Vehicle purchase

February 28, 2024

Your right to legal protection

Your rights when buying a car abroad – including the amount of VAT you have to pay – vary depending on whether:

  • the car is new or used
  • you are buying it from a professional car dealer or a private individual
  • the seller is based in an EU country or not

You generally have the greatest level of legal protection when you buy a new car from a professional seller based in the EU.

Under EU consumer rights rules, you have a minimum of 2 years’ guarantee if the car you purchased turns out to be faulty or not as advertised.

In some EU countries, the guarantee period may be reduced to no less than 1 year for used vehicles. The buyer and seller have to agree to this at the time of purchase.

Be aware that EU consumer rights do not apply to private sales, so you should be extremely cautious when buying a car from a private individual.

Check the car documents

When you buy a car abroad, make sure the seller gives you all the documents you need to register the car in the country where you live. Check that you have the original documents for the car.

Transport your newly purchased car

When you buy a new car in another EU country, you will need to consider carefully how to transport it home, as it will not yet be registered in the country where you live:

  • You can tow the car home, hitching it to a fully insured and registered vehicle
  • You can hire a specialised shipping company
  • You can drive the car home yourself – for this you will need to get insurance and temporary number plates in the country where you buy the car


Make sure your insurance is valid and the plates recognised in all the countries you will drive through. As temporary number plates are not harmonised in the EU,you could find it difficult to obtain them or get them recognised by another EU country. Check with the relevant car insurance and registration authorities.


You should obtain your car’s permanent number plate in the country where you register your car, which is usually the country where you live or have your permanent residence.

For more detailed advice check the ECC-net recommendations on cross-border car purchases.