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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?
Cars in Austria can be sold privately or through a dealer. Photo: Cristian Macovei on Unsplash

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.

Member comments

  1. This article is extremely misleading and actually in error. It is very important to note that it is a requirement to have a Carta d’Identità to register a car in Italy. You cannot legally drive the car without having it registered. And you cannot register it without having the Carta d’Identita (not just a permesso). AND further, if you have a registered car in Italy (by having a Carta d’Identità, then you also cannot legally drive and be covered by car insurance (even if they sell it to you) unless you have obtained an Italian driver’s license within 1 year of receiving a Carta d’Identità. So there is a very big can of worms opened here once someone buys a car (which can be sold to you without having a Carta d’Identità), or receives a Carta d’Identità. And of course, there are also tax implications once someone stays in the country more than a certain number of days per year OR receives a Carta d’Identità. 🤪

    1. Hi,
      As you can see, this article is focused on the question of how residency status affects your right to buy a car in Italy – rather than on the car purchase process, the paperwork required to register a car after you’ve bought it, insurance, residency rights, etc – though these are important points, they are beyond the scope of this particular article. We have linked to further information about the registration process for those who want to know more.
      If you could let us know exactly which points you believe are misleading and in error we’ll be pleased to check them.
      Thanks,
      – Clare

  2. The fundamental question of the article focuses on the ability to purchase and use (drive) a car in Italy, as is clearly stated directly under the title of the article as follows: “If you spend extended periods of time in Italy, can you buy a car to use while in the country?”
    The short answer is that an individual must have a Carta d’Identità to be able to successfully purchase a car and then legally drive that car on the road. A car cannot be used (legally driven) on the road without being first registered and insured by its owner, who must present his/her Carta d’Identita at registration. A permesso di soggiorno (referred to as a residence permit in the article) is NOT enough.

  3. Hello, I found the following information on a message board which leads me to believe that a non resident Italian with a second home in Italy can register a car. If anyone has any experiences on this matter please share.

    Art. 134.
    Circolazione di autoveicoli e motoveicoli appartenenti a cittadini italiani residenti all’estero o a stranieri (1) (2)

    1. Agli autoveicoli, motoveicoli e rimorchi importati temporaneamente o nuovi di fabbrica acquistati per l’esportazione, che abbiano già adempiuto alle formalità doganali, se prescritte, e appartengano a cittadini italiani residenti all’estero o a stranieri che sono di passaggio, sono rilasciate una carta di circolazione della durata massima di un anno, salvo eventuale proroga, e una speciale targa di riconoscimento, come stabilito nel regolamento.

    1-bis. Al di fuori dei casi previsti dal comma 1, gli autoveicoli, motoveicoli e rimorchi immatricolati in uno Stato estero o acquistati in Italia ed appartenenti a cittadini italiani residenti all’estero ed iscritti all’Anagrafe italiani residenti all’estero (A.I.R.E.) e gli autoveicoli, motoveicoli e rimorchi immatricolati in uno Stato dell’Unione europea o acquistati in Italia ed appartenenti a cittadini comunitari o persone giuridiche costituite in uno dei Paesi dell’Unione europea che abbiano, comunque, un rapporto stabile con il territorio italiano, sono immatricolati, a richiesta, secondo le norme previste dall’articolo 93, a condizione che al momento dell’immatricolazione l’intestatario dichiari un domicilio legale presso una persona fisica residente in Italia o presso uno dei soggetti di cui alla legge 8 agosto 1991, n. 264.

    2. Chiunque circola con la carta di circolazione di cui al comma 1 scaduta di validità è soggetto alla sanzione amministrativa del pagamento di una somma da euro 80 a euro 318. Dalla violazione consegue la sanzione amministrativa accessoria della confisca del veicolo, secondo le norme del capo I, sezione II, del titolo VI. La sanzione accessoria non si applica qualora al veicolo, successivamente all’accertamento, venga rilasciata la carta di circolazione, ai sensi dell’articolo 93. (3)

    (1) Articolo così modificato dalla Legge 25 gennaio 2006, n. 29 e dal D.L. 27 giugno 2003, n. 151.
    (2) Vedi art. 340 reg. cod. strada.
    (3) Comma così modificato dal D.M. 22 dicembre 2010, in G.U. n. 305 del 31-12-2010

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DRIVING

What are Italy’s rules on switching to winter tyres?

Italian road rules require a switch to winter tyres by mid-November. We take a look at how the requirements (and penalties) apply for the cold season.

What are Italy's rules on switching to winter tyres?

Though we may not have seen much in the way of adverse weather conditions so far – temperatures were far above season average throughout October – the winter cold appears to be just around the corner and so is the requirement for motorists to switch to winter tyres.

The window to make the change opened on October 15th, and the requirement and penalties for not following it will come into force on November 15th. 

By that date, all road vehicles will have to be equipped with winter tyres or, alternatively, have snow chains “on board”. 

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

But, in typically Italian fashion, there’s far more to the rule than that. So, with less than two weeks to go until the winter tyres deadline, here’s what you should know about the requirements.

What areas do the rules apply to?

The Italian Highway Code along with a 2013 ministerial decree state that all road vehicles circulating on Italian soil must have winter tyres or snow chains on board from November 15th to April 15th.

However, the Code also gives local authorities (provinces, individual comuni and private highway operators) the power to modify national directives (including time limits) and/or bring in additional requirements according to the features of their own territory. 

Winter tire

All road vehicles circulating on Italian soil must have winter tires or snow chains on board from November 15th to April 15th. Photo by Christof STACHE / AFP

The result is a very fragmented legislative landscape, with rules often varying from region to region.

READ ALSO: Explained: Who needs to exchange their driving licence for an Italian one?

For instance, in Sardinia, only drivers travelling on Strada Statale 131 (‘Statale Carlo Felice‘), which connects Cagliari to Porto Torres, are required to have winter tyres on or keep snow chains on board.

Additionally, due to the region’s particularly favourable climate all year round, the requirement starts on December 1st, i.e. 15 days after other Italian regions, and ends on March 15th, that is one month before elsewhere in the country.

To keep track of all the rules applying to your region or province of residence, refer to the following website from Pneumatici Sotto Controllo.

You can also consult the following interactive map provided by Italian motorway company Autostrade per l’Italia. 

What types of tyres do I need?

Most winter tyres are marked with ‘M+S’ (or sometimes ‘M/S’), meaning ‘mud plus snow’.

Some winter tyres might carry the ‘3PMFS’ mark or a symbol consisting of a snowflake encircled by a three-peak mountain range. These tyres are largely recognised as the best tyres for winter conditions.

Both of the above categories are accepted under Italian law.

In terms of costs, the price of a single winter tyre goes from 50 to 200 euros, whereas fitting costs an average of 50 euros.

Tires in a garage.

The price of a single winter tire goes from 50 to 200 euros, whereas fitting costs an average of 50 euros. Photo by Christof STACHE / AFP

It’s worth noting that, by law, motorists are allowed to install just two winter tyres provided that such tyres belong to the same car axle.

But the Italian Transport Ministry advises drivers to install winter tyres on all four wheels to avoid potential grip and braking issues. 

Snow chains

Motorists can keep snow chains (catene da neve) on board as an alternative to the installation of winter tyres. 

However, your chosen set of snow chains must be compatible with your vehicle’s tyres.

Here’s a useful guide on what types of snow chains you’ll need based on the size of your car’s wheels.

Woman fitting her car with snow chains

Snow chains can be used as an alternative to winter tires but they have to be compatible with your vehicle’s wheels. Photo by Pascal POCHARD-CASABIANCA / AFP

The asking price for a mid-range set of snow chains is generally somewhere between 70 and 90 euros.

Fines 

The Highway Code sets out hefty fines for those who don’t follow the rules.

In city centres and residential areas penalties can go from 41 to 168 euros, while fines can be as high as 335 euros on highways. 

As specified by Article 192 of the Code, law enforcement officers can also choose to issue a temporary ‘vehicle detention’ (fermo del veicolo). In this case, motorists will only be able to resume their journey once their vehicle is equipped with winter tyres or snow chains.

Motorcycles

The above winter season rules do not apply to motorcycles.

However, the 2013 ministerial decree states that motorcycles are not allowed on the roads in the event of snow or icy conditions.

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