Buying a Car in Italy

Rome, like most European cities, is congested and chaotic. Then again, so are all of Italy’s cities, whether driving in Milan, Perugia, Naples or Florence. Even Siena gets its fair share of traffic jams.

For expats, buying a car in Italy might not be such a good idea if they're staying within the city limits. While Italians might feel comfortable driving in Italy, expats may not be as immune to the unpredictable Italian driving culture.

Another problem is that Italy's major cities were designed to accommodate medieval and Renaissance transportation, which is to say, foot traffic. Coupled with limited parking, driving in Italian cities requires that expats navigate through pedestrian-only zones, one-way streets, and extremely tight alleyways, which is why most expats prefer to take public transport.

That said, a car can be beneficial for expats wanting to explore the rest of Italy and beyond. 

What to consider when buying a car in Italy

Size is the most important factor to consider when buying a car in Italy.

Size matters where the distance between the car door and tiny alleyways is mere millimetres. Size can also mean the difference between getting into tiny, almost non-existent parking spaces in Italian cities and driving around aimlessly for another hour.

There are many affordable small cars on the market. Smaller cars tend to lack power, baggage space and speed, which may limit travel within Europe. Like anywhere else in the world, expats should consider buying a reliable car that’s locally made, such as a Fiat, in order to save money on and mechanic fees. 

Car licenses in Italy

Expats with an EU license can drive in Italy without problems. EU citizens are also given the option of exchanging their current license for an Italian one, which can be done at the local Office of Motor Vehicles. 

Citizens of select non-EU countries can exchange their licenses for an Italian license within one year of attaining Italian residency without having to sit any tests. However, old licenses will no longer be valid.

For other expats, including Australians, Canadians and expats from the USA, there’s a 12-month grace period where expats from these countries can drive on their current license in Italy. After that, they will have to take driving lessons and pass a written and practical driving exam. 

Italian car insurance

Car insurance, or assicurazione auto, in Italy is fairly expensive, but things have improved in recent years, especially as the competition amongst insurance dealers has increased.

There are two main types of insurance – comprehensive (casco), which can be prohibitively expensive, and third party (responsabilità civile), which is the bare minimum available in Italy. Extra coverage is available at an additional cost and ranges from theft to natural disasters.

Those who get into an accident might also be liable for any medical fees that are a result of the accident. 

Elisa Scarton Our Expat Expert

Elisa is an Australian journalist who came to Tuscany for a year, and fell in love (how cliché?), and decided to stick around. Cutting her teeth in frenetic-paced Rome, she now writes a Tuscan travel blog and online travel guide about her new home, the infinitely beautiful Tuscan Maremma, so that others can get a taste of la dolce vita.

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