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29 February 2008

How to Buy a Vehicle in Poland

Finding a car/motorbike

The use of the Internet lags behind the UK somewhat, but it's still a great place to start looking for vehicles. Have a look at the motoring section on or the most popular Polish auction site

Like in the UK 10 or more years ago (i.e. pre-Internet) one of the best ways to find a car is to do the leg work and go and visit local dealerships. Also you will often see vehicles parked at the side of the road with "Sprzedam" (for sale - lit. "I will sell") in the window.

Some useful vocabulary:
  • przebieg (mileage)
  • pojemność (engine capacity)
  • rodzaj paliwa (fuel type)
  • skrzynia biegów (gear type, i.e. manual or automatic)
It's worth noting that the price of second-hand vehicles is higher in Poland than in most western European countries such as the UK or Germany. I can only presume this is because there is a higher demand for older cheaper vehicles in Poland which means that vehicles hold their value longer. If you have a trailer and go back and forth by road frequently enough I am sure you could make a sideline importing motorbikes for this very reason. If you have spent any time on the E40 motorway you may well have noticed the amount of crash damaged French/German cars that Poles bring over on trailers.

Lots of Poles I know check out the German market too - have a look at autoscout for example. You might find a cheaper car there, but then of course you have the hassle of going to Germany and then importing the vehicle over here. Also worth a mention is that foreign cars of the same age may well be in better mechanical condition as they haven't had the extra punishment of the pot-holed Polish roads exerted on them.

Checking the vehicle/test drive

You are pretty much on your own here. There aren't the checks that you can get in the UK such as AA car check etc.. Also their MOTs don't show the history of the mileage so you can't check if the car has been clocked or not. My tips:
  • Check the car out yourself, bring a mechanically minded friend if necessary.
  • See if there is a service history.
  • Check that the engine numbers match the documentation.
  • Look for signs of an accident damage repaired car by checking the engine bay for unusal marks/damage/weld joints
  • Look for signs of broken glass under the carpet in the boot (where the spare-wheel is etc..)
  • Does the car have winter tyres on or summer tyres? You might need to buy a full set depending on the time of year and how long the car's been parked up
Don't be afraid to take the car for a test drive. As long as the car's registration certificate is still up to date you will have the mandatory 3rd party level of insurance so anyone can drive it legally.

Buying the vehicle

Buying is straight-forward except there are some differences:
  • Most transactions are cash only. Expect to have to go to the bank first!
  • Get a proper receipt with the seller's details and your correct details on it - you will need this at the treasury office so don't lose it
  • VAT is payable on second-hand cars. You have to go to the treasury department and declare that you bought the car, show the receipt and pay up. If you buy at a dealer they can do this for you to save you the trip. I had to pay 2%. The dealer might not want to put the full value of the transaction on the receipt because they also pay tax on it. It's up to you if you mind doing that or not.
  • The seller/dealer will give you the registration certificate. You now have 28 days to get the car registered in your name, which means going twice to the transport department (wywiad transportu i komunikacji)
Registering the vehicle

Take your registration certificate and your certificate that shows you are registered to live in Poland (tymczasowe zameldowanie) to the transport department.

There you will have to queue up and fill out a form (wniosek) that you have bought the car and fill in your details. If I recall correctly I had to pay a fee of 60 złoty. I was lucky that the car I bought had local number plates for the area I lived in. If your car is from a different area to where you want to register it then you will have to buy new number plates and pay 300 złoty. It's quite a bizarre sight seeing the woman at the counter handing out pairs of shiny new number plates to people.
They will take your registration certificate from you and give you a temporary one valid for 28 days. You will have to return in person to collect the new one after about 2 weeks.

If you are temporarily registered to live in Poland then your registration certificate will have this noted on it and therefore will only be valid whilst your personal registration is valid. Frustratingly you will have to go back to the transport department each time you renew your address registration to get your car registration updated. On a standard temporary address registration that is every 3 months.


The registration of the car includes basic 3rd party insurance so that you can legally drive the car anywhere in the EU. If you want fully comprehensive or fire and theft cover you will have to go to one of the insurance shops (ubezpieczenstwa) you see in the high streets. I haven't bothered with this so can't comment on it.


On the registration certificate is a stamp and date that says when the next vehicle inspection is due - "termin bandania technicznego". You can go to most garages to get that done and they simply stamp your registration certificate for you. I have to go and get an MOT for my motorbike next week so will update this post then about it.

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