How To Move A Car to Portugal

unrecognizable woman sitting in car

Answer: Don’t.



Well, when should you actually move a car to Portugal?

You shouldn’t.

At some point, someone might want to –

Okay. Fine.

Zeroth – when should you actually do this? I think there are really only two good answers:

  1. You have a car that you’re absolutely in love with. Maybe you lost your virginity in it. Maybe it’s something you associate with someone you love. Something like that. But you’re making this decision not due to finance, but due to love. Or
  2. Your car is very expensive, and either impossible to repurchase in Portugal, or re-purchasing it in Portugal is going to be massively, insanely expensive, probably, due to VAT. (But you should pay your VAT. How else do you think we have socialized medicine? VAT. Pay your VAT, stop being a cheapskate). Just moving your car ‘just to have a car’ there? Just sell it and buy something over there. They have cars you can’t get here! Brands you’ve never heard about? Citroen! Renault! SEAT! They have models that aren’t sold in the states! Teeny cars! You’re in a country with teeny roads. You probably want as teeny a car as you can get. But, anyways…


First things first. Pay off your car the moment you start considering moving to Portugal. If you have a lease, do whatever you need to do to buy it, now. YOU NEED TO HAVE OWNED YOUR CAR, OUTRIGHT, FOR SIX MONTHS TO IMPORT IT INTO PORTUGAL. AND TO EXPORT IT FROM CALIFORNIA.

Honestly I probably would’ve shipped mine if I had done this (and probably would’ve regretted it.)

Anyways, now that your car is paid off, you can figure out if you do or do not want to ship it (I recommend against shipping it. You may have noticed that theme.)

Next, let’s talk about cost. So you’re basically going to be down around $5-8k just getting your car shipped across the pond.

And then, you will probably want to pay a company to ‘legalize’ your car in your brand-new country. That’s I think $1-$2k – and you don’t need to do that if you’re good at car stuff, but for all of the various balls that we have in the air (and how little we know about cars), we were going to go for it.

Then, next up. You may think – as I did – that California’s car standards are the strictest in the world. They are not. Europe’s are. There are three countries on the planet that allow cars with California’s standards to drive in them – and all three are in North America, and all three connect together.

In Europe, apparently back fog-lights are required. (I don’t think I even knew my car had front fog-lights, but apparently, it does. But not back ones). There are some other rules about blinkers, and headlights, and a bunch of other things. In short, that’s another €500-800 to get your car “homologated” to .eu standards – that’s if your car has a European version, which your brand’s dealer can go and order the European equivalent parts for and get your car Europeanized. If you have something that just doesn’t simply exist in Europe, well, you’re in for more, I’d guess? I don’t even know.


It’s going to take 10 weeks or more for your car to even show up.

Then it needs to clear Customs.

Then you have to get a DAV (temporary driving permit). This needs to stay in the car.

Then you need to get temporary insurance.

Now, can you drive around before your car has been homologated?! I don’t know!

Now you have to go to your car’s manufacturer’s garage or whatever. This is going to take, like, literally, a few months. My legalization person says it could be three months. I don’t know if you can still be driving around or not during this time. Maybe you can? I don’t know!

Then, you have to submit a petition with the homologation certification to the IMT (the traffic authority). This is allegedly the second-longest part of the process.

Then you have to wait for the license plates to get entered into the system.

Then the license plates get registered at the “conservatorship”. You might ask what that means? I bet you would! I don’t know. I have no idea.

But, it’s quite a process.


For the love of all that’s holy and good in the world, please don’t do this. Unless you hate yourself. Or you have some really really really really really good reason that I can’t possibly think of to put yourself through this. Don’t worry, you’ll have plenty of other red tape to wade through during your journey. I think you can just pass on this one.

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