I am not a resident anywhere, but I am a New Zealand citizen. I plan to travel for the foreseeable future, mostly in Europe. New Zealand citizens enjoy good visa-free access to many countries, so it is conceivable I could remain without any residency for quite some time.

I enjoy driving, and maintaining cars, and I would like to purchase a car somewhere in Europe.

Where, if anywhere, in Europe (or outside of Europe, but with the ability to drive the car in Europe) can I legally purchase and insure a car as a non-resident? I am open to creative solutions like setting up a company to own the car, if the capital and ongoing paperwork requirements for the company are not too onerous.

I am aware that I could save money, get places quicker, etc, by taking trains or flying. I have a passion for cars and driving. Suggesting that I not buy a car is out of scope of this question.

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    My guess that finding a suitable insurance company first may help with your search, as they advertise what they offer much more than the state car registration authorities. Here is a related forum post from another site. They only had a partial solution there: expatforum.com/expats/france-expat-forum-expats-living-france/… – DCTLib May 5 '16 at 10:59
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    By Europe do you mean the EU? – JonathanReez May 5 '16 at 11:25
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    @JonathanReez I suspect that the question is not limited to the EU and in fact that it might even be easier to buy a car like this in a non-EU country like, say, Serbia. Regardless, a plan of road-tripping "for the forseeable future" in only the EU is likely to be run into trouble on visa grounds, but including non-EU countries in the Balkans and eastern Europe makes it much more feasible. – phoog May 5 '16 at 18:33

Buying a car is not the issue, really, it is getting it registered in your name. I am not aware of any countries where you can do that. I am aware of two alternatives though. In this answer I will focus on the Dutch side of these things as I am most familiar with them. Note that I am not a lawyer and I may be missing factors.

Option 1: registering as a resident. This is a lot easier than it might seem, as you only need to be a resident at the time you are registering the car in your name. You will have to find a place where you can register, though. There are a few consequences, like having to get health insurance and effects on government support the people already living on the address might have. The registration takes no more than a few days usually. I am unaware of how difficult this would be for a non-EU citizen, you could consider asking this on expats.se. In case you buy an old timer car (25 years or older), you can then emigrate again without any troubles, as they don't have to pay any taxes. They do need insurance, though! Getting insurance and then leaving should work fine, as long as you always pay.

Option 2: German export license plates. This is more of a short term solution, but perhaps suitable for you. If you buy a car in Germany for immediate export, you can get export license plates valid for up to a year. These are (to my knowledge, and certainly in Netherlands) legal to drive around with outside of Germany till they expire. More information (in German) can be found here: http://www.ksm-online.de/.

Added by Dennis:
To add an alternative, the UK seems to be quite relaxed about non-resident car owners (it may be that they assume you are resident but nothing involves checking that) and will register the car if you have a UK address to receive correspondence. Many UK insurers will provide insurance for foreign-licensed drivers only with a requirement that they get a UK license within a year, but there are brokers specialising in finding policies for those who won't ever have a UK license so this is apparently not uncommon. The downside of a UK car for travel in continental Europe is obvious but buying, registering and insuring one is at least possible for a non-resident with a UK address to use.

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    It is quite possible for a non-resident to buy and insure a car in the UK as long as one has an address to use for the registration. I'm not counting this as an answer, though, since a UK car is not the best option if the primary use is intended to be driving around in continental Europe. – Dennis May 6 '16 at 15:43
  • @Dennis I don't think OP has that many options anyway, so I think it would be great to add it. Do you want to post it as an answer of your own? Or want to edit it to mine? I'm okay with both. – Belle-Sophie May 6 '16 at 15:50
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    I added it to your's. Please feel free to make it match. – Dennis May 6 '16 at 18:53
  • A year and a bit late, but I'm accepting this comprehensive answer. Thanks! (And there are quite a few LHD cars for sale in the UK too!) – jbg Aug 23 '17 at 9:52
  • DVLA needs a UK address for the registered keeper of the vehicle but it can be a "care of" address (i.e., no obligation that the registered keeper has to reside there). You can find confirmation on car enthusiast forums or through this freedom of information request. I know that both Axa and Aviva will insure non-resident drivers but only through a broker, not directly. – Calchas Jun 28 '18 at 20:48

As already mentioned, buying the car is not the problem, but registering in your name is, if you do not have residency. If getting residency is not an option, an alternative could be setting up a company and registering the car on the company.

This seems to be possible in Bulgaria. You can drive around in the whole European Union with Bulgarian license plates. You can even buy the car in another European country and then get Bulgarian license plates for it. There are providers offering this as a service (this is just an example, there might be others offering this; I'm not affiliated with them): they will set up a company for you for around 250€. It will then cost another 500-600€ (depending on the car) for license plates, insurance, eco tax and fees.

I'm sure you can get this done cheaper if you don't rely on someone else doing it for you. However, I guess this might be difficult without some Bulgarian language skills.

  • Do you know how insurance for the car is arranged if you follow this route? I know that in several European countries getting an insurance for a car is impossible when you are not a resident or citizen. – Willeke Jun 28 '18 at 19:56
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    The service provider will take care of getting the insurance for you, see here: bulgarianplates.com/car-insurance-in-bulgaria – Bob Jun 28 '18 at 19:58

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