If you want to transport more than will fit on your bakfiets, or enjoy regular weekend getaways, or often travel long distances, you may find yourself looking to buy a new or second-hand 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. “Expats have even more barriers to buy a car in the Netherlands, because they may not know the culture of buying cars, the reputation of dealerships, and the practical aspects,” explains Mark Boekraad, the Online Manager of Bynco, a second-hand car webshop that launched in 2017. “There’s a lot of tools available online nowadays though, which never existed before, that can help you be informed and make the right choice for buying a car.”
Mark walks you through some of the main factors as you consider the finances, taxes and rules of buying a car.
Bynco (Buy Your Next Car Online) is an independent used car webshop that saves you money by operating 100% online. They select the best cars on the national and international markets and get every vehicle inspected by an independent institute. After choosing your next car from the vast selection of their internet showroom, you can rest easy: Bynco will deliver the vehicle to your doorstep within 48 hours, with a 14-day test drive and 180-day warranty. All from the comfort of your couch.
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 a 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. As Mark explains, “As soon as you register a car to your name and you drive out of the showroom, it’s worth a couple thousand euros less, because it’s directly a second-hand car.”
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’s 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.
Dealers, on the other hand, are more likely to treat it as a service. Bynco, for example, wants to position themselves as a reputable online market for second-hand cars, so each of the cars on their e-shop is independently assessed. “We tried to take the best of online shopping and bring it to the second-hand car market: find the car you like, buy it online with no haggling, and we’ll deliver it to your door within 48 hours,” explains Mark. “There’s no showroom, so our prices stay low. And our agents are available to chat almost 24/7, if you feel like buying a car in the middle of the night!” Also, a bonus for expats: they walk you through all the administration and will even register the car with you at the RDW.
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.
Mark Boekraad is the online manager at Bynco. Alongside his wife who has lived abroad (Ireland and Spain) for a long time, he understands the hurdles of buying a car as an expat, so he uses his service-oriented qualities and his background in retail and marketing to make you feel as comfortable as possible in the Netherlands.Buy your car online