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How to buy a car in Croatia: Guide for 2023

Yellow Volkswagen bug on the streets of Split, Croatia

PUBLISHED: 27/09/2021

When buying a car in Croatia, the most important thing you must do is decide whether to buy a new or used car. However, there are some general rules that should be taken into consideration no matter what you decide.

In this post, we cover:

The facts are these…

How to buy a car in Croatia

General things to know when buying cars in Croatia

Generally, it is cheaper to buy a car abroad rather than in Croatia, but the risk is much higher.  For example, the car may end up being faulty, or you may find evidence of serious damage or discover that the number of kilometers is inaccurate. In cases like these, you might want to sue the seller. If you decide to sue them, you have to return to the country where the car was purchased.

Buying from a Croatian car dealer is a much safer option. They can’t afford to risk their reputation with scams. Besides, if anything goes wrong, you can return to them and request that they fix the problem immediately.

Buying a used car in Croatia is often a more cost-effective option than buying a new car. It is best to buy a car that is between 1 and 5 years old. Furthermore, buying a rental car isn’t a great option since the car has been driven by a large number of people.

You may want to consider brands you are unfamiliar with, as the brands most commonly available may not be the same as what is available in your home country. In Croatia, Volkswagen and Škoda have the best reputation.

When buying a car in Croatia, it is necessary to pay attention to several important factors.

#1 Budget

Your budget should include the purchase price, taxes, registration, cost to import (if doing so), and regular maintenance. A good method is to set aside approximately 25% of your monthly income for car costs.

[Read: How to import a car]

#2 New or used car

Decide whether you want to buy a new or used car or a car through leasing. If you are a young driver, it might be better to buy a used car. They are cheaper and it wouldn’t be such a waste if you scratch them a bit. In Croatia, your car will get scratched either by you or some other driver. Parking lots (if they even exist) tend to be small and cramped.

#3 Research

Make a short list of several cars you’d like to buy and research them well. You can also ask your friends, acquaintances or even the expat groups for help and advice. Take some time to examine them all since the cost of buying a car is huge. You’ll also want to make sure it is a car that can be easily serviced in Croatia.

#4 Credit options

If you need a loan, check the options with your bank and compare them with the car offer.

[Read: How credit works in Croatia]

#5 Discounts

Check for all possible discounts from manufacturers – promo codes via their web pages, mobile applications, or flyers.

#6 Test drive

Allow enough time for a test drive and test everything. Visit all the sellers you’re interested in and don’t rush the decision.

#7 Car history

It is possible to check a car’s history before buying it. This will help you find out if the car has had any major damage or accidents that the seller may not disclose.

For a small fee, you can check a car’s history here.

Tips for buying a used car in Croatia

A well-known Croatian traffic expert has pointed out that if you decide to buy a used car under 100.000 kuna, there is no point in buying it outside of Croatia. You would approximately save up to 1.000 – 2.000 €, but you take the risk that the car is faulty. If you are buying from a person and you want to sue the seller, you must hire a lawyer. This means that you would spend more than you saved when buying.

Buying from a person is usually cheaper than buying from a car dealer. However, buying from a car dealer is a safer option because they offer a warranty on the car. If you are considering importing a car from somewhere else in Europe, consider what you would do if something was wrong with the car. Getting service may require costs for travel and accommodation. [Read: How to import your car and belongings to Croatia]

The safest option is to buy a used car from a Croatian car dealer. Car dealers will give you a testing period of several days. During this period, you can take the car home, drive it and test it. Plus, they offer a warranty of up to 2 years.

A good and more verified option can be to buy a used car from a person you already know. A recommendation is also a good option. This way, you may decrease the risk that something is wrong with the car or the risk of fraud.

On the other hand, if you want to buy a luxury car, going abroad (especially in Germany) could bear fruit. If you estimate that a car is in a good condition, you could save a lot of money. For example, some people have saved 15.000-20.000 kuna or more when they bought a car for 150.000 kuna. “Good condition” usually implies that the car is well-maintained and that the kilometers are accurate.

#1 Ask an expert for help

Take an expert (a car mechanic called “automehaničar” or a tinman called “limar”) or a person with a good knowledge of cars with you. Sellers sometimes paint cars to hide damaged parts or rust.

#2 Ask for proof of ownership

Ask for proof of ownership from the owner to see how many owners the car has had. Otherwise, someone might fool you. After all, you don’t want to be the 10th owner of the car.

#3 Check kilometers

Be sure to check the number of kilometers. You can check it at any technical inspection station called “stanica za tehnički pregled”. A map of all technical inspection stations in Croatia is available here.

Sellers sometimes lower the number of kilometers, which is a criminal act. If the seats or the wheel are worn, the car may be old. A motor that sounds rough or is washed is also a sign that the car has driven a large number of kilometers.

#4 See if there’s a lease on the car

Check if the car is still under credit or leasing, or the subject of enforcement. You can check this at FINA. A map of all FINA branches in Croatia is available here.

#5 Make a contract

Make a contract with the car seller certified by a notary public. This way, you will be officially protected from scams. [Read: How to get something notarized]

Where to find car offers

Below is a list of the biggest car brands available in Croatia:

Below is a list of car sellers in Croatia and their market shares in 2021:

  • Volkswagen – 15.28%
  • Škoda – 12.63%
  • Suzuki – 6.27%
  • Renault – 6.25%
  • Kia – 5.78%
  • Dacia – 5.49%
  • Opel – 5.27%
  • Hyundai – 5.13%
  • Peugeot – 4.65%
  • Seat – 4.19%
  • Toyota – 3.77%
  • Audi – 3.22%
  • Fiat – 3.22%
  • BMW – 2.85%
  • Citroen – 2.73%
  • Mazda – 2.70%
  • Mercedes – 2.67%
  • Nissan – 2.07%
  • Ford – 1.29%
  • Jeep – 0.89%
  • Volvo – 0.85%
  • Honda – 0.47%
  • Porsche – 0.46%
  • Mitsubishi – 0.37%
  • Land Rover – 0.34%
  • Mini – 0.31%
  • Cupra – 0.30%
  • Tesla – 0.17%
  • Jaguar – 0.11%
  • Smart – 0.07%
  • Others – 0.18%

In Croatia, there is a good offer of cars on Njuš There you can find car offers both from private sellers and car dealers. [Read: An English guide to Njuškalo (Croatia’s Craiglist)]

In Zagreb, there is a well-known car fair at Jakuševac that happens every Sunday during the whole year.

You can check out vehicles and car dealers that sell cars in Europe here and here.

Car loans available in Croatia

Most Croatian banks offer car loans according to the regular credit procedure to persons with creditworthiness. [Read: How credit works in Croatia]

Car loans in Croatia are usually approved for a period between 3 and 5 years. Amounts usually vary up to 35.000 € (260.000 kuna).

Getting a car loan includes several steps that you must complete to get the loan. These steps include:

  1. Submitting the request for the loan
  2. Processing the loan request
  3. Preparing the documentation for the contract
  4. Signing the contract
  5. Using the loan

Once the loan is approved, the bank pays the loan to the client according to the conditions of the contract.

Croatian banks regulate the terms and conditions for car loans by their internal acts. Some regular terms require that potential clients have regular monthly income and pay their debts on time. Car loans can be paid directly from banks or via auto kuća (car dealers).

Insurance instruments that Croatian banks use when talking about car loans are:

  • Jamac (a guarantor) – A person who pays credit debts if the user doesn’t pay them on time
  • Zadužnica (debenture) – Allows the bank to seize the salary
  • Fiducij (fiduciary) – The ownership of the vehicle transfers in case debts are not payed
  • Polica kasko osiguranja (Casco insurance policy) – Covers expenses that arise due to crash or collision of the car

Car loans from different Croatian banks can be compared here. [Read: Croatia’s biggest banks – comparison of fees and services]

How to register a car in Croatia

Car registration in Croatia is done at stanica za tehnički pregled vozila (technical inspection station). Before the (annual) registration of the car, a car must pass a technical inspection which is also done at the technical inspection station. They will confirm that the car is roadworthy and safe for driving. It is convenient to do the technical inspection and registration of the car at the same time.

A map of technical inspection stations in Croatia is available here.

The cost of the car registration varies and depends on each technical inspection station, registration type, type of car, engine type and power, car emission class, fuel type, and year of manufacture. The first registration of a car is the most expensive. Annual registrations are a bit cheaper. If you would like to learn more about the registration costs, view this post.

Car registration is done at the nearest station according to the prebivalište/boravište, or address of the temporary or permanent stay in Croatia or headquarters. Sometimes exceptions can be done and cars can be registered in another county within a period of 30 days after the written request for the registration was submitted. It is necessary to specify the desired location of the registration in the request. [Read: Prebivalište and boravište: two addresses that must be registered with the police]

Documents required for the first registration may vary depending on the following scenarios:

  • First registration of a new car
  • First registration of a used car
  • First registration of an imported car
  • Registration with a change of ownership
  • If someone else registers your car instead of you
  • Annual registration of a car

You can find all the details in this post.

After registration of the car, you will receive a prometna dozvola (traffic license) and registracijske tablice (registration plates) for the car. You will also receive unique Croatian registration (license) plates which are white with black characters. If you are a non-EU citizen with granted temporary or permanent residence in Croatia and you want to register your car in Croatia, you will get white plates with green characters.

Documents and procedures required for car registration are defined in Zakon o sigurnosti prometa na cestama (Act on the road traffic safety) and Pravilnik o registraciji i označavanju vozila (Rulebook on vehicle registration and marking).

For a more detailed guide on registering a car and getting it inspected, read this post.

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Please note: Information provided by Expat in Croatia is only for the purposes of guidance. It does not constitute legal or financial advice in any form. Croatian laws and bureaucratic rules often change, and each personal case is individual, so different rules may apply. For legal advice, contact us to consult with a licensed Croatian lawyer. For financial advice, contact us to consult with a licensed Croatian tax advisor or accountant.

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