Buying a car in Portugal: personal experience and practical recommendations WithPortugal
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Buying a car in Portugal: personal experience and practical recommendations

Hello, today I want to share with you the experience of buying a used car in Portugal and warn you about some of the pitfalls.

You can start searching for a car by looking at ads for sale on websites such as, or on the Facebook social network. In addition, you can walk around the neighborhood and see a few cars with the owner’s phone number on the windshield or rear window, drive along major highways and there are car sales stands there, or ask neighbors and friends.


After you have decided on the product, you should meet with the seller to check and 'test drive' the car. At the same time, I highly recommend inviting a proven mechanic or a person who understands this issue and will be able to assess the condition of the machine objectively. Then, if any defects do not scare you or you can easily eliminate them, you can safely bargain. The Portuguese, as a rule, are willing to make concessions if they want to sell the car. For example, even if the battery in the car key ran out (it costs 1.5 euros in any phone repair or key production store) and the owner had no time or was too lazy to change it, that can save you up to 50 euros when completing a deal.

To formalize the paperwork and transfer ownership with the owner, you need to come to the Loja de cidadão (Citizens' Reception Center), or the Conservatória do Registo Civil, or any other Instituto dos Registos do Notariado (registration and notary office).

You will be asked to provide your ID, NIF (Portuguese tax number), and address. In addition, the owner must have a vehicle registration certificate (Certificado de Matrícula) and an identity card with it. This procedure costs 65 euros and takes about 15-20 minutes if the queues are absent. You will have an old registration certificate in your hands with a mark on the expiration of its validity period (usually one month from the date of transfer of ownership). Within the next two to three weeks, you will receive a new registration certificate in the mail with your name as the owner and the official address of your residence in Portugal.

As you can see, a sales contract is not drawn up, and payment is made in a convenient way for both parties. The calculation is most often carried out in cash after the re-registration of the right of ownership and the registration certificate transfer to the car's new owner. In other words, the buyer, holding the registration certificate in his hands, gives the amount agreed in advance to the previous owner, and he, in turn, gives the key to the car. I want to remind you that cash payments over 3,000 euros (for residents) are prohibited in Portugal. You can read the text of the law and the penalties for violating it here. An alternative method of payment can be a bank transfer.

Do not forget to pay attention to the date of the technical inspection: if it is not passed and the deadline is less than a month, discuss this issue with the owner and carefully study the conclusion issued during the last inspection (Inspeção técnica periódica).


Immediately after buying a car, you should take care of the insurance policy for the car because when the owner changes, the previous insurance terminates its validity. If you sell a car and the insurance has not yet ended, you are entitled to a refund for the unused period.

For used cars, as a rule, insurance packages cover the risks of civil liability for causing harm to life, health, or property of third parties and assistance in case of malfunctions while driving and evacuation. I want to note that most insurance companies issue insurance only if you have a driver's license issued in Portugal. But it is still possible to find a company that accepts a foreign driver's license.

Of course, the insurance premium amount depends on your insurance history in the country. A client with a 3-5 year positive insurance history for the same package pays almost two times less than a beginner. As a rule, an insurance policy is bought for a year with the possibility of paying a one-time sum for the entire period or in installments (every six months). If desired, the policy can be canceled during its validity period, but the amount paid will not be returned (except in the case described above and some others). Without a valid technical inspection, you will not be able to purchase an insurance policy.

Sooner or later, you will have to pass inspection. Then, authorized stations carry it out. In my case, it was Controlauto which has offices throughout the country.

First, payment is made (31.5 euros), and the data is entered into the computer. You must have a previous inspection form and documents for the car. The presence of the car owner is not necessary. The date and time of the technical inspection can be set by phone or just come to the station and go through the queue. The whole process takes about 20-30 minutes.


During the inspection, the following aspects are checked:

  • Correspondence of the chassis number on the body and in the documents;
  • The size of the wheels with the indicated dimensions in the documents, deterioration, matching the pattern of the wheels along the axes. (From personal experience: the discrepancy between the actual size shown in the papers is not a criterion for not passing the inspection. If you wish, you can always change the registration certificate by filling out an online application on the IMT website (Instituto da mobilidade dos transportes). The price of this procedure is 30 euros.);
  • The presence of a vest with reflective stripes and a warning triangle;
  • Headlight conditions for transparency, tilt angles, low beam, high beam, rear fog lamps, reversing lamps, and direction indicators;
  • CO2 emission level;
  • Seat belts;
  • Shock absorbers (at different vibration frequencies) and brakes (front, rear, and hand brakes);

A particular form is filled out during the inspection, and after its fulfillment, the station employee gives you a green or red form. A green form means that the inspection has been passed. It may indicate malfunctions that do not prevent the use of the car (their elimination is checked at the next scheduled inspection). If malfunctions in the vehicle threaten the safety of driving and traffic on the road, then a red form is issued. A period of one month is given for troubleshooting. A second inspection costs 7.9 euros, and in case of an unsuccessful pass for the second time, the owner has another 7 days to resolve all technical issues.

Be sure to check with the seller if the car tax (Imposto único de circulação) has been paid and ask for proof of payment. After re-registration of the car in your name, you can find this information in your online account on the portal tax service. Tax payment (performed once a year) must be made before the end of the month of the vehicle's first registration (this information is on the registration plate of the car). Learning the details of this payment, you can quickly pay it through an ATM or your bank's mobile application. The tax amount depends on the year, fuel type, and engine size. A simulator for calculating this tax can be found here.


Now a little about a particular case.

During the technical inspection of my car, it turned out that the sticker with the VIN on the front pillar was slightly scratched, and not all letters were clearly visible. Therefore, it was necessary to appear at the IMT (Instituto da mobilidade dos transportes) within 30 days to receive a referral to the car brand dealer to replace the sticker for passing the inspection successfully. During the collection of information from numerous dealer offices located in different regions of Portugal, it became clear that this procedure could take 2-3 months. IMT was asked to fill out a request form to amend the registration certificate, limited the validity of the registration certificate to three months, and charged a fee of 50 euros. At the same time, they said that they would send an official letter to the dealer by mail. Further steps could not be taken without it. After three weeks of unsuccessfully waiting for this letter, I began calling various brand representative offices and finding out their requirements for the replacement procedure and the price for this service. The nearest office demanded the letter as mentioned above from IMT, the dates for visiting their office were booked a month in advance, and the price was 229 euros, and when talking again with another employee of this office, it went up to 340 euros. Moreover, this employee claimed that this is a standard price list that applies to all dealer offices throughout the country. In the rest of the dealer's offices in the country, no documents from IMT were required, the reception was carried out on a first-come, first-served basis, and the price was at the level of 110-130 euros.


As a result, the sticker was replaced within 3 weeks from the date of contacting the dealer with minimal financial losses and a visit to one of the cities in our wonderful Algarve region.

Learn from the experience of others and carefully check the information, even if it comes from official sources, and look for more straightforward and painless ways. In Portugal, this works in most situations.