Before you can buy a car you’ll need to be “residente” in Italy. My proof of residency was an Identity Card but I guess you could use your Driving License as long as it has your Italian address on. You’ll also need a “codice fiscale” which is basically a social security ID number. It’s very easy to get that – just go to your local Agenzia delle Entrata with your passport.
Below I shall share my experience of purchasing a car (as of September 2015)…
Where to get your car
- You can buy cars from “concessionari” or buy privately. Most concessionari are for specific makes of cars and mainly sell new cars. However if you go to a Fiat showroom for instance, they might have other makes of car that they’ve taken in part-exchange so it’s worth trying all the showrooms to see what they have available. Very, very rarely (in Le Marche at least) there will be a concessionaria that sells just used cars where there is more choice. To find out where these are, talk to the locals because there is often no information on the internet! If you do a search for a concessionaria online, phone them before you go to check they actually sell cars, because they very well might just sell jeeps, or buses <sigh>.
- Officina’s (garage’s) and Gommista’s (tyre dealers) also sell cars sometimes so it’s worth trying there.
- As with all things in Italy, I find it’s advisable to go somewhere and to someone that has been recommended. Naturally all businesses want to make money and in my experience if they think they can sell you a car with a broken clutch and brake light, they will (I’m sure this is the case everywhere in the world though)! If you go somewhere without personal recommendation, be incredibly switched on!
- You might think that it’s worth buying a used car from a concessionaria because they’ll give a guarantee but look at the small print; the guarantees that I were shown covered virtually nothing at all so don’t rule out private on that basis.
- There are two useful websites worth looking at: http://www.autoscuola24.it and http://www.subito.it both of which advertise private sales. Sometimes the concessionari advertise their cars there too and often this is the only way of knowing that they exist.
- Used cars are very expensive in Italy in comparison to the UK. However, cars come with a variety of types of fuel which takes the edge off a tiny bit! There’s benzina (petrol), diesel (er, diesel), GPL (liquid petroleum gas) and metano (methane). Methane is amazing value, much, much better than the price of petrol. You’ll spend £10 to go the same distance that £50 petrol will take you. However, because of this, methane cars are sought after and expensive. On the plus side, they also keep their value – after 10 years, they’re still well over half the price a brand new car would cost. If you buy a methane car, you need to get the “Bombola” (metal methane holding contraption) changed/checked every 4 years.
- ‘Clocking’ the kilometers on the car is absolutely rife here. There is apparently a way of checking whether someone has fiddled with the Km’s but it’s only the concessionari that seem to be able to do this check so make friends with someone there!
Insuring your car
- Before you can get in your new car and drive it away, it needs to be insured. If this is your first attempt at insuring your car in Italy, it’s worth speaking to friends and neighbours to see if they can suggest an “assicuratore”, an insurance man. My insurance man was recommended. He’s very nice, comes to my house with croissants and buys me phone credit. It’s useful to have an insurance man (rather than go online) because they can help to get your No Claims Bonus transferred from your home country over here. There are 14 insurance categories – if you’re in category 14 you’re probably a 17yr old boy racer with a Ferrari and if you are in category 1, you’re a middle aged careful driving soul with lots of years of incident free experience! Your goal is obviously to get as close to category 1 as possible!
- After the first year I expect it could be done cheaper online. From my perspective, I’d be down on croissants and have to buy my own phone credit, so I’ll review that next year!
- You can get an optional “scatola nera” or a black box fitted to your car. This is a ‘big brother’ style implement to check whether you’re a good driver doing the number of miles you said you would (you have to predict your annual mileage for the insurance). If you have an accident, they check your black box. No-one likes to be snooped on, it really doesn’t sound like an attractive option but you do get cheaper insurance (the first year at least if you have one fitted). If it turns out you drive like a maniac, your insurance will be more expensive the following year (unsurprisingly the Italian’s are very anti the black box!). You can fit the box yourself or go to the mechanic. I went to the mechanic as there seemed to be some drilling involved and I wouldn’t put it past me to drill into the petrol tank. My lovely mechanic did it for 5 euros.
Paying for your car
- If you’re doing this legitimately, you can’t pay with cash (there’s a 900 euro maximum). It needs to be done with a “bonifico” or bank transfer which can take up to a couple of days to process or you can pay with an “assegno circolare” or bank draft. After an awful lot of research about whether bank drafts were like the UK bank drafts which are pretty much guaranteed, I went down that route to pay for my car. I felt this was less risky than transferring money directly a couple of days before and possibly not ending up with a car. To obtain a bank draft you just go to the bank and give them the name of the person and the amount of money it’s for. Then just hand it over to the seller to get your car.
Registering your car
- You need to get the car registered in your name – “il passaggio”. In fact, make sure you include this within your budget because it’s not an insignificant cost (mine was around 350 Euros but it depends on the car’s horse power or KW). Some car dealers will tell you that the car is “passaggio compresa”, which includes the registration costs. Registration is not as simple as sending off a form like in the UK. You need to go to an agency in person, and although there is a choice they all seemingly charge different rates. The cheapest place to go to seems to be ACI, the Automobile Club d’Italia. Here, there is a never-ending queue to register your car (at least when I went). You’ll need to bring your ID, the “libretto” which is the car ownership record and, as with all things in Italy, your codice fiscale (your social security ID code). Both you and the previous owner need to be present as far as I can tell because it requires you both to sign a million different documents.
Maintaining your car
- You’ll need to get your “revisione” (MOT if you’re English – this is just a regular car check up) done every 2 years (unless it’s a new car and then you don’t need one for the first 4 years.
- You’ll need to get your “bombola” checked, if you’ve got a methane car, every 4 years.
- You need to make sure that you’re taxed. I say “make sure” but in my experience the Italians don’t seem very bothered about tax. (In the UK until very recently we had to prove we’d paid our tax by putting a tax disc as evidence of payment in the window. Here though, you put evidence that you’re insured in the window).
Things to remember with your new Italian Car
- You are always right! That is, you should always drive on the right. After years of driving my English car here, for some reason I found it very difficult to adjust to finally being on the “correct” side of the car.
- Your Italian car will not have miles per hour on it like English cars do, just kilometers per hour. Kilometers mean nothing to me! Thankfully my new car beeps at me when I’m going too fast.