn to drive in another country may seem even more scary to you. Well, don’t fret, there are ample driving instructors in the Netherlands who are willing to teach you. Lets not forget that the Dutch are incredibly good at English – so if your Dutch is lacking, you’ll be okay!

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If you want driving instructors, just a simple google search will do the trick and will show you instructors in your area. You’ll notice because you searched in English, a lot of international driving schools will pop up. Once you’ve found a few, it’s worth comparing the prices and looking at their website/Facebook for reviews. Once you’ve booked your lessons with someone, they help you with all you need to pass your test. Then the hard bit…actually passing. 😉 We have another DutchReview guide for this.

having a car in the netherlands
The perils of having a car in the Netherlands: finding a place to park. Image: AquilaSol/Pixabay

I have a EU/EFTA driving license

So you’ve passed your dreaded test and you hold a license in a EU country. This bit is easy then! You don’t have to do anything. As long as you have a ID – passport and driving license to prove you can drive, you’re all set. This goes for you Brits too, I know we drive on the wrong side of the road and everything is reversed, but apparently that’s all okay. (They wouldn’t have said that if they saw how many times I nearly drove on the wrong side of the road)! You can drive on this license for 10 years (or whenever your current one runs out), after these 10 years (or if your other one runs out) you need to switch to a Dutch license – read below if you need to exchange your license!

I have a driving license out of the EU

In some cases, you can exchange your non-EU license for a Dutch one. This must happen within 6 months of registration to the Netherlands. How do I exchange, you ask? You need to make an appointment with your local stadhuis to get an up-to-date proof of residency (you have to pay €12 for this). You then need to send your license, recent passport photo and Certificate of Medical Fitness to the Driving Test Organisation. They will then sort the exchange for you. But in other cases, you may have to retake your theory and practical exam before being granted a Dutch license. More information is available on this on the RDW website. 

Buying a car in the Netherlands

Buying a car in the Netherlands is just as easy as it is in your own country once you’ve got your license all sorted. (Be warned: cars are not cheap in the Netherlands!) Just like everything else here, having a car in the Netherlands is an expensive venture. In order to buy (an expensive) car you literally turn up at a car dealership, or to an individual who is selling the car and buy it off them.

Buying a car in the Netherlands in 2019: Bynco, the modern option

If you’re looking for a more modern option when buying a car in the Netherlands, then maybe a site such as Bynco will be more suitable. They are an online car dealership, who are ‘expat friendly’, so there’s no need to worry about any language barrier. Their cars are all expertly chosen and what you see is what you get, there is no haggling involved!

They deliver the car within 48 hours on your doorstep, take care of the administration and you can test-drive the car for 14 days in your own environment. And do you not like your new automobile? Then they will simply take it back within 14 days and you will be refunded the full purchase amount. Without asking difficult questions. So maybe this could be more suited to you.

Make sure you that your Dutch car suits your needs

Another thing: make sure you buy a car that is suited to your needs. I bought a little city car – a Ford KA and then drove around the whole of Europe in it and almost killed the thing. Don’t do that. Like always, you have to ensure the MOT is all okay and the car is safe to drive. You should ask for all of the documents for your new car. Ready to drive your new car off? WAIT! You haven’t registered it to you and you are uninsured – this is illegal.

Registering your car to you

Your car needs to be put into your name and this sadly isn’t as simple as just calling someone up and them doing for you in a lot of cases. If you have a Dutch ID, you can go to your local post office with all of your documents and identification and they do it for you. If you don’t, you need to go to a RDW inspection station. Either the person selling to you needs to come with you, or you need to be given the cars documents. Luckily, my nice car dealer drove me to the RDW with my gemeente documents (must be no more than 3 months old), car documents, passport and driving license and I was all registered. Wait! You still can’t drive your car, it now needs to be insured…

Obtaining car insurance

Now I promise you, this one is easy. All you have to do is find an insurance company that you want to insure with, call them up and your car will be insured to drive. There are a few comparison sites in English online, here’s a good one to get you started. It’s also worth asking your car dealership (if you bought a car from them), to get you a deal. Mine rang up a company and got us a better deal than anywhere else. It also saved us the hassle of a language barrier on the phone.

Once that’s all set you’ll be billed monthly for your insurance and anybody can drive your car, with your permission (it’s the car that’s insured, not the person, like in some countries). I warn you, insurance isn’t cheap, it also can go up if the company experiences a lot of claims that year.

Selling a car in the Netherlands

having a car in the Netherlands
Sometimes, having a car in the Netherlands becomes way too expensive, so selling it can be the best option in the long run. Image: stevebp/Pixabay

Before I begin, DO NOT run your car to the ground and then try to sell it – it won’t work. You will lose a crap load of value off of it. I need to take my own advice and sell my poor Ford KA soon (like I said earlier, I drove it 3,000km through Europe). So yeah, take that advice if you really don’t want to lose any money. Also remember what I said earlier about registering a car at a post office or RDW – this applies here too. If someone is going to buy a car off you, they need to register it in their name (vehicle registration card and ownership code). Either go with them, or provide them with the documents.

There are a number of ways that you can sell a car in the Netherlands.

Selling to a car dealership

This is by far the easiest way to sell your car. However, that comes at a cost. If you sell to a car dealership, you will not be able to sell it for as much as you’d like, or as much as you’d get for it elsewhere. This is the place to sell if you just want to get rid of your car and be done with it. It’s a quick and easy transaction of bringing your car and documents, exchanging the money and you’re done. As an alternative you can get sell it to them, for money off a new car from them. Ask them!

Selling your car privately

This involves selling to friends or family, or leaving your car outside your house with a big te koop sign in your window. This is a popular method of selling a car, as it involves minimal effort and you can get the price that you are after easier (try not rip your mates off though, yeah?)

Selling your car online

One way of selling your car online is in an auction or within general sale. Sites such as Marktplaats give the platform to sell your car however you want. This is through an advert asking for the price you want or by an auction (people bid for it). This can be risky, as you may not get a very good deal for your car, but on the other hand you could get a great deal, depending on the demand.

Another way of selling your car online is through a RDW licensed buying site for cars. All you have to do is enter the information about the car and it’s all processed for you if you both accept the offer – this includes the transferring of registration details (no need to do to a RDW station). This makes it so much faster to sell your car. Here is a popular site to get you started.

selling your car
Your first heartbreak

Importing a car to the Netherlands

If you are registered in the Netherlands, you are completely within your rights to bring your car from your home country, to here. Bringing your car to the Netherlands isn’t cheap – but sometimes necessary. The whole process can be costly, so make sure you REALLY need to take it over before you commit. This is because you have to register and obtain a Dutch license plate, you cannot drive on your foreign plates. You do that through the RDW.

Importing a car from an EU/EFTA country

As we all know, one of the benefits of being in the EU is the freedom of goods. This also applies to your car. However, you can still be subject to a lot of tax on your car (in a minute I’ll tell you how to avoid this). You can drive your car within the Netherlands for 6 months, after that period you have to register and obtain a Dutch license plate. You may also need your car checked by RDW before they issue you with a Dutch license plate. For more information in English, refer to the RDW website.

Please be warned that if you bring your car, you must have been living in another EU country for at least 12 months prior and had your car for at least 6 months. It’s important to know that your car can not be sold for 1 year after arriving in the Netherlands. It’s all part and parcel of having a car in the Netherlands. This is to stop people going to Germany and buying cheaper cars (can’t blame ’em, cars are expensive here).

Importing a car from outside the EU

If you are importing your car from out of the EU, then you are subject to a number of checks. Your car needs to be checked by the RDW before obtaining the Dutch license plate for it. These checks include meeting the criteria for things such as noise, environmental and safety. These checks can be costly if your car needs to be referred for a special inspection (upwards of €1.000, yikes).

Avoiding BPM tax

One of the downsides of having a car in the Netherlands is all of the tax! When importing your car, you are subject to VAT, BPM and import duty tax. However, you can easily avoid paying BPM tax if this is your first car that you are taking with you to the Netherlands. If you can prove that your car is ‘personal removal goods’, then you are exempt. This means that your car is essentially part of the furniture. It is not illegal to do this and it’s not considered lying to the tax office either, as in theory it is considered removal goods. Again, you need to have been living abroad for at least 12 months prior and had your car for at least 6 months

When you fill out your registration form, don’t forget to state that is it a removal good! You could be saving yourself upwards of €4.500 from doing this.

Parking your car in the Netherlands

If you’re planning on having a car in the Netherlands, another expense you will need to take into account is paying for parking. Especially if you live in the Amsterdam area, those costs can be prohibitive, and seem to rise every year, as the city moves more towards public transport. But, if you have your own house with parking attached, this may not be such an issue for you.

You’re all set!

Phew, that was heavy wasn’t it. There is all you need to know about having a car in the Netherlands. I promise you it is not as complicated as it sounds and once you’re all set, you be well on your way to enjoying your new Dutch beauty. Along with all the fun road trips that comes with having a car in the Netherlands. HAPPY DRIVING!

Got any extra tips for us about having a car in the Netherlands? Drop them in the comments below!

Editor’s Note: This article was originally published on 18 February 2018, but was updated for your reading pleasure on 28 January 2020. 

Feature image: 12019/Pixabay

26 COMMENTS

  1. I am now in the process of searching for a car and I found your article so helpful! I do have one question though: What are the gemeente documents you are talking about for the registration (that must be no more than 6 month old)?

  2. Importing a car from the UK was *the* most difficult part of moving here. There’s lots of paperwork and you’re right, there’s not a lot of online material on how to do it (partly because some of it is done by the RDW, some by the Belastingdienst). One thing worth adding: if you’re bringing a car from the UK you will need to do at least two things before the RDW will allow you to have a Dutch number plate: change the front headlights so that they’re pointing the right way; and make sure the fog light is on the left-hand side at the back. This can cost a fair bit of money!

  3. There are many scenarios where we end up in a bad purchase. So, if you want to buy a used car the Netherlands make sure that you check the history of the car. There are many ways to get the vehicle history report. http://www.rdwcheck.nl is one of the trusted sources. Get the history of the car with just entering the license plate number.

  4. Having a car in the Netherlands this year will be a great thing, I’m also thinking about it and will do it this year. Thanks for sharing your great.

  5. When you have decided on a car, before you go ahead and buy it you might want to check the complete history of the car like maintenance, mileage, APK, accidental records, previous owners etc. You can request a (paid) report on http://autoverleden.nl/
    It costs maybe 20 euros at the best, but gives you a lot of re-assurance 🙂

  6. Buying a used car is increasing. Buying a used imported car or a car with foreign license number makes it difficult to track the history. RDW does not support the data for foreign registered vehicles. In this case, proceed with chassischeck to know the history of the imported car. check https://www.rdwcheck.nl/chassisnummer/ for more information.

  7. I have it all set and was at the RDW already, they gave me a BPM aangifte and i am not sure what to do with that. On the phone RDW told me i have to mail that form to the Belastingdienst. But on the website of the Belastingdienst it says i have to send that form AND a calculation of the BPM to them. Downloading the calculation of the BPM its a lot of gibberish about netto and brutto costs of the car that I dont even know because I bought it used in germany. Can I get help somewhere on how to fill this out? Do i even need to fill this out? Would be glad for any help..

  8. Hi Emma, reading your post I haven’t read anything about coming in the Netherlands with a borrowed car. I will be here with my parents’ car for three months only. Do you have any hint to give me about fees and taxes? I noticed most of the exception are about owners of cars only.
    Thanks in advance.

  9. Your site was very helpful! Thanks.
    Question: what do you know about buying a car from Germany for example, after I arrive and bringing it to the Netherlands?

  10. Hi. Very helpful.
    Any idea about Brexit…??!!
    I have a UK reg car, it is over a year old and it has been in France for the last 8 months. I move to Netherlands in early March (before the dreaded
    B word date). Any idea what I should do?

  11. Hi,
    Does anybody know if I have to pay any car tax when I’m resident in Netherlands and drive car which is not mine? Let’s say it is owned by my friend outside Netherlands but inside EU.

    Thank you very much

  12. Hi, how are you?
    Just one note regarding “obtaining the driver license”
    I am from Argentina and i was granted the 30% ruling.
    If you are granted with this tax benefit, you can exchange your non EU driver license for a dutch driver license without a limit of time, the only thing necessary is that your non EU driver license is active.
    And you need to pay for like a health certificate or something like that and you can go to the Gemeente without an appointment.
    A friend of mine (dutch) call to them and they answer what i mentioned above.
    I hope this is useful for the other.
    And thanks for all the information.

    Best regards to all.

  13. Hello all, I just have one question. Is it possible to bring a foreign car to the Netherlands (for example from Germany) drive it for 6 months and then go to Germany sell it and buy another German one and drive it for 6 months and so on?

    Kindest regards to all 🙂

  14. Hi, I would like to ask how it is with motorcycles. If I’m a student and I want to bring my motorcycle here, but I don’t want to register it here cuz I will take back to my country after. Do I need to register anyway or? Am I allowed to drive it here? Thank you 🙂

  15. If you have a dutch driver licence – and you can change yours even if your EU licence from another country is still valid – this dutch licence counts as ID in the netherlands. Advantage even as a foreigner you can use the benefits from Post.nl stations and can avoid RDW visits

  16. I have just started the process of importing my EU car into the Netherlands, and filed for BPM exemption (i.e. import my car as ‘removable goods’, to avoid BPM tax).
    Here are my tips:
    – file for BPM exemption as soon as possible, even before you go to the RDW inspection. You can do this without having the car, physically, in the Netherlands;
    – file for a parking permit (if applicable), as soon as you are registered at your ‘home’ address, so when your car is in the Netherlands, you already have a place to park it, cheaply.
    – after the RDW inspection is over, they will keep all your current car documents, so legally you cannot drive your car anymore!; be aware of this, as I did not know about it and I am still waiting on the a response for my BPM exemption. Had I known this, I would have waited to do the RDW inspection as late as possible, because my car was legally registered in another EU country, so I could have driven it here.

    General advice: if you don’t get a response or confirmation from them (=tax office or municipality or any public institution), reach out to them, _call them_ and ask about the status of your request. They are happy to help. I’ve been waiting on a response for my parking permit for two weeks now, and when I finally called, they told me that they don’t even have my request (although I received an email confirmation from them).

    • Hi Radu

      One question please: have you received any answer for the BPM . I m going to apply also and your advice is very good to postpone the inspection until I will receive the BPM exemption

      Also can you help me regarding the allowed period to drive in NL b4 changing the plates? I didn t find anything about 6 month. On the EU sites is mentioned 6-8 weeks

      Thank you

      Anca

  17. Thank you Emma. You have been very kind in sharing your experience and knowledge about buying a car in the Netherlands. I am wondering in bringing from Germany. I have not done it because I have had many bills during the lockdown but I will certainly keep in mind all your information.

  18. Hi All,

    Quick question: I will be moving to NL within couple months, in the meanwhile I have just bought myself a car in Germany having lived here 12+ months. It might happen that on my official moving date the car will be in my possession less than 6 months. Would it be a solution to register the car in NL later (within allowed 6m period) in order to qualify for BPM exemption?

    Appreciate your advice!

    Best regards,
    Frank

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