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Should I Ship My Car To Italy?

November 15, 2019

A friend of mine was asked by a relative about shipping their car to Italy in order to save on rental fees during yearly trips to the Val di Non. What was involved, including costs? Since my friend had actually done that years ago, here was his response. It seems a little humorous now but my friend did not find the experience funny years ago.

“The short answer to your question is $2000 to $3000. I don’t recommend transporting an American car to Europe because the cars are set up much differently for the two locations. Two important examples are the headlights and pollution control equipment. Trento Province would not give me an Italian tag because the headlights did not meet European standards. You have probably noticed that the headlights on cars at night in the Val di Non look different than in the US. Also pollution control equipment and standards are different. This becomes a problem for repairs and inspections. Sometimes parts had to be imported from the US. With my BMW, parts were sometimes available from Germany. I made four or five trips to Milan before getting a tag. For over a year I was driving with my Georgia tag which is only in the rear of the car. I was stopped for not having a tag in the front.

Other things to consider: The car tax (bollo) is based on horsepower not value so the tax does not decline with time as it normally does in the United States. The tag agency in Milan gave me a hard time about making sure the engine was original and not one of higher horsepower. Finding the engine number to match the vehicle was very difficult and I had to get a letter from BMW (which expired because the process took so long). I could have paid some bribes to speed up the process but I was not willing to do so. Also I had help from friends in the port of Genova to clear customs to retrieve the car. Again some fees (bribes) were involved.

Insurance is another matter. You cannot buy Italian car insurance until you have a Permesso di Soggiorno (Green Card). Tourist insurance is available but only for three months at a time and is quite expensive. It is usually available only at points of entry.

If you decide to import a car I suggest you consider diesel. When I switched from the convertible (gas) to the X3 (diesel), both of equal horsepower, my fuel bill went down by over a third and you know how expensive fuel is in Italy! (About four times the cost of fuel in the U.S.)”

Note from the author: I hope my friend’s experience is helpful to anyone who is considering importing a car from the U.S. to Italy. The bottom line is that by and large it is prohibitively expensive, confusing and not worth the trouble. Like anything else in life, it should be approached with both eyes wide open.

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  1. Good info and includes things a novice wouldn’t think about.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. What may at first seem like a great idea, is often different upon reflection. You are so wise here: “keeping your eyes wide open”, is the key to any decision. In this particular circumstance, the diesel car is the only thing that would make any sense at all. People are quick to jump to a conclusion before they consider all the facts. This can cause both heartache and money!

    Liked by 2 people

  3. I didn’t know…

    Liked by 1 person

  4. But please tell your friend that the Diesel solution is no longer a wise idea. I believe soon diesel cars will no longer be produced, for pollution problems. In any case, some city prohibit the circulation of diesel in their downtown.

    I actually knew of all those complications. Moving from the US to Italy, or viceversa is always a complicated affair. Both ways!

    Liked by 1 person

    • I agree: Diesel is a thing of the past. Mine in Italy is also a diesel but we bought it 16 years ago. Diesel is much less in Italy than the US because Europe does not require, produce and support “Reformulated Diesel.” The next car for me will be a hybrid.

      Liked by 1 person

  5. That’s a lot of excellent advice. I should have expected it to be complicated, but I had no idea!

    Liked by 1 person

  6. That cinches it! I’ll leave me and my car at home. Not trip to Italy in this century . . . 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Allen, a definitive, highly informative penning… top-drawer all the way!

    Liked by 1 person

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