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Driving in Europe with U.S. plates

Driving in Europe with U.S. plates

U.S. citizens will have to request online authorization and pay a fee from 2021 onward.

Traveling by car while overseas is surely the most convenient way to visit all the places you want. Europe is thickly settled, so sightseeing is easy!

Not surprisingly, many Americans choose shipping their car with them. In case you are one of them, review our guide  about driving in Europe with U.S. plates.

Import your vehicle in Europe temporarily

Each EU country has similar regulations for temporary vehicle import.  There will be a standard customs form at the point of export, depending on the country you are shipping the car to, where you will fill in your personal data and dates.

As long as the vehicle is legal in the US – taxes paid, safety inspections, and insurance – you will have no problem. Insurance is the only extra you need to discuss with your insurance company – make sure you list all the countries you will be visiting and your agent will explain what you need and what is the cost.

How long can you stay in Europe?

Your car can remain in the EU under the temporary admission procedure for up to 6 months. The same goes for buggies and ATVs. If you are bringing a boat, however, you can keep it there for a total of 18 months.

Keep in mind that moving the boat around could be harder, so we recommend taking your car and renting a boat instead. Keep in mind that you cannot leave the vehicle on the EU territory without you by its side. If you decide to go for a short trip to a country that’s not in the EU, you will have to take your vehicle with you.

If you are a student you will be luckier since students or individuals from non-EU countries conducting professional duties in Europe can use their vehicle until the end of their stay without paying any duty or taxes. This is one of the exceptions to the 6-month period.

What about Customs & Fees?

When you import a vehicle for up to six months, you do not need to pay import duty. If you , however, stay for more than six months you will most likely need to pay import duty on the car. 

If you do decide to stay more than six months, one way to avoid paying import duty is to leave the EU and go to a non EU country for a a few days at least, and then drive back to any EU country. 

If you transport your vehicle to Europe by water you may not need to fill in a customs declaration. Keep in mind, however, that even though the European Union might look a lot like the U.S.A., it is not. Each country, and often each port, have specific requirements for customs clearance and import of vehicles with their own fees.

Calling the U.S. embassy of your first contact European country is always a good starting point for details on importing and driving in the EU. The embassy will provide you with the current tax rates for auto imports as well as the most recent changes to the laws on that topic.

To sum it up – you can keep your vehicle and its plates without paying any tax fees while you are in the EU as long as you:

– use it for your own private use

– are not registered as an EU resident

– do not sell, lend or hire it within the EU

– export it from the EU within 6 months

Do you need a special Driver’s Permit in Europe?

You need to acquire an International Drivers Permit to drive legally in Europe.

An International Drivers Permit (IDP) is basically a translation of your existing driver’s license into different languages. It provides some basic identifying information like your photo, address, and legal name and translates your license into ten different languages. In order for it to be valid, you need to use it in conjunction with your valid United States license.

You can obtain an IDP while you are still in the USA either at American Automobile Association (AAA) offices or from the American Automobile Touring Alliance (AATA).

When it comes to driving in each country you should also be aware that some rules and laws will vary.

What is the difference between US & EU plates?

Throughout the world, the majority of governments require license plates on the front and back of automobiles. In the United States, the number of license plates required (either one or two) varies from state to state.

There is a standard for vehicle plates in the European Union. It starts with a blue section on the extreme left with the EU circle of stars and the country code. Then follows the area code along with random numbers and letters. Different countries have further specifics regarding the license plates of army vehicles, diplomats’ cars, or other specialized vehicles.

How to ship your car to Europe?


enclosed car carrier

You can start preparing your vehicle for shipping a couple of months prior to your departure date. The time it will take to ship a car will vary based on several factors. Hence, to make it fit your schedule, you should allow adequate time. Keep in mind that the earlier you start talking to a car shipping company the better.

International auto transport is not a complicated process but it’s not as fun as sipping wine in Italy either. Moving a car overseas can be more complicated than a simple domestic move, thus, it is important to be well prepared before settling on a service and a company.

There are little things that you need to know in order to feel calm during the process. This is why you need a partner you can rely on from booking to delivery. Always check the background of the auto transport company you select and the partners they work with overseas.

At Corsia Logistics, we work with high safety ranked international carriers to make the process easy and secure.

Once you select your logistics partner, pay special attention to preparing the documents you need. You will need two sets of documents – one related to the information about your vehicle, and another one you will receive from the shipping company.

What type of transport to choose?

Given the fast time frame and its undeniable safety, air freight is the most expensive international shipping method. This method is suitable for high-end automobiles, or vehicles that must be delivered on or by a specific date. It is usually used for race cars and cars going to auctions or exhibitions. When compared to ground transport, shipping by plane equates to choosing enclosed car transport on the ground. This usually means full protection and speedy delivery.

Most customers prefer transporting their cars via 20 or 40 feet containers. A container can be either shared or full, which also contributes to the price you will get.

The least costly method to get your car to Europe is via Roll-on-roll-off (RORO) shipping.

This, however, is a bit more scary to most people because the car is on a vessel for a long period of time. This is a good method for shipping heavy machinery, RVs, and oversized vehicles.

Be aware that the type of transport is not the only factor for getting a good price. Apart from that, the cost to ship a car internationally depends on the exact pick-up and delivery locations, the countries and ports with all their custom and import requirements, the vehicle’s make, model, modifications and condition.

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Simon Moore
Great company
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Looking for a logistics company, to ship my car, from California to Illinois,my first search, then Corsia showed up, skeptical. Call and a very friendly secretary: Elena. She guided me through, I scheduled and as she explained, all when smooth as scheduled Very happy I did the right choice. I'll recommend this great Company to anyone that is thinking to relocate a vehicle. Thanks Corsia logistics for your honesty and professionalism!
Elizabeth Woodward
High five's all around!
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Corsia was highly recommended by a friend in the automobile industry. We needed to transport a cargo van from Seattle to Florida. We contacted Corsia who quickly arranged transport within just a few days. Communication was outstanding! Just a few email confirmations and we were all set. Mike was great and arrived right on time and delivered to Florida on schedule. Tip-avoid the hornets nest of auto brokers on line and just contact Corsia for a truly great experience!
Carrol Tiffany
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Corsia has been amazing. Their prices are really competitive but more importantly their customer service has been 5-Star. Elena followed up with me every step of the way, making sure there was no miscommunication between me & the driver. We are using them to ship a 2nd vehicle & would not hesitate to use them again!
Tony Boyd
Definitely recommend
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I have recently used Corsia for long time family car with sentimental value that was moved I have recently used Corsia for shipment of my vehicle from Oregon to Arizona by recommendation from other family member who also used Corsia in the past. I am very pleased on the service and the communication throughout shipment. Ken was my direct contact and kept me informed along the move The car was picked up and delivered as communicated. I did use a enclosed mover and the driver was also clean cut professional and treated car as his own. I would definitely recommend Corsia again with the experience I have had. Thank you. T
Top notch
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Top notch Transport - Porsche 997 Top notch! As easy and efficient as one could possibly imagine. Great customer service.. thank you Luke. Great prices. Check. Timely communications. Check. Clean transport trailer. Check. Supremely careful driver. Check. Timely arrival. Check. Don't mess around elsewhere, just call Corsica and feel confident your transports needs are going to be exceeded. My Porsche 911 rode like a Queen in her enclosed chariot. I've never needed a transport company before, and I surely will use them every time. Do yourself a favor, seriously. Call now.
Geet Mp Haryana
Reliable, efficient
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Corsia rep (Elena) was very proactive. Helped ship a car from CA to GA. She checked in with me via email quote and several phone calls to find me the best possible quote for the fastest available service. After several communications, Corsia was able to schedule a vehicle pickup the next day. The driver communicated well, and the vehicle arrived in final destination faster than we expected in perfect condition. I highly recommend using Corsia's reliable, efficient service.
Cay Liptak
Clean, efficient, wonderful
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Thanks, Corsia! Pickup was so clean, efficient, and wonderful -- my only recommendation is to make sure you schedule it during the day so you can fully review the car in the daylight. Drop off was equally wonderful, and the whole trip went down without a hitch (pun intended!). Seriously, Corsia delivered my Jeep from CT to California with no issues or bumps in the road!
Csaba Kovesdy
Truly positive experience
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Corsia Memphis to LA, mid-size SUV. I looked at 4 different companies amd Corsia was the most responsive of them. While being responsive, they were not unduly aggressive: when I indicated that I need to wait a month before making a decision they stopped contacting me and only came back with a reminder when I really needed it. Once I decided to engage Corsia they found me a transport within two days and the car was delivered (from Memphis to LA) in another two days. I had a truly positive experience.
Kelly Torres
Highly recommend
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Working with Corsia Logistics was a great experience. Working with Corsia Logistics was wonderful. They were able to find a driver right away to transport our car. They were in constant communication as to when the car was getting picked up and dropped off. The driver also communicated with me as to when he would arrive. I would highly recommend Corsia Logistics.
Amy Nelson
Excellent Organization
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Corsia was an excellent company to work with while I transferred my car across the US. A friend of mine suggested I use them as they had been very organized and trustworthy with her own car. I researched a few different place but decided to go with Corsia and I'm so glad I did! Any questions I had throughout the process they answered quickly and clearly. I would definitely use them again in the future and recommend them for others to use.