Acquiring and Registering a Motor Vehicle

There are two types of taxes regarding motor vehicles:   

Annual Vehicle Tax (Motorrijtuigenbelasting, MRB)

The amount of the Vehicle or Road Tax is based on weight and type of the vehicle and collected by the Tax Authority (Belastingdienst).   

Tax on Passenger Cars and Motorcycles (Belasting van Personenauto’s en Motorrijwielen, BPM)  

This once-only BPM-tax is due upon the first registration of a motor vehicle in the Netherlands and is based on CO2 emission. This tax makes owning a car in the Netherlands a costly undertaking. It is at least 20% more expensive than most other European countries.

Car key

Importing your own car

For imported vehicles, there is a cost-rising vehicle tax (BPM). However, the BPM and  import duties can be exempted under certain conditions. The following steps need to be addressed to get this exemption.    

  1. Vehicle tax declaration   

  2. Applying for temporary exemption for BPM   

  3. Registration for Dutch number plate   

  4. Arranging final exemption for BPM.    

1. Vehicle Tax Declaration

As of the official move to the Netherlands, i.e. the day of your registration in the Personal Records Database, you have to pay vehicle (or road) tax (Motorrijtuigenbelasting) for your motor vehicle.  Since your car is still registered outside the Netherlands, the Tax Authority requires you to fill in a corresponding form Motorijtuigenbelasting, Motorijtuig met buitenlands kenteken (Motor vehicle tax, motor vehicle with foreign number plate); unfortunately only in Dutch.   

2. Applying Temporary Exemption BPM

As a rule, any motor vehicle on the Dutch road (those with foreign registration included) is taxable for BPM. Together with the vehicle tax declaration, you have to arrange a temporary exemption for BPM. Coming from the EU you can apply for a temporary exemption yourself, if not you have to involve a moving company or a freight forwarder; only they can arrange that for you (Declaration with Customs).   

Whether BPM for your imported vehicle is eligible for exemption depends on a number of requirements. It is exempted only if:   

  • the car has been purchased at least 6 months before the date of your registration in the Personal Records Database.   

  • before your move, you have lived for at least 12 months outside the Netherlands   

For further details and the application form for BPM exemption see the Tax Authority’s website “Exemption for removal goods”. The form itself  – unfortunately – is only in Dutch.   

You are allowed to drive your car on Dutch roads if you have a copy of the Application for Exemption in the car. It acts as proof of fulfilling tax obligations.   

After a couple of days you will receive the Tax Authority’s decision (Beschikking) regarding the BPM exemption.   

Similar to  importing  any other good, cars from outside the EU often carry import duties. However, if you meet the BPM-exemption conditions, this will also entitle you to avoid import duties.     

3. Registration for Dutch license plates - When registering your vehicle at RDW, taking the following steps :

Registration of your vehicle at RWD and thus obtaining Dutch license plates is not compulsory.   If you keep your foreign registration (license plates), you will pay both the Dutch vehicle tax and the country of official registration. If your stay is less than 12 months, you might keep your foreign registration (number plate). Otherwise, it may be better to register your vehicle in the Netherlands.

4. Arranging final exemption for BPM

Within a period of 12 months after your registration in the Personal Records Database, you can arrange final exemption for BPM; with or without choosing for a Dutch number plate. Exceeding that period one has to pay BPM.    

The requirements are to be found under File a declaration for BPM. Although the declaration process leads to a calculated BPM-amount, that amount will not be charged, provided you have been granted a positive decision regarding BPM exemption.   

However, due to the numerous administrative steps to get your car financially and legally on the Dutch road, it is worth it to consider involving experts. They can also discuss the option of keeping your foreign registration. Relocation service companies could assist you.   

Buying a Car in the Netherlands

The process of buying a car in the Netherlands, essentially, is not different to other places. Official brand dealers, offer new and young used cars, whereas non-official dealers and private persons offer (only) 2nd hand cars.   

For incoming internationals one of the advantages of addressing car dealers lies in the fact that they take the administrative burden of registering and paying the (once-only) BPM. Would you nevertheless like to try the private used car market, then internet platforms like, Autoscout24.nl, Gaspedaal.nl, Marktplaats.nl (all in Dutch) are a good start.   

Note, that a little bit of bargaining in the market for used as well as new cars is rather common in this country.   

Purhcasing an imported car

Due to the (once-only) BMP, quite a number of Dutchmen import (new or used) cars from other European countries. 

The administrative procedure for “normal” imports  is more expanded than for importing in conjunction with relocation. Apart from the mandatory Dutch registration formalities, car import is confronted with a mixture of different taxes to be paid: certainly BPM, possibly VAT and/or import taxes. This depends on the origin of the car and its status.  

The costs can roughly be calculated in advance. Due to the complexity however, it is advisable to consult companies that offer import services and/or relocation companies.   

Car stereo

Car Sharing

Sharing a car rather than owning it gets increasingly  popular. The number of share options in Leiden is growing. For example:   

  • Greenweels (in English)  
  • My Wheels (partly in English, click Huur een auto, then scroll down to “Join the community”)  
  • Snappcar (in English)    
  • Vereniging voor Gedeeld Autogebruik , Association for Shared Car Use (in Dutch only).  

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