UPDATE: Our car is registered. I emotionally detached myself from the car situation about eight months into living here and my life became infinitely better from having the weight of this off my shoulders! After two and a quarter years of sitting in a garage in Italy, it’s finally on the road. How did we do it? We had it towed to Germany and registered there. After that, I transferred the title of the car to my husband where he then repatriated it to Italy as an Italian citizen. It was re-registered it Italy. It was a ridiculous process and expensive so I still do not recommend shipping your car here. We did the Germany route as a last resort. I suggest reading through to the end of this article.
My car hates Italy and Italy hates my car. Getting my car registered in Italy has been the bane of my existence since I moved here. Read My First Impressions of Moving to A Small Town in Italy. If you’re thinking about shipping your car to Italy, Think Again. There are tales of expats who successfully manage to import their car to Italy and get it registered. These successes are few and far between. I was convinced I’d be that special someone that made it even after reading every single website on the subject saying don’t do it.
Chances are your car will sit in a garage, unregistered and un-driveable for months and months until you decide to finally give up and get it impounded. Impounded because you can’t sell it for at least 12 months if an import. Wish I was joking. I’m halfway to this point now. Wine and gelato help me forget. Positive note… I’ve heard I can sell it for parts in Nigeria.
You might be thinking this when shipping your car to Italy:
But I did the math. It’s still cheaper to ship my car to Italy and pay the registration fees than it is to buy a similar car in Italy. I have all the required paperwork listed on the website, what else do I need?
You’re so naive. If only it were that simple. That was me about three months ago. Then I realized that no matter how much paperwork you have, you’ll need more. Some of the paperwork is almost impossible to get. And even when you have that paperwork, the chief bad ass at the Motorizzazione (Department of Motor Vehicle equivalent) has no interest in helping you get your car registered. Why? Because he’s lazy and probably has no idea how to deal with the registration of a foreign car.
Over the Edge
I had hope… until two days ago ….when the remote to enter my car stopped working. It put me over the edge. For the last two months I have been on the phone with consulates, embassies, several agencies who assist with car registration in Italy (Pratiche Auto), government authorities, customs, salespeople at dealerships, the list is endless. All so I can get the car I rightfully own registered with Italian license plates. But the world of foreign drivers in Italy is conspiring against me.
I kicked the tire, threw the key against the wall and gave my husband that Don’t even talk to me right now, this is all your fault for moving me to this backward country stare. The only way to start the car is with the stupid remote. And if the remote stops working, it has to be reprogrammed with a special code. Only from the dealer of course. The closest dealer to me? About 50km away which requires a $250 tow each way plus the ridiculous cost to reprogram the key. Why the tow? Because the car is not registered, so that means its not insured and hence, not allowed on the road. Like I said, my car hates Italy and Italy hates my car even more.
Shipping Your Car to Italy, When It’s Okay (Maybe)
I would advise you against shipping your car to Italy unless:
- You are an Italian citizen returning home after living abroad
- Your car’s last country of circulation was somewhere inside the E.U.
- If not Italian, you are already in possession of a Permesso Di Soggiorno (residency permit). Permits can sometimes take up to 6-8 months to get. So make sure you have one first and then make arrangements to ship your car. In some cases, the Motorizzazione will accept that your application is in process for the Permesso but sometimes they won’t. It’s a gamble. And you must have your car registered within 6 months of it reaching port so it’s a big risk to ship the car without the Permesso Di Soggiorno already in hand
- You have an Italian Driver’s License (this is no easy task unless your license belongs to a list of countries that Italy will transfer it for (a U.S. License is not on this list). Or you have an International Driver’s License which eventually will need to turn into an Italian one. Your Italian must be top notch and you will have to study like hell to get this license
- Sign off from Cetoc – an agency which certifies that your car’s make and model (European brand or not) is fit to drive in Italy (cost 200 Euro). It’s really about carbon emissions here. Cetoc will classify your car in one of several categories so the Motorizzazione will know how much to tax you based on your car’s emissions. They say this certification is only for Italian citizens but Motorizzazione will ask you for it anyway, no matter what passport you hold. Cetoc will ask you to find the silver tag on the car stating the chassis number and weight which the front and rear wheel base can hold. (Of course my car doesn’t have this on its tag, only the chassis no)
- The original registration translated to Italian. And stamped by the Italian Consulate in the country where your car was bought and registered. If you have the original purchase invoice, bring it.
- A self declaration from your own consulate stating that you were resident in the country you’re moving from and that you are the rightful owner of the car. It helps to have the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in the country which you lived first stamp/attest the car registration if you are not a citizen of the country you were living in. Obviously do this and the step above before shipping your car to Italy. I didn’t.
- Some sort of proof that the car was in circulation in the previous country. Insurance from previous years for example
- Customs Bill of Entry for the car (At the moment the moving company which delivered my goods is holding this ransom because they want more money for port charges)
If the above still does not work at the Motorizzazione in your province in Italy, try a different province. However, the car will need to be physically present in that province at registration as the vehicle inspection test takes place close to the Motorizzazione. And again, if the car is not allowed to be on the road, you’ll need a tow bed to get it there.
Good Luck with Shipping Your Car to Italy!
Feel free to leave me any questions or suggestions in the comments below.
Thanks for your reply. I contacted a few Italian companies that in “theory” should make the journey easier. What was interesting (as you did), all of them recommended to import the car in Germany first (apparently the are very fast with registration of card made for the US market), to make the car in compliance with EU standard and only then apply for Italian registration. It still might take a few months, hopefully not 2 and half year as your experience with public offices. Well, I hope at least the food, the beautiful places of Italy, the less frantic way of life and more, have in these years mitigated the car shipping nightmare, ha ha.
thank you, definitely mitigated. I would consider the German route if they are all suggesting that! It might cost a little more but will save A LOT of hassle.
You live in Emilia Romagna the best place on earth for food. my favorite food in the whole word, I am sure that alone has mitigated the car nightmare ha ha. Me second favorite is my hometown food (Rome). As I mentioned in my first message I have lived in Santa Monica California now 43 years (moved here at 18), Actually I wanted to ship a car to Ticino (in general much easier to register it in Switzerland than Italy),but in Switzerland (now you will think what has heath insurance anything to do with shipping a car, i will explain), it is mandatory to have Health insurance issued from a Swiss company.They don’t give exemptions unless in your country or in the case of the US your State makes health insurance mandatory, takes forever to get an exemption and I don’t want to pay twice for heath insurance here and there..So I thought of the Italian enclave in Switzerland in Ticino called Campione d’Italia. As an Italian national I don’t have to comply with any law for foreigners.Until 2019 was ok for cars in the enclave to have Swiss plates since 2020 cars must have Italian plates arghh, bad timing lol.
PS: I read e few more articles you wrote about Italy. In regards of “Cooking Italian Food For A Italian Husband”. I want to share an observation. You are absolutely right, in Italy people “are loyal to their respective regions”, and as you in NY, when I was still in Rome, I was first a Roman before I said I was Italian. What I noticed after many many years I lived abroad, for myself and meeting various Italians originally from all over Italy, who also had lived abroad for many years, that slowly we have changed the mind set, and most of us (whether we live in the US, Canada, Germany, Australia, UK, you name it), being Italian became more important than regions affiliation, I am talking about people who have resided for at least 10 years or more abroad, The transformation happened to me and I noticed to most Italians I met. Just wanted to let you know,:). Finally, you love traveling, see if you can write an article about the region of Puglie or Apulia as some called it. I think that region is the Maldives of Italy, I saw there some of the most beautiful beaches an sea I ever seen in my life as beautiful as the Amalfi Coast or Sardinia or Greece or Majorca, etc. Specially the part in the Ionian Sea from the lower edge Santa Maria di Leuca going toward Taranto. It’s unbelievable how beautiful it is, and you don;t see as many tourists as you encounter in the part facing Greece and Albania. Looking forward to read more articles about Italy, love your sense of humor.
I signed up for your blogs, how do I load a picture on my profile? Thank you.
Do you think I will have a better luck importing my car? I have dual citizenship USA/Italian (lived in California 43 years and counting). If I may, how “easier” will it be for an Italian citizen to import a car? The car is 2022 BMW, and yes by the time I decide whether to import or not I will have own it 12 months at least. I also know what I would have to do before shipping. I was just curious, once in Italy as a Italian citizen will I have an easier journey than yours? It was funny reading this because I know how Italians behave are in public offices, lol.
Hi, if you are an Italian/EU citizen…. it should much less of a problem! Public office, dont get me started 🙂