Important Things To Know About Buying A Car In Italy

While you’re in Italy it can be extremely helpful if you have your own car. This gives you access to vast swathes of the country which are hard to reach and frees you from relying on the public transport system.

If you’re a recently arrived Expat or planning to move to Italy in the future then you will be best served by selling your car at home before you leave and then buying a new or second hand car upon your arrival.

Many countries, including the United Kingdom, drive on the left hand side of the road but in Italy it’s a right hand drive system. This is why it’s so important to buy a car once you arrive in Italy because otherwise you’ll find it a lot more difficult to manage. Driving in a left hand drive car in Italy will leave you sitting on the sidewalk side of the road which makes driving a lot more difficult than it needs to be!

Don’t forget, that you’ll also be getting used to the new road signs, the temperamental Italian drivers and a whole new country so the last thing you want is to be sitting on the wrong side of your car as well.

Cars parked in Como Italy.
Como, Italy.

As well as the convenience of buying a car locally, shipping a car from overseas can be very expensive so it’s often more economical to buy a new vehicle once you’ve arrived.

Buying A Car With Italian Plates.

In order to buy and drive a car in Italy that has local plates you’ll first have to apply for a ‘Permesso di Soggiorno’, a ‘residency permit’ in English, and a ‘Codice Fiscale’ which is your Italian tax code. Before you depart for Italy you should also apply for an International Driver’s License which will let you drive in the country for up to 1 year without requiring a local driving license to use the roads.

Where Should You Buy A New Or Used Car In Italy?

Once you’ve arrived in Italy and have the required documentation you can start shopping around for a suitable car. Generally speaking, unless you’re an expert in cars and mechanics, it’s safer to buy a car from an official dealership.

All the cars they sell should have been checked over for any faults and have a good warranty that will be given to you with the vehicle. If you buy your car from a dealership then they will also help to organize the necessary documents on your behalf.

However, if you buy your car privately from an owner, then you’ll have to visit the local offices of the Automobile Club Italiano (ACI) to arrange the official transfer of ownership. To find out about the full requirements you can visit the Automobile Club Italiano’s website. If you are an expat, buying a used car privately is not something I would recommend, unless you know the seller very well.

Car Tax Or Bollo.

Car tax, or ‘Bollo’ in Italian, is legally required and you can only drive on the roads after you’ve paid it. Whether or not you buy a car from a garage or private owner you should check if the car tax is paid fully up to date because otherwise you’ll be responsible for paying any arrears in the balance!

All cars in Italy must be taxed, even if you’re not driving it and keeping it off the road! If you don’t pay your car tax then you can face steep fines if you are stopped by the police.

Car tax varies depending on the type of car you’re driving, whether it’s petrol or diesel and the horsepower of the engine. The car should come with a log book, or ‘Libretto’, that will detail what category your car falls under in terms of the taxes you will need to pay.

How Do You Pay Your Car Tax In Italy?

When it comes time to pay your car tax in Italy you can do so at a local office of the Automobile Club Italiano or at a bank. You can pay in person but if it’s more convenient then you can pay online by visiting the Automobile Club Italiano website.

Car tax in Italy runs on a yearly basis and lasts until the end of December or the end of August. For car tax that runs out in December the payment deadline for the following year is the end of January while the tax that runs out in August must be paid by the end of September.

A good tip to bear in mind is that most people wait until the last moment to pay their tax so if you pay a little earlier you’ll be able to beat the rush. Don’t forget, you’ll need to bring your car log book and your Codice Fiscale number with you if you’re paying the tax in person.

If you’ve bought a new car then you’ll have to pay for the remainder of the year’s tax by the end of the following month if you bought it after the 21st. Alternatively, if you bought it before the 21st of the month then it must be paid by the end of that same month. Although this sounds a little complicated, the car dealership will be able to walk you through the process, so there’s no need to worry about it!

The ‘Revisione’.

In Italy you are legally required to periodically take your car into a garage for a checkup which is called a ‘Revisione’ or MOT. The law used to state that you only had to take cars which were more than 10 years old for a Revisione but this has been updated to include cars that are more than 4 years old. Revisione is similar to the car inspection in the United States (In the US, the inspection frequency will vary based on the State you are in and in States like New Jersey there are government inspection stations).

Trentino Dolomites Italy
Trentino, Italy.

You must get a Revisione every 2 years to be able to legally drive your car and after it’s completed you’ll get a stamp in your car’s log book to prove it’s passed the necessary tests. If you ever get pulled over at a checkpoint by the police they are certain to check your log book to ensure that you’re up to date with your Revisione. So it’s not worth taking the risk of putting it off because otherwise you’ll face heavy fines and potentially even points on your license.

Car Insurance Is A Legal Requirement.

Before you can take your new car onto the road you have to get it insured. Car insurance in Italy is, unfortunately, a little expensive compared to other parts of the world but the market is improving and there are far more choices available to you now than there used to be. Car insurance companies in Italy also tend to be very slow to pay out if you need to make a claim so it’s worth taking the time to research the types of coverage that are available to you.

What Types Of Car Insurance Cover Is Available To You In Italy?

The main options that you have are:

Comprehensive Insurance Coverage (known as ‘Casco’).

This is the top level of coverage and is very expensive. Consequently, very few Italians actually pay for this and many companies are not even willing to offer it to car owners with a car that is more than 4 years old!

Third Party Insurance Coverage (known as ‘Responsabilita Civile’).

Third party insurance coverage is the minimum legal requirement that you must have to drive in Italy. This type of coverage is cheap and offers you good value for money, particularly if you have a serious accident.

You can also pay for add ons to the basic coverage which include theft and fire (‘furto’, ‘incendio’), cover that protects you if the accident was your own fault (‘infortuni del conducente’) and roadside assistance in the case of a breakdown (‘servizio assistenza’).

Your insurance policy will also come with a no claims bonus. This is ranked on a scale from 1, the highest bonus, up to 18, which is the lowest. This ranking depends on multiple factors including your age, how long you’ve driven without making a claim as well as other considerations that you can ask the provider about. In some cases you can even transfer your no claims bonus from your own country if you’ve recently moved to Italy and have a clean driving record back at home.

Your Driving License In Italy.

Once you have an Italian driving license it is valid for 10 years if you are over 18 years and under 50 years. After the age of 50, your license is valid for 5 years at a time and for 3 years over the age of 70.

As an Expat you can rely on an International Driving License for 1 year but after that you’ll have to take a new driving test to get an Italian license. If you fail to drive with a valid license you will face heavy fines and your insurance may even be invalidated if you’re unlucky enough to have an accident.

Fiat accessories.
Fiat Accessories.

Citizens from other countries in the European Union can continue to use the driving license from their home country, however foreigners from outside the EU will need to apply for an International Driving License before taking a test and getting an Italian license. Your Italian license will also be valid throughout the entire EU.

What You Need To Have On You When Driving In Italy.

Italy has strict laws as to what you must have with you while driving in your car. Italian police regularly set up checkpoints to stop drivers and ensure that they are complying with the law so it’s not worth ignoring the rules!

You will need:

  • A valid I.D, such as an official ID card or a passport.
  • Up to date Driver’s License – or a receipt that shows it’s currently being processed by the authorities.
  • Receipt from your car tax.
  • Proof of your car insurance displayed on a disk in the front window.
  • Your car’s log book with proof of your up to date Revisione.
  • A luminous yellow jacket which you must wear if you need to stop on the Autostrada.

Once The Bureaucracy Is Complete You Can Enjoy The Open Road.

Although it can certainly seem as though there is a lot of bureaucracy involved in getting your new car onto the road, once it’s finished you can enjoy exploring the excellent system of roads in Italy.

Many parts of the country are difficult or impossible to access without your own car and so having a car will massively improve your experience of living as an Expat in Italy.

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