Life in the fast lane…

Somewhere on your international move to-do list is something that is very mundane while you’re at home: driving.

Those of us who commute every day — or at least drive for errands and trips – often do so on auto-pilot. We drive to familiar places without much thought. But what if you need a car in a new host country? Would you know what to ask and how to go about importing it?

Your vehicle: take it or leave it?
Consider these questions:

* Does your host country allow your vehicle’s model year? Some restrict used cars of a certain age.
What side of the road do they drive on? Is it compatible with your car? Modifications may be made, but is it worth it?
* Do you plan to keep your car beyond this assignment? Some countries ban or apply heavy fees when selling an imported vehicle, so you may need to take it with you when you leave.
* What are the import duties and taxes? Age, engine size, and time in your possession can all effect how your vehicle is assessed. In some countries, they are so high as to make import cost prohibitive.

Find the answers at your host country’s customs agency or transport authority. Shipping time and costs are other considerations.

Sometimes it makes more sense to buy or lease a car after arrival, or to forego one altogether and use a driver or mass transit.

What about licensing? 
Moving abroad with a valid home country license may be all you need to drive legally, at least for a little while. Newcomers typically may drive for a set period before a local license is necessary – for example, 30 or 90 days. Often the local license requirement is tied to residence, in which case if you are visiting for short-term business and not establishing a home, the local license requirement won’t apply.

Obtain a local license through the country, state, or provincial driving authority. Depending on reciprocity and other rules, you may be able simply to exchange your home license for a new one. Other locales require a medical exam, knowledge test, and/or road test. It is best to look into the process well before the grace period expires.

An International Driver’s Permit (IDP) – an official translation of your home license — is also required in many places and must be obtained before you go.

Staying insured
Each country – or state or province – has its own minimum levels of required auto insurance coverage. Proof of insurance usually must be presented in order to register a vehicle. Check with your current carrier about coverage abroad, but note some countries require that domestic companies provide the insurance. It’s best to research this before you go, so your coverage will be ready when you need it.

Many drivers carry far more than the minimum coverage. Premiums vary widely, depending on driving statistics for the country, among other factors.

Find your host location’s insurance requirements through the local motor vehicle authority. You may also find a government insurance department or consumer organization with explanations, tips, and comparison tools.

Cruising… on a Sunday afternoon
Once in your host country, familiarize yourself with road signs and rules of the road. Also be aware of safety issues that may be nonexistent at home. These can include other drivers, hazardous road and weather conditions, and obstacles like pedestrians and livestock.

Hopefully these tips will make your vehicle decisions a little easier. Whether you bring a car from home or end up relying on other modes of transportation, here’s to a smooth transition and mobility abroad.

Written by Ellen Harris, GMS –  Product Manager, Content Group, Living Abroad