Procedures for the registration of motor vehicles originating in another Member State

Procedures for the registration of motor vehicles originating in another Member State

Outline of the Community (European Union) legislation about Procedures for the registration of motor vehicles originating in another Member State


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Procedures for the registration of motor vehicles originating in another Member State

Document or Iniciative

Communication from the Commission – Interpretative communication of 14 February 2007 on procedures for the registration of motor vehicles originating in another Member State [SEC(2007) 169 final – Official Journal C 68 of 24.3.2007]


Even though buying or transferring vehicles to another Member State has become increasingly simple, many citizens and enterprises still shy away from paperwork, extra costs and burdensome procedures. For all that, it has become easier to buy a vehicle in another Member State thanks to the introduction of the following:

  • EC type-approval system for whole vehicles;
  • regulation of distribution and after-sales service of vehicles;
  • harmonised registration certificate for vehicles.

This Communication is part of the new impetus for trade in goods in the European Union (EU). It lists the legislation on the registration of vehicles originating in another Member State and on transfer of registration between Member States. It also contains a commitment to draw up an explanatory guide and to assist the national authorities in optimum application of Community law.


Registration is the natural corollary of the exercise of the powers of taxation on vehicles. Private individuals must register their vehicles in the Member State of their normal residence, i.e. where the permanent centre of their interests is located.

  • Approval of the technical characteristics of the vehicle

Approval of the technical characteristics of the vehicle takes the form of either EC type-approval or national approval.

Valid in all Member States, EC type-approval is the procedure by which a Member State certifies that a type of vehicle complies with the European safety and environmental protection standards. Cars approved since 1996, motorcycles approved since May 2003 and tractors approved since 2005 are subject to this procedure.

Once in possession of EC approval, the manufacturer issues an EC certificate of conformity. This certificate shows that the vehicle has been manufactured in conformity with the approved vehicle type. It must accompany each new EC type-approved vehicle.

Vehicles that are not EC-approved may be subject to national approval in the receiving Member State before they can be registered. This national approval may be either individual (in particular for vehicles imported individually from third countries) or type (for a category of vehicle).

National type and individual approval procedures fall outside the scope of Community law. On the other hand, national approval procedures for motor vehicles which have already obtained a national approval in another Member State and for motor vehicles that were already registered in another Member State, must comply with the rules of the free movement of goods.

It is appropriate for the competent national authorities to:

  • take into account the tests and certificates issued by their counterparts and by the manufacturer;
  • refuse to approve a vehicle which poses a genuine risk to public health;
  • carry out tests if they enable further information to be obtained;
  • determine on which points the vehicle is not in conformity with the requirements;
  • apply proportionate national technical criteria.

The technical characteristics of a vehicle previously approved and registered in another Member State are assessed in the light of the technical rules in force in the receiving Member State, on the basis of the rules which were in force at the moment of approval in the Member State of origin.

  • Roadworthiness testing of used vehicles

The objective of roadworthiness testing is to verify that the vehicle is suitable for use on public roads. This type of testing may be carried out if it is based on objective, non-discriminatory criteria which are known in advance, if it does not duplicate controls which have already been carried out and if it is readily accessible and can be completed within a reasonable time.

  • Vehicle registration

By registering the motor vehicle, the Member State authorises its entry into service in road traffic, involving the identification of the motor vehicle and the issuing of a registration number.

On first registration, the receiving Member State may require data from the person concerned and the EC certificate of conformity of a new EC-approved vehicle if it originates from another Member State. On the other hand, for non-EC-approved vehicles, it may request presentation of the national type-approval or individual approval and proof of insurance cover. Member States are also entitled to check, at the moment of registration, whether VAT has been correctly paid.

For vehicles previously registered in another Member State, the receiving country may only request: the roadworthiness certificate, the EC or national certificate of conformity, the original or a copy of the non-harmonised registration certificate issued in another Member State, the harmonised registration certificate, the insurance certificate and proof of payment of the VAT.


As a general rule, a motor vehicle cannot be driven on public roads without displaying a registration number. In addition, civil liability must be covered by insurance and it is advisable for motorists to have the “green card” with them.

The vehicle licence plate is equivalent to an insurance certificate. This allows vehicles with a European licence plate to circulate freely in the EU without any checks of the compulsory motor liability insurance certificate at the borders.

To drive a motor vehicle lawfully to the Member State of destination, either the motor vehicle carries a professional registration plate or a temporary registration plate.

  • Driving the motor vehicle with professional number plates

Professional number plates allow retailers to drive vehicles temporarily without being obliged to formally register them. Member States usually provide a document establishing the link between the registration plates and their holder and/or require the holder to keep a logbook.

  • The motor vehicle carries a temporary registration plate

The system of temporary registration enables the motor vehicle to be driven for a short period before it obtains final registration. A Member State may impede its circulation for reasons relating to road safety, theft or invalidity of the certificate.

Insurance must be taken out in the Member State of destination.


This Communication applies to the first registration of vehicles, as well as the registration of vehicles previously registered in another Member State, regardless of whether they are new or used.

A vehicle is “previously registered in another Member State” when it has obtained the administrative authorisation for the entry into service in road traffic, involving its identification and the issuing of a registration number.


Any decision taken by authorities refusing the type-approval or registration must be notified to the vehicle owner, informing him of the remedies available to him and of the time limits allowed.

Citizens and enterprises may also seek a solution for approval or registration problems through the SOLVIT network or by making a complaint to the Commission, which may then initiate infringement proceedings.

Related Acts

Communication from the Commission of 14 February 2007 entitled “The Internal Market for Goods: a cornerstone of Europe’s competitiveness” [COM(2007) 35 final – Not published in the Official Journal]

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