Buying your first car as an expatriate in the Nordics

Coming to live or visit the Nordics remains a big dream for so many people. The region has earned a space in the global community for its relatively stable social and political environment as well as high ranking in the global happiness index. Nobody will mind going out to experience such a place, even if only to visit for a short while and with that comes the need for for the first car as an expatriate. 

In case one gets the coveted Schengen visa and a long term residence permit in the Nordics, the need to have a driving license and a car become more real than ever. While public transport systems in the Nordics remain highly advanced and reliable, they may not be as convenient for those really looking to effectively use the time and live a freer life. So, one better start thinking about buying a first car as an expatriate in the Nordics. 

As an expat in the Nordics, you’ll most definitely need a car

Nordics; a lovable region for expatriates

A lot of research has ranked the Nordic countries as the happiest nations across the globe. The region is popular for high societal trust that goes to some ways why all countries from this region rank highest. Several factors could be behind this phenomenon. 

You may be a foreigner or recently migrated to one of the Nordic countries and aspiring to be happy in your car. Well! The automobile sector is undergoing a period of transformation, with buyers’ behavior, attitudes and shopping choices shifting dramatically over the last few years. 

Going green as a key priority in the Nordics 

When talking about car ownership as a first timer in the Nordics, it would immediately remind us of things about decolonization of the transport system which remains a key policy issue there. So, car buyers in their own small ways feel the burden to shoulder a small part in the greening agenda. Although this may sound academic, motor vehicle regulations in the Nordics have been designed to favor electric mobility as opposed to those running on fossil fuel. 

Before you make the move to buy that first car in the Nordics, just know that the countries have a reputation for being environment-friendly. Norway for instance, is the undisputed trailblazer in electric automobiles. Norway is also famous for high levels of electric vehicle adoption.

Battery-powered vehicles account for nearly 54% of new vehicle sales due to a blend of favorable policies, high cost of fuel, numerous home charging options, and approaches of a remarkable local grassroots EV owners’ association. 

Electronic vehicle models in the Nordics

So far, most Nordic countries have been consumers rather than producers of EV models. However, there could be a shift to this as Nordics are gradually emerging a new EV model producing cluster in Europe. The change highlights a critical area of industrial policy for many countries for future generations. 

More automobile manufacturers continuously debut some version of “net zero” or carbon neutrality targets with the objective of fully eliminating CO2 emissions. These targets imply looking very closely at all sections of the supply chain. You ordinarily check about the country where production of an EV model took place so to know if it had a substantial impact on the CO2 footprints. 

EV charging points are common sights in the Nordics

With the move to electric automobiles in full swing in the Nordics, one can expect to hear a lot more regarding “green batteries’ ‘ in a few years to come and countries with cleaner electricity production mix and reduced grid emissions stand to benefit. Hence, if you are thinking of buying a car in the Nordics, consider EVs rather than gasoline-powered cars only. 

Top car models to look out for in the Nordics

Most Nordic countries import several of the top-selling cars (Volvo, Tesla & KIA) from Asia so the recent supply chain disruption has had insignificant effects on stock availability. Nordic countries rank Toyota, Mercedes-Benz, BMW, Audi, and Volvo among the topmost brands across Norway, Sweden, Finland, and Denmark. 

Volvo tops the list across the four countries with Sweden leading. Tesla appears on the ranking list for Sweden and Denmark. Tesla has been an overall top-selling brand in Norway, but this has not made it to rank highest to make it to the top ten in the country’s list. 

In Denmark, European models top the list with Volkswagen topping, followed by other models popular for higher prices such as Mercedes-Benz, Audi, Volvo, and BMW respectively. Toyota is more popular in Finland followed by other European brands such as Volvo, Mercedes-Benz, and Volkswagen. The choice will be yours depending on which Nordic country you intend to reside in. 

Buying your first car as an expatriate in the Nordics

To buy a car in the Nordics, you must be over 18-years old. There are no special regulations for expatriates who intend to own a car in the Nordics. Whether buying a new or second-hand car, there are formalities involved, including transferring the ownership among others. 

In Norway for example, an expatriate will be required to pay a one-time registration tax along with mandatory registration transfer fee or VAT

Buy brand New Car from the dealer 

If an expatriate decides to buy a new car, the one-off registration tax, VAT, and scrap deposit tax come already included in the buying price. For some vehicles, one may get an exemption from or a reduction of the one-off registration fee – common for electric cars. 

Contact your dealer and make a deal for the purchase of your first car as an expatriate

Buy a used car from the seller 

It’s also a possibility to buy a second-hand car or any other automobile initially registered in one of the Nordic countries. In this case, the process becomes easier. The fact that the vehicle have a history of registration within the Nordics means  that VAT and the one-off registration tax had already been paid. The buyer will only pay a registration transfer fee to the dealer. 

Registration transfer fee varies according to country. A used imported car with no history of initial registration in the country comes with extra requirements. You, will pay one-off registration tax as well as a scrap deposit tax before registering the car.

 In some instances, the buyer may get an exemption or a discounted one off registration tax – common with EVs. In case the car has initially been registered abroad, the buyer gets a deduction in the on-off registration tax, known as deduction for use

As things stand, it is not a tedious process buying a car as an expatriate in the Nordic. Just have the right documents and the financial resources since it may be more costly than home country.