How to import a car

How to import a car and claim a tax exemption in the Netherlands

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Certain laws allow expats moving to the Netherlands to claim a tax exemption on importing a car to the Netherlands.

It can often be worthwhile taking your car, motorbike or camper van with you to the Netherlands, as expats moving to the Netherlands may, in many cases, be exempt from Dutch registration tax and import duties. This can save you as much as thousands of euros compared to someone who does not have a tax exemption for these types of ‘personal goods’.

The Netherlands is one of the most expensive countries in Europe to buy a car, due to the duties, taxes and the BPM (belasting van personenauto’s en motorrijwielen), the latter of which especially drives the cost of cars up.

What are 'removal goods'?

'Removal goods' is the translation of the Dutch term ‘verhuisgoederen’. When a car is considered a ‘removal good’, it is exempt from registration tax (the BPM) and import duties, provided the owner has lived abroad for 12 months and the owner has used the car for at least six months before the move. New cars are not exempt.

Depending on the car, an expat may save thousands when choosing to import a car rather than purchasing one in the Netherlands, thank to the country's high sales tax and BPM. The douane (Dutch customs) deals with imports and exemptions. You can apply for a tax exemption up to 12 months after your move.

Once you take up residency in the Netherlands, you must also exchange your licence for a Dutch one to legally drive in the Netherlands, although different rules apply depending on the country from which you moved. Read more about exchanging your foreign licence in the Netherlands.

Read more in this explanation from the Dutch tax authorities

How to import a car to the Netherlands as a 'removal good'

Less stringent administrative requirements apply to the admittance of a vehicle that constitutes 'moving goods'. The process of how to import a car into the Netherlands as a 'removal good' comprises five steps:

1. Shipping

One of the first questions you ask when planning a move is, ‘How do I get my belongings to the Netherlands?’ In some cases, you can arrange to have your vehicle(s) shipped as part of your removal goods.

There are multiple parties which can handle or organise the shipping of your car, for example, your employer or a moving company (which also handles the removal of the furniture). Some moving companies can assist with all the complications of the actual move – searching for houses or arranging Internet and telephone services – but many don’t know how to import a car.

In many cases, expats must arrange shipping themselvesIf this is the case, you can opt to call upon the services of an import service provider for the relocation of your vehicle(s). Apart from the shipping, they can also take over all the administrative hassle, although you can do it yourself.

Note that the party that arranges the shipping must submit the removal goods exemption to the Dutch Tax and Customs Administration. It is recommended to arrange this well in advance of shipping.

Importing a car to the Netherlands

2. Inward clearance and transport within the Netherlands

Once your car has arrived in the Netherlands, your vehicle will be subject to inward clearance by Customs.

They check whether you fulfil the conditions of the removal goods tax exemption

  • The motor vehicle forms part of your household effects.
  • You will use the motor vehicle that you have brought for the same purpose as you used it abroad.
  • You bought the motor vehicle at least 6 months before you moved to the Netherlands and you used the motor vehicle during that period.
  • You lived at least 12 months abroad before you moved to the Netherlands.


If approved, you will receive a certificate of clearance and the vehicle may be collected by an import service provider or carrier – otherwise you will to calculate and pay the BPM tax before collecting your car. Please note that transport by road is not yet permitted as the vehicle does not yet have a valid number plate. Your vehicle may not be kept on a public road.

For both Dutch and foreign residents, it is forbidden to drive or park a car without a registration and third-party insurance on the public road, which is why you should transport the car by a carrier specialised in importing cars to the Netherlands. They also can store the car on a private property until the registration of the car is done.

3. Technical adaptation in accordance with European requirements

Though there are less strict administrative requirements, there are technical requirements that must be fulfilled. For example, cars in the Netherlands are required to have fog lights on the rear of the car. Most non-European manufactured cars don’t have these lights, so you may need to have a specialised workshop or import service provider make these lights compliant.

A RDW station (National Vehicle Authority, Rijksdienst voor het Wegverkeer) can arrange the inspection of your car, as well as the registration (see next point). You can search the yellow pages for RDW-approved stations, or make an appointment online at certain RDW stations. There is a fee for the inspection.

4. Testing and registration in the Netherlands

Once the vehicle has been adapted for the Netherlands according to Dutch technical requirements, it will need to be tested by RDW.

You can arrange this yourself, but there may be some logistic issues. For example, you will need temporary number plates and a special insurance in order to be permitted to drive to the testing station. Furthermore, your vehicle may not be kept on a public road until it has a permanent Dutch registration, as it is not possible to take out any insurance until that time – and you still have to buy and fit the Dutch number plates yourself.

Finally, although you do not have to pay BPM as the car is a part of your ‘household goods’, the Dutch tax authority still requires that you make a BPM declaration.

Arranging your own import isn't always practical, especially for expats. To save time and hassle of importing a car yourself, you can opt to outsource the approval process.

Import car Netherlands

5. Hit the road

Once the import process is complete, the RDW will enter your vehicle into the vehicle registration system. The vehicle registration (kentekencard) is then sent to your home address.

Once the registration is complete, you have to take out Dutch third-party auto insurance (autoverzekering), which is mandatory to drive in the Netherlands.

Third party liability – Wettelijke Aansprakelijkheidsverzekering (WA) – is the minimum obligatory insurance, which covers your damage to third parties, which includes everybody and everything involved in an accident except for you, your car and your possessions. You would need extra insurance to cover theft, fire and storms.

A national insurer and roadside-support organisation includes The Royal Dutch Touring Club (ANWB) but you are free to choose any insurance provider. You can compare insurance providers at www.independer.nl.

Many may think that buying or importing cars in the Netherland is an expensive process, but for expats, it may not be – so don’t forget to bring your car!

 

SCL Rotterdam / Expatica

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