Buying a car in the Netherlands

Buying a car in the Netherlands

Cycling in the Netherlands may be very popular, and you can get pretty much anywhere in the country by public transport, but the car is still one of the most popular modes of transportation. If you didn't import your car to the Netherlands, you may be looking to buy one. Are there any requirements expats need to be aware of when buying a car in the Netherlands? How does it work when you want to buy a second-hand car? This guide considers all the important things you need to know.

Buying a car in the Netherlands: The requirements

If you buy a car in the Netherlands, you will need to have it put in your name (overschrijven op naam), also called transferring ownership. You will need to adhere to the following requirements if you want to put a vehicle in your name:

  • You are over the age of 18
  • You live in the Netherlands
  • You are registered in the Basisregistratie Personen (personal records database)
  • You will need to arrange for the transfer of ownership yourself
  • You will need to make sure that the registration certificate is complete

Car insurance

Once a car is put in your name, you will need car insurance. In the Netherlands, if you own a car, taking out third-party liability insurance is mandatory. This type of insurance is called WA-verzekering and only insures damage to third parties. There are plenty of Dutch car insurance providers to choose from, such as:

Can a foreigner buy a car in the Netherlands?

Yes, a foreigner can buy a car in the Netherlands. You can even put a car in your name with a foreign driving licence. You will need to have one of the following legal documents, however:

  • ID or driving licence from an EU or EVA country
  • A diplomatic passport
  • Nederlands reisdocument voor vreemdelingen (Dutch travel document for foreigners)
  • Nederlands reisdocument voor vluchtelingen (Dutch travel document for refugees)
  • Foreign passport
  • Service passport

If there is no BSN number on your passport or ID, you will need a BRP extract from your municipality to prove you are registered in the Dutch personal records database.

Buying a new car in the Netherlands

If you are looking to buy a car in the Netherlands, you have two options: buy a new car from a car dealership or buy a used car (from a car dealership or a private seller). Here is what you need to know when buying a new car in the Netherlands.

How to transfer ownership when buying a new car

When you are buying a car from a car dealership that is recognised by the RDW (Netherlands Vehicle Authority), they can transfer the ownership to you straight away. The only thing you need in this case is a valid proof of identity. You can find RDW-acknowledged car sellers on their site. Transferring the ownership of a vehicle costs approximately 12,50 euros.

It’s a good idea to immediately check if the transfer went well. You can do this by logging into “Mijn RDW”. You will need a DigiD for this.

Vehicle log book and reporting code

Along with your car, you will also receive a vehicle log book (tenaamstellingsverslag) at the car dealership. This includes the first four digits of the reporting code (tenaamstellingscode). You will need this code when you take out car insurance and if you ever decide to sell your car.

Registration card

The RWD will send you your registration card (kentekencard) in the post. If you want to drive your car but have not received your registration card yet, you can still do so, as the police can easily check the vehicle register for your details, if necessary. However, you must be able to show your registration card within 14 days after the vehicle transfer. Furthermore, you cannot drive your car abroad without a registration card.

Buying a used car in the Netherlands

There are several different ways to buy a used car in the Netherlands. You can buy one directly from another person or you can buy one at a car dealership that also offers used cars (occasions in Dutch).

Buying a used car from a private seller

When you are buying a car from a car dealership or garage, they can usually transfer the ownership of the car for you right away. However, when you buy a used car from a private seller, things work a bit differently.

How to transfer ownership when buying a used car

First, you will need to go to a vehicle registration counter (kentekenloket) or an RDW desk or inspection station. Please note that if you have a foreign driving licence, you will only be able to go to a RDW desk or inspection station, not a vehicle registration counter. The RDW desk or inspection station will need the following documents, so make sure you receive these during the sale:

  • The vehicle registration document (registration card) together with the registration code or
  • The original registration certificate (part 1B) and the transfer certificate

Don’t forget to also bring a valid ID with you to the RDW desk or inspection station. After transferring the ownership of the car, you should receive the following at the RDW right away:

  • A vehicle log book with the first four digits of the registration code. Please note that the code is printed on a piece of paper that looks like a receipt, so make sure you keep it safe instead of throwing it away.
  • A certificate of indemnification (vrijwaringsbewijs), which is proof that the vehicle is no longer registered in the seller’s name. You will need to give this certificate to the seller of the car. The RDW will send you the new registration certificate and the rest of the registration code the next working day.

How to transfer ownership online

In certain cases, it’s possible to transfer ownership of the car online, if:

  • Your mobile phone has an NFC chip reader and it’s enabled.
  • You have the DigiD app on your phone.
  • You have a valid Dutch passport, Dutch driving licence or Dutch ID card with a chip.
  • You have the registration card and the code of the car you want to transfer.

If you meet all of the requirements, you can transfer ownership here. If you do not meet the requirements, you will need to go to an RDW desk or inspection station instead.

What to look out for when buying a used car

When you are buying a used car in the Netherlands, it’s a good idea to pay extra close attention to the following:


Generally, people prefer to buy used cars with low mileages, as this usually means that they have less wear and tear. However, cars with a higher mileage are typically less expensive. It’s good to check the mileage of the car carefully, because you don’t want to buy a car where the odometer has been rolled back, as they are more expensive to buy and maintain. Now, odometer rollback is considered fraudulent and illegal; however, that does not mean it does not happen.

If you are buying a second-hand car from a website, a good thing to look out for is the NAP logo, as this indicates that the car had logical mileage when last registered. If you want more insight into the odometer readings of the car you want to purchase, you can also ask the seller for an RDW Vehicle Report (RDW-Voertuigrapport).

Date of first registration and number of previous owners

When you buy a used car, it’s a good idea to find out how old the car is and how many owners it has had. Generally, the fewer owners, the better. You can find out more about the car by checking its licence plate with the RDW-kentekencheck. This will give you insight into the history of the car. Please note that if there is a “nee” written down at “Tenaamstelling mogelijk?”, it means that ownership of the car cannot be transferred.

Date of next roadworthiness inspection (APK)

You are not allowed to drive a car in the Netherlands without a valid APK (Periodic Technical Inspection), so make sure to ask the seller for previous APK test reports. You can also check the RDW website to see when the next APK is due.

Sales contract

When making a big purchase, it’s always a good idea to make sure a contract is drawn up to protect both parties. Generally, you can find templates for these contracts on the internet. The contract should contain all of the important information about the car, including all known defects, and the transaction.

APK (Periodic Technical Inspection)

When you have a vehicle registered in your name, it’s your responsibility to make sure the vehicle undergoes periodic vehicle inspection (APK). Driving without a valid APK is not allowed in the Netherlands. The APK inspection needs to be carried out by a garage or testing station which is approved by the RDW. 

Motor vehicle tax

In the Netherlands, most car owners have to pay motor vehicle tax (motorrijtuigenbelasting). After registering your car, the Belastingdienst will automatically send you a bill for this tax. How much tax you have to pay depends on:

  • The weight of your vehicle
  • What type of fuel your vehicle uses
  • How environmentally polluting your car is
  • Where you are located

If your car runs completely and exclusively on electricity or hydrogen, you do not have to pay motor vehicle tax (nihiltarief).

Dutch car dealers

If you want to buy a brand new car, your first port of call should be a car dealership (auto dealer). Most large cities in the Netherlands will have a handful of car dealers, and these are often linked to one or several individual car manufacturers.

The benefits of buying a car from a Dutch car dealer

There are some benefits when you buy a car from a car dealership in the Netherlands:

  • As they are often linked to specific manufacturers, they are reputable businesses with (generally) good customer service.
  • If you buy a car with a dealer that is recognised by the RWD, they will handle the transfer of ownership for you.
  • It's often possible to make use of a delivery service that will deliver your new car to your home.

Dutch used car dealers

If you are not in the market for a new car, you can also get used cars from certain car dealers. In the Netherlands, used cars are called occasions. Buying a second-hand car from a used car dealership generally gives you a bit more piece of mind than buying from a private seller, as dealerships tend to thoroughly test and service used cars before putting them up for sale.

Warranties and guarantees

In the Netherlands, a new car has a manufacturer’s warranty of at least two years. Some brands even offer a three-year or more warranty. In many cases, it is also possible to extend the warranty for an additional charge. Please note that not everything is covered by this warranty, so make sure you read the warranty conditions carefully.

Used car warranty in the Netherlands

The legal warranty on used cars is 12 months when buying from a car dealership. However, you do have an obligation (onderzoeksplicht) to take a good look at the car beforehand and test drive it before purchasing it. Dealerships might also offer you a guarantee of up to 12 months on top of the warranty, for an additional fee. A used car from a private seller usually has no warranty, unless the manufacturer’s warranty is still valid.

Financing a car in the Netherlands

Not many people are able to pay for a new car in full, which is why it’s quite common in the Netherlands to finance a car. This involves paying the amount back in monthly instalments, with interest, usually over a period of 24 to 60 months. Many manufacturers and dealerships offer their own financing options, usually with better interest rates than you would get at the bank. Whether you can apply for car financing depends on your personal circumstances, but the following generally applies:

  • You must be over the age of 21
  • You must have sufficient income to finance the repayments
  • You must live in the Netherlands

Buying a car online in the Netherlands

Buying a car online in the Netherlands is increasingly common, as the process is almost as easy as ordering a takeaway. Of course, there are also cons:

Buying a car online: Pros

When buying a car online: 

  • You will typically have the possibility for an extended warranty
  • You don’t have to negotiate over the price
  • Delivery is often possible, so you don’t even have to leave your home
  • Some online dealerships and websites offer the option to test drive for a few days
  • Exchanging your car is often possible

Buying a car online: Cons

However, there are some downsides to buying a car online:

  • You can’t look at the car before you buy it
  • You can’t test drive the car before you buy it

If you do decide to purchase a car online, the process is very similar to visiting a dealership or private seller in terms of general requirements. You’ll need to submit the required documents electronically.

Car prices in the Netherlands

Buying a car is a big purchase. According to BOVAG (the sector organisation for the motor trade), the average price of a new car was 45.993 euros in the Netherlands in 2022 (and every year, this price is going up). Of course, a car will cost you much more than just the purchasing price. You will also need to take into consideration the following:

  • Fuel costs
  • Insurance costs
  • APK costs
  • Maintenance costs
  • Road tax
  • Parking costs
  • Roadside assistance costs

There are some websites that offer handy tools to calculate the car costs you will have to pay per month or per kilometre. This could help you budget accordingly.

Sell your car in the Netherlands

If you own a car and are leaving the Netherlands, selling it is a good way to recover a large part of your expenses. There are several different ways to sell your car in the Netherlands:

  • Through a dealership
  • List it on a website or online sales platform
  • Create a listings ad in your local newspaper

To sell your car, you will need to make sure of the following:

  • You are selling the car to someone who is 18+ years of age.
  • The buyer lives in the Netherlands and is registered (BRP). If the buyer lives abroad, you will need to go to a RDW desk or inspection station together with the buyer to register the car for export.
  • You have the complete registration certificate or the registration card with the registration code of the car. If you have lost either one, you should apply for a new registration certificate or code first.

After you have sold your car, make sure you receive a certificate of indemnification (vrijwaringsbewijs) from the buyer. This will prove that the car is no longer registered in your name.

Buying a car vs car leasing

If you really want to get a car but buying isn’t a viable option for you, you can also consider leasing a car. This is an arrangement where you get to drive a car (often a brand new vehicle) for a set period of time for a set monthly fee, without actually owning it. This can be a good option for expats who don’t plan on remaining in the Netherlands for a significant period of time.

This page uses affiliate links.

Read also