Owning a car in Ireland as a Dual Citizen (USA and IRELAND) living in US
April 1, 2013 1:55 PM   Subscribe

Is it possible for a person with dual citizenship (USA and Ireland; residing in the USA) to register and get insurance for an automobile in Ireland (the north of Ireland to be specific) if the person does not reside in Ireland? And if so, how?

Family members and I travel to Ireland quite frequently and are finding it very expensive to rent cars while there (public transportation is not really an option). One member of the family has dual citizenship (USA and Republic of Ireland). We have the means to purchase a used car, but are wondering what documentation is necessary to register that car and get proper insurance.

I've looked at the DVLNI and think it's possible to register the vehicle with the information we currently have, but cannot be 100% sure. (I have an address that I can use in the north of Ireland which is where the vehicle would be kept - it would also be typically driven the local area.)

Unfortunately, I don't have anyone there who can put the vehicle in their name and get insurance (to which me or my family could then be added).

Any help is appreciated!
posted by aelish to Travel & Transportation around Ireland, Scotland (5 answers total)
Northern Ireland is part of the UK so you might want to clarify exactly where you'll be keeping and driving the car.
posted by fshgrl at 2:07 PM on April 1, 2013

It won't be a problem at all if you buy the car while there. I don't have any experience with DVLNI, but I understand the processes are basically similar to those in Great Britain: registering a car is done merely by sending off a slip on the ownership document (known as the V5C), which updates the national database and returns you a new V5C. There's no obligation for the registered keeper of the vehicle to hold a driving license at all, so a foreign one's fine, and if you're contactable by mail at the address it's kept at, that will be fine.

What's important is that you are liable for vehicle testing annually and to present that test certificate and a certificate of insurance in order to get a tax disc for the car. If you don't have the car insured or taxed, then it must be kept off road, and you have to fill out a Statutory Off Road Notice (SORN), otherwise you'll be automatically fined on the expiry of tax or insurance.

I'd suggest getting in contact with an insurance broker to get you a suspendable insurance policy which will work for your family as the insured people.
posted by ambrosen at 2:47 PM on April 1, 2013

Response by poster: @fshgrl I understand that; the car would be kept in the north and primarily driven in the north.

@ambrosen great information, thank you!
posted by aelish at 3:23 PM on April 1, 2013

Yes, if this is Northern Ireland (rather than the North of Ireland) then it seems to be the same as the UK in that the key factor is having a physical address, not citizenship or even a license to own the car. All that matters is the address.

Insuring a car you own should be pretty straightforward, but you may have to shop around to find an insurer that is ok with accepting a foreign license (and not jacking your rates up massively as a part of that acceptance).
posted by Brockles at 4:35 PM on April 1, 2013

For Northern Ireland: you need an address. You need to be very clear with the insurance company that the car is kept at that address. It cannot be any address. From what you write this should not be an issue.

There is no inherent reason I can think of that stops foreign nationals who live abroad registering vehicles and insuring them. But where the car lives, where exactly it is kept (i.e. on the street, garaged, private drive) and who is the primary driver (the real person who will drive it most, not the person who takes out the policy) matter a lot because they can impact the premium you pay a lot. Being unclear or lying at this point is not clever because in the event you need to claim you may have invalidated your policy.

You can buy six or twelve months of road tax. If you buy a newer car that emits less CO2 your road tax will be £0 or negligible (£20-£30/year), arguably making a SORN more hassle than it is worth. You need to be clear what tax band your exact car is in. If you buy a brand new car it does not need an MOT (i.e. annual roadworthy check) for its first 3 years. Cars made before 1960 do not need an MOT (but this can get complicated where substantial rework has been done on the car). As ambrosen says, if you take the car off the road and do not intend to pay road tax then you need a SORN.

Insurance is expensive in the UK. I would also second ambrosen's advice to go through a broker because of the bespoke nature of your needs. However, also shop about independently. For example Direct Line, one of the UK's largest insurers, allows you to suspend your insurance (to cover just fire and theft). Other insurance companies will also offer it. Also bear in mind that unless you get a custom policy, you need to add each specific driver onto the policy.

Also note, however, that you'll need to be careful of things like flat spots on tyres where you've parked it, duff batteries, sticking brakes etc if your vehicle is left standing for a long time, which will add up to the cost. The thing that really bumps up the cost of car rental is the Collision Damage Waiver. You can make this much cheaper buy buying a third party policy. This is the sort of thing available to UK-based customers but may not be suitable for you.
posted by MuffinMan at 3:41 AM on April 2, 2013

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