Whether you're searching for a particular model, for better value for money, or simply for more choice, many EU consumers looking to buy a car decide to go bargain-hunting in another EU Member State. What may seem like a simple transaction at first sight can leave consumers feeling as if they are running an obstacle course.

Consumers may have to ask themselves some of the following questions: what documents are needed? In which country does VAT have to be paid? Is the car covered by a guarantee? Are insurance or transit plates needed for the journey home?

In an effort to help car buyers by providing a comprehensive set of answers, a study was conducted by 29 European Consumer Centres (coordinated by ECC France) into the hurdles faced by consumers when buying a car across borders.

Now the consumer centres have produced guidance documents giving practical advice on every step of the process, from the initial transaction to the completion of the registration procedure.

The project also provides stakeholders with real-life examples of the obstacles that still exist in the internal market and of good practice implemented in some EU Member States.

The ECC-Net aims to provide a one-stop-shop for practical advice and recommendations on what precautions to take in order to get the best possible deal and avoid nasty surprises:

  • Before you buy: How can you know if the seller is legitimate? Does the car really exist? What steps can you take to make payment more secure?
  • When buying: Does VAT need to be paid at the place of purchase or back home? Does the seller need to provide certification that the car has undergone a technical inspection? If so, will it be recognised in my home country? Which documents should I ask the seller for? How can I make sure the car is in good condition? What should I look out for in the sales contract? Do I need specific plates or insurance to drive home?
  • After purchase: Can I cancel the contract? What steps need to be taken to register the car? Who can I contact to make a complaint against the seller or the registering administration?

The study has resulted in a package of measures to help consumers with cross-border car purchasing:

  • Fact sheets for both the country of purchase and the country of registration, bringing together the main information needed by consumers;
  • Practical advice to consumers;
  • A short film about an example of a cross-border car purchase;

To read the full report click here

To read the summary click here

To read the practical advice click here

These documents are all freely accessible online at www.europe-consommateurs.eu/en/consumer-topics/on-the-road/buying-a-car/cross-border-car-purchase-and-registration