The news is out: we just bought a Portuguese car! She’s a little 2005 Fiat Punto, with one previous owner, low mileage, and she lived most of her life undercover. Perfect!
This article has turned out to be one of my most popular ones, so I’ve tried my best to divide it up logically:
– Why did we buy a Portuguese vehicle?
– What’s the real reason why we chose to buy a Portuguese vehicle?
– How do you insurance a vehicle in Portugal?
– Where did we begin with our car search?
– Why did we choose a Fiat Punto 2005?
– What did we need to buy a car in Portugal?
– How do MOTs work in Portugal?
– How do I get a Via Verde transponder?
– What do you legally need inside the vehicle before you drive it?
Why did we buy a Portuguese vehicle?
Each time we left the house in our UK-plated estate car we would be taking our lives into our own hands.
We found that the Portuguese drivers would see our foreign plates and proceed to meander out of their lane and drive directly at us. We’re not kidding, it was almost like they were frozen in a state of shock just at the sight of us and temporarily lost any driving ability.
Yes, we are very aware that the driving ability of some Portuguese drivers is extremely questionable but we feel like our UK plates were making things even worse.
We decided that enough was enough and it was time to become inconspicuous.
What’s the real reason why we chose to buy a Portuguese vehicle?
According to the European Union, you’re only allowed a foreign plated vehicle in the Portugal for a maximum of 6 months. If you get stopped by the Portuguese law enforcement (Guarda Nacional Republicana, GNR) the onus is on you to prove that you haven’t been there for more than 3 months, otherwise you can be fined quite heavily.
We enjoy being able to come and go from Portugal when we pleased with our UK vehicle, but we didn’t want to exceed the maximum 6 months. So we decided it was finally time to purchase a little car to use for short journeys out and about.
How do you insurance a vehicle in Portugal?
When it comes to insuring the vehicle, it’s somewhat similar to the UK. Like the UK, once you purchase the vehicle you will want to take out an insurance policy on it before driving it. You want the policy to be in the main driver’s name.
However, unlike in the UK, this insurance policy will extend to other unnamed drivers, so if you allowed a friend or family to drive the vehicle and something happened then they are covered by your policy.
When we first got the vehicle, we initially purchased insurance through the dealership. We didn’t know how insurance worked in Portugal and so it seemed like the simplest way of buying a vehicle and then being able to drive it away insured on the same day.
A year later, when the insurance came up for renewal, we did our research properly. We asked our friends who they would recommend insuring the vehicle with and they recommended a reputable insurance broker called Fidelidade. They had shops all over Portugal and we could even get a quote online.
Rather than just go ahead with Fidelidade we did more shopping around and requested an insurance quote from our bank, but they couldn’t come close to matching the quote Fidelidade offered. It was a no-brainer, we went with Fidelidade.
We took in all the vehicle documents we had, our passport, and NIF number. Within half an hour, the vehicle was reinsured and the documents were being sent in the post. We even got breakdown cover included in the insurance. Easy!
One thing we did learn is that most people get third party insurance only. We were also told that they don’t provide comprehensive insurance for vehicles over 8 years old, or that it was very difficult to get.
We did eventually find a quote for fully comp and it was €800 more than the third party quote, no thank you!
Where did we begin with our car search?
Firstly, we worked out what we wanted. We knew it had to have four wheels and go forwards, but what else? Air con? Low mileage? Full service history? Colour?
We did some research on the Portuguese Auto Trader equivalent, called Stand Virtual.
We wanted to buy a car from a garage rather than Joe Bloggs on the corner as we didn’t want to end up buying a car that had any financial debts or any crazy problems with it.
We had read online many horror stories in Portugal about people who had bought cars that had outstanding financial debts and the best way to avoid this is to buy it from a reputable garage.
This is what the Stand Virtual website looks like:
We narrowed things down to a select list of cars that fit the bill. The car that really stood out to us was from a family run garage in Porto called Automóveis Fonte da Senhora.
We drove to Porto to see if the vehicle was right for us and got a feel for the dealership. We decided to sleep on the decision and then the next day we called the garage, settled on a great price, and they arranged to collect us from Porto Campanhã (Porto’s main railway station) to do the deal and drive the car back that day.
Before we committed to the purchase, we checked these things with the dealership:
- Were they any outstanding debts on the vehicle?
- Was the Inspecção Périodica Obrigatória (IPO) valid? This is the annual vehicle inspection.
- Was the Imposto Único de Circulação (IUC) paid? This is the road tax.
- Did the dealership offer warranty? Yes! 1-year warranty.
Why did we choose a Fiat Punto 2005?
Cars in Portugal are VERY expensive. Ridiculously expensive.
We only needed an affordable and reliable little car to go to the shops and back. The Fiat Punto fit the bill and she is inconspicuous. If we bought a much newer vehicle, we’d be paranoid about it getting dented or scratched.We have Wendy, our motorhome, for when we make our winter trip back to the UK and for if we go on long adventures.
What did we need to buy a car in Portugal?
- A Portuguese address (so they can send the registration docs to you)
- A Fiscal number (NIF) (this is essential to have if you want any assets in Portugal, so google how to get one if you don’t have one already)
- A valid form of ID, such as your passport or driving license
- A method of payment
How do MOTs work in Portugal?
Here they are called Inspecção Périodica Obrigatória (IPO). It’s an annual inspection for vehicles that are over 4 years old and it ensures your vehicle is roadworthy. Exactly like an MOT in the UK, they check the tyres, brakes, steering, suspension, etc.
The main difference to the UK, is that the IPO is carried out at a dedicated test centre. It’s a great experience because you drive your vehicle along a conveyor belt of different tests.
The IPO assistant will ask you to flash your lights, beep your horn, turn your wipers on, etc. All in Portuguese. So, if your Portuguese is minimal then I would strongly recommend doing some practice on both your charade skills and vehicle-related words beforehand!
I had never done an IPO before, but my Dad had. He took great pleasure in letting me be the driver and then getting out of the car and walking away, leaving me to the mercy of the Portuguese test centre assistants. Fortunately, my Portuguese isn’t too bad!
The IPO can be carried out up to 3 months before your IPO expiry date. It’ll take up to 30mins from arrival to driving away.
How does road tax work in Portugal?
Road tax is called Imposto Único de Circulação (IUC) here and it’s paid annually at your local finance office. I can’t recall exactly how much we paid, but I think it was around €35.The ICU can be paid up to 1 month in advance.
How do I get a Via Verde transponder?
A Via Verde transponder is a device you stick to your windshield and it allows you to drive through the green V lanes on motorways without stopping. You no longer have to stop at toll booths to collect a ticket and then stop again to pay! Yey!
So how does it work? Go to the Via Verde website, create an account, and then order your transponder. It’ll arrive in about a week at your address, then stick it to your windshield using the instructions they provide.
When ordering your transponder they have a bunch of different packages, such as pay as you go or just buying the transponder outright. We decided to buy the transponder outright as we couldn’t understand the benefits of the other options.The Via Verde transponder is linked to the account you create on their website and so payments are made automatically. Easy.
What do you legally need inside the vehicle before you drive it?
The Portuguese GNR love stopping vehicles to check whether you are carrying all the right things, and rightly so as there are plenty of people out there driving without insurance!
These are compulsory:
- Your driving license
- Your passport (if you are not a Portuguese national then you must carry your passport, not a photocopy)
- A breakdown triangle
- A spare set of bulbs
- A hi-vis jacket within easy reach (not in the boot!)
- Insurance documentation
The dealership we bought the Fiat from kindly ensured we had all of the above, and they even threw in a second hi-vis jacket just for good measure.
So that’s it! It was a very straight forward process and I think this was mainly because we did our research beforehand. We knew exactly what to expect and what documents to bring, so there were no hidden surprises.
If you have any questions please e-mail [email protected]. I’m very good at responding to my e-mails.
Last updated August 2019.