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Importing a vehicle, trailer or caravan to Portugal

To experience Portugal is to experience breathtaking views, majestic castles, spectacular beaches and some of the best people on the planet. Portugal is a haven for those who love to really experience life to the fullest each and every day. While there are many reasons to go to Portugal, one fact holds true and that is the fact that Portugal is one of the places that once you arrive, you never want to leave.

This is why so many expats visit and then decide to build a life in this country where the weather is great all year, the food is amazing, and the good life can be had for less than many are used to. If you want to make the move to Portugal, you’re going to need to hire an international mover unless you plan on living out of your backpack, which is actually doable, you’ll want to hire a pro to handle the move for you.

Portugal is so much more than just beautiful views and great food, and to see everything that the country offers, you’re going to want to get around from one city to another without having to be squashed inside a bus or taxi.  Public transportation, just as many other things in Portugal, can move slowly and if you want to arrive on time, driving on your own is often a good choice.

Bringing a Car While on Vacation

If you are in Portugal as a tourist, you will be able to import your car and drive it legally for six months (180 days) if the car is in your name, is insured and you are licensed and no one else will be driving it while it is in Portugal. Vehicles that will be in the country less than 180 days don’t need to be registered, but for long-term stays in the country you will need to legally register the vehicle.

Importing During a Move to Portugal

To get started with importing your vehicle to Portugal when you make a long-term move to the country, you’re going to need to provide some paperwork to Customs officials. This may include:

  • Vehicle Title
  • Vehicle Registration from home country
  • Insurance
  • Driver’s License
  • Passport
  • Visa
  • Import License
  • Sales Receipt/Purchase Invoice

All vehicles, including motorcycles, coming into Portugal will need to have an inspection to ensure they are road worthy and in full compliance with vehicle regulations. This means your car must conform to European standards to pass. You can have the vehicle inspected at one of the many testing facilities in the country. Contact the Institute of Mobility and Transport for local service centres. You can import one vehicle every five years duty free.

Speaking of duty fees, you need to know about them because chances are, you’re going to have to pay them at some point. Your shipping agent with the international car shipper you are working with will be able to guide you with what you will need to pay based on your car and your personal situation but here is some general information on taxes and duty fees.

Portugal has what is called “Impostro Sobre Veículos” or an ISV tax that will need to be paid when you initially register a vehicle. The rate of ISV tax is around 34% and is based on the vehicle value as well as the rate of C02 emissions and engine capacity. Be sure to check with the Overseas Tax Office for the definite amount you must pay and also to see if you can pay the fee monthly rather than all at once upfront.

You also need to pay the “Imposto Unico Circulacao” once you import the car. This is a yearly tax that is paid when the license plate expires. This tax is calculated using the same formulation as the ISV tax. Newer vehicles will incur a higher tax rate.

If you are importing a used car rather than a new car, you will not need to pay a Value Added Tax (VAT) when importing a vehicle to Portugal.

On average, shipping fees to bring a vehicle to Portugal can range from $2500 USD to $4000 USD.

Trailers and Caravans

Quite a few expats have successfully imported their camper trailers, motorhomes and caravans into Portugal, and while you will need to adhere to the same import regulations as standard motor vehicles, but there are some things you will need to consider when trying to bring a travel trailer, caravan or motorhome into Portugal with you.

  1. It is best to ship to a European country and then ship directly to Portugal rather than shipping from the United States or other non-European countries. This is due to the taxes that you may have to pay being much higher for non-European countries.
  2. If you can prove you have owned the vehicle for at least 12 months, you will not need to pay taxes. If it is purchases in the UK, you need to own it for at least six months before importing to Portugal.
  3. You will need a Certificate of Conformity and if you own an older trailer, motor home, caravan or other vehicle, this can present a challenge to get one from the manufacturer to import to Portugal.
  4. If you plan to live permanently in Portugal, you will need to matriculate the trailer locally as soon as possible. While the police at one time would turn a blind eye to vehicles, including caravans and other larger vehicles that were not properly matriculated, that is no longer the case and you could face fines as well as have the vehicle impounded until it is legal.
  5. As with other vehicles, trailers, caravans and motor homes can be kept on a temporary basis in Portugal for up to 180 days in one calendar year as long as the vehicle is for private use, is only driven by the registered owners and is brought into the country by the registered owner or the legal keeper of the vehicle and the registered owner is not a resident or employee in Portugal.

To register a trailer, caravan or motorhome permanently, you need to submit your application within 12 months to the customs office that has legal jurisdiction in the area you live.

Registering a Vehicle in Portugal

First, to register your car in Portugal, you must have a Cartao de residencia which is a residency card and you will need to obtain a local driver’s license. You can drive a UK car in Portugal for up to 180 days legally if it is not registered in the country. Once it has passed the 180 days, it will need to be matriculated, or registered in Portugal to continue driving legally.

You will need to have in your possession a Certificate of Compliance from the IMTT that states the vehicle is road legal and you also need a tax clearance paper from customs. You must also provide proof from an IMTT station that the car has passed the physical inspection.

Imported vehicles must be in the current owner’s name for at least six months prior to the import and they must be registered in Portugal within 12 months. For new vehicles, the owner will need to show proof that the VAT has already been paid or they must pay a VAT in Portugal.

Registration fees will vary depending on the value of the car and the amount of taxes paid during import. Vehicle registration applies to all makes and models of cars, trucks, motorcycles, SUV’s and other road worthy vehicles as well as caravans and trailers weighing 300kg or more.

You will need the following paperwork during the registration process:

  • Registration Certificate
  • Certificate of Conformity (COC)
  • Receipt for Registration Fees
  • Road Worthiness Certificate
  • Customs Clearance

Cars over 4 years old must be tested every two years at an approved garage. The garage will inspect the car and issue a stamp showing it is roadworthy on the windscreen of the car.

If you are caught driving a vehicle that has not been registered and has gone beyond the 180-day limit, you may be required to pay a fine of the police pull you over. Fines in Portugal can be paid immediately as the police carry portable debit card machines. Be sure to know and understand the local traffic laws and signs and keep everything up to date and legal to avoid fines that can be incurred for driving or registration penalties.

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