How to Legally Import a Car into Croatia after EU Entry

By 5 February 2014

I have had a fascinating day.

Croatian bureaucracy real and close up.

And I won.

Despite a monster hangover, I finally dragged myself to the dreaded battle - to try and import a foreign car into Croatia and put it on island number plates, affording me cheaper ferry travel with the car.

So if you are looking how to import a car into Croatia, this is how to do it...

Firstly of course, you have to find a car. I used the excellent www.autoscout.de, and after an extended search and some help from friends in Germany, I found myself in a car lot in Ingolstadt, the proud owner of a silver Opel Zafira, price 4,600 euro, 115,000 kilometres, diesel, 2007. Certainly an upgrade on the crap I have been driving for the last few years. For an extra 250 euro, I got all the paperwork, some temporary plates and Green Card insurance for a month.

That month was up today, so I could not put off the inevitable day with Croatian bureaucracy any longer, and so it was that with heavy heart - and even heavier head - I made my way to the technical inspection centre on Solinska. Time on the clock - 11:31

The first person to relieve me of my money was a very nice man called Tomas, who made me very welcome, went through all my paperwork, then gave me three sheets of paper with an impressive stamp. In exhange for this paperwork, called homologacija, I was asked to contribute 700 kuna. Step one done. The process included taking some nice photos of my car. 

 

Tomas was very friendly indeed, and then kindly directed me to my next port of call - the customs house. This was the key part of the day - how much would I have to pay? In all, there are four different offices you have to visit in the customs building, which is about a kilometre from the technical inspection place. Go to the second floor, then knock and enter the first door on your right. These guys are the friendliest Croatian officials I have ever met. I was told I had to fill out an application form, with lots of technical data. I looked the stupid foreign that I am, and one of them offered to help me fill it out, the other offering his pen. Nice guys!  

 

The building is not the prettiest, but I could not believe how helpful and friendly everyone was. Having filled in the form, I was given a list of documents that needed to be photocopied. The only photocopier is in a different entrance of the building (on the right, with 'Luka' written above the entrance). There is a freight forwarding company (just ask at reception) and they do all the photocopying. When I asked how much, he said I could give him something for a coffee. Ten kuna. 

 

Back to the second floor, turning left this time, to the last door on the left. The most crucial part of the day - the tax judgment. Another very friendly official, and as we walked to inspect the car, I asked him if his workload was now less with EU entry. 

"Not less, but more. Some jobs have gone, to be replaced by others. They just move the bureaucracy..."

Back to the office, and after some impressive data entry, the magic button was pressed. I was handed a piece of paper with the bank details of the customs office, and a figure was written - 8,461 kuna. About what I was expecting, and my heart beat a little slower. The tax is calculated by a combination of price, age and CO2 emissions - and a little bit of plucking a figure out of the air, I am sure... To get an idea of what you would have to pay for your car, click here.

"But hurry. There is a bank behind that tower block," he said, pointing vaguely through the window, "go and pay, then come back."

I hurried, well as much as one can trying to do banking in Croatia. Having fought for some parking, I then spent half an hour in the bank, paying a 1% surcharge for the privilege of using their services. The paper said I had 15 days to pay, but I wanted to finish it all today.

 

Returning to his office, I found it empty, but with a note for me on his desk, telling me to go to room 35 for the next stage. More paperwork and impressive stamps, and then I was led to the other end of the corridor into another office, where another lady produced one more impressively-stamped piece of paper which said that I had successfully imported the vehicle. 

Barely able to contain my joy, and thinking of a cheeky hair of the dog to celebrate, next stop was back at the technical inspection for a technical check. Another 299 kuna disappeared, but I did get two pieces of paper for my money, then watched as the car was put through its paces. 

Having passed the technical side, it was time to go and visit the lady there sitting under the Prva Registracija sign (First Registration). She was VERY efficient, and had a way of working with her stamp that left the others behind. More stamped paperwork, and a request for 851,56 kuna, and I was almost home. 

All that remains now is for me to buy 35 kuna of tax stamps, pop into my local police station in Hvar Town, get a stamped piece of paper from them - a bargain at just 35 kuna, they should put their prices up - then return to Split and collect my new shiny number plates. 

Total cost of the exercise - about 10,000 kuna, with a fun day with Croatian bureaucracy thrown in. 

Time check - 16:31 - five hours on the dot in total. Not bad at all, and THAT was worth a celebratory beer...

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