The joys of car ownership

One of the first things new arrivals to a foreign country think about is personal transport. Owning a car in Italy, France or many other countries isn’t just a matter of walking into the showroom and plonking down the cash. To start with, you have to be resident – and that’s a story in itself. This article could easily become a book if I were to go down that road too far. So let’s say you are already resident or are planning to be. Otherwise this article isn’t really for you.

So you’re off to the showroom or used car centre. Forget any ideas about driving out with a new purchase; there are formalities you need to deal with first. Before the garage can release the car the paperwork has to show you as the owner, so on the first visit you’ll be handing over a deposit plus your identity card and codice fiscale for photocopying, as is the usual custom in Italy when buying anything much larger than a bag of potatoes. In return you’ll get a pile of information about your purchase that you need to take to your insurance company. Once the car is insured it’s back to the dealer to settle the bill, after which you can drive the car away.

All this is pretty simple if everything takes place in your home town or if you’re buying a new vehicle, but Liguria isn’t noted for secondhand motoring bargains. In Torino (Turin), for example, every other car is a Fiat as that’s where they’re made. Used Fiats tend to be considerably cheaper – and more plentiful – up there but it’s a four-hour plus drive each way.

Something else to consider is the administrative cost of buying or replacing a car. Think of getting close to €1000 for the change of ownership fee, the bollo auto (annual tax) and a full tank of fuel. This also mitigates against importing a car from another country, on top of which you’ll have to contact the manufacturer for the certificato di omologazione (certificate of approval) for the vehicle in question. Not just the model – the actual vehicle. Plus a fee for the Italian number plates.

Perhaps you’ve considered running a UK car here. Just remember that once it’s 3 years old it’ll have to go back to the UK every year for its annual test, without which the road tax is unobtainable and your insurance is unlikely to cover you in the event of an accident. If you can even get insurance, that is.

If you live out of town there’s the constant risk of scuffs and scratches from unfriendly foliage, so a new car is usually impractical. Go for a used model, the smaller the better to help with passing on mountain roads and with parking in tiny bays.

Finally, once you own a vehicle in Italy you go on paying annual bollo auto for ever or until you sell or scrap it. And rottamazione (scrappage) is a procedure, too, that amounts to selling it to the breaker for a fee – both to him and to the Government.

For help in all these matters your first port of call is ACI – the Automobile Club of Italy, which isn’t actually club at all but rather a Government agency. Some of the offices can be very helpful – there are at least 2 good ones in Ventimiglia alone. Don’t be put off by what seems a formidable task; it’s all perfectly logical and very character-building.

Title photo by Omer Rana on Unsplash