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How Do I Make My Car Legal to Drive in a New Country?

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How Do I Make My Car Legal to Drive in a New Country?
How Do I Make My Car Legal to Drive in a New Country?

Just as every state in the US has different protocol in order to register your vehicle and drive legally, so does every country. There is no one-size-fits-all approach to satisfying the requirements of making your vehicle legal after arriving at your destination, so you will need to do some research of your own. In addition to your own research, your international auto transport company can also be a great resource, because they often have direct experience working with your destination country. For example, many countries have strict requirements that you must adhere to in order to import your vehicle, so you will want to first make sure your car satisfies all of these minimum standards. Common stipulations for importation include:

  • Vehicle must be new, or at minimum, must not be older than a certain model year (exceptions often made for classic cars)
  • Vehicle must pass CO2 emissions testing
  • Certain vehicle makes and models may be denied
  • Inspections may be required prior to having your vehicle cleared for shipping

Of courses, these rules are in no way standard across the board, and in no way hold true to every country out there. These laws are also often very fluid and constantly changing, so you need to contact the customs department or consulate of your destination country to verify current rules and regulations.

Again, your international moving company can be a great asset when researching this information, and in many cases can direct you to a point of contact or current website that can answer your questions. In the meantime, there are some basic steps that you can take in order to ensure the process is smooth from start to finish.

Steps to Drive Legally in a Foreign Country

1) Obtain an International Driving Permit.

An easy first step to making sure your vehicle is legal is to make sure you are legally able to drive it first. An International Driving Permit (IDP) acts basically as a translation for your current US issued driver's license, and can be provided in conjunction with your driver's license as valid proof to drive in many (but not all) countries. You can apply for and obtain an IDP by contacting either of the following agencies:

Keep in mind that an IDP is only a temporary solution, and while many countries will accept it, many also place a limit of 30 days on its validity, so contact your country's consulate directly to determine what your next step must be in obtaining a local license to drive.

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2) Research International Road Rules

Before attempting to drive in a foreign country, you should have at minimum a loose grasp on local laws, unique circumstances, safety information, and what to expect in terms of road conditions. An obvious example of differences you may face would be the fact that you must drive on the left side of the road in the U.K., and without prior knowledge, you would put yourself and many others in a very dangerous situation. Make sure you look up information on speed limits, local customs, and driving conditions beforehand, and consider riding as a passenger until you have a firm grasp on the local driving style and a basic familiarity with the lay of the land.

Perhaps one of the most up-to-date and dependable sources of information can be found on the U.S. Passports & International Travel webpage. Here you can actually type in the name of your destination country and be inundated with all country-specific information, including travel alerts, locations (and contact info) for local embassies, and, of course, recent crime and security information. There is also an interactive map you can use to pinpoint certain areas as opposed to searching by country name alone. It is an extremely user friendly resource that is constantly updated, so you will always find the most current information available.

3) Properly Register Your Vehicle.

This is where things get really tricky, because every country is structured so differently. Most countries will have a comparable proceeding to what we have in the U.S. where registration and proper licensing are handled by a department similar to our DMV. Others are much less organized and efficient, and it may take quite some time to get your vehicle ready to be driven legally. Oftentimes, the same paperwork you needed to provide when importing your vehicle will be required again in order to have your vehicle registered. The following documents, although not all-inclusive, will definitely help the process along:

  • S. Current Registration
  • Bill of Sale/Commercial Invoice
  • Bill of Lading
  • Current U.S. Driver's License
  • International Driving Permit (if available)
  • Passport
  • Visa
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4) Obtain Minimum Required Insurance

Whatever policy you have in the U.S. will most likely not transfer over to your destination country, except sometimes in the case of Mexico or Canada, so you will need to obtain additional insurance. If your current insurance provider does not offer foreign auto insurance, you will need to find a provider in your new home country. Again, another great opportunity for your international transport company to put you in touch with a local contact.

By and large, after registering your vehicle properly and obtaining insurance, you should be able to safely and legally drive your car about the country. Make sure you take the time to follow the above steps thoroughly, especially when it comes to safety.

Additional Resources

Joe Webster
Written By:Joe Webster
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Joe Webster began his journey in the auto transport field by attending the University of Southern California (USC), where he graduated with a Bachelor of Business Marketing. 

After college, he started his career in the auto transport industry from the bottom up and has done virtually every job there is to do at A-1 Auto Transport, including but not limited to: Truck Driver, Dispatch, Sales, PR, Bookkeeping, Transport Planner, Transport Manager, International Transport Manager, Brokering, Customer Service, and Marketing. Working with his mentor Tony Taylor, Joe Webster has learned the ins and outs of this industry which is largely misunderstood. 

With over 30 years experience in the industry, we've been helping people ship their vehicles, motorcycles, RV's, heavy equipment, household goods and more across the country or overseas without a hitch. Ask us anything.

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