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Exploring Belgium by Car: Legal Issues

Although Belgium is not exactly a big country, driving allows you to make use of its modern, toll-free road network and to see the local sights at your own convenience. The InterNations guide gives you a succinct introduction to the most important aspects.

All about Road Safety

Once you have successfully acquired a valid license, you may enjoy the high standard of Belgian roadways. Be sure to follow the traffic rules carefully as noncompliance will result in heavy fines.

  • Speed limits in Belgium are 30 km/h in school areas and within Antwerp and Brussels’ city limits, 50 km/h in other towns and cities, between 70 km/h and 90 km/h on larger roads, and 120 km/h on highways.
  • The legal limit of BAC (blood alcohol content) is 0.05%. If you are caught with more it may result in a fine of up to 11,000 EUR and a license suspension (or even loss, for severe cases involving repeat offenders).
  • You must be at least 18 to drive.
  • Seatbelts are mandatory for all passengers.
  • Children under the age of 12 must sit in the backseat; smaller children must be restrained appropriately.
  • A warning triangle and reflective vest must be in your car at all times. If your car is registered in Belgium, you also need to carry a first-aid kit and a fire extinguisher.
  • The use of hand-held mobile phones is illegal while you are behind the wheel.

If You Are Planning to Import Your Car

If you want to bring your car with you, you may do so under certain circumstances. If you plan to import it from a country that is not part of the EU, you must fulfill the following conditions:

  • You have lived outside the EU for at least twelve months.
  • You bought the car abroad more than six months ago.
  • You have already paid the sales tax for the purchase.
  • You intend to keep the vehicle for your personal use for twelve months or more after importing it.

The procedure itself is rather complicated, so please enquire directly at the Belgian customs office (Douanes et accises / douane en accijnzen) what it entails, which costs are involved, and which documents you need.

If you bring along your car from another EU country, you may import both used and new cars as long as you have proof of identity, proof of purchase, and documents concerning the previous registration of the car. For new cars, you have to pay value added tax, though. For more detailed information, consult the Buying a car in the European Union document, released by the European Consumer Centre.

Don’t Delay! Registering and Insuring Your Car in Belgium

Once you get your Belgian ID card, that same day you must also submit the paperwork to register your vehicle. Failing to do so could result in a fine or even the seizure of your vehicle. After your car has met the approval of the customs agents, you may need to go to the nearest car dealership or garage in order to get a Certificate of Conformity. This basically certifies that your car meets European environmental standards. If you purchased your car in an EU member state, you have probably kept your old certificate of conformity. This is then valid in Belgium, too. However, if you don’t have a European COC, you need to have your car tested.

Then, with the COC, your original car registration papers, and proof of insurance, you can go to the Vehicle Registration Service (DIV).  In addition, you have to pay the following taxes to complete the vehicle registration process:

  • Registration tax: This is a payment made upon registering the car at the DIV in order to receive local license plates.
  • Circulation tax: This is a one-time payment made upon the purchase of your car (new or used). The price is based on the engine power and this tax was introduced in order to reduce the circulation of fuel-heavy cars on Belgian streets.
  • Road tax: The amount is also related to engine power. This tax is due annually. The amount increases per additional car purchased.

If you move to Belgium with your car and do not yet have a residence permit, you must apply for temporary plates for insurance purposes; otherwise, you cannot drive legally.

Car insurance is mandatory in Belgium, and you are required to have at least third party liability insurance. Be sure to look around for different insurance policies because it can be quite expensive.

 

We do our best to keep this article up to date. However, we cannot guarantee that the information provided is always current or complete. 

 

Kelly Powell

"I loved moving to Brussels. But after a while I felt homesick. On InterNations I met a bunch of people from the US. That helped a lot."

Maria Lombardi

"You can really get lost in the "capital of Europe" - InterNations helped me to get settled and to make a lot of expat friends."

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