Are you wondering what it is like to drive a car in the Netherlands? Remember that bumper sticker: ‘If you don’t like my driving, get off the sidewalk’? Sometimes it seems as if Dutch drivers live by this motto. If you slow down to check a street name, or linger in the left-hand lane of the high-way, you are bound to incur the wrath of a nearby motorist.

Nonetheless, the Netherlands is statistically one of the world’s the safest countries to drive in. So, do not be put off! This page will take you through the regulations you must adhere to, with regards to owning and driving a car in the Netherlands. You should:

  1. Have a valid driver’s license
  2. Take out car and liability insurance
  3. Have the registration certificate of the car transferred to your name
  4. Pay road tax and vehicle tax
  5. Know and respect the rules of the road
  6. Arrange a periodic check-up for your car

Before we get into detail on driving in the Netherlands, you have an important decision to make. Have a look at our article, which explores the question: should you keep your car?

1. OBTAINING A VALID DRIVER'S LICENSE

Residents of the Netherlands are legally required to have a Dutch driver’s license, in order to operate a motor vehicle. Officially, you are a resident if you spend at least 185 days per calendar year in the Netherlands.

Depending on which country originally issued your driver’s license, you may be able to use it in the Netherlands, or exchange it for a Dutch one. Both RDW and Rijbewijs.nl can help you figure our whether this applies to you, and provide you with plenty more information on driver’s licenses in the Netherlands.   

2. TAKING OUT CAR LIABILITY INSURANCE

It is important to take out liability insurance, incase of an accident. Read more about this here. 

3. REGISTRATION CARD

Any car you buy in the Netherlands, be it new or 15 years old, will come with a kentekencard. This is a credit-card sized registration card, which the RDW began to issue in 2015. Each card contains a chip that holds information, such as your name, address and your car’s model. This is your proof of ownership.

In order to sell, export, suspend or dispose of your car, you also need a code. You will receive the first part of this code when the ownership of a car is transferred to you. The second part will come with the registration card.


Usually all the above will have been sorted out for you. This applies, whether the car is new or second hand. There is just one thing you need to do; Get taken through how to have your car’s registration card put in your name
, step by step.

There is a chance that you will come across the old registration system when buying a car. If you want to learn more about this, visit: www.rdw.nl.

4. VEHICLE TAX AND ROAD TAX

Vehicle Tax

Here is what you need to know about vehicle tax:

  • BPM is a vehicle tax that you are required to pay on a car or a motorcycle, the very first time it is registered in the Netherlands
  • If you buy a car in the Netherlands, the official car importer will include the tax in the price of the vehicle
  • If you bring your car/motorcycle to the Netherlands from abroad,

If you convert a non-passenger car into a passenger car

Or, if you drive a car/motorcycle with foreign license plates in the Netherlands, then you have to take care of BPM yourself

  • The amount of BPM you owe, depends on your car’s CO₂ emissions
  • To register your car for the BPM, you must first have it approved by the RDW (Vehicle Technology and Information Center). They are responsible for determining how much CO₂ your car emits
  • The RDW will issue you a form stating your car’s CO₂ emission, which is based on the European Type Approval of your car
  • If you do not receive a form, a fixed emission rate will be determined, based on the type of fuel you use
  • If you want, you can have an individual test carried out on your car, to determine its emission rate more accurately.

To get all this sorted out, you need to visit an RDW center. Call 0900 0739 to find your nearest one. When you visit, remember to bring following items with you:

  • Your vehicle
  • Proof of identity (passport,ID card or Dutch driver’s license)
  • Foreign vehicle registration certificate
  • The Individual Approval Certificate (APK-rapport),
  • The Certificate of Conformity.

Road Tax

Here is what you need to know about Road tax:

  • If you own a car, delivery van or motorcycle in the Netherlands, you must also pay road tax. Cars are officially defined as ‘vehicles with three or more wheels, designed for transporting a maximum of eight persons, excluding the driver’. Other regulations apply to vehicles with cargo space, and a higher maximum permitted weight load.
  • You have to pay road tax from the time your name is transferred to the vehicle registration card (kentekenkaart).
  • You are always required to pay road tax, regardless of whether you are temporarily unable or unwilling to use your vehicle. This means that you must pay purely for possessing a vehicle, even if it remains parked on private premises. However, under certain circumstances, you can apply for suspension.
  • You can arrange to have your road tax bills paid automatically by means of a machtiging (authorization).
  • If you are a resident of the Netherlands, but driving a car that is registered abroad, you still have to pay road tax and vehicle tax (BPM). That is, unless you use the car for less than two weeks. For those two weeks you will still have to request an exemption from the RDW (Vehicle Technology and Information Center).

It might be helpful for you to read over some more information on bringing your vehicle with you when you move to the Netherlands.

5. THE RULES OF THE ROAD

The ‘VVN‘, the ‘Veilig Verkeer Nederland’ or the ‘Organization for safe traffic in the Netherlands’ set and endeavor to enforce the rules of the road. It is important to comply with their laws. Here are some of the major ones to be aware of:

  • You must familiarize yourself with, and obey, Dutch road signs
  • You may not make or receive calls on your mobile phone without an aid, such as a headset or car kit, whilst driving
  • You may not write, send or read text messages, e-mails or WAP messages whilst driving. However, you may briefly make use of your phone while waiting at a traffic light, or standing still in a traffic jam
  • The permitted blood alcohol level is 0.2 promille, for the first five years after you have obtained your driver’s license. After this, it is 0.5.
  • After dark, and if you cannot see clearly during the day, you must use your regular headlights
  • In the case of fog, snow or rain you should use your fog lights

Parking

Here are the main bullet points:

  • Parking regulations vary from city to city, so you should ask a local what the protocol is when you first arrive.
  • A local map will have carparks marked with a blue symbol and a P. Carparks with controlled entry have a range of different payment systems.
  • It sometimes appears as if you can park in a street or a carpark for free, when in fact there is a ticket dispenser just out of eye shot. The dispenser will have a blue sign with a white P on it.
  • Look for signs that say betaald parkeren (paid parking), and parkeerautomaat, so that you do not get fined.
  • Download the ANWB’s ‘Yellow brick’ app to pay for the exact amount of time you were parked, with your phone.

Tip

Beware, particularly in the inner cities, of signs saying Parkeren voor vergunninghouders. These are easy to miss, because there are often very spread out. They usually indicate that the entire area, if not the neighborhood, is reserved for permit holders only. If you live in the area, you can get one of these permits at the gemeentehuis or the local Dienst Parkeerzaken (parking department). Prices vary from city to city.

Remember, parking violations are punished rather severely.

6. CHECK UPS FOR YOUR CARS

Vehicle approval: APK

Before a vehicle is allowed onto the road, it must be checked over by the RDW. They ensure that it meets the environmental, safety and economic demands of the Netherlands. They asses this by conducting vehicle type approvals, carrying out certain independent tests, and supervising the Dutch Algemene Periodieke Keuring, or APK (annual general technical test). Here are the essential facts about the APK:

  • For cars that run on gasoline, and were manufactured more than four years ago, an APK is carried out once every two years.
  • When a car that runs on gasoline reaches 8 years of age, the test must to be carried out annually.
  • Cars that run on any other type of fuel, and were manufactured more than three years ago, require an annual APK.
  • The APK is carried out at specialized centers, called keuringsstations, or by a local garage that has been recognized by the RDW.
  • There is no fixed price for the APK test, and prices vary greatly, so it may be worth shopping around a little.
  • When your car has been APK-tested, the garage will notify the RDW of the outcome.
  • If you fail to get the APK carried out on time, you will be fined.

Useful links
Traffic Rules: www.veiligverkeernederland.nl
Driver’s Licence: www.rdw.nl

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