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  • Writer's pictureAlejandra Bernard

How to Import a Foreign Car to Portugal: A Comprehensive Guide

Portugal, with its appealingly modest cost of living, often surprises many with its relatively high vehicle prices. This might prompt you to think about importing your own car, purchasing from abroad, or seeking a specific model not readily available in Portugal. However, it's crucial to weigh the financial implications and benefits specific to your situation. This comprehensive guide is tailored to make your experience of importing a car to Portugal smooth, whether it’s from within the European Union or from other parts of the world.

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1. Portugal's Vehicle Import Regulations

Understanding Portugal's vehicle import regulations is crucial for a successful transition, whether your car comes from within the European Union or from outside it. Here's an overview of these regulations to guide you through the process.

Declaração Aduaneira de Veículo (DAV): This Vehicle Customs Certificate is essential for importing any car into Portugal. It verifies the legality and ownership of your vehicle. Obtain this certificate from the Portuguese Customs Authority, regardless of your car's origin.

EU Certificate of Conformity: All cars, whether from EU or non-EU countries, must adhere to EU safety and environmental standards. Obtain the EU Certificate of Conformity to confirm compliance. This is usually available from the car manufacturer or a certified representative.

Temporary Import: If you intend to bring your car to Portugal for a short period, such as for a holiday or a limited stay, you'll need a Temporary Importation Permit. This allows the car to enter Portugal for a specified duration without incurring usual import duties and taxes. This option is particularly useful for non-EU vehicles, which might otherwise be subject to stringent import regulations.

Left-Hand Drive Requirement: Portuguese law mandates that all vehicles must have the steering wheel on the left side. If your vehicle has a right-hand drive configuration, it must be converted to comply with this requirement. This is a crucial point for cars coming from countries like the UK or Japan, where right-hand drive is standard.

Distinct Considerations for EU and non-EU Vehicles: While EU vehicles generally face fewer hurdles due to alignment with EU standards, non-EU vehicles might be subject to more rigorous checks and potentially higher taxes. It's vital to understand these differences to prepare accordingly.

It’s important to remember that regulations can change. Always consult with the Portuguese Customs Authority or a professional import agent for current information. Adhering to these guidelines will facilitate a smooth and successful importation of your car into Portugal.

2. Guide: Importing a Foreign Car to Portugal

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Importing a car to Portugal can be a complex process, but with careful planning and preparation, it can be a smooth and successful experience. Here are some tips and advice to help you navigate the car importation process in Portugal

1. Research and Understand the Requirements

Before embarking on the importation process, thoroughly research the regulations and requirements for importing a car to Portugal. Familiarize yourself with the necessary documentation, taxes, fees, and procedures to avoid any surprises or delays.

2. Choose a Reputable Shipping Company

Select a reliable and experienced shipping company that specializes in international car transport. Compare quotes from different companies and carefully review their terms and conditions to ensure they meet your needs.

3. Prepare Your Car for Shipping

Adequately prepare your car for shipping to prevent damage during transportation. Clean the interior and exterior, secure loose items, and disable the alarm system. Obtain a bill of lading detailing the car's specifications and mileage.

4. Gather the Necessary Documentation

Collect all the required documentation, including proof of ownership, Certificate of Conformity (COC), proof of insurance, customs declaration, and your passport or ID. Keep these documents organized and easily accessible throughout the process.

5. Arrange Customs Clearance

Choose whether to handle customs clearance yourself or hire a customs broker for assistance. If handling it yourself, be familiar with the customs procedures and paperwork.

6. Pay Shipping and Customs Fees

Settle the shipping fees and customs duties promptly to avoid delays in the release of your car.

7. Obtain Portuguese Vehicle Registration

Once your car arrives and customs clearance is complete, proceed with vehicle registration in Portugal. This involves presenting the necessary documents to the Conservatória do Registo Automóvel and paying the applicable fees.

8. Acquire Portuguese Car Insurance

Secure valid car insurance from a Portuguese insurance company before driving your imported car on public roads. Compare quotes and choose a policy that suits your coverage needs.

9. Seek Assistance if Needed

Don't hesitate to seek assistance from an agent or broker if you encounter any language barriers or require guidance throughout the importation process.

10. Practice Patience and Organization

Importing a car can take time and involve various steps. Stay patient, organized, and attentive to deadlines to ensure a smooth and successful importation experience.

Remember, thorough planning, attention to detail, and seeking assistance when needed will help you navigate the car importation process in Portugal efficiently and successfully.

3. Costs of Import

The cost of importing a car to Portugal can indeed vary based on multiple factors such as the car's value, age, origin, and how well it aligns with Portuguese regulations. Here's a more detailed breakdown, differentiating between EU and non-EU vehicle imports

1. Shipping Costs

From EU Countries: Typically lower due to shorter distances and integrated transportation networks within the EU.

From non-EU countries: Costs depend on the shipping method, distance, and the car’s size and weight. Container shipping, offering more protection, is usually the most expensive.

2. Customs Duties

EU Vehicles: Usually exempt from customs duties due to intra-EU trade agreements.

Non-EU Vehicles: Duties vary based on the car's origin and value. Non-EU imports often attract higher customs duties.

3. Value Added Tax (VAT)

A standard charge of 23% on the value of the car plus any customs duties, is applicable for both EU and non-EU imports.

4. Vehicle Registration Tax (ISV)

This tax applies to all new and used vehicles imported into Portugal, with rates based on emissions, engine size, and power. It's a significant cost factor for both EU and non-EU imports.

5. Technical Inspection Fees

Mandatory for all cars to meet Portuguese safety standards. Costs vary depending on the type and age of the vehicle.

6. Registration and Licensing Fees

Required for registering your car in Portugal. These fees can differ based on the car's type and age.

7. Agent or Broker Fees

Hiring a professional to assist with the import process incurs additional costs. This might be more common for non-EU imports due to more complex regulations.

8. Additional Considerations for Non-EU Imports:

Potential costs for modifying the car to meet EU standards.

Possible higher insurance premiums during transit.

These are general estimates, and actual costs can vary. It's advisable to obtain quotes from shipping companies and customs brokers for a more precise calculation, especially for non-EU imports which might involve more complexities.

4. Car Registration and Insurance in Portugal

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Once your imported car arrives in Portugal, you will need to register it and obtain insurance before you can legally drive it on public roads. Here's a step-by-step guide on how to get your imported car registered and insured in Portugal:

Step 1: Obtain a Portuguese Tax Identification Number (NIF)

If you don't already have a NIF, you will need to apply for one at the local tax office (Autoridade Tributária e Aduaneira). You will need to provide your passport or ID and proof of residency in Portugal.

Step 2: Obtain a Certificate of Conformity (COC)

A COC is a document that certifies that your car meets Portuguese safety and emissions standards. You can usually obtain a COC from the car manufacturer or a designated representative.

Step 3: Pass a Technical Inspection (IPO)

Your car must undergo a technical inspection to ensure that it meets Portuguese safety standards. You can schedule an IPO at any authorized inspection center (Centro de Inspeção Técnica Automóvel).

Step 4: Apply for a Portuguese Registration Certificate (Certificado de Matrícula)

To apply for a registration certificate, you will need to provide the following documents to the Conservatória do Registo Automóvel:

  • Proof of ownership (car title or registration certificate)

  • Certificate of Conformity (COC)

  • Proof of technical inspection (IPO certificate)

  • Proof of insurance

  • Proof of payment of ISV (Vehicle Registration Tax)

  • Proof of payment of registration and licensing fees

Step 5: Obtain Portuguese Car Insurance

You must have valid car insurance before you can register your car in Portugal. You can compare quotes from different insurance companies to find the best price and coverage.

Here are some additional tips for getting your imported car registered and insured in Portugal:

  • Start the process early as it can take several weeks to complete all the necessary steps.

  • Keep all of your documentation organized and easily accessible.

  • Consider hiring an agent or broker to help you with the process, especially if you are not fluent in Portuguese.

  • Be prepared to pay various fees, including customs duties, VAT, ISV, technical inspection fees, and registration and licensing fees.

With careful planning and preparation, you can smoothly import your car to Portugal and get it registered and insured.

5. Do I Need to Change My Driver’s License in Portugal?

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Navigating the rules for driving in Portugal with a foreign license depends on your country of origin and its agreements with Portugal. Here's a detailed look at what you might need to do:

EU and EEA License Holders

If you hold a driver's license from an EU or EEA country, you're in luck. There's no requirement to exchange your license for a Portuguese one. You can drive in Portugal as long as your existing license is valid.

License Holders from Countries with Bilateral Agreements

Portugal has bilateral agreements with certain countries outside the EU/EEA. If you're from one of these countries, you can use your foreign license for up to 185 days without any legal issues. However, once you acquire permanent residence in Portugal, it's mandatory to convert your license to a Portuguese one. This process is relatively straightforward:

  • Obtain a health certificate from a licensed doctor in Portugal. This is to ensure you meet the health requirements for driving.

  • Apply for the reissue of your license on the IMT (Instituto da Mobilidade e dos Transportes) website. This process comes with a fee of 30€.

  • It's advisable to check the latest list of countries with bilateral agreements on the IMT website or consult local authorities for updated information.

License Holders from Countries without Bilateral Agreements

  • If your country does not have a driving license agreement with Portugal, the process is a bit more involved. You will need to obtain a Portuguese driver's license through the standard procedure, which includes:

  • Taking a driving theory test, which is usually conducted in Portuguese.

  • Completing a practical driving test to demonstrate your driving skills according to Portuguese driving regulations.

  • It's important to start this process well before your 185-day allowance expires to ensure continuity in your driving privileges.

Additional Notes

  • Regardless of your country of origin, always carry your driver's license, ID, and insurance documents when driving.

  • Consider obtaining an International Driving Permit (IDP) as an additional document. While not a substitute for converting your license, it can be useful, especially for those from non-EU/EEA countries.

By understanding these guidelines and planning accordingly, you can ensure a smooth transition to driving in Portugal, regardless of your original license's country of issue.

6. Conclusion

Importing a car to Portugal requires careful planning, preparation, and attention to detail to ensure a smooth and successful process. Following the steps outlined in this guide, you can effectively navigate the importation process, from shipping and customs clearance to vehicle registration and insurance. Remember to start early, gather the necessary documentation, choose reliable service providers, and seek assistance if needed. With careful consideration and attention to each step, you can legally import your car to Portugal and enjoy driving it on Portugal’s beautiful roads.

Lagos Homes is your reliable partner for all your real estate needs in Portugal. We go beyond helping you find your dream property, offering expert guidance across all aspects. Do you have any inquiries? Feel free to contact us now!

Dona Ana panoramic beach view describing the blog post The Ultimate Guide to Importing a Foreign Car to Portugal offered by the trusted buyer's agent Lagos Homes in the Algarve Portugal by real estate agent Benjamin Seide


7. FAQ - Importing Your Car to Portugal

How long does the car import process take?

The length of the process can vary depending on various factors, such as customs clearance and shipping logistics. On average, it can take anywhere from a few weeks to a couple of months. It's best to consult with your shipping company for a more accurate estimate.

Do I need to pay import duties and taxes for my car?

Can I import a car that doesn't meet EU standards?

Can I drive my imported car immediately after it arrives in Portugal?

Can I bring my personal belongings in the car during shipping?

8. Video: Importing Vehicles to Portugal

When considering importing a vehicle, here’s what you should keep in mind:


  • Access to a Wider Range of Models: Especially if you're looking for a specific make or model not sold in Portugal.

  • Potential Cost Savings: Depending on your home country, you might find it more economical to import a car, even after factoring in the import costs.

  • Familiarity and Comfort: Driving a car you're already accustomed to can enhance your comfort and ease of transition to a new country.


  • EU Imports: Generally simpler, thanks to harmonized EU regulations. No customs duties are involved, but you must still adhere to Portuguese registration and safety standards.

  • Global Imports: More complex, involving customs duties, VAT, and potentially more stringent compliance checks with EU standards.


  • Import Duties and Taxes: Non-EU vehicles are subject to customs duties and VAT, while EU imports typically only incur VAT.

  • Registration and Compliance Costs: Regardless of origin, vehicles must be registered in Portugal and may need modifications to meet local standards.

  • Shipping and Insurance: Costs vary based on origin, shipping method, and insurance coverage.

Before deciding, it's advisable to conduct a detailed cost-benefit analysis, considering both the financial aspects and the convenience of having your preferred vehicle in Portugal.


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