I quite fancied the idea of a motorbike in Portugal but it was not realistic as I wouldn’t be able to carry a month’s food shop, collect family from the airport or transport large garden equipment or furniture purchases, so we needed a car. Finding/buying a car has been one of our main struggles as well as signing up to a doctor. Our hire car was returned at the start of January and we live in a remote area – 10 min drive to Côja and 25 min drive to Arganil so a car was a necessity. 

Priority for us was a budget of 3000-4000 euros, low ish mileage, at least 10 months IUC (road tax), preferably full 12 months IPO (MOT), medium size car with a large boot for shopping and big enough to fit some furniture. We definitely wanted to buy from a secondhand car dealership and not a private person mainly because our Portuguese is poor (but improving!) and we wanted a 12 month warranty and did not want to risk buying a car with any major problems or outstanding finance – if you buy a car and there is any outstanding finance on the car then you, the buyer is liable as the debt is passed onto the buyer!  If you have the car registration number you can go to the Finance office and they will tell you if there is any outstanding finance. We did this and it was all fine.

It is my understanding that all cars sold by a dealership have to have a minimum of 12 months warranty. Our warranty covers mechanical and electrical breakdowns. I am not sure how good this warranty is as we have not used it and it’s a bit like insurance. You never know how good insurance is until you need to make a claim. When you buy from a private seller it is the buyer who pays the registration fee and has to register the car with IMT. When you buy from a dealership it is the dealership who has to complete the registration of the car. You will receive a document from the dealership proving ownership and the registration document will arrive at your home address in the post. This can take over 1 month so make sure you keep all the relevant documents along with your insurance certificate in your glove box.

We started our car search by viewing cars on Stand Virtual  https://www.standvirtual.com/

Cars are very expensive here compared to the UK. They have a lot more mileage but rust less due to fine weather. Most old cars will have had a re-paint job as the sun deteriorates the paintwork. We also googled second hand car dealerships and visited a few. This for us was a waste of time as we visited 4 in one day and 2 were open but had no staff in them except for cleaners who spoke no English. Other 2 were forecourts with cars but gates all locked. You are better off contacting the second hand dealerships to make an appointment in advance. We also visited another one which was supposed to be open but they shut up shop to take someone on a test drive and didn’t come back. Beware if you email you are unlikely to receive a reply even if you email in Portuguese. We emailed several dealerships and did not receive one response. We passed by one popped in, got their business card then emailed them about a specific car but they did not respond. In the end we decided the best way forward was to find a dealership with 5 or 6 cars which met our criteria and book an appointment to view them all. 

There are not many dealerships local to Vinhó and they are very expensive so we found a secondhand car dealership which had a branch in Porto and near Braga. The Braga branch had 6 cars all within budget and with full IPO and IUC with low ish mileage. My ex husband phoned them up (he speaks Portuguese) and made us an appointment for 2.30pm on 1st Feb. They confirmed that they had all the 6 cars but wanted a 500 euros holding deposit and the make/model of car we were interested in so they could get it ready for us. I declined to give a deposit before viewing cars as it was non refundable and took my chances that the cars would still be available. It is worth travelling a bit further to buy a car and ours was a long journey which started at 6am. We took a taxi to Rede Expressos bus stop and caught a bus to Porto which transferred at Coimbra. Then we took a train from Porto to Nine, then had a 30 min walk. 

When we arrived a young man Jose Miguel met with us, not the lady we had booked an appointment with, which was fine. He spoke good English and kept showing us different cars, none of the ones I had asked to view. I showed him a screenshot of the cars I wanted to view but they only had 1 out of the 6 (2002 Citroen Xsara) and it wasn’t really even in my top 3 as I was keen on the Peugeot and VW. This was very disappointing and after viewing all the cars we decided to take the Citroen for a test drive. It didn’t start as it had a flat battery which was not a good start. We decided to purchase the car and agreed on a price. We wanted to take the car that day as otherwise it was a long journey home by public transport and to travel home and return back again it would cost us over 100 euros and a day off work. They asked us to return at 7.30pm to collect the car and pay as they would need this time to get the car ready. Luckily for us there were a couple cafes opposite (any excuse for a coffee and cake!) and a few shops – supermarket, home ware and shoe shop.

Please note that not all cars advertised will be available, some may have sold and they have not deleted the ad for some reason. It is important to check that the cars you are interested in are available. To be honest I don’t think they sold the 5 cars that I was interested in during the 2 days prior to my visit. I doubt the cars were ever available in the first place, so be aware of this to avoid disappointment.

They exchanged the battery and replaced 2 of the tyres. I did not really understand the comment about getting the car ready before I visited but after viewing the cars I quickly realised that the cars on the forecourt were not ready to drive away. Many had ripped seats, front plastic panels not fitted in or severe wear on the steering wheel or gear stick which needed to be replaced. Luckily ours only had a slight chip/crack in the back plastic light panel. They did not have another one of these but confirmed they would order a spare and post home to us within the week. We are still waiting for this part and although it’s not illegal to drive the car it’s annoying when they agreed to send it. For us it would have cost more to leave the car to have this part fixed and to return a few days later. I have even got my ex husband to phone them and they said they would text him when the part arrives but nothing so far!

We have had the car named (Jose Miguel) now for nearly 2 months and it is fine. It is 18 years old and gets us from A to B. It has many minor imperfections e.g. gear stick vibrates, back windscreen wipers make awful noise in reverse, missing trim, cigarette burn in seat, dodgy seat, cigarette lighter doesn’t work, sticky clutch, stain in boot that won’t go away – you can wash it off but it returns like magic, windows rattle at high speed and leak a little when it rains. It’s an old car but it does the job and overall we are pretty happy with our purchase.

Whilst at the car dealership we decided to do a quick insurance quote with Fidelidade as we were told they were a cheap insurer. The quote came back over 200 euros for the year 3rd party. They have offices all over Portugal and it may be that we would have received a cheaper quote if we had visited an actual office but it was evening and we needed to sort insurance out before we drove away. We knew that the dealership would run a quote via brokers and take a cut too but asked them for a quote which came back at 131 euros for annual cover with 30 euros admin fee which included breakdown cover which we wanted. The total price was 191 euros as they added their own 30 euros admin fee too but it had been a long day and we decided it was best to go ahead with this and research cheaper options next year. 

Beware most insurers will only insure older cars 3rd party not fully comprehensive. Some offer fully comprehensive on older cars but limit the payout to 70% of the car’s value.  As far as I am aware Portugal doesn’t have comparison sites e.g. Go Compare or Compare the market. They also like to register cars and put insurance in one person’s name as it is the car which is insured not the driver. They also would not accept my No Claims Discount. Ageas was another car insurance company that was recommended to us so we might try them next year for a quote. Don’t forget to take your ID documents: Passport, Driving licence, Fiscal number and Payment.

Important documents when purchasing a car:

  • DUA All-In-One Vehicle Document (Documento Único Automóvel) also called license plate certificate (Certificado de Matrícula) or two documents: vehicle registration document (Título de Registo de Propriedade) and log book (Livrete)
  • Valid IPO (Inspecção Periódica Obrigatória) test certificate – MOT
  • Valid IUC (Imposto Único de Circulação) – Road tax
  • Green Technical Inspection card/certificate (Calendário das Inspecções Técnicas de Veículo, also called: Carta Inspecção Técnica Periódica) which details the vehicle’s inspection history and when the next inspection is due
  • Owner’s Municipal Vehicle Tax Contribution (Imposto Municipal de Veiculo) documents or card as proof of paid-up vehicle tax
  • 12 months Warranty and service history
  • Insurance

You must carry the following in the car at all times:

  • ID – UK Passport for Brits – not a photocopy
  • Driving licence
  • Insurance documents
  • Breakdown safety/warning triangle
  • Hi-vis jacket
  • Spare set of bulbs
  • IPO certificate & Insurance certificate – In the windshield there is a plastic pocket with 2 pockets 1 for insurance and 1 for IPO both of your documents will have a small perforated section you tear off and display in the car.

Via Verde/Tolls: 

There are tolls in Portugal. The easiest way to pay for the tolls without having to stop and take a ticket is to purchase a Via Verde. We bought ours from the Via Verde website: www.viaverde.pt This is very simple and there are options to rent one or buy one. We chose to buy one for 29 euros and free delivery with a 2 year warranty. You register your bank card online and when you go through a toll the cost is automatically deducted from your bank account. When you receive your Via Verde in the post you will need to go to a multibanco (cashpoint/ATM) to set up the payments, this is a very simple process. You can also use the Via Verde to pay for petrol and parking at a variety of locations. There is also a point scheme for rewards. If you don’t have a Via Verde sometimes you have to pay at the toll but other times you have to pay within a number of days at the post office which is really inconvenient. If you live here permanently I would definitely recommend you buy one.

We considered driving over our 8 year old Nissan Note but too much hassle. We also considered buying a left hand drive in England but you have to own it for 6 months before you leave. Unless your car is over £10,000 or desperately precious to you it’s best to sell and re-buy in Portugal.

Driving in Portugal:

The Portuguese drive on the right hand side. For me this is still taking a while to get used too. Sat on the left I often drive too close to the kerb only you don’t have a kerb in Portugal out in the sticks so I am risking driving down a ditch into a drain hole! As I mentioned in Things I dislike about Portugal, the Portuguese drive very fast! One thing I have noticed here is we don’t have many speed cameras but if you are exceeding the speed limit and approaching traffic lights then the lights will turn red as they have sensors on them. I think this is great as instead of issuing a fine like the UK it actually penalises speeders by making them stop and slow down – what a great idea!

Beware if you see the car below out and about with a female driving it not a male then run and hide! My driving skills were amazing in the UK but here they are pants. Might have to result in being one of those occasional drivers and rely on hubby. Saying that I have not yet knocked any cyclists off their bikes or run over any dogs so all is good.


13th May 2020 Update

Today in the post we received the Certificado de Matricula!!!!! I was getting concerned as without this document we don’t legally own the car.