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.

A-1 Auto Transport ships vehicles worldwide. Click here or call 1-800-518-8708 to get a free, no obligation to buy price quote to ship your car.

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

A-1 Auto Transport ships vehicles worldwide. Click here or call 1-800-518-8708 to get a free, no obligation to buy price quote to ship your car.

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 WebsterWritten By:Joe WebsterConnect with Joe Webster on facebookConnect with Joe Webster on linkedin

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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“I am meticulous when it comes to everything. At first, I was thinking of just driving all the way to Illinois from New Jersey. A friend recommended me to go to A1 Auto Transport and told me a lot of good things about them. I refused initially because I had filed a 4 day leave just to drive and visit my mother. But things did not go well. My boss asked me to cancel my leave because a very important client asked for an urgent meeting, and the manager could not attend to it. I was hopeless and took the risk of asking help from A1. The notice was short and I forgot I needed to inform them in advance. After a couple of hours, I received a call and they told me they found a way to book me with no extra fees. I am so thankful I got to attend to my work matters. I did not get to see my mother, but the vehicle and items inside it were in perfect condition as if it was me who took care of it. I owe you guys big time! I got one huge deal from our client.”

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“I’m so glad I met you Joe!! A truly fortunate experience. Having to transport a car to Minnesota, I was stunned to see the company, who was supposed to take care of it, just vanish. I couldn’t reach them anymore, like they went bankrupt overnight. However, I was lucky enough to not pay anything, so I simply researched some more until I found A1 Auto Transport. Joe answered my call the first time and we soon agreed on a date and a quote. Unfortunately, I got caught up in work and forgot about it. The order was not confirmed, so Joe must’ve thought I changed my mind. I called him the next day and arranged for a new date. This time, I made a note on my phone and it went well. I replied to his email this time, and the driver arrived at a parking lot down the street on time, as promised. The driver was nice enough to not mention my previous mistake. He delivered my car in just 3 days. Upon careful inspection, there were no scratches or damage done to it during transport. Joe was there along with the driver and they both waited patiently until I was satisfied. Thanks!”

“A1 Auto is kind of like your favourite mom and pop pizza parlour, the one you can’t get enough of despite all the new, expensive avant-garde pizza shops that have mushroomed conspicuously across the entire neighbourhood and seem to have taken over the whole world...but not you. Because you value quality and genuine customer service, and know this business understands and works doubly hard to give you your money’s worth. I’ve been using A1 Auto Transport whenever I left California for business: they may not be the cheapest car transporters around, but the sheer professionalism, dedication, and heart they put into their work is just amazing and worth my every dime. I’m probably one of the most sceptical people you would ever meet. I’m rarely convinced when bombarded with dubious, self-congratulating ads of companies that look like they’ve spent tons of money on marketing materials just to lure your average guy in. A1 Auto Transport is the complete opposite of these companies. My car always arrived promptly on schedule, never with a hint of scratch or dirt or damage, and they keep me updated every step of the process. When you’ve found a company whose genuine care for their customers comes naturally, you stand by them no matter what. It’s the most logical thing to do.”

“A1 Auto Transport helped me move a vehicle to Iowa from Houston. I was a bit nervous, no knowing much about such services. Thanks to Joe, I was able to clear the fog a little. He answered all my questions and explained everything in a way that left no room for interpretation. The details were straightforward. I picked Sunday as the pickup date, since I wasn’t at work, and they accommodated me. The truck arrived an hour early, yet the driver patiently waited for me to arrive. He thoroughly checked my car for scratches or anything that might affect the transport then drove it onto the truck. I was given a 2 day time window during which the car was supposed to arrive in, and it got to Iowa in the evening of the first day. The trip didn’t damage it at all. Next time a friend wants to move, I’ll surely recommend A1 Auto Transport.”

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