Buying a car in another EU Member State: a good deal?

Your European Consumer Centre (ECC) can answer your questions.

Whether 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? Is a vehicle inspection conducted in one country valid in another? To whom should a complaint against the seller or an issue with the registration process be addressed?

In an effort to provide a comprehensive set of answers, in 2015 29 ECCs, coordinated by ECC, France carried out an extensive study into the hurdles faced by consumers when buying a car across borders. The ECCs have now produced a series of guidance documents in order to give practical advice on every step of the process to consumers buying a car in another EU Member State or Norway, from the initial transaction to the completion of the registration procedure.

Preventive information and practical advice before, during and after the purchase

In order to help consumers get the best possible deal and avoid nasty surprises, the European Consumer Centres Network (ECC-Net) provides a one-stop-shop for practical advice and recommendations on what precautions to take.

The ECC-Net 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.

  • 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? …

To answer all these questions and more, and to facilitate the cross-border purchase of cars the ECC-Net provides:

–                     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 one example of a cross-border car purchase;

–                     An extensive report on cross-border car purchase and registration in the EU and Norway, together with a summary.

These documents are all freely accessible online at

Please feel free to contact us for any further information.

ECC Malta e-mail: Tel. No.: 00356 21221901