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DRIVING

EXPLAINED: How to import your car or motorbike to Italy

If you want to bring your own wheels when you move to Italy, you'll need to register your vehicle and swap your licence plates. We break down the latest rules and what you need to do to keep your car or motorbike on the road.

EXPLAINED: How to import your car or motorbike to Italy
A guide to what you need to know about bringing your car or motorbike to Italy. (Photo by Miguel MEDINA / AFP)

The most recent rule changes on importing foreign vehicles spell good news for those wanting to bring their car or motorbike to Italy.

Until now, the Italian Highway Code prohibited residents in Italy to drive vehicles with foreign number plates for more than 60 days.

However, amendments to Italy’s road rules have given drivers more breathing space, requiring you to register your car or bike with Italian licence plates within three months of obtaining your residency in Italy instead of the previous two.

It’s important you stick to this longer deadline in any case – if you don’t, your vehicle could be impounded and you face fines of up to €400.

It’s not straightforward, as is true of any bureaucratic process involved with moving to Italy.

“These procedures and formalities can be very long, complex and costly, in particular for non-EU citizens”, according to the European University Institute.

If you’re still keen to bring your beloved wheels, though, here’s what you need to do.

Photo: Christoph Stache/AFP

Getting going

Your car needs to be registered with the Motor Vehicles Office (Ufficio Motorizzazione Civile) and the Public Vehicle Registry (Pubblico Registro Automobilistico or PRA).

The ‘uffici della motorizzazione civile’ are agencies of the Italian Ministry of Transport, and there’s usually at least one in every town. You can find a list of them on the Ministry of Transport website.

You have to be a legal resident already to do this, so you’ll need your residence permit (permesso di soggiorno), or if you’re an EU citizen, proof of residence (certificato di residenza). You’ll also need to show an Italian tax code (codice fiscale).

There is no need currently for British nationals who obtained residency before Brexit to have their new biometric residency card, or carta di soggiorno, to complete this process.

Vehicles coming from non-EU countries

To start, you’ll need to tell the licensing authorities in your home country that you won’t be using the car there anymore. For British nationals, for example, you have to inform the DVLA that you’re taking the vehicle out of the UK for 12 months or more – this is known as permanent export. More details can be found here.

READ MORE: ‘Expect the unexpected’: What you need to know about driving in Italy

Following this, you’ll need to prove that your car is roadworthy. Ask for a technical inspection certificate, signed and stamped by the manufacturer or an accredited distributor – and translated into Italian. If it all looks in top shape and meets the Italian road standards, you’ll receive a certificate of conformity – certificato di conformità.

There are reports of this documentation taking months to arrive, so plan way ahead before your move to Italy.

Photo: Vincenzo PINTO / AFP

The paperwork you need to register your vehicle in Italy

With these documents in hand, you then need to go to your local Motorizzazione Civile Office. You’ll be asked to provide the following, as stated by the Automobile Club d’Italia (in English):

  • Ownership certificate
  • Certificate of cancellation of registration in the country of origin
  • Application for registration (domanda di immatricolazione) form TT2119
  • Personal ID: if it’s in a foreign language, you need to get it translated into Italian (unless an exemption is applicable under international laws or agreements)
  • Proof of residency – unless residence is already shown in your ID document
  • NP2D form for registration with the PRA, available at Motor Vehicles Offices or here
  • Photocopy of the registration certificate issued in Italy.

Once the paperwork is checked, the next step is to receive your Italian licence plates (targhe) and a carta di circolazione (registration certificate), which you should carry with you at all times.

There are also taxes due for registration and entry in the PRA of an imported vehicle called Provincial Transcription Tax. This varies depending on the type of vehicle and your province of residence.

Then, within three months you need to enter your vehicle into the public registry, maintained by the Automobile Club d’Italia (ACI).

What you need to do if you’re coming from an EU country

For cars coming from the EU or from a European Economic Area country (Iceland, Liechtenstein and Norway), you can use the ACI’s Sportelli Telematici dell’Automobilista (STA) service.

This is a one-stop shop for registering your vehicle and getting hold of Italian licence plates. The crucial thing to remember here is: where was your car registered before bringing it to Italy?

It doesn’t matter where you’ve come from or what nationality you are. What counts is the country of registration for the vehicle.

Regardless of whether you come from a member state or a non-EU country, you must register your vehicle and get Italian licence plates. The authorities could issue you with penalties and take your car off the road if you don’t.

Once you’re all set with your new documentation and licence plates, to ensure you’re driving legally in Italy, you’ll need to pay the compulsory road tax (bollo) and arrange car insurance (assicurazione auto) that comprises third-party liability (responsabilità civile).

It’s worth noting that there are road tax reductions for older vehicles registered as ‘classic’ – to calculate how much you’d have to pay on your car or bike, check Italy’s Revenue Agency (Agenzia delle Entrate) website here (in Italian).

Maintaining its roadworthiness is also one to watch out for. After your car is more than four years old, you must visit a mechanic every two years for a mandatory road worthiness test (revisione).

New and used vehicles

If this seems daunting and more than you are willing to go through, you could sell your car or bike in your home country and buy a vehicle in Italy. In that way, a dealer holds your hand through the paperwork and saves you the headache.

If you want to stick to importing, you can bring over both new or used cars from abroad. New cars and bikes include those that have clocked less than 6,000km or have been sold within six months of first registration.

READ ALSO: How you can claim Italy’s auto bonus for a new car

On the other hand, a registered vehicle that has already covered more than 6000 km and that is sold after a period of six months from the date of registration is considered to be used.

Further information on bringing your car to Italy can be found on the Automobile Club d’Italia site (in Italian).

Can I keep my driving licence or do I need an Italian one?

If you’re coming from outside the EU, you may need to re-sit your driving test to get an Italian driving licence. This applies to most third country nationals, who cannot simply exchange their driving licence for an Italian one.

UK driving licence holders can currently keep using their licences in Italy until December 31st this year, as long as they were issued before January 1st, 2021.

After December 31st, 2022, and if no long-term reciprocal agreement is reached, residents in Italy will still have to take a test to exchange their UK licence for an Italian patente di guida (driving licence). 

READ ALSO: Getting your Italian driving licence: the language you need to pass your test

Italy has driving licence agreements with a small number of non-EU-countries including Switzerland, Brazil and the Philippines: find a full list here. If your licence is from one of these countries, you can swap it for an Italian one without having to retake the test.  

Time is of the essence – you have to get your Italian driving licence, the patente di guida, within one year of obtaining residency. There’s a lot to do when you arrive if you want to keep your motoring freedom, so you’ll need a solid strategy and have to be prepared for many steps in bureaucracy.

Member comments

  1. Our local ACI has informed me that we need to take the car to Customs before they can begin the registration process, but I cannot find any information on the Agenzie delle Dogana website as to how to go about this. Can anyone point me in the right direction? We are in Massa-Carrara (MS). Our car was first registered in the UK in 2015 and we bought it in 2018 and it’s been in the UK since then. We became residents here in 2018.

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READER QUESTIONS

Reader question: Can I buy a car in Italy if I’m not a resident?

If you spend extended periods of time in Italy, can you buy a car to use while in the country? It all depends on your residency status.

Reader question: Can I buy a car in Italy if I'm not a resident?

Question: ‘We own a second home in Italy and we’d like to purchase a car to use there during our visits. But we’re not registered as residents. Are we allowed to buy a car in Italy?’

It’s a common question from people who spend extended periods of time in Italy but are, for one reason or another, not registered as Italian residents.

The short answer is: if you’re a legal resident in Italy, then you can buy a car in Italy.

As a general rule, if you don’t have residency in Italy – even if you own property in Italy or have business interests in the country – you are not legally allowed to buy a car in Italy.

READ ALSO: Can second-home owners get an Italian residence permit?

According to the Italian highway code, you need to have registered your residency with an Italian municipality to be able to buy a new or used vehicle in Italy.

While you might find a friendly neighbour willing to sell you their old motor regardless, you would also need to register the change of ownership with the Motor Vehicles Office (Ufficio Motorizzazione Civile) and the Public Vehicle Registry (Pubblico Registro Automobilistico or PRA).

This is where you’d run into trouble without the right paperwork, which includes a residence permit (permesso di soggiorno), or if you’re an EU citizen, your proof of residence (certificato di residenza). You’ll also need your Italian tax code (codice fiscale) and other documents, some of which you may not be able to obtain without residency.

So could you instead bring your own car to Italy from abroad? For short periods, there’s no issue with doing this – assuming that you’re willing and able to drive between Italy and your home country.

READ ALSO: Q&A: Your questions answered about driving in Italy on a British licence

But for the longer term, importing a car to Italy and registering it here would again require you to be able to show proof of Italian residency.

If you live between two or more countries, there’s a lot to consider when deciding whether you should – or could – register as a resident in Italy.

Doing so is more than a simple declaration of your presence in Italy; being registered as a resident means you’ll face certain requirements (most notably those related to paying taxes) as well as rights in the country. Read more about the process of obtaining Italian residency here.

So if registering as a resident is not an option in your circumstances, you may have to stick with the rental car for now or explore the longer-term alternatives to hiring a car in Italy.

Please note that many bureaucratic processes and requirements often vary from one part of Italy to another. This article is not intended to be a comprehensive guide to purchasing or registering a car in Italy.

For further information and advice please contact your local Motorizzazione Civile office or consult the Automobile Club d’Italia.

See more in The Local’s Driving in Italy section.

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