When you finally take the decision to move abroad, either for work or because you just want to live in the sun and enjoy a different lifestyle, the first things that cross your mind are property, moving, meeting new people and, if necessary, finding a job.
You might not think about your car until shortly before you pack up and go. But you need to sort out what you’ll do with it well in advance, because either you need to sell it, or be sure it’s suitable for life in a new country.
Even if you’re moving to France, a short hop across the English Channel, either on a ferry on top of it or with the car on the Eurotunnel underneath it, there’s a lot to consider about the merits or otherwise of taking your trusty motor with you.
In this article, we’ll look at the things that will force a decision one way or another, as well as some items you may not have considered that could influence your choice before living abroad.
Do you own your car?
Now, we’re not suggesting you’ve pinched it, but perhaps you have it on a personal lease deal or some similar finance package? If so, it’s likely that there’s a clause restricting you from moving abroad with the vehicle.
In the case of lease cars, for example, these are often tied in with dealership service schedules. Clearly, you can’t drive back to the UK to visit the dealer for a check-up.
If you have financed your car privately, it’s unlikely to matter if you take it abroad. Check with your finance company for peace of mind.
Is your car in good condition?
If you do own your car outright, perhaps it’s got a few years under the bonnet (this is a polite way of saying it might be an old banger). You need to ask yourself if it’s up to a new life abroad, for two reasons:
- Can you trust it to get you to France, Spain or Portugal, or wherever it is you are moving to? Imagine the stress of spluttering to a halt on the French motorways and breaking down with half your life belongings piled in the back? Even if it gets you there, how certain will you be about its performance in the coming months and years? You won’t know the local mechanics, and there may not be a dealership for your make of car for miles around.
- All countries have different rules about things like emissions and other compulsory safety features on vehicles. Will your car need to be modified at all? And if so, is that expense worth it?
If you have a relatively new car in good condition, which you own outright, it might make sense to take it with you because transport will be one less thing to worry about when you finally move.
Consider the inconvenience of a right-hand drive car
As you know, every foreign country drives on the wrong side of the road. This has unexpected problems if you’re driving abroad in a right-hand drive car. The first time you’ll likely come across this issue, other than the initial weirdness of it, is when you pull out to overtake – and you can’t see what’s coming.
Secondly, when you pull up at one of the many toll booths on the main French roads, you’re on the wrong side and generally must get out of the car and walk around to the booth to pay the money. This is a problem repeated if you try and use a drive-thru restaurant.
These things may be something of a novelty if you’re driving abroad in your car on holiday, but they’d soon become an annoyance if you’re moving abroad permanently.
Getting a left-hand drive local car obviously gets around these issues, plus you’ll get to purchase it from a garage close to your home, where you can forge a relationship for servicing, repairs and the like.
Sort out your car insurance
Whether you decide to buy or sell your beloved car, you must sort out the car insurance.
- Remember to cancel your insurance if you sell the car in the UK. Ask about your no claims bonus and see if there’s anything you can do to protect it because if you move back home in a few years, you don’t want to start from scratch.
- If you’re keeping your car but placing it in storage, you’d still be wise to insure it, just in case the garage went up in smoke. Also, if it’s going to be off the road for a prolonged period, put it on a SORN, so you don’t have to pay vehicle tax on it.
- Naturally, if you’re buying a local car once you’re living abroad, you’ll need to arrange insurance locally. It may be your current UK insurer has a sister company abroad, in which case you may be able to transfer your no claims.
Local driving rules and taxes
No matter what you eventually decide to do, buy abroad or take your own car with you, you must investigate what the local taxes and laws stipulate.
Have you looked at what the mainland Europe equivalents are for your annual vehicle tax? Is it something you can pay monthly or do you need to pay each year as a lump sum?
And what about the local versions of the MOT certificate? This will vary from country to country, and not all places waive this test for cars aged three years and under as the UK does.
Leave yourself time to put your plan in place
If you’ve taken the life-changing decision that you’re moving abroad to live, then working out what you plan to do with your car in plenty of time is another way of reducing the worry when moving day comes.