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For Japhale: :)

Hi:

I currently live in NC, USA and own a '08 528xi. I might be moving to Belgium in a couple of months and wanted to take my BMW with me. Would I need to make any adaptations to the vehicle for it to be usable on Belgian roads and if so how much would that cost?

J
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My answer:

Should be fun. You need the following modifications for Germany (TUV) and I assume the EU. I don't know about belgium specifically.

1.) Euro Spec headlight assembly different beam pattern, no yellow in headlights.
2.) Tail lights need to have orange indicators.
3.) Euro Light switch - rear fogs are a required by law in Germany.

Not too bad. Its your choice if you want to change the speedometer. Also call up BMWNA and see if they will transfer your warranty. They often will do something for you.

Regarding tax, depending on the circumstances under which you are moving, if you have resided in the US for at least 12 months and have had the title of the car in your name for at least 6 months, the car is a household good and can be imported without any taxes. That should work for you. If you don't meet both of these two requirements, you will have to pay 19 % VAT plus ~ 10% customs tax adding up to ~ 30 % tax

If you can get temporary plates, that might give you some time to do the modifications, but most people work with the shipper to have the modifications done at the port by someone who does this regularly. You can do it yourself, but getting the headlights/tailights can be difficult since BMW won't sell them to you in the US.

As always, you need to check with the proper authorities and professionals to get specifics. Contacting a shipper would be a good start. You can try: Travl Tips, a Queens, N.Y., cruise company that deals with freighters(800) 872-8584 or (718) 939-2400, and try Auto Overseas, (800) 283-3990,

good luck!
 

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Since you are in NC if you are military the SOFA will cover your car and no modifications will be needed.
 

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US BMW modifications for Belgium

Thanks for the input. I am in NC but not military so I would need to do the modifications to my US BMW, probably in Belgium on arrival there. Wonder if there might be local shops at Brugges or Antwerp (ports of entry) that could do this or even a BMW dealer there.

J
 

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Around about when I joined the forums earlier this year a member was posting that he was in the habit (habit!!) of taking his M-something car to Europe with him on vacation. He used a $20k service to **fly** the car back and forth. There was universal incredulity and much observation that for that money he could trade whatever he had and buy a new car using ED. Unless he kept his mom's ashes in the glove compartment and had a sentimental attachment to his car there was no sense in it.

Frank.
 

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Your going to want to contact a freight forwarder to do all of your paper work as well. I used Pride International for a freight forwarder out of Baltimore and Wallenius Wilhelmsen Logistics to do the actual shipping. They ship out of Newport News as well, probably closer. It was roll on, roll off, picked up in Liverpool. Cost me about $1400 total to ship my FJ.

Mods aren't bad, especially since you're shipping a vehicle that actually has european parts to bring it up to spec. If you're around a U.S. installation, there should be shops that do conversions, if not, I would think any dealer could sell you the proper parts. Try putting amber rear turn signals on an MDX, I should have bought the X5.

You should also be able to drive your car with U.S. tags for up to a year with no mods before you have to register it, just make sure you have European insurance.
 

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I worked in Belgium for a year about 4 years ago and since I had found a nicely furnished apartment I used my moving allowance to send my 320i over so here is a summary of my experience.

Shipping - not really a big deal to find a freight forwarder to put the car in a container and send it over. Note that the car will need to be almost empty of gas. As long as the driver's seat was accessible so they could load and unload it from the container, I was able to fill the rest of the car with luggage and other household items which made the move easier. The crossing takes about 3-4 weeks all told so you'll need to cover yourself for a car on one end or the other while yours is in transit.

Unless you make other arrangements for delivery you can pick the car up from the shipper's yard in Antwerp. I recall there being a delay of several days between when it arrived and when the paperwork for the customs import was done and I could go and pick it up. I had a work colleague drive me to the port in Antwerp as I was living and working south of Brussels. It's not a big country so this wasn't really a problem. Note that Antwerp is a HUGE port so make sure you have good directions and give yourself plenty of time. I went to the customs brokers office, paid them, picked up the keys, and then went over to their yard which was a few very large blocks away.

It this point the import was really a temporary import until they verified and approved the import later on. Belgium loves paperwork and bureaucracy and this can work in your favour as I'll describe below. Prior to this I had arranged for insurance which wasn't much of a hassle. I used ING since I was also banking with them and the insurance agent had an office in the bank.

So at this point I was driving my Canadian plated BMW around Belgium with no problem at all. I was also working with one or two others from Canada who had done the same thing and they didn't have much of an issue either. Note that Belgium has both front and rear plates so if NC only uses rear plates you may get stopped for that. But you can probably explain your way out of it by saying that you are waiting for the import approval. The interesting thing about the process is that you import the car temporarily, then wait a while (a month at least) for the customs inspector to come by to do his paperwork to start the process of officially approving the import. This takes months to do and all the while you keep driving with your foreign plates and no changes to the vehicle.

Eventually (months later) you get the letter saying your vehicle is officially approved for import and then you're supposed to go for a conformité (safety) check which will tell you what needs to be changed. Lights and possibly tires if yours don't meet some EU norm I imagine. Once you have the conformité done then you can go and get your vehicle registered and get your plate. Note that I say plate not plates since you are only issued one for the rear of the car and you need to go get the front one made. A friend had his made by a guy in a van right outside the government office where he got his rear plate so it's very easy to do. You can also get them done at places that cut keys, etc.

In my case, by the time I got the actual importation approval it was pretty much the end of my year there so I just shipped the car home. I drove major highways, back roads, towns in both the Flemish and Walloon parts of the country and Brussels and never once had a problem. I found a BMW dealer near my work to do the regular service so it was a pretty seamless thing. If you ever did get stopped I'd just explain that you were still waiting for the paperwork from the customs office regarding the final import approval which you need before you can do anything else. Belgians all know how long the paperwork takes and they play those games themselves so I bet you won't have any problems.

I hope this helps. I had a great time in Belgium and they have great highways. You'll probably be OK driving in the rest of the EU while you wait for the Belgian paperwork as well just watch out for Switzerland since it's not part of the EU and a friend had problems at the border their with his Canadian plated car.
 
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