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Driving and Car BuyingBack to top Back to main Skip to menu
The Netherlands (Holland) - Driving and Car Buying
Holland is a relatively safe country to drive in, with a reported average rate of just 3 fatalities due to traffic accidents each day, lower than many other European countries. There is good road access into the country from Belgium and Germany and an excellent road network connecting all parts of the country. The main routes are signposted with green ‘E’ symbols on international highways, ‘A’ symbols on national highways and ‘N’ symbols on other main roads. The Netherlands follows the standardized system of road signs in Europe. Blue road signs usually indicate that something is allowed, while red circles show that something is forbidden. However, for example, a circular blue sign which has an arrow on it that points right indicates that the driver MUST go in this direction. Red triangles are used to notify of particular road conditions, but if they're upside down, then they indicate you have to give right of way. Yellow or orange diamond signs indicate that you have priority right of way. “Sharks teeth” symbols indicate that you have to give priority to vehicles on the road you are entering.
Driving is on the right in the Netherlands, and traffic coming from the right generally has priority, unless otherwise indicated by the road signs. Vehicles already on a roundabout always have right of way over vehicles that want to enter the roundabout unless stated otherwise. When making a turn, motor vehicle drivers must give priority to cyclists and pedestrians travelling in the same direction on the same road as the motorist, and drivers must also give right of way to pedestrians on zebra crossings. Where trams are in operation, these have priority over other road users.
Speed limits are 120 km/h on major highways, 80 km/h on most main roads outside towns, and 50 km/h in built up areas, unless otherwise indicated. The limits are strictly enforced and speeds are monitored by automatic police monitoring systems in many areas. There is a blood alcohol limit of 0.05, with the drink drive laws strictly enforced using random breathalyzer tests and highway checkpoints. It is illegal to use a mobile phone while driving unless it is with the use of a hands-free set.
Seat belts must be used by the driver and all front and rear seat passengers, and car seats or booster seats must be used for all children between the age of 3 and 12, unless they exceed 1.35 metres in height. Children under the age of 12 are not allowed to sit in the front seat if the car has an airbag, and or sit on an adult’s lap in the front seat. Children’s car seats must meet the current EU safety standards, indicated by 02.44 or 03.44 on the orange ECE sticker, and be the correct size for the weight of the child. Carrier seats should be used for babies, but not in the front seat of the car if an airbag is fitted.
Normal headlights should be used at night and when visibility is poor during the day. Front and rear fog lights can be used in rain, fog or snow when visibility is less than 50 metres.
There are clearly-marked emergency telephones (praatpalen) located at regular intervals along the main highways, which are connected directly to the emergency and assistance services for use if you have an accident or breakdown. Most Dutch drivers belong to the Dutch Touring Club (ANWB), which provides 24-hour breakdown assistance and a range of other benefits to members. These include free transport, reimbursement for the cost of overnight accommodation if necessary in the event of a breakdown, or a replacement car service.
If you have a road accident, you must complete and sign a statement on an insurance form, a blank copy of which should be kept with you at all times when driving, and the police should be notified of any form of personal injury or damage to property incurred. It is against the law to leave the scene of an accident without completing the insurance statement or notifying the policy of any damage or injury. The toll free emergency number is 112.
Traffic congestion is common in most built-up areas and on main inter-connecting routes. Parking is very limited in the main cities, especially Amsterdam, and there are policies to deter motorists from bringing their cars in, such as park-and-ride schemes. The parking regulations and charges vary between different cities and towns, but parking is generally expensive in Holland. Automatic ticket dispensers are widely used in car-parks and for roadside parking, and these usually accept either coins or the chipknip card. The ticket should be displayed on the car dashboard for inspection. In some areas, parking is restricted to residents holding permits. If you live in one of these areas you can apply for a permit from the municipal offices (gemeentehuis) or local parking authority (Dienst Parkeerzaken). The parking regulations are strictly enforced, with steep fines payable by those who break them; illegally parked cars are sometimes wheel-clamped or towed away.
In general, any person who is resident in the Netherlands for at least 185 days in a year is required to have a Dutch drivers licence in order to drive a motor vehicle there. However, some foreign-issued licences can be used to drive in the Netherlands for a specified period of time or can be exchanged for a Dutch licence with no need to take a Dutch driving test. Diplomatic representatives and consular staff and their family members, as well as foreign nationals who benefit from the 30% tax ruling in the Netherlands, are also eligible to exchange their own foreign-issued licence for a Dutch licence, regardless of where their own licence was issued. In other cases it is necessary to take a Dutch driving test in order to obtain a licence to drive in the Netherlands, although an accelerated version of this is available for people who already hold a foreign driving licence. International licences cannot be exchanged for Dutch licences. You must be 18 years of age or over to drive in the Netherlands.
Anyone who holds a valid Dutch residence permit and has a licence issued in any of the countries specified on the Government’s driving licence website (http://www.rijbewijs.nl/nl/english.asp), including most EU/EEA countries, can exchange their own licence for a Dutch licence without taking a test. Additionally, certain categories of driving licences issued in a number of other countries specified on the driving licence website, including various Asian countries such as Japan and Singapore, can be exchanged for the corresponding category of licence in the Netherlands.
The procedure for exchanging a valid foreign-issued licence, which must have been issued when the licence holder had residence status in the issuing country, is to complete a confirmation of identity form (uittreksel bevolkingsregister), a health declaration form (eigen verklaring) and an exchange application form, all of which are available from the municipal offices. These should then be submitted to the Central Office for Motor Vehicle Driver Testing (CBR). If the initial application is approved, the CBR will issue a "certificate of fitness" which should be submitted to the municipal office along with the foreign-issued licence, two passport photos, the exchange form and any other relevant documentation such as evidence of eligibility for the 30% tax ruling. Some foreign-issued licences and other documents may need to be translated by an approved translator. An applicant is not allowed to drive in the Netherlands until their Dutch licence is issued, a process which normally takes at least five days.
Non-EU issued licences are generally returned to the holder’s country of origin, unless they have strong grounds for needing to retain them. EU-issued licences, those belonging to diplomatic representatives and their staff, and to people benefiting from the 30% tax ruling, are returned to the individuals concerned at their address in the Netherlands.
People holding licences which cannot be exchanged for a Dutch licence are required to take a driving test at the CBR. An accelerated test is available for Category B (passenger car) licence holders which takes into account their previous driving experience, but if this is failed the person will subsequently be required to take a regular Dutch driving test, consisting of a theory and a practical examination. The holders of other categories of driving licences are also required to take a full Dutch driving test in order to obtain a Dutch licence. It may also be necessary for driving test applicants to obtain a “certificate of fitness” in order to obtain a Dutch licence.
If you are going to be living in the Netherlands and wish to drive there, you may want to consider whether to take your own car with you or buy a new car in the Netherlands. Your decision is likely to depend on the length of time you plan to live in the Netherlands.
The list prices of cars in the Netherlands are relatively low compared with other European countries, but the taxes imposed on new cars are extremely high at up to 45% of the list price, and are not refundable if you move within the EU. It might save you money to buy a new car in the Netherlands while you are still living in another country, so that you can benefit from the lower list price but will not have to pay the taxes. Cars can also be purchased in the Netherlands for duty-free export outside the EU within 30 days, although import duties may be payable in the destination country. New cars which are exported to another EU country are generally liable for VAT in the country of destination, although the VAT paid at the time of purchase in the Netherlands may be partly refunded.
Alternatively, if you are moving to the Netherlands from a non-EU country and wish to bring your own car with you, the vehicle may be exempt from customs duty if you have lived outside the EU for at least the preceding twelve months and have personally owned the vehicle for a minimum of six months. If you bring the car to Holland under these conditions, it cannot be sold within twelve months, otherwise the tax and possibly an additional fine will become payable. This will also apply if the car is stolen or is badly damaged and sold as scrap.
When you buy a new car in the Netherlands, it will have a vehicle registration certificate (kentekenbewijs), consisting of Part 1 (deel I) and Part 2 (deel II). Part 1 includes technical information relating to the vehicle itself, such as brand, model and registration number, while Part 2 represents proof of ownership of the vehicle and consists of the name address of the current owner. Some older cars also have a Part 3 confirming proof of ownership prior to 1996. When buying a car it is important to ensure that the registration certificate is handed over and includes all relevant parts. Transfer of ownership is usually arranged by the dealer who sells the car or by the new owner by completing and submitting the relevant form at the post office.
All vehicles which are more than three years old must undergo an annual technical test (Algemene Periodieke Keuring or “APK”), carried out by RDW-approved testing centres. The RDW or Centre for Vehicle Technology and Information (Rijksdienst voor Wegverkeer) is the Dutch body with responsibility for ensuring that all motor vehicles meet the required standards for use in the Netherlands. The RDW also conducts random testing of vehicles. There is no fixed price for the APK test and prices vary considerably. It is possible to appeal against the outcome of a test and submit a request to the RDW for a retest.
The BPM (Bijzondere Verbruiksbelasting van Personenauto's) tax is payable by the first owner of a new car or motorcycle or one imported to the Netherlands from another country, in order to register the vehicle in their name. The vehicle must be approved for use in the Netherlands by the Vehicle Technology and Information Centre (Rijksdienst voor Wegverkeer or “RDW”), which involves submitting the vehicle for testing to an approved RDW centre, along with relevant documentation including the registration certificate and a certificate of conformity to EU standards if necessary. Once received from the RDW, the BPM certificate of approval must be sent to the relevant section of the Tax Office which calculates the amount of tax payable, including the BPM as well as any VAT and import duties, and will issue the Dutch vehicle registration certificate (kentekenbewijs) once these are paid.
All owners of passenger cars, delivery vans with a maximum allowed loaded weight of 3,500 kg and motorcycles are also required to pay road tax on an ongoing basis, from the data of purchase or transfer of ownership of the vehicle. The bills are sent out automatically by the Central Office for Motor Vehicle Taxes and you can opt to pay either on an annual basis or by four three-monthly installments. The tax rates are determined by the type of vehicle, any modifications made to it, and the type of fuel used and vary by different provinces of the Netherlands. Additional taxes are payable for trailers whose maximum permitted weight is in excess of 750 kg, but not for static or collapsible caravans. A refund may be made if you sell the vehicle within a period for which the road tax has already been paid. If you are unable to use the vehicle for an extended period, for example if you are living temporarily in a different country, the road tax is still payable, but for periods of more than three months you can apply for a suspension of the registration certificate for a fee, during which time you will not be allowed to drive the vehicle and road tax will not be charged. The tax will become payable for the entire period if the suspension is ended within three months. If the vehicle is taken out of the Netherlands for good, you must notify the RDW or the customs authorities in order to have the Dutch registration certification terminated, and may receive a refund of road tax.
It is illegal to drive without insurance - you can call any number of insurance companies who will insure you immediately until the forms and paperwork are organized. W.A. (Wettelijke Aansprakelijkheid) is the minimum legal requirement.
Additional insurances include :-
Passenger insurance - Ongevallen Inzittendenverzekering - covers passengers irrespective of blame.
Motor vehicle legal assistance - Rechtsbijstandverzekering - covers the legal costs of an insurance claim.
Verkeers Rechtsbijstandverzekering - this covers legal costs for the driver + whole family for legal disputes involving all forms of transport (land, sea and air).
Ministry of Traffic, Public Works and Water Management (Ministerie van Verkeer en Waterstaat)
Centre for Vehicle Technology and Information (RDW)
Head Office, Zoetermeer
PO Box 777
Telephone: 0900-07 39
Central Bureau Rijvaardigheidsbewijzen (CBR)
Driving licence website: http://www.rijbewijs.nl/
Central Office for Motor Vehicle Taxes (Centraal Bureau Motorrijtuigen-belasting)
PO Box 9047, 7300 GJ Apeldoorn
Telephone: 0800 0749
The Royal Dutch Touring Club (ANWB)
PO Box 932000 BA The Hague
Wassenaarseweg 220, 2596 The Hague
Telephone: 0800 0503
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