It’s all in preparation. And timing is important. If you miss a deadline, then it can be costly.
With that in mind, and my adventure to Portugal starting properly in about nine months, I’ve bought a left-hand drive car. A Nissan X-Trail.
Yes. Some people will say it’s a premature purchase and ask why I didn’t just wait until I got to Portugal. Let me explain my thinking and reasons.
Driving to Portugal
I plan to drive to Portugal. My saloon isn’t particularly practical for the journey. A couple of bags in the boot/trunk and it’s pretty much full. Therefore, a more practical car is the way to go.
I’d been looking at a VW transporter, but they come at a price. Mainly because everyone wants to convert them for “vanlife”. I wanted five seats so that immediately reduces the options available and, in turn, increases the price.
There were a few other crew cab style vehicles that I looked at including other vans and pickups. But seeking a decent left-hand drive vehicle in the UK isn’t that easy.
The price of cars has risen significantly around the world. Whatever the reason, Brexit, Covid, the lack of semi-conductors or the Suez Canal blockage, prices have risen.
When searching for a European specification car in the UK, the pool of available cars is significantly reduced. As I have a UK licence, the car has to be registered on UK plates, reducing the pool again.
My budget is also a limiting factor. Many cars that match my requirements are simply too expensive.
I am also looking for long-term practicality. A vehicle that will last, be a good run around as well as large enough to cart materials and bits around the farm. A general utility vehicle.
My last four cars have been Japanese cars. Without tempting fate, I’ve never had a problem with any of them. They have never failed me. Started first time, every time. No major maintenance. Just routine of service, tyres, wiper blades and brakes. I’ve not been so lucky with European cars.
Tax and matriculation
When emigrating to Portugal, each adult can matriculate one vehicle without paying tax on the importation of the vehicle.
There are conditions around this, including the need that you must have owned the car for more than six months, and for it to be registered in your name. By buying now, registering, taxing and insuring in my name, I will definitely have owned the car for more than six months before I move to Portugal.
Importing a car is as easy as driving through the border. Making it legal is not so easy. So, in my typical approach to methodical planning, I’m trying to get everything in order.
In seeking guidance, I was advised to ensure that any left-hand drive car I purchased had the Certificate of Conformity (or Certificate of Compliance). This is the certificate that enables you to register the car anywhere in the EU.
The importance of this certificate is that every Member State of the European Union is obliged to accept all vehicles accompanied with a Certificate of Conformity. This certificate can be obtained for a few hundred pounds, although I believe the EU certificate is a better ‘passport’ for your vehicle than the UK certificate.
Starting the journey
Buying this car is another significant step forward. It’s another item on the ‘to-do list’ ticked off. It’s given me a confidence boost and one less thing to worry about.
While I increased my budget a little more than I had planned, I’ve got a good, tidy car. And, in my opinion, a good deal. Plus, the car will last. It’s practical. It’s economical. And all the paperwork is in order.
If you’re considering buying a left-hand drive car in the UK, I’d encourage you to contact John at the London Left Hand Drive Centre.
I now need to sell my right-hand drive car. Does anyone fancy a 2016 Lexus IS300h with full Lexus service history?
When I was in Portugal, I sorted out a Portuguese Sim card with Vodafone as I need a Portuguese mobile number for online banking. Since returning to the UK, I’ve had to make a few calls to Portugal so I use my Portuguese number.
Interestingly, I’ve had 100% of my calls from my Portuguese mobile number answered. Compared to maybe 10% of calls from my UK number. Interesting.
However, I did encounter a small problem when topping up my account. Because Portugal led the payment of bills through the multibanco cashpoint machines, you top your phone up through the cash point.
Not being in Portugal means this isn’t possible. Nor is payment by credit card until the sim card has been active for two months. Ok. So how do I top up?
The Vodafone website was helpful. But didn’t accept my payment methods so I scheduled a call from a customer service representative. There was no ‘Portuguese time’ for this call. I was called at the exact time. Not even a minute late.
I answered the call in my best Portuguese. Clearly, I didn’t do too well as the representative responded in English. I did though give my mobile number in Portuguese. With each number being confirmed in English. Good practice for both me and the representative.
Within five minutes, my issue was resolved and I’d managed to top up my mobile account through ViaCTT.
Credit to the CTT
The Correios de Portugal (CTT) is the Portuguese mail service. I’ve seen so many negative comments and complaints about them. They do seem to be the target for many peoples frustrations.
So far though, I’ve nothing but praise for them. Let me explain.
When I was planning on opening a bank account, Banco CTT was rarely recommended. However, it ticked lots of boxes for me. They offer a free account with a debit card. An online app that can be used worldwide. Good website, with (mostly) English translation.
What was also important was the location of their physical stores. Because I was unsure where I will end up in Portugal, having a CTT in pretty much every village or town means I am never far away from one.
Their service when I opened the account was great. Smooth and efficient. There was a minor hiccup due to an additional document that needed to be signed because the UK is now not in the EU, but outside that, it was really easy and straightforward. I was though prepared with double the information I needed to open the account.
However, I was unaware of ViaCTT. The payment portal that makes light work of paying bills in Portugal. I believe it is the infrastructure and software behind the multibanco payment system, but being able to do it straight from my banking portal or app was so, so simple.
What I’m led to believe though is that their mail system has a lot to be desired. I’ll just have to wait to experience it.
Interesting times ahead….
So it’s been a busy couple of weeks (apologies for skipping a blog) but slightly preoccupied with the car purchase, sorting the mobile, and a better understanding of Banco CTT.
And there is a lot on at the moment. Hopefully, the next few blogs are going to be interesting.
As always, if I’ve captivated you to this point, thanks for reading. It’s much appreciated.
Obrigado por ler.
In this blog, I’ve mentioned several companies. While I have provided the links and shared my experience, I am not endorsing these companies, nor am I affiliated or paid by any of these companies.
2 thoughts on “Buying a left-hand drive car in the UK”
Very interesting blog.
I did a similar thing with a lhd car with UK plates when I moved to Portugal 12 years ago.
The matriculation process was a nightmare.
I managed it in the end, but it took 11 trips to very obstructive alfandega (customs) in Faro to achieve it.
I can go into detail if you wish.
But one important point is that you have to be a Portugal resident before you start the matriculation process.
Thanks for your comment and kind words.
Like most things in Portugal, I have been asked for an extra document. While I believed I had provided everything, they requested I sent them the original document from the Portuguese Consulate of London to ensure the seal had not been tampered with. All done now so it’s just a waiting game.
You raise an important point about becoming a Portuguese resident before commencing the process, and this does then put a timeline on the process. I was prepared for this so hopefully, I will meet the deadline.
My challenge at the moment is my driving licence. I qualify for the new scheme which allows me to register my licence with the IMT and I do not need to exchange it. However, trying to find anyone who can help me with registering seems elusive at the moment.
Thanks again for your kind words and support.