Information on owning and driving a car in Holland, from importing, registering and insurance requirements to where to purchase a new or secondhand vehicle…
If you’re an expat in the Netherlands who owns, or is looking to buy a car, it is important to be aware of everything involved in vehicle ownership. When bringing a car from another country, different rules apply if you are moving from within the European Union or from a country outside the EU. The process may or may not include paying import duties along with road tax (which is paid by every car owner in the country).
Purchasing a car in the Netherlands is far easier than bringing one in to the country, especially if it is coming from outside the EU. A vehicle purchase simply involves paying the seller the agreed upon price, along with the appropriate BTW sales tax (unless the buyer has diplomatic status, in which case the sale is tax-free) and registering as the owner of the vehicle with the RDW (Dutch motor vehicles bureau).
Of course, most car owners also plan on driving the vehicle while living in the Netherlands. To do this, several additional requirements have to be met…
- you must be in possession of a valid driver’s license (either Dutch or issued in another EU country)
- the vehicle must be insured for third party liability under a policy issued from a Dutch insurer
- the vehicle must pass an APK (road-worthiness) test administered at an approved ‘keuringsstation‘
- BPW (road tax) must be paid to the Belastingdienst (Dutch tax board)
- if the vehicle does not have license plates, new ones need to be purchased from a RDW-approved manufacturer
For expats looking to purchase a secondhand vehicle in Holland, buying one from an auto dealership (autobedrijf) rather than an individual is likely to be far easier, especially if the expat does not understand Dutch. The dealership’s salesperson will be able to help with filling out the forms related to a vehicle purchase (which will always be written in Dutch), including the transfer of ownership and vehicle registration documents. Another advantage of buying a used car from a dealer is the limited time warranty often included with the purchase if the manufacturer’s warranty has expired.
Another consideration when purchasing a car in the Netherlands relates to the vehicle’s weight and engine size. Both of these factor into the amount of road tax to be paid each year. Heavier cars and those with larger engines are assessed a higher BPM rate.
Be aware that the vast majority of cars sold in the Netherlands are equipped with manual transmissions. Automatic transmissions are only common for rental cars. The reasons for this include: the flat Dutch landscape which makes driving a stick fairly easy, the lower cost of a manual transmission engine vs an automatic transmission engine and finally the high cost of fuel in Europe which makes engine efficiency a priority. In October 2017 the average price of a liter of petrol in the Netherlands was €1.53 (which equates to €5.78/gallon).
In order to reduce greenhouse emissions, many Dutch municipalities are supporting electric vehicles by increasing the number of public charging points and strategically placing them in areas with the highest electric vehicle ownership. A map showing charging points in the Netherlands can be found on the website Oplaadpalen.