Want to swap your two wheels for four? If you’re thinking about hitting the Dutch roads, read our complete guide to buying a car in the Netherlands.
Buying a car in the Netherlands, whether new or used, may feel intimidating. But, empowered with some basic information, it doesn’t have to be. As an expat, you’ll often have more barriers to buying a car in the Netherlands. This is because you are unfamiliar with the practical aspects of car ownership, the buying/selling culture, and the reputation of certain dealerships and methods.
To help you get an idea of what to expect, here’s our expert guide to buying a car in the Netherlands
The finances and legal bits of buying a car in the Netherlands
Register your car
Just like you need to register your residence, when you buy a car in the Netherlands, you need to register your car. This is done through the RDW (Rijksdienst voor het Wegverkeer), the national authority for road traffic, transport and vehicle administration. They’ll give you a credit card-shaped vehicle registration certificate (kentekenbewijs).
After you register your car, you’ll automatically receive a bill for motorrijtuigenbelasting, or road tax. The amount is variable depending on your type of car and where you live, so you can pre-calculate the costs for road tax on the Belastingdienst website.
Inspect your car
By law, you must get your vehicle periodically inspected by an RDW-approved professional, usually a garage or testing station. This test, called an APK, is pretty comprehensive and not very costly. The price varies wildly depending on where you get your APK, so shop around: it can be as cheap as 30€. How often you need to get an APK depends on several factors, such as what type of vehicle you are driving and how many years it has been on the road, but usually the test needs to be performed every year or every two years. If your vehicle does not pass the test, you benefit from a grace period to get it fixed before the RDW withdraws your registration.
Insure your car
Before you start driving, get that car insured. You’re legally required to hold liability insurance on your car, WA-verzekering (wettelijke aansprakelijkheidsverzekering), but you may also want to cover more than the bare minimum, for example insurance against theft or legal fees. Check out a comparison site like Independer to get started.
Park your car
Living in the countryside or suburbs may not present a problem, but if you live in a major city like Amsterdam, you’ll need a parking permit and there may even be a wait list. But, a bonus for electric cars: you’ll have priority on the wait list.
Should you buy a new or used car?
Sure, who doesn’t love that new car smell? But, there are more factors to consider when deciding whether to buy a new or used car in the Netherlands. For starters, new cars are more expensive simply because they’re new. Expect a couple of thousand euros to be knocked off its price as soon as you drive it off the showroom forecourt.
That comes with a trade-off though: “When you buy a new car, you know exactly what you’re going to get. If you buy a second-hand car, you have to consider what is the history of the car. Who drove it before me, did they do the maintenance, is the mileage correct on the odometer, what is the true value of the car versus the price? You’ll have a lot more questions,” says Mark. “At Bynco, we understand these issues, and especially how hard it must be for expats; and that’s why our motto is ‘honest about cars’: we are here to help you buy a car – not sell you one. So we get the car tested and we tell you the whole truth.”
Ultimately, you’ll have to decide what’s best for your own situation and your own priorities, but below is some more information on new versus used cars.
Buying a new car in the Netherlands
Another thing that makes new cars more expensive? BPM tax. The first owner of a new car (or one which has just been imported to the Netherlands) must pay the BPM tax (Bijzondere Verbruiksbelasting van Personenauto’s) to register the vehicle in their name.
But if the sky’s the limit, why not go ahead and get yourself a Tesla? There are eight showrooms in the Netherlands and, as mentioned earlier, that electric car will put you on the priority list for a parking permit.
Buying a used car in the Netherlands
When it comes to buying a second-hand car, the biggest concern is the same worldwide: how do I know the condition of the car, really? To look up the car history, the RDW offers a license plate check, where they’ll list all the known car details, like previous owners. You should always request the APK from the seller, and if it’s “lost”, or was performed too long ago for comfort, you can feel free to request a new one (be prepared to pay for it). The website finnik also offers a car report (the basic option is free but there’s also premium options).
It can also make a difference whether you’re buying from a dealer or an individual. A dealer may have profit as their greatest motive, but they also build up a reputation with their customers over time, so you can find out more information about their history of sales.
Marktplaats, the Netherlands’ online marketplace like eBay, is a favourite among Dutch locals for everything under the sun including cars, so you may be able to find a good deal – but prepare to be confronted with trying to assess the car’s state, negotiating with the owner over the price, and solving the administrative matters on your own.
All told, it’s a bit of legwork to figure out the best option for buying a car in the Netherlands, but considering the price tag, that’s not really a surprise, and thankfully there are services like Bynco that smooth out the process. Do your homework, consider the trade-offs between trust and price, make a choice and you’ll be riding these flat roads in no time.