Our Car Buying Experience
Something we said we’d never do in Portugal
I have learned an often painful and sometimes humbling lesson in the long course of my life: never say ‘never.’ I was never going to do a lot of things that I ended up…well…doing. One of the things I said I’d never do (Paul said it, too) when we moved to Portugal would be to buy a car. But here I am, wrong again. This is the story of our car buying experience in Portugal.
But we love exercise!
Well, we do. A little. It’s good to walk a few miles every day or so (maybe - in good weather). It’s great for the legs, the head, and the heart. I planned on weight loss (I was sure of it). Not living in a city with a lot of local walking-distance amenities, we find that we can still walk all the way to Cascais from our condo in Parede if we really want to (but it’s a longish walk). Plus, there’s public transportation in the form of trains and buses within a short walking distance from home so a car really isn’t necessary. Grocery shopping isn’t a problem as I have already mastered the art of online grocery delivery so I don’t have to worry about walking a long distance while hauling a wheeled cart behind me with stuff.
And if we don’t want to take the train or a bus, we can take a taxi or Uber to other destinations. Or rent a car whenever we want to travel (but that’s a hassle). And while there are not a ton of restaurants and cafes in our neighborhood, we have made it work. Plus, the freedom of not owning anything that you must be responsible for is appealing. No car insurance, no taxes, no maintenance. Just your feet, occasional backaches and sore knees, and some excellent walking shoes.
But here’s the reality – at least for me.
I’m not super young (but isn’t 60 the new 40?) and I have never enjoyed vigorous workouts (my tri-athlete brother will certainly diss me if he reads this). If I could get a written ‘excuse’ to not do gym or swim in high school, I would take it. Speaking of which, the last time I joined a sort-of ‘gym’ was a Gloria Stevens Figure Salon in Seekonk, Massachusetts in the 1980’s. And I didn’t last long there (and I weighed only slightly over 100 pounds then – what was I thinking?). In our community in Arizona, we had two fitness centers – both of which we made little use of (although we did like the pools and the poolside beverage service). That’s not to say that Paul and I aren’t moderately physically active – we are. And I think we’re in pretty good shape all things considered. We’re just not into tortuous and sometimes stressful walking on uneven sidewalks or on what can seem like mountainous Portuguese uphill climbs to parts unknown…
We blame our friends.
Yes. This is a true statement. We blame our friends for changing our minds about buying a car in Portugal. One day last May, our friends Angel and Maria picked us up at the Cascais Mercado in their car (we met them there after we took the train from Parede and walked to the Mercado) so that we could join them on a little road trip to one of their favorite hamburger places somewhere between Guincho and Sintra (don’t ask me where exactly because I don’t know). It was a beautiful spring day, sunny and not too warm. We drove along the shoreline and then into little villages until we came to the hamburger place.
I was smitten.
Not about the destination (although it was very quaint, and the burgers were delicious), but smitten with the fact that we went somewhere that public transportation cannot easily take us. And it was such a relaxing drive to this place. Maybe it was just the day, but I looked at Paul and said, “We have to buy a car.” He just looked at me as if I were someone he had just met on a blind date and didn’t care for very much. “What do you mean?” he asked. I then said, “We should buy a car. There’s no way we’re ever going to see all this beautiful country if we don’t. Buses and trains don’t go everywhere. What if there’s a place off the main roads that might be just perfect for us to live in the long-term?”
We took the plunge.
Summer came and went and we didn’t buy a car. We were still dancing around the subject - toying with the idea - putting it off. But during a conversation a few weeks ago at one of Paul’s vertigo treatments with his Osteopath, we mentioned that we were thinking of buying a car. The doctor recommended a small family dealership in Cascais that he had bought cars from for several years and completely trusted. He said that he would also contact the dealer himself to introduce us. Plus, the dealer spoke English (always helpful for immigrants like us when completing a business transaction). So, we decided to take the plunge into car ownership.
Not a lot to choose from.
Especially if you’re looking for a new, mid-priced car with an automatic transmission. We didn’t want anything too tiny (like a Smart Car), but nothing too large that would be difficult to maneuver down narrow streets and parking spaces.
We considered new cars versus used cars and found that there wasn’t much of a difference in price as the used car market has skyrocketed in Portugal, much like in the US. Plus, not having any experience with car buying in a foreign country, we chose to go with new.
I always rely on Paul for car buying since he is a car fanatic and in the past, has owned many nice cars – from sports cars to SUVs to antique cars and everything in-between. And now as a digital car artist, he had started – mostly out of curiosity - looking at different cars and models in Portugal. One model he liked was the Renault Captur.
The dealership Paul’s Osteopath had recommended happened to be a Renault dealer, but the owner was also able to broker other cars/makes/models if you didn’t want a Renault. However, because it was the end of the model year, the fact that we wanted an automatic transmission, the fact that we wanted a mid-priced car – preferably new - and the fact that fewer cars are currently being manufactured due to the lack of materials and electronic components, our choices were a bit slim. But not impossible.
Cars are expensive. Even ‘mid-priced’ ones.
People had told us that cars in Portugal were expensive. But since we really hadn’t thought we’d ever buy a car we didn’t give it much thought. But now that we were serious about a purchase, we started to pay closer attention.
I guess they’re expensive. We hadn’t purchased a new car in a while. But I think they’re expensive in the US as well. Prices are up everywhere because of supply and demand.
What we chose.
After considering all the options, we decided to focus on the Renault Captur. It’s a small SUV that seats five passengers. Based on what our needs were (to see Portugal and possibly a few neighboring countries), this type of vehicle seemed to fit the bill. It’s taller than a sedan so you can see more when riding in it, it’s very well built and feels ‘solid’ when you drive it, it’s quiet and extremely comfortable with leather and fabric seats, and it has enough space to store luggage or haul small pieces of furniture (something I look forward to doing).
A bonus is that the vehicle is a hybrid model, which means that it is gas and electric powered. The electric battery gets charged while driving the vehicle, so there’s no need to plug it in to recharge.
Mandatory expenses - inquiring minds want to know.
You might be wondering about a few car-buying facts in Portugal…
I think the important differential here in Portugal is the tax which is high. There is a 23% Vehicle Tax (ISV) levied on passenger cars and other vehicles purchased in Portugal. The tax is due when the car is registered. Tax tables are published annually using two components: the “displacement component” and the “environmental component.” There is a system for calculating the taxes, but for this article, I’ll simplify it: taxes are calculated by the number of cylinders with the environmental component added to this value. The sum of the two calculated components equals the tax due.
Road tax – there is a road tax imposed on new cars only which can cost up to 1,000 euros depending on several different factors. After the first year all cars are subject to an annual road tax (just not as much).
What we paid – a little over 5,400 euros for all the taxes and registration for the year.
Note: If you want a more detailed explanation, the Auto Club of Portugal has taxes broken down into tables. Plus, they have a lot of information on buying, financing, or leasing a car.
Insurance is another expense. In Portugal it is mandatory to have civil liability insurance whether the vehicle is parked in a garage or not. Although not expensive, the insurance does limit your coverage. We chose a zero-deductible policy called ‘own damage’ which covers not only the civil liability requirement but also any other liability. The price of the coverage depends on the age of the driver and the type of vehicle. We had already joined the Auto Club of Portugal, so we chose a policy from them which cost a little under 600.00 euros per year (you get a discount if you pay the year upfront).
Vehicle inspections – although not for newer cars, after a few years, you are required to have an annual vehicle inspection. The cost of the inspection is currently around 32.00 euros. Of course, if your vehicle fails inspection, you will have to make the necessary repairs.
Other details to be aware of.
If you’re simply curious or if you plan to eventually buy a car in Portugal, here are a few other details that might be helpful:
Documents needed to buy a car - NIF (Tax Identification Number), Valid passport or residence card (we were asked for both), Proof of permanent Portuguese residence (we submitted a utility statement), Bank account details – if you’re financing the vehicle. Since we did not finance the car, we used online banking (known in Portugal as ‘home banking’) to transfer the funds to the dealer’s bank account. Only one person’s name can be on the paperwork. You’ll also need a Portuguese driver’s license or if your home country driver’s license hasn’t expired, you can use that.
Warranty – By law, new or used cars are entitled to a two-year warranty effective from the date of purchase. If you purchase a car privately, the seller is not obligated to provide a warranty.
In our case, our dealer provided us with a five-year warranty on certain parts, plus an eight-year warranty on the battery. The first vehicle check up is complimentary.
No negotiations - In most cases with a new car in Portugal, the price is the price. However, you may be able to negotiate extras such as an extended warranty.
Emergency safety kit – it is mandatory for vehicles to carry an emergency safety kit in the vehicle at all times. This comes standard with all cars in Portugal. It’s a little bag with a safety vest (that you must wear if your vehicle is disabled), an emergency warning triangle, extra lightbulbs if the headlights are not working, and a flashlight. There are fines imposed if you do not have a safety kit or wear the safety vest (this applies to everyone inside the vehicle who exits the vehicle), and display of the warning triangle. If you have a pooch riding in the car, they must be leashed before exiting the vehicle in an emergency.
In the glove box – keep proof of ownership in the glove box. The dealer prepared everything for us, so we didn’t have to worry about having the correct paperwork. We also keep a certified marriage certificate (I don’t think it’s really necessary but I have an extra one, so it doesn’t hurt to have it) in the glove box just in case I’m driving alone as only Paul’s name is on the paperwork.
Stop for pedestrians at crosswalks – you must stop your vehicle at a pedestrian crosswalk and allow people to cross the road. Pedestrians have complete priority over vehicles.
Mobile devices – unless it’s hands-free, it is illegal to drive and use a mobile phone or other video or audio device. Our Renault Captur comes with a hands-free mobile phone option along with GPS that attaches to our mobile phone while driving.
Don’t drink and drive – Portugal has a drink and drive limit of 0.5 grams per liter of blood. There are severe fines and even imprisonment for violating drink and drive laws.
Seat belts – mandatory use.
Roundabouts – read this post to fully understand how to enter and exit a roundabout to avoid accidents and fines.
Parking and tolls – if you plan to do a lot of highway driving, I suggest getting the Via Verde transponder. We ordered ours online and received it in the mail within a week. Although we’re still learning the particulars, the one we ordered also has a parking payment option.
We had a great car buying experience! I think because we worked with a small family dealership that came highly recommended made all the difference. Bruno, one of the owners, spent over an hour showing us how everything in the car worked. He also gave us his personal phone number if we have any problems, questions, or concerns. And since this dealership is also a repair shop, we feel we’ll be in good hands when we need help.
Being a hybrid, the car is a little bit different in feel and sound, and there’s an extra shifting position that we still have to get accustomed to.
This car is actually a computer on wheels! There are so many little electronic things to get used to! There are all sorts of features that I fear we may never truly understand.
Parking is scary – not so much in a parking lot or on the street – but the underground parking garages in stores or shopping centers can be tricky (we’ve already tried this). And our underground parking garage space is on the second level of our building and has a few very narrow turns that make the experience ‘white knuckle.’ I’m happy that we have motion sensors on the front, back and sides of the car. Eventually, we may decide to keep the car parked in the outside resident parking lot.
Gas is expensive. We’re happy that we’re most often in electric mode.
In some instances, like this one, I’m glad I said I’d ‘never’ do it and then did! We have only owned the car for a few short weeks but we’re already enjoying the freedom it brings us! And even though we haven’t traveled long distances yet, we’ve already driven by some Portuguese countryside and oceanside spaces that we never would have been able to see walking, or on a bus or train. We’re grateful to be able to have this little luxury!
Will we ever walk again? Of course! There are places we like to go to that are not car-friendly. So we’ll take the train, a bus or an Uber when we travel to those destinations.
But, with this car, Paul and I both look forward to further explorations and adventures on our Portugal journey and I can’t wait to bring and share with you more stories about this country and this wonderful experience!
A Special Thank you - Muito obrigada (many thanks) to Sean and to Anna for supporting Our Portugal Journey through Buy Me a Coffee. Your generosity and interest help to keep this publication free to subscribers.
Until next time…
Carol. I very much enjoyed reading this. We are 6 weeks in to our "living in Portugal" adventure and our top priority is buying a car. The Captur is our choice and if you would be willing to share information on your seller. He sounds like what we are looking for based on your positive experience. I am a believer in things aligning to help us and believe this to be one of those occasions. I can be found on FB as Andy Cruickshank if that is the preferred contact method. Obrigado.
My wife and I are avid motorcyclists to the point where I have a 2017 model car with just over 18,000 miles on it. So I am hoping that when we make the move we can get around by motorcycle or "maxi-scooter" such as that 750cc Honda, but I guess time will tell. Great read about the process!