Ready to roll?

Depending on where you live, summer may be a time when you’re in your car a lot. Vacations, weekend trips, and just longer days encourage people to get out and do something. For many, that involves more driving.

But what if you’re moving abroad?  Have you thought about what the implications are for your wheels?

Here are a few things to consider:

Take it or leave it?

Several factors contribute to your decision whether to take your vehicle abroad. First of all, will you need it? If you’re moving to a compact city center with limited parking and great public transportation, a car may be a liability. On the other hand, if you’ve got a family and your children need shuttling around or you relish weekend trips to the country, a car could be a necessity. Between those two scenarios is a sliding scale of personal circumstances and country environment to weigh.

Also, what will it take to get it there? Some countries’ import taxes and duties levied on particular makes and models make them prohibitively expensive to ship. Or perhaps in your host country they drive on the other side of the road, and retrofitting your car is expensive or impractical. In these cases, doing without or acquiring a vehicle after arrival may be the answer.

If you take it

If you do bring your car abroad, the first order of business is to find a reliable shipper. A good shipper will help you assemble the proper paperwork and documentation, which may include duplicate copies of your passport and vehicle title.

Once the physical shipment is settled, find out the rules of the road in your host country.  Beyond which side the steering wheel is on, you need to know what’s required of drivers. In several countries, for example, reflective vests and warning triangles must be carried in all vehicles, in case of a breakdown or accident.  For details on road rules in European countries from Europa, click here.  Europa also offers a GoingAbroad app to help drivers navigate around the different countries.

Will your driver’s license be accepted, and for how long? Many countries have grace periods during which a foreigner may drive with a valid home country license. Often, the International Driver’s Permit (IDP) is recommended or required to accompany the foreign license; it provides official translation. The IDP is obtained in your home country prior to travel. For a list of countries recognizing the IDP, click here.

Insurance is another important issue to understand. What are the minimum requirements in your host country, and should you consider higher coverage? Will your home-country carrier cover you abroad? If not, what reputable companies operate in your host country? Some countries require that drivers carry local insurance. One resource to help you find insurance abroad is Clements Worldwide .

You may also encounter vignettes or other road tolls and taxes. Paid via decal or electronic device, these tolls are typically required for vehicles up to 3.5 tons using expressways or other federal roads. Drivers without them – detected either by police or license plate readers – are fined.

General road conditions and parking availability in the areas you’ll be frequenting are other critical considerations. Do some roads close in winter due to treacherous travel? Will you need a special permit to park near your office? Finding this out ahead of time can make your early days smoother.

If you leave it

Leaving a vehicle behind brings up its own issues. Will you sell it or store it? Is it safe to leave it at a house that is rented in your absence?

Of course, any payments must be kept up, either manually from abroad or with automatic transactions. And while you may be tempted to suspend insurance on a car that is garaged, note that vehicle registration often is contingent on insurance coverage. Therefore, cancelling your insurance makes the registration invalid. Also, the lien holder (if your car is financed) may require some level of continued insurance coverage even if the vehicle is not driven.

Talk to your insurance company. They may offer a “storage discount”, at a hefty savings, keeping your car insured but allowing for the fact that is it off the road for a period of time.

With advance planning and knowledge of your destination, your overseas driving experience can be as smooth as a summer road trip.

By Ellen Harris – International Product Director, Living Abroad