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Driving a North American plated car in Europe

I will be going to Europe for 2 months this summer and I got a cheap price for shipping my car to Rotterdam. But now the question is what do I do for insurance? Does anyone know any companies that will offer insurance for North American cars in Europe?

Also, what additional costs are there besides the shipping and insurance? Do I have any offloading fees?

I'm trying to get an idea of what the total costs will be.


Posted by EuroTrip OP
7 posts

Thanks I will give them a call on Monday perhaps.

Well the intended itinerary is to land in Germany and start there by visiting the Bodensee area, Munich, Ulm among other places in the south. Possibly visit Switzerland since it's so close to Bodensee (Lake Constance).

From there I would go Prague, Vienna, Lake Bled, Ljubljana then into Croatia/Bosnia/Serbia as I have family scattered everywhere.

Return flight back out of Germany. It's a big trip and renting a car will be expensive for 2 months. Plus I'm not sure if you can enter some Balkan countries with a rental. It's a grey area.

Posted by Claudia
Land of La
3978 posts

And you believe a car with Canadian plates will be easier in the Balkan states. Why?

Posted by EuroTrip OP
7 posts

It won't be easy but I know it's been done. I've seen lots of North American plated cars in the Balkans.

Posted by Jim
Bern, Switzerland
642 posts

You will not be able to get behind the wheel of the car until it has been properly imported and passed all the tests required to put it on the road. Insurance will be the least of your worries!!!

Posted by Ken
Vernon, Canada
28899 posts

I suspect that taking a Canadian car to Europe is going to be more trouble than it's worth. In addition to insurance, you may have to comply with European emission standards. You might be further ahead to look at leasing.

You may be aware of these, but another point to mention is that you'll require an International Driver's Permit as it's compulsory in some countries. These are easily obtained at any CAA office, are used in conjunction with your home D.L. and are valid for one year. You'll also need to purchase Highway Tax Vignettes for driving in Austria, Switzerland and other countries. If your trip will take you to Italy, be sure to do some research on the ZTL (limited traffic areas).

Posted by Chris F
Basel, Switzerland
6460 posts

Are you shipping this car back to Canada after your trip?

If the answer is yes, it is a temporary tourist import, same rules as a British resident taking their car on the ferry to Rotterdam. You will be able to use it temporarily with Canadian plates as long as the vehicle is legal in Canada (taxes paid, safety inspections done etc.). You will need insurance that is valid in all the countries you are visiting. You need to speak to an insurance broker for that.
You need to contact the Canadian Automobile Association (whatever it is called) for advice on what you need to bring.
See the country guides on this page:
These are by the British AA, so they concentrate on the differences with British Law, there may be other differences with Canadian Law.

If the answer is no, you intend to sell it at the end, you have a lot more problems, as the previous few posts have alluded to.

  • You will need to pay import duty on the car.
  • You will need to re-register it in the Netherlands, and get Netherlands number plates.
  • The car will need to pass a Netherlands road safety inspection. This will involve some modifications to the car, as EU vehicle rules are not the same as North American ones (Lights amongst other things).
  • You will need to insure the car with a Netherlands insurer.
  • You will have to sell the car in the country it is registered - The Netherlands. If it is a model that is not common in Europe, the resale value will be less.
Posted by EuroTrip OP
7 posts

Thanks for the detailed reply.

Yes I do plan on shipping the car back to Canada after my trip.

Posted by Travel Man
763 posts

Why would you ask us? You would take our word for this? Are you a troll?? Only a troll would ask such things IMO.

Posted by Norma
Montreal, Quebec, Canada
7205 posts

It is very surprising to me that shipping a car to and from Canada is cheaper than leasing for two months. Have you actually done the math, including the cost of insurance? No doubt one does see cars with N.A. plates in the Balkans, I remember seeing a very flashy car with NY plates in Hungary but I assumed the owners were diplomats or ex-pats of some kind. Have you considered that a car with Canadian plates could be seen as a target for thievery?

Posted by David
Seattle, WA, USA
3109 posts

Well, it depends on exactly where you plan to spend your time and other details, but...I have to say, this sounds like a bad idea to me. And I like my car.

In many of the places you mention, having a car is going to be an major expensive headache. Don't overlook the considerable costs and hassles of parking, or driving in congested big cities or old towns with narrow streets. To be clear, yes, having a car in many places can be the best way to get around (the Balkans come to mind) but IME the best way to do much of Europe is some combination of trains and rental cars (having the car only in those places where it makes sense).

It's a big trip and renting a car will be expensive for 2 months.

Just because you're going for two months, that does not mean you will need (or even want) a car for that whole time. If it were me, I'd take a look at my plans for where/when to be, and take a hard look at the best way to get around - don't look at the entire trip as one thing - consider separate chunks of the trip and what makes sense there. Munich? Prague? Vienna? You really want a car when you're in those cities? (I don't think you do.) See if it makes more sense to travel by train between some places (hopefully all strung together) and then switch to a rented car for other places (eg the Balkans where the train network isn't great).

Also be sure you take the downsides of having a car everywhere into consideration when you factor in all the costs (financial and otherwise) of your plan.

Good luck.

Posted by EuroTrip OP
7 posts

Most of the trip will be spent in the Balkans so having a car makes sense. On top of that I love driving and exploring scenic roads.

The insurance, from what I read, is about 100 euros a month which isn't that bad. I'm not concerned about thieves as I'm not sending over a flashy car.

It is now to my understanding that the car won't need a mechanical inspection as it's fit to drive here in Canada and it will be shipped back after the trip.

I would just like to know what kind of fees I will have to pay in Rotterdam with regards to offloading.

I'm hoping that there's someone on here who's done this before. There are so many cars in Europe with North American plates so surely someone must know the process.

Posted by Richard
Los Angeles
1599 posts

You should call your insurance company and your shipper and ask them.

Posted by joe32F
Edmonds, WA
3254 posts

Apparently you have been there before as you mention seeing lots of "North American" plated cars there.

Probably should have asked the driver of one those cars 'how do you do it?"

Posted by EuroTrip OP
7 posts

You're right, I should have asked one of those drivers and I will this summer regardless of whether I ship my car over or not. It's something l'd like to do eventually.

As for the leasing suggestion, that is a good idea and I looked into it. It's through Peugeot or Renault and they allow all the countries I'll be visiting.

The cheapest online quote I got for a 2 month stay was about 2800 CAD. That will be tough to beat shipping the car to Europe and back. My shipping quote is 975 CAD one way but insurance and offloading fees will make it close.

I sent off a lot of emails to various insurance companies in Europe so hopefully I will get an idea of the complete cost.

Posted by CJean
Ontario, Canada
1428 posts

I would be very surprised if you could ship your vehicle for even close to that by the time all of the other charges were factored in. We had our car shipped over and back from Canada when we lived in Germany for 3 years. Total costs were several times that, and that was 10 years ago. And I hope you have another vehicle at home, since you will have to deliver it for shipping several weeks before you arrive. And will have to wait as long or longer to receive it back at the end of the trip.

As for the many NA plated cars you have seen, I must say I'm again surprised. While we certainly saw them while we resided there, they were uncommon except near military bases or in cities with an embassy. Certainly our Canadian plates were a subject of curiosity whenever we did one of our driving trips.

We didn't know anyone who brought their own car over for a vacation. Everyone we knew were employed there, and had a local residence, making the insurance much simpler.

Posted by Nigel
Northamptonshire, England
19347 posts

Foreign cars also need a plate or sticker on the rear identifying the origin country with the accepted abbreviation. CDN for Canada.

Posted by JC
1740 posts

The cheapest online quote I got for a 2 month stay was about 2800 CAD. That will be tough to beat shipping the car to Europe and back. My shipping quote is 975 CAD one way but insurance and offloading fees will make it close.

If the prices are going to end up that close I wouldn't put myself through the stress and hassle of shipping my own car. Besides, it's fun to drive a different car (although not so much if it's a Renault or Peugeot!).

Posted by Richard
Los Angeles
1599 posts

If the money is close the hassle of shipping v.s. lease make it a no brainer. What are you driving that you don't want to be without?

Posted by The other Bob
396 posts

Only peripherally related, but my wife and I took a short trip down to Provence in France a couple of months ago and saw a full-size pickup truck (rare) with California plates (much, much rarer) that entered a roundabout ahead of us.

Hadn't seen an American license plate in years.

Posted by Nigel
Northamptonshire, England
19347 posts

Eurotrip - did you get any further along?

Posted by EuroTrip OP
7 posts

I have chosen not to go with shipping my car. It is something I will do eventually no doubt but it doesn't make sense for this particular trip. Another option that crossed my mind is buying a car in Europe and selling it afterwards but I'm not sure if a foreigner can do this.

I will more than likely go with the auto leasing program through Peugeot as there are no restrictions on the countries I will be visiting.