Part of the joys of expat life in Croatia is the bureaucracy. All you need to know about importing a car from abroad: a little patience is required…

It remains my biggest bureaucratic triumph of my 16 years in Croatia. Left to my own devices by my very patient Croatian wife and armed only with a huge hangover, I went to do battle with Croatian customs to import a car I had bought in Germany a month earlier.

The idea of technical inspections and going from office to office meant that I had delayed the inevitable torture until the very last minute. But I triumphed in the end. And I emerged about 4 hours later with a legally imported vehicle. You can read how I did it way back in 2014.

That was then. I have had hundreds of emails since that article. It seems more people than ever are looking to import cars into Croatia. Here is what you need to know.

Life in Croatia: Where to look to buy a car abroad

First things first – buying a car in Croatia is expensive. Like many things in the country, you will get a lot more for your euro if you buy abroad.

While most of the people searching for this article will be foreigners who want to bring a car to Croatia, the reality is that locals own the majority of foreign cars in Croatia.

I know of several people, for example, who make their living through regular trips to Germany buying cars for friends and contacts. With 1-2,000 euro profit per trip, it makes for a very relaxed life.

Ah, life in Croatia…

Here are a couple of resources if you are looking to buy a car abroad, living in Croatia.

What happens when you bring the car to Croatia?

After you buy the car, you will have temporary plates on your new purchase, which will include insurance. You then have one month after you enter to Croatia to import the vehicle.

These plates will remain until the technical inspection. You should have in our possession either a sales invoice (if you bought from a business) or a sales contract if you bought from a private person. You should also make sure you have the registration licence document (prometna dozvola in Croatian), which will outline the vehicle’s technical characteristics.

The COC (certificate of conformity) document, or manufacturer’s certificate – this comes from the manufacturer – or in Croatia from the authorised representative.

Documentation and homologisation

If the certificate comes from the authorised representative in Croatia, a fee is due here.

After all the documents are in place, the vehicle enters the homologisation procedure, which is done at a technical inspection station. The price for the homologisation certificate is around 600 kuna.

This happens at the Centar for Vozila Hrvatske and the Hrvatski Autoklub, at one of 57 certified technical inspection stations.

Importing a car to Croatia – tax payments

The tax is determined by the Customs Administration, according to the value of the vehicle and the CO2 emission levels. The value of used vehicles is determined from the official catalogue or by estimate, while the value of new cars is determined from the invoice.

You must take the car to the customs office. Although no tariffs are paid on cars imported from the European Union, there is a special tax.

The customs office will inspect your documents as well as the car.

The Customs Administration unofficial tax calculator.

Here is the other unofficial tax calculator. The calculation formula will be changed in January 2019 and this calculator says it already includes the changes.

The administrative tax you can calculate here.

How to report and pay the tax?

At a customs office, by filling in a paper application form.

Through an online application, by filling in the e-application.

Insurance and registration

The final step before registering your car is to obtain car insurance. The car will have to pass the technical inspection, and you will need to pay for the new car licence document and licence plates to be issued.

This all happens at the technical inspection station. You need to bring with you all the documents which you have from the seller, as well as documents obtained in Croatia. At the end of the process, you will receive new licence plates.

What you need to pay in the process

  1. special tax
    depends on the value of the car and the CO2 emissions.
  2. car ownership transfer tax (5%)
    pay this only if you do not have an invoice with VAT specified, i.e. if you bought the car from a physical person.
    if you bought the car from a company which issued you an invoice with specified VAT, you do not pay this tax.
  3. homologisation
  4. disposal fee around 1000 kuna
  5. registration costs (technical inspection, insurance, new car licence documents, new licence plates, and other costs) – the same as if you bought the car in Croatia

Starting a new life in Croatia with a foreign car?

Cars registered abroad owned by foreigners with temporary residence in Croatia or a Croatian citizen who has temporarily come to Croatia are valid with exiting documents for up to three months after they enter Croatia.

For foreign vehicles whose owners have temporary residence, a car licence document will be issued. This is valid until the end day of their temporary residence, or for the period to which the temporary import of the vehicle has been approved, provided that the period is shorter than the temporary residence period.

When registering a car in Croatia from abroad, only the Croatian technical inspection certificate is valid. This means that the vehicles of persons moving to Croatia must be technically inspected in a Croatian station before registration.

You need to have documentation proving that you have used the car in your country (i.e. that it is not new).

Cars registered abroad owned by foreigners with temporary residence in Croatia are valid for 3 months. This is also the case for Croatians living abroad.

For vehicles owned by foreigners with temporary residence, a car licence document is available, which is valid until the end day of their temporary residence, or for the period to which the temporary import of the vehicle meets the rules, as long as that period is shorter than the temporary residence period.

If you are looking for more information, here are two great resources.

EU citizens moving to Croatia

If you are moving to another EU country with your car, specific conditions apply to car registration. This depends on the length of your stay and the country you are moving to. (This section with thanks to Europa.eu).

Moving for more than 6 months

If you move to another EU country and take your car with you, you have to register it within 6 months from your date of entry into your new country. You also have to pay car-related taxes in your new country if you have your normal residence there.

You usually have 12 months to bring your car to your new country after changing your normal residence.

Sample story

Cristina from Spain found a job in France and moved there. In a couple of months, she decided to bring her Spanish registered car to France but didn’t re-register it there. She regularly used her car to go to work, however, the traffic police who were carrying out a routine check stopped her on one occasion.

As she was driving with a Spanish registration plate, she received a large fine. Cristina didn’t know that in France she needs to re-register her car within 6 months after changing her main residence to a French one.

What to do if you move to another EU country:

  • register your car.
  • change your number plate.
  • show proof of car ownership and proof that the car is roadworthy.
  • pay car registration and road taxes in your new country.

What to do when you leave:

  • deregister your car.
  • hand in the number plate.
  • show proof of car ownership and a proof that the car is roadworthy.
  • put in a claim for a car registration tax refund.

If you have already paid car registration taxes in your previous country of residence, you may be able to apply for a tax refund there. In some cases, however, you may end up paying double taxes depending on the country you are moving to.

Moving for less than 6 months

If you move to another EU country and you are going to stay for less than 6 months, you don’t have to register your car or pay any registration taxes there. You can keep your car registered in your country of residence. You may, however, need to pay road taxes. Road taxes are due for the use of your car, in your new country. It is a good idea to always have your car registration certificate, certificate of ownership and a proof of your permanent residency with you when driving in case you are stopped by the police and need to prove where you are subject to taxation.

If you haven’t registered your car in your new country, you may not lend or rent it to a resident of that country if you aren’t in the car with him/her. You may, however, lend your car to visiting friends or family members as long as they do not have their permanent residence in the new country.

When registering a car in Croatia from abroad, only the Croatian technical inspection certificate is valid. This means that the vehicles of persons moving to Croatia have to be technically inspected in one of the stations in Croatia before they can be registered.

You need to have documentation proving that you have used the car in your country (i.e. that it is not new).

Life in Croatia – you could be fined if…

You have to register your car but you fail to do so on time

The relevant taxes go unpaid.

You drive with a number plate from another EU country without a proof of residency and a valid roadworthiness test.

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