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Importing a car into Portugal

I promised to write something about how to import a car from Spain, Germany etc into Portugal. I’ve done 3 now (2 from UK and one from Germany). Here’s what I found out. Apologies for writing in English, but the Reddit grammar correction bot would die of exhaustion if I try to do this in Portuguese.

You can of course hire a matriculation agent if you don’t want to do the process yourself. They seem to charge around €400 or so. But it’s more fun to do yourself.

The biggest cost in matriculating (switching to Portuguese plates) is the import tax. The price varies according to engine size, fuel type (gasolina or gasoleo), and CO2 emissions. A small car like a Smart or a Toyota IQ, with an engine size of 1 litre, will be around €110. For comparison, a 1,9 litre Skodia Octavia was €6.000.

If you are new to Portugal (eg you are moving here from another country), there’s good news. You are allowed to import 1 car into Portugal without paying import tax. However, you have to complete the process within 12 months of getting your 5 year residency. There are a few other rules as well, regarding how long you have owned the car for, how long you have to wait until you can sell it, etc. But if you know someone who’s moving to Portugal and they want to bring their car, make sure they know about this.

Anyway, here’s how to matriculate a car. Note that you have to begin the matriculation process within 20 working days of the car arriving in Portugal. The process will involve visiting a vehicle testing station, then IMT, then customs, then IMT again.

Apologies if some of this is very basic, like having a NIF, or irrelevant. I originally wrote this as advice for people from the UK.

  1. Make sure you have your NIF to hand, and your residency. You don’t need a Portuguese driving licence to matriculate a car.

  2. You need to be registered on the AT financas portal for paying Portuguese taxes too.

  3. If it’s a right hand drive car from the UK, you need to change the headlights.

  4. If you only have 1 rear fog light, it needs to be on the left (which probably means it needs to swap sides with the 1 reversing light that you also have). This means changing the rear light fittings and also swapping some wires over. You also need to ensure that the speedo is labelled in Km/hour. If this is in small print alongside the main miles/hour printing, that’s fine.

  5. Make sure you have a warning triangle and 2 hi-vis vests in the car. Yes, 2. Those Amazon listings which say that 1 vest is sufficient for Portugal are WRONG.

  6. Make sure you have the vehicle registration document. For a UK car, that’s a V5C.

  7. Get a Certificate of Conformity. This is essential and you won’t proceed without one. If you’re lucky, the car will have been supplied with one. If not, contact the manufacturer of the car. They all have processes for ordering a CoC online or by phone. If the car is foreign then the CoC may be in a language other than Portuguese, but this doesn’t seem to be a problem. One of mine was all in German but no one complained.

  8. Your car possibly has one or more plastic trays attached to the underside, to protect the engine. You need to remove these until after the inspection.

  9. Make sure that the car is generally sound. If it would pass an MOT test in the UK then you should be OK. If you’re in doubt, take it to your friendly local garage and ask them to check for any obvious faults that would prevent it from passing a Portuguese Type B inspection. While they’re at it, get them to remove the aforementioned trays to save you the trouble.

  10. Make sure the car is clean and tidy, inside and out. And underneath, including the underside of the engine if there’s been oil spills etc.

  11. Download a Modelo 9 form from the IMT website and start to fill in as much as you can. Your name and address, if nothing else. Only page 1 of the form seems to matter. Don’t bother with page 2, which has a diagram of a car and wants you to fill in various measurements.

  12. Go to a vehicle testing station and ask for a Type B test. It costs around €77 and they do it while you wait. You’ll need ID, and the V5C, and the Certificate of Conformity, and the Modelo 9 form (which they’ll add to, if you haven’t filled it all in). The test includes checking under the car, hence needing to remove the plastic trays. Note that not all testing stations offer a Type B test. It’s not the same as the standard annual IPO type A test that is widely available.

  13. Once you’ve passed the Type B test, you should get a green certificate and also a yellow sheet too. Keep them safe. The green certificate will also tell you when you need to take the car for its annual inspection (a type A test) from now on. Note that this date is based on the original registration date of the vehicle, rather than the date you passed the type B test. So it’s quite likely to be less than a year (in some cases, much less) from now.

  14. You can re-fit the plastic trays now.

  15. Now you can initiate the matriculation process, which means getting a homologation number. Go to IMT. Take the V5C, the CoC, and the partly-filled Modelo 9 form. It didn’t cost me anything to get this number, which they added to the Modelo 9 form in the appropriate place and it only took a few minutes. Take ID, and the green and yellow sheets that you got from the test centre, just in case. They didn’t ask me for these but you never know.

  16. Once you have a homologation number on your Modelo 9 form, go to the customs office (Alfandega). Take all the ongoing paperwork mentioned above, especially some ID, the CoC, the V5C, the Modelo 9 form, and the yellow sheet that you got when your car passed the inspection. Also take your financas portal login details, as they will need this. Explain that you want to pay the tax to matriculate a car. You will then have 10 days to pay the tax, or you can just pay it there while you wait. If you’re not going to be paying the tax then make sure you have the letter from the consulate.

I’m told that you can actually do all this online. But from what I’ve seen, it’s pretty complex. Easier to have someone else do it for you, so they get it all right.

  1. The customs office will issue you with a Declaracao Aduaneiria de Veiculo (DAV). If you’re lucky it’ll include the registration mark (matricula) for the number plates, although it probably won’t. Give it a day or 2, then log into your account on the financas portal and you should be able to download a revised document that includes this. When you log in, go to todos os servicos, click on the DAV page then, under the Consultas link on the top line, select Consultar DAV. Enter the DAV year/number from the DAV form you already have, click Pesquisar, and you should be able to download a newer one as a PDF file.

  2. You can now buy some insurance.

  3. Go to your nearest place that makes up number plates. Take the revised DAV form that shows the matricula, and get yourself some plates made up. Fix them to the car. I paid around €12.

  4. You might also want to order a Via Verde transponder for the motorways to save having to pay by cash and take tickets. You can do it online or at a post office. You need to know the registration, and also the last 5 characters of the VIN, which will be on the existing paperwork.

  5. You’re now legal to drive the car in Portugal.

  6. Within 60 days of having been to customs, take all the paperwork back to IMT to finish signing everything off. This seems to be the most paper-intensive step so take everything you have which relates to you (passport, residency certificate) and the car (green and yellow sheets from the inspection, V5C, CoC, 2 copies of the Modelo 9 form, all the paperwork that Customs gave you, and anything else you have). Note that IMT will retain the V5C, the CoC and the yellow inspection sheet at this point so make copies in advance if you want them. You’ll be asked to pay €45 at this point.

  7. Wait another 3-4 weeks after having paid the €45, then go to the IMT desk at your local Conservatória (or you could probably go to actual IMT). Take ID, and details of the car reg, and tell them that you want to order the certificado de matricula. It won’t cost anything. After a few days the certificate (often a plastic card nowadays) will arrive.

  8. The process is now complete. Despite what IMT tell you, and despite the date of registration of the car, your annual IUC car tax is due now. You probably won’t be able to pay it, because everyone insists that it’s not due yet. Including IMT. Even the financas portal won’t list it as being due. But it is. And you’ll receive a €25 fine after a few months for not having paid on time! Good luck in trying to fight this. I just admitted defeat and paid up every time.

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