A guide to car use in the Netherlands

A guide to car use in the Netherlands

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You're moving to the Netherlands and want to be mobile, but should you buy or lease a car and where can you read up on the Dutch road rules? Here is an introductory guide.



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Bringing your own


If you wish to bring a car into the Netherlands from abroad, the Road Traffic and Transport Authority (RDW) will demand some or all of the following points are met:

  • declare import duties and/or BTW taxes,
  • have your car inspected by the RDW,
  • apply for the BPM car tax with customs,
  • pay the BPM and then receive the vehicle registration certificate,
  • obtain number plates,
  • pay road tax,
  • take out third-party insurance,
  • pay the disposal contribution for passenger vehicles.

If you intend to register as a resident in the Netherlands, the Dutch municipal authorities will demand that you obtain Dutch registration for your vehicle if you bring it with you from a foreign country.

If you buy a passenger vehicle in an EU country you will have to pay BTW service tax if the vehicle is new. If you buy a car outside of the EU, you must lodge a form for customs duties and the BTW tax at the tax office and customs (Douane, Tel: 0800 0143). You will need a form called an "enige document".

Anyone wanting to bring a vehicle into the Netherlands will need to contact the RDW to make an appointment for the car to be inspected.

The technical inspection itself is conducted reasonably quickly — taking sometimes just one hour — but there is on average a six-week waiting period. The present cost is EUR 78.

You will need to bring the vehicle, personal ID and the vehicle's registration certificate to the inspection, plus possible other documents proving your car conform to European regulations.

After you have made an inspection appointment with the RDW, the organisation Auto Recycle Nederland will send you a bill for EUR 45.

This disposal contribution fee is used to fund wreckers to (at some point) demolish your car in an environmentally-friendly manner. You must pay this before the RDW inspection.

Once your car has passed the RDW inspection, you can then go to the customs office and ask for a document to be mailed to your address allowing you to obtain Dutch number plates. This is generally received within two to four days and costs about EUR 74.

Take the document to a number plate supplier and request to have number plates made up. Check with individual outlets on the time frame involved, but it will take a minimum of one week.

You pay the BPM to the Central Bureau for Motor Vehicle Taxation (Centraal Bureau Motorrijtuigenbelasting). Once your vehicle has passed the RDW inspection you can then pay BPM tax at a tax or customs office. The amount you pay depends on your vehicle.

You can gain an exemption from paying the BPM if you have lived in another country for at least one year and have had the car in your possession for at least six months.

But you will need to pay road tax (motorrijtuigenbelasting). Once you have registered the car, the tax office will send you a road tax bill, noting your payment choice of either every three months or annually.

Once you receive the bill, you can choose to have the amount automatically deducted from your bank account or opt to pay via a giro credit slip.

Third party insurance (wettelijke aansprakelijkheid of WA) for your vehicle is obligatory. Once you have received evidence of your car's registration, you will need to choose your own insurer, which will then inform the RDW that your vehicle is legally insured.

For a list of insurers, click through to the Dutch Association of Insurers at www.verzekeraars.org.

The website of the RDW (www.rdw.nl) also has more information in English about bringing your car into the Netherlands. Ph: 0900 0739.


Should you buy or bring your own?


For European expats moving to the Netherlands, it is logical they might want to bring their own car. Expats from other parts of the globe might – for obvious reasons - be less inclined to bring their car.

The managing director of relocation agency Dutch Living Services, Wilbert Jorna, said one of the main factors influencing an expat's decision to bring their car to the Netherlands is whether they can gain exemption from the BPM tax.

Jorna said paying BPM is very expensive and it will prove most expensive if expats import their car into the Netherlands, pay the BPM and then take their car out of the country after their period of stay.

Once a car is inspected by the RDW, the customs office will determine if expats need to pay the BPM tax, which is calculated on various factors.

If the customs office rules that expats must pay the BPM, expats may opt not to pay and take their car back to their country of origin. This is not expensive if the car must return to Belgium, but the cost increases the greater distance from the Netherlands an expat originates from.

For those who opt to buy and then sell a car in the Netherlands, the BPM tax is negated. The BPM is calculated into the sale price of the car both in the initial purchase and the resale price of the vehicle.


A third option would be to negotiate with your employer regarding a company car because the costs of running the vehicle are then incurred by the employer. It is up to individual expats to discuss this option with employers.

The Netherlands managing director of relocation agency SIRVA Relocation, Paul van der Smissen, advises against bringing a car into the Netherlands.

This is due to the expensive BPM and the bureaucratic hassles it entails and the possibility that the Dutch authorities might request technical adjustments to the car regarding such elements as headlights through to environmental measures.

Also, car parking garages cater primarily to small cars, while some expats — from the US for example — might have large vehicles.

Van der Smissen said Dutch road taxes are based on a car's weight and fuel. Many cars here are thus small and petrol-based, reducing tax costs. Cars imported from other countries might not be so fiscally advantageous.

Furthermore, if expats leave the Netherlands, taking their foreign car with them, they will then be required to go through customs again.

For expats who opt to buy a car in the Netherlands, Van der Smissen reminds them that while cars might appear more expensive to purchase here than other European countries, the resale price is also comparatively higher and you will thus not lose out.

For example, you might buy a car in Belgium for EUR 15,000 and sell it in four years time for EUR 10,000. In the Netherlands, you would buy the same car for EUR 20,000 but sell it for EUR 15,000. In both cases, there is a depreciation of EUR 5,000.

Due also to the fact that the BPM is included in car prices, importers take that into account and offer cars for a lower base price in the Netherlands. Sirva Relocation thus advises expats to buy a car when they leave the Netherlands.

Expats can buy a car tax free when they leave the Netherlands and take that vehicle to another European country. They will then only need to pay the BTW in their new country, depending on that country's regulations.

The tax office confirms that if you buy a new car and take it to a foreign country, you can apply for a refund on any BPM tax paid. This regulation does not apply to purchases of second-hand cars.

At any rate, excluding the BPM means that expats can buy cars cheaper in the Netherlands than surrounding countries when they leave the Lowlands.


Buying a car


The Dutch Motorists Association ANWB warns on its website that once you have signed a purchase agreement, it is not easy to annul the deal.

It can only be cancelled with good reason and you might pay an annulment fee, such as 15 percent of the purchase price to companies registered with the branch industry association BOVAG.

If you wish to compare car prices for vehicles made from 1997 onwards, the ANWB/BOVAG quotations list is a good start. ANWB members can access the list from the website or non-members can buy it in book form — updated every two months — from ANWB shops for EUR 10.50.

You should always ask about guarantees. A new car carries manufacturer or importer guarantees, while a second-hand car generally has a guarantee also. BOVAG companies give a BOVAG guarantee, while others give their own version.

Private sellers usually do not give guarantees, but the manufacturer or import guarantees might still be valid.

When buying a second-hand car, the ANWB advises you to have the car inspected. An APK certificate — which is legally required every year for cars older than three years — is not sufficient because it only tests safety and environmental demands. Nevertheless, you should always buy a car with an APK certificate.

If you buy a new car or a car from second-hand dealer, the seller is obligated to register the car under your name and you will then receive a bill for road taxes.

If you buy from a private person, you will be required to personally register the car in your name with the seller at the post office. You will then be sent a bill for road tax at your given address.

The Dutch customs office said the BPM is included in the price of cars sold in the Netherlands, both new, second-hand and privately.

For advice and information, contact the ANWB on 0800 0503 or the website www.anwb.nl. Some information is restricted to members only. For tax inquiries, contact the tax office on 0800 0749. The general tax website is located at www.belastingdienst.nl.


Rules and road signs


Road rules in the Netherlands are very similar to those of other countries in continental Europe. The Dutch drive on the right and give priority to the right, unless otherwise indicated. The roads are good and well sign posted, but traffic jams are common.

The British embassy website in The Hague also says that traffic offences can carry heavy, often on-the-spot fines and that the Dutch drive "assertively" and does not practice road courtesy.
Be extra vigilant for trams. Speed cameras, speed traps and unmarked vehicles are widely used. Using a mobile phone while driving is illegal and paid parking is the norm. Pedestrians should be careful crossing roads and motorists are warned to also look out for cyclists and mopeds.

To read up further on Dutch road rules, you can buy a road rules and theory book in Dutch from ANWB outlets for EUR 14.95. Members can obtain a road rules book for free.

You can also click through to a PDF file in English on the website of the Transport Ministry and for an overview of Dutch road signs, please click here.

24 June 2004

Expatica makes every effort to ensure the accuracy of information contained in its publications. However, this article is designed for informative purposes only and Expatica will not be held accountable for errors, omissions, damages, changes to regulations or differing interpretations of the law.


[Copyright Expatica 2004]

Subject: Cars + driving in the Netherlands


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3 Comments To This Article

  • elvis posted:

    on 30th June 2013, 11:18:00 - Reply

    NL is not a car country. They charge you a fortune for driving a homo miniature version of a car. They have this crazy BPM which increases a new car price 25% to 30% compared to neighboring countries. Gas pricese in NL is among the most expensive in europe. Road tax is very high too: a small polo or corsa or fiesta costs 40 euro a month (500 euro a year) and that goes independent of kms driven. [Edited by moderator].
  • James Bryan posted:

    on 26th January 2009, 17:10:14 - Reply

    Well said... I would like to bring my car to the netherlands but be free to sell it whenever I choose to, I dont want to wait 1 or 2 years. [Edited by moderator. Please post (elaborate) questions on Ask the Expert or on our Forums. If you have questions for the Expatica staff, please contact us directly.]
  • J Boef posted:

    on 19th January 2009, 21:21:42 - Reply

    I believe that some pieces of information in the above-mention article are rather vague. I hope that most senior acounts will agree with my corrections below.
    First of all, since 1.1.2007 it is possible to have the depreciated BPM paid back (on pro-rata basis) when car is declared and exported out of the Netherlands, so expatriates may not need paying full BPM charge, but just a little bit. But who cares about those few thousands Euro left to ever rampaging Dutch bureaucracy?
    Secondly, the depreciation is as fierce in the Netherlands as elsewhere in Euro-zone, so if the depreciation is 25% on 15000 Euro worth model in Belgium, the write-off after 4 years is 3750 Euro, whereas in the Netherlands for the same car model worth 20000 Euro, the 25% write-off totals 4000 Euro. Exactly 250 Euro difference.
    Lastly, if the car is kept till it drops dead, the write-off will be the total price, which is 5000 Euro higher for a Dutch brother of the exactly same Belgium car.
    Nothing, really absolutely nothing to be proud of in the Netherlands.