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Exporting a Car to Europe


mfbanres
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Well, in my case, exporting a car to Belgium.  In a word, don't do it.  Unless you have something exceedingly rare, a classic, 'old-timer' as they are called here, leave the car in the US and buy something when you arrive in Europe.  You will save yourself a world of hurt.  Read on.

 

Everyone here now claims that we were warned not to bring a car to Belgium......had they actually done so, it would have saved a lot of headaches.  The car in question is not special, a 2010 Audi A4 Avant (station wagon) quattro, 2 liter, 6 speed automatic.

 

We started this painful experience in October 2016.  The $1000 charge for shipping from the East coast to Europe seemed reasonable.  Ah, but did you want insurance?  Another $300.  Then, when we delivered the car to the terminal in Newport News, we had to hire an escort to get in the terminal.  $60.  Then the terminal charged a fee.  $120.  We were not warned of the terminal charge in advance.  One month later the car arrives in Zeebrugge, only 6 miles from our town, Brugge.  But it arrives on November 1 which is a holiday, and the earliest we can retrieve it is the 3rd, and we are given notice that we have to pay the 300 euro terminal fee to the shipper before we can get the car.  We were not warned of this.  OK, so then we reattach our license plates.  The shipper says, correctly, that we can drive legally for 6 months on foreign registration.  We are also warned many times that someone will steal our license plates because it says "Virginia is For Lovers" like all standard Virginia license plates.  Struck by the irony, I keep asking what alternative I have.  We park the car on the street and each day I have to ask why the neighborhood hoodlums have not stolen the license plates. You just can't count on anyone these days.   I want the little darlings to steal them so that friends and family can stop carping about it. 

 

When we arrived in Belgium the long term visas issued by the Belgian Embassy in Washington instruct us to register with our locality upon arrival, which we do.  A problem ensues.  The embassy issued the wrong type of visa.  Not only that, the wife is still listed as a Belgian national, which she is not.  We cannot register the car in Belgium until we are granted residency and issued identity cards.  Skipping all those nasty details, which included a return trip to the US for documentation, I am granted residency in December, but my wife is not.  Nevertheless, I can finally start the process to register the car.  I have already been stopped twice my police who tell me that the car is not legal.  Fortunately, we had obtained car insurance in Belgium, so the car was not impounded.  We locked it away in a garage, and travel by bike, bus, train, and foot.  A quick sidenote, you get your car and home insurance through your bank in Belgium.  And comprehensive car insurance is not available for a car over 5 years old.  Well, it is, but is costs a prohibitive amount and no one with an older car buys comprehensive.

 

So, we visit government offices to register the car and find out we are starting from the wrong end of process.  Let me say there are websites, official and unofficial, that discuss importing a car to Belgium, but none of these are complete, and most are outdated.  We first have to contact the shipper who will issue a customs clearance form.  The shipper needs the title, purchase order, insurance card, and then says my identity card is not valid so he cannot issue a customs clearance form.  I check with the city and discover my identity card is valid, it just has to be renewed each year for five years.  The shipper finally agrees and issues the custom clearance form AFTER we pay 2400 euros customs fee and 4800 euros taxes.  What choice did we have?  The car is in Europe, can't be driven and and can't be sold.  We were not warned.

 

With the customs clearance form in hand, I can finally take the car to the autokeuring for a compliance inspection.  The earliest the autokeuring can see us is in three weeks at 7:30 am.  It is the coldest bloodiest morning in February.  Two hours and 125 euros later and we get a pink form that says the car does not pass compliance.  The orange marker lights in the front are not allowed.  And get this, the autokeuring needs to know the engine power in kilowatts (155), top speed (209 km/h), and CO2 emission (175g/km).  I get this information from the Audi garage and pass it on the autokeuring.  Not good enough......the guy at the autokeuring failed to mention that the specifications have to be FROM Audi on their letterhead.  Because this was a US model first sold in the US, I contacted Audi USA.  They had no idea what I was asking for and kept referring me to the EPA.  That was useless.  Finally, on our last desperate visit to the autokeuring, the little man showed us a sample of the required memo from Audi that someone else provided for his import from Spain.  He could have saved us five weeks and shown us the sample in February, but we finally have the needed contact information for the office in Ingolstadt, Germany.  In a week I have the needed memo from Audi.

 

The Audi garage figured out a way to remove the lights from the orange markers and defeat the computer so that we are not constantly warned of a bulb out.  125 euros.  We submit the memo from Audi to the autokeuring man.  12 euros.  FINALLY, the car is in compliance, we are issued a green form, and the report was sent to some black hole in Brussels for approval.  That was three weeks ago.  When the approval arrives, we can take the form to the bank who will obtain the registration plates.  I can't wait.

 

I'm sure in a few months the pain will go away.  Meanwhile, a word to the wise, and never, ever consider shipping a car to Europe.  You are warned.

 

Cheers!

 

Michael

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I forgot; when Brussels got the compliance report that was another 185 euros before they would begin whatever it is they do.

 

Too right Jim, there are plenty of Audis running around here.  There are lots of nice station wagons from M-B, Citreon, Volvo, Opel, Alfa Romero, BMW, Peugeot; etc;  We could have, should have, bought something here;  Those Alfas are very cool;

At any rate, no regrets about moving to Belgium;;;;the lifestyle and culture are great, the beer, bread, and cheese are to die for, environment, clean energy; and organic foods are national priorities; the healthcare is world class, and the streets are very safe;

Tell you what, I will post pics when the number plates arrive, should we live that long.

 

cheers,

Michael

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Edited by mfbanres
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  • 4 weeks later...

Well, it is time for an update to this bureaucratic tangle.  Monday morning we receive a call from the autokeuring (7:30 am, but we are early risers) that additional documentation is required:  proof that the car was part of our "household" in the US.  Unsure what that means, we call back, and another person describes other documentation, so we call back again.  This time we are told that we have to prove we owned the car in the US, insured and paid taxes, and the documents have to have the VIN number.  Geesh, if they need this now, didn't they know they needed it 6 weeks ago?  So we hop on the bus yesterday and deliver last year's personal property tax invoice, and last year's insurance invoice.  Svan, the little man, says this is not the correct form, but it looks like good evidence, so he submitted it.  When we ask what is the correct form, he says that he has never been provided one, and that no one is authorized to approve the form anyway.  He also admits, and here is the REAL reason, that the powers in Brussels are giving cars from the US EXTRA scrutiny, but he does not know why.  Well, we sort of knew that, didn't we?  At any rate, he says we will have an answer in two weeks.

 

I had a Westmalle Trippel trappist beer for lunch.

 

Stay tuned!

 

MFB

Edited by mfbanres
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  • 1 month later...

Final chapter:  four weeks ago Svan from the autokeuring calls and said he has word that we will get approval, with a condition....the condition being that we cannot resell the car in Belgium.  At this point, we are beyond caring.  We realize we are being deprived of property rights without due process, but to whom do we complain?  After another week, Svan has our approval, stamped, and sealed, and we have to make another trip to the autokeuring (by bus).  We pick up the approval and head back to the train station to get the train to Oostende, 10 miles away, because that is where the DIV (read:  DMV) is, to apply for the numberplate and registration.  Svan said once we get the numberplate we have to return to the autokeuring for the annual "technical" inspection.  By shit luck, it was one of the two mornings the DIV was open (that's it for the whole week....no afternoon hours at all) and there was only one person in the lobby.  We waited over an hour on each of the previous visits.

 

DIV did not like our application because it was unusual, but they process it and say the numberplate will arrive in the mail in a few days, and we have to pay the postman 30 euros.  (They also want to know whether I was really born in Las Vegas as my identity card says.)  Three weeks go by.  Finally Wednesday morning, the doorbell rings and the postman has the numberplate.  You get only one copy in metal, and that is the official numberplate for the rear of the car.  In another interesting twist, you take your registration or numberplate to the local DIY store and they make the copy for the front of the car.  I also went to the stadhuis (city hall) to register the car so that I can park on the street in our section of town, St. Andries, without getting a ticket.  Yesterday we took the car to autokeuring, again, for the technical inspection.  For 30 minutes they torture the tires, suspension, and brakes.  You have to see this to believe it, and it has be done every year.  Relieved of another 38 euros, the car is finally legal.  As we walked out, waiting in line for inspection was a pretty nice 190SL, but more impressive was the pristine Aston-Martin DB5 with right hand drive.  Did I have my camera?  Of course not, but it was gorgeous.  I think the DB5 in that condition is trading in the 7 figure range these days.

 

Today we took the car to the Carrefour and stocked up on beer and wine!

 

When it comes time to sell the car, we will take it to Holland or Germany.  Belgium is the same size as Maryland, so it is as though we take it to Virginia, or Pennsylvania to sell it.  Svan mentioned that we are the next to last car allowed from the US; he is processing a Porsche as the last one.  My problem is, what if some poor schlub, like me, is putting a car on a boat from the US to Zeebrugge right now?  Who will warn him/her and how could one possibly find out?  We had no official warning, US Customs was happy to help, the importer did not say anything, the shipping company said nothing, the Doane (Belgium Customs) said nothing.......someone else could get a nasty shock.  I will write to US ambassador, but he really has no responsibility to warn.

 

So please come to Belgium to visit.  The Belgians really have things figured out:  life here is superb.  Even the locals admit, "we don't know have good we have it."

 

Just don't import a car

 

Cheers,

Michael

 

Michael

 

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Edited by mfbanres
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As a Belgian, I do apologize for our bureaucratic system! ;)

 

Like you said, we do have it good here, but government dealings tend to get (very) tedious after a while.

Especially when it comes to cars, the amount of limitations on what you can change to your car is insane. Basically your not allowed to do any serious modifications, just a heads-up!

 

 

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On 6/28/2017 at 1:33 PM, Stickerbomb said:

As a Belgian, I do apologize for our bureaucratic system! ;)

 

Like you said, we do have it good here, but government dealings tend to get (very) tedious after a while.

Especially when it comes to cars, the amount of limitations on what you can change to your car is insane. Basically your not allowed to do any serious modifications, just a heads-up!

 

 

It is unlikely we will modify anything, however I do appreciate the warning.

 

On a positive note; the old car hobby seems to alive and well.  I spot many classic cars and old-timers on the weekends.

 

Cheers,

 

Michael

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  • 3 years later...

Hello all,

 

Well, the final chapter of the exported-imported Audi has been written.  We sold the car in December (not in Belgium because that would have been illegal) and took delivery on a new BMW 118i we ordered in August 2019.

 

We are quite pleased with the new BMW.  I do not believe this model is available in the US.  It is a 5 door, 3 cylinder, 1.5 liter, 148 hp, 7 speed with front wheel drive (yes, that is what I said).  At the equivalent of 48 mpg, it is also economical as regular fuel is around $6 per gallon.  We ordered all the bells and whistles we could.  After almost 4 years we realized that a smaller car is more practical here in Belgium.  The parking spaces are smaller, the streets are narrow, and the garages are smaller.  Belgium has an annual road tax based on engine size and horsepower.  The Audi with 211 hp had an annual road tax of  450 euros, or about $550.  The new BMW is half of that.  We are pleased with the new BMW even though travel options are quite limited at the moment.  This too, shall pass.

 

Stay safe,

MFB

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  • 1 month later...

Being a '74 Touring Owner, when BMW came out with the 1 series a few years ago (pic below), I thought, BMW have finally replaced the '71-'74 Touring in essence. Pity they didn't try & sell it over here. The one with the 3.5ltr motor (135i ?), now that would have been something.

Spent many times in Belgium......miss it.

 

1 Series a.jpg

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  • 1 month later...

FYI this would have been the same or worse in France. If you'd simply been told you need to pay the taxes on arrival you could have chosen to save yourself a lot of hassle (EU cars are subject to 20% tax, so if the car was originally old in the States then this duty still needs to be paid to have it here). It's even a pain in the arse buying cars in other European countries and bringing them here - I'm still trying to get an e23 735i from Portugal registered.

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