Is it worth taking a car to Portugal?

14 de November, 2023

Is it worth taking a car to Portugal?

Taking a car to Portugal may not be the most cost-effective option for you. Before making a decision, find out here how the process works.
Reading: 7 min

Taking a car to Portugal is a decision that should be made well-informed. If you’re planning to move to the country and are considering bringing your car with you, it’s important to analyze all aspects before making such a choice. Importing a car involves several bureaucratic steps and many costs. What initially seems like an economical option may end up not being so advantageous (not to mention the effort it requires!).

In this article, you’ll discover all the aspects you should consider when importing your vehicle to Portugal. We’ll cover the necessary procedures, including taxes, documents, and fees associated with the process. With all this information at hand, you’ll be able to make a more informed decision and avoid issues.

Costs to Consider When Deciding to Take a Car to Portugal

The cost of importing a car from abroad to Portugal can vary considerably depending on various factors. The chosen transportation method, distance between countries, vehicle type, weight, size, customs duties, and regulations of the country of origin all play a role.

You should consider three aspects:

  • Homologation
  • Transportation and customs fees
  • Importation costs

Apart from transportation and taxes, also consider the option of hiring a specialized car importation company.

To get an initial estimate of the expenses, check if your vehicle is homologated in Europe and Portugal.

Bringing a car from the United States might involve a more intricate and time-consuming process. This is due to the lack of homologation for many American cars to operate within the European Union. Moreover, these vehicles often have specifications different from European models, which can create significant obstacles, sometimes making the process unfeasible.

Lastly, discover the vehicle specifications to estimate tax costs: year, engine capacity, carbon emissions.

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How much does it cost to transport a car to Portugal?

In general, the average costs are as follows:

  • Average cost from a European country: around 1,500 euros.
  • Average cost from the United States: between 3,500 euros and 7,000 euros.

Taxes on vehicles in Portugal

The main applicable taxes on vehicles in Portugal are:

  • VAT (Value Added Tax), currently at 23% in mainland Portugal. It is paid when acquiring vehicles in Portugal or upon importation, depending on specific import circumstances.
  • ISV (Vehicle Tax), usually a maximum of 10%. It’s applied whenever a car is registered for the first time in the country.
  • IUC (Single Circulation Tax), paid annually. The amount depends on the vehicle’s characteristics (age, carbon emissions, engine capacity, etc.).

Who is exempt from taxes in Portugal?

It’s important to note that not everyone needs to pay taxes when importing a car into Portugal. Individuals who have lived in another country for more than 6 months (Portuguese or foreigners) and transfer their legal residence to Portugal may be entitled to exemption from ISV and VAT if they bring a vehicle with them (limited to one per person).

The requirements for ISV exemption are:

  • Being over 18 years old;
  • Having resided abroad for at least 6 months;
  • The vehicle must be introduced into consumption (legalized and registered) when transferring residence to Portugal;
  • Being the owner of the vehicle in the country of origin for at least 6 months when transferring residence to Portugal;
  • Having purchased the vehicle in the country of origin or a country where you resided before and paid all applicable taxes in that country.

VAT exemption:

Those importing a used vehicle from the European Union are also exempt from VAT, except if the vehicle is less than 6 months old or has traveled less than 6,000 km.

For other countries, paying this tax for importation is usually necessary. Check the specific rules of your country of origin.

Who needs to pay IUC?

Everyone needs to pay the Single Circulation Tax (IUC) to drive on Portuguese roads. Pay your due import taxes within 20 business days from the vehicle’s entry into Portugal. Remember that only one vehicle can be imported tax-free per person every ten years.

Documents for Tax Exemption

To ensure that you are eligible for VAT and ISV tax exemption when importing your car into Portugal, you’ll need to provide:

  • Proof of residence (at least 6 months)
  • Car documentation in your name (at least 6 months)
  • Additional proof that you lived in a foreign country, such as rent receipts, bills, etc.

How to bring a vehicle to Portugal: Ship or Drive to Destination?

If you live in Europe, driving your car and taking a road trip might be a great alternative instead of shipping it. It’s important to calculate the costs of this journey. You’ll spend on fuel, tolls, and possible hotel stays. In most cases, this option tends to be more economical and fun (if you enjoy driving).

Transporting a car by plane

Air transport for cars is much more expensive but much faster. It’s usually chosen for those in a hurry or who want to bring high-value or highly cherished cars.

What is the average shipping time for a car from the USA to Portugal?

The maritime transportation time for a car from the United States to Portugal can range from 3 to 6 weeks. It depends on the location in the United States from where the car will be shipped. Port traffic and weather conditions can also affect the timeframe.

Shipments from the East Coast of the USA take 3 to 4 weeks, while those from the West Coast take between 4 to 6 weeks.

Documents Required to Take a Car to Portugal

These are the documents required for importing a car to Portugal:

Vehicle documents

  • Transaction statement: Proof of car purchase with dates.
  • IMT 9 Form: Car approval after inspection.
  • Copy of the foreign vehicle registration.
  • Original purchase receipt.
  • Technical Aptitude Certificate: After technical inspection at a garage approved by IMT, this certificate attests that the car is in safe conditions for circulation.
  • Certificate of Conformity (COC): Document issued by the manufacturer with the car’s characteristics, proving it meets legal requirements.
  • Homologation Certificate: Confirms the vehicle is a recognized type in Portugal and that the characteristics in the COC are accurate.
  • Tax document: Could be a tax certificate or customs tax release form, depending on your situation and vehicle details.

Personal documents

Steps to legalize a car in Portugal: Step-by-step

  1. Make your NIF and register on the Finance Portal, creating your password to access the system.
  2. Obtain the Certificate of Conformity (COC), which is approval at European level. There is an associated cost.
  3. Obtain the National Approval Number from the Institute of Mobility and Transport (IMT). You must submit the completed form here.
  4. Go to a Category B Inspection Center and get the Inspection Certificate. Approximate cost: €70.
  5. Access the Finance Portal and fill in the vehicle customs declaration “Declaração Aduaneira de Veículo” (DAV) and pay the taxes required in your case.
  6. Register the car to be issued with the the Documento Único Automóvel (DUA). Registration must be requested at the Automobile Registration Office and costs around 50€.
  7. Pay the (IUC).
  8. Change the plate to a Portuguese one.
  9. Exchange your driver’s license for a Portuguese one (if necessary), see rules here.

How much does a new car cost in Portugal?

If your goal is to save money, it’s important to know the price of a car in Portugal. As the price will depend on the model you choose, let’s look at two examples.

Peugeot 308, metallic paint, petrol, manual gearbox 130 hp costs around €26,000.

Fiat 500, metallic paint, Kw (95)CV, zero km, currently costs around €35,000.

BMW 2 Series Coupé, gasoline, metallic paint, automatic gearbox, costs from €45,000.

Driving license in Portugal

Portugal, like many European countries, has specific rules for foreign drivers, even those with Portuguese citizenship. It is important to understand these rules to ensure that you are driving legally. In some cases, you have to exchange your foreign license for a Portuguese one. In others, thanks to bilateral agreements, you can use the document from your country of origin until it expires (this is the case in Brazil and the United States).

Here are all the details on the subject.

So what? Should I take my car or buy a new one?

This is a very private decision. We believe it will depend, above all, on the relationship you have with your car. Is it very special to you? Is it a collector’s model? Is it old? In that case Atlantic Bridge is at your service and will be happy to help you with this mission, as an integral part of your journey to Portugal.

On the other hand, if your car is just a car, our recommendation is that you buy a new vehicle in Portugal. What’s more, before you buy a new one, try going without a car for a while. The largest Portuguese cities have good public transport. Depending on where you live, you may not even need to buy anything and you’ll love the freedom of not having to worry about traffic jams, parking and maintenance. Who knows, maybe it will be better for you?

Silvia Resende


Silvia Resende

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