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’re unfamiliar with the practical aspects of car ownership and the reputation of certain dealerships.
To help guide you, here’s our expert guide to buying a car in the Netherlands.
Buying a new car in the Netherlands? You'll need a car insurance premium that suits your lifestyle. With FBTO, you can supplement your basic cover with add-ons that meet your driving needs, including roadside assistance and occupants insurance. Enjoy 24/7 emergency support and peace of mind by taking out a policy with FBTO.
The finances and legal bits of buying a car in the Netherlands
Buying a car in the Netherlands? We’ve put together a list of a few things you’ll need to consider.
Register your car
Just like you need to register your residence, when you buy a car in the Netherlands, you must register your car. The RDW (Rijksdienst voor het Wegverkeer), the national authority for road traffic, does this. 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. 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 doesn’t pass the test, you benefit from a grace period to fix it before the RDW withdraws registration.
Insure your car
Before you even think about getting behind the wheel, you’ll need to insure your motor. By law, you must have at least third-party car insurance in the Netherlands. This covers you against any damage or injury to others caused by your vehicle. Car insurance companies in the Netherlands include:
You can compare Dutch car insurance policies quickly and efficiently using comparison websites like Pricewise, Independer, and United Consumers. To find out more about auto coverage, including the requirements for taking out a policy, read our complete guide to car insurance in the Netherlands.
Park your car
Living in the countryside or suburbs may not present a problem. If you live in a major city, you’ll need a parking permit and there may even be a waiting list. But, a bonus for electric cars: you’ll get priority.
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 fall 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 test the car and tell you the whole truth.”
Ultimately, you’ll have to decide what’s best for your own situation and your own priorities.
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. An electric car puts 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 Dutch online marketplace, is a favorite among locals for everything under the sun including cars. You may 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.