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Motor Madness

Second-hand cars are not cheap here, nor is the process of buying one easy, there’s no such thing as seeing a car, agreeing to buy, sorting the insurance, and posting the little slip off to Swansea! The process in Bulgaria is much more lengthy and time-consuming, and to the non-initiated, it can be very daunting and you may even feel like giving up altogether.

 But, do not fear, help is at hand! Deyan Angeloev, of Star-BG is here with a quick guide to help to take the pain away.

Making the deal

Usually, the price can be negotiated between the owner and the buyer - if you’re not happy with the price, don’t buy the car!

Next comes one of the major differences between the UK and Bulgaria. The sale must be legalised in front of a Notary. The Notary will check that the person selling the car is the legal owner and will prepare the contract of sale. The seller and buyer will check, agree and sign the contract in front of the Notary. (As this is a legal document, you should have a translator present to make sure you fully understand the terms of the contract and what you are signing. The Notary can arrange a translator for you, or you may take your own.)

At this point the money for the deal changes hands - not before! When they are happy with the paperwork, the Notary will attest the deal.



There are several insurance companies available in Bulgaria, but it can be difficult knowing which one to choose. As in the UK, policies vary and include different ‘benefits’, such as breakdown cover, and of course, there are variations in cost. Some of the different types of policy include - obligatory civil insurance, partial or full insurance, driver only insured, and all seats insured.

Here again, we see a difference between Bulgaria and the UK. In Bulgaria the insurance company places stickers and etchings in the bottom corner of all the windows on the car to show that it is insured.

The expiry date of the policy is shown on the stickers. Although this part of the process is performed as part of the insurance procedure, it is not done at the same premises!

If you don’t have a Bulgarian friend to help you with this, or you have not been through the process before, it can be one of the most daunting tasks of buying a car! You may want to consider contacting a ‘helping hand’ company to assist with arranging your car insurance.


‘Annual Technical Test’

This is the test that would be known as an ‘MoT’ in the UK. Believe it or not, this test is obligatory in Bulgaria. You wouldn’t think so by the look of all those wobbly Lada’s on the motorway, or the rusty old bangers chugging up hills belching out blue smoke, but rest assured, it is.

As in the UK, the date of the test is the same each year. Some insurance companies may include the MoT test as part of their ‘benefits’ package.

There are various places available that are certified to perform the test, however the most popular is the ‘SBA’ (the Syndicate of Bulgarian Drivers). If the car fails the first test, the owner has to pay for a second test - no free re-test here.

Once passed, the owner receives a test certificate and another window sticker.



A sort of ‘road tax’. The cost of a vinetka (or vignette) depends on the category of the vehicle, how long you want the vinetka for, and which roads you want to travel on - i.e. if you stay within the city limits you don’t need a vinetka, but this is pretty rare! Vinetkas can be purchased from ‘OMV’ fuel stations and post offices.



Tax on the vehicle is paid once a year to the Tax Office. The cost depends on the year of manufacture, the engine size, etc. It is important to note that the new buyer has one month in which to declare the purchase to the Tax Office!


Police Registration

To a UK driver this is probably one of the strangest things about the car buying process in Bulgaria. For example, you have bought a second-hand car in Sofia, which has Sofia plates on, but you live outside Sofia in one of the villages. You will have to have a new plate letter and new plates put on the car. It’s not like buying a car in Edinburgh and happily driving it around London without a care in the world!

Although in the UK, the letters on a car’s plates tell where the car was originally registered, there are not many people who know which area the letters pertain to, or care for that matter. Not so in Bulgaria. Everyone knows when a car is not ‘local’, and the Police may even stop you if you are driving out of your area. This is both good and bad. On the plus side, it means people are vigilant and even on the look out for car thieves, however on the down side, it can mean unnecessary rises in blood pressure for you when the Police suddenly leap out at you on a main road!

So, you must go to the KAT office (Road Police) relevant for your address, or for the address of your company if you are buying through your company. Bear in mind, therefore, that if your company is registered in Rousse and you live near Sofia, and you are buying through your company, your car should be registered in Rousse and have Rousse plates. Registration costs around 200 leva and includes police taxes, new plates, documentation and a technical test (brakes, lights, engine and chassis number, etc).


Personal or company?

It's really up to each individual to make the choice, however there are benefits to buying the car through your company.

For example, invoices (faktura) for essential car expenditure as part of your business can be given to your accountant for them to offset as ‘company costs’.

Also buying through your company means you can have ‘normal’ Bulgarian plates and not the ‘Oh look, I’m a foreigner!’ blue plates.

Documents you must carry when driving - This is basically the same whether the car is owned personally or through the company: car documents (including MoT certificate and the original of the insurance policy), driving licence and passport / identification card.

If you are stopped by the Police and don’t have the documents on you, you are likely to receive a fine.


Getting the car serviced

You may want to get the car serviced before you speed off into the sunset, especially if there is no previous service history available, which there probably isn’t. It’s the same type of thing as in the UK and can be done at any garage you like. However, you may feel more relaxed about using a ‘big name’ garage, which can be expensive, but has the advantage of offering a guarantee, or use one that is recommended to you by someone you trust.

So now you are ready to go and enjoy your new purchase!



Vinetka Costs...

There are three categories of vehicles:
1. Lorries
2. Vehicles with more than 8 seats, buses
3. Cars and vehicles with less than 8
seats, vans


Prices of vinetka in leva for 2008:

- Vehicles category 1
Per day - 20
Per week - 110
Per month - 300
Per year - 950


- Vehicles category 2
Per day - 20
Per week - 65
Per month - 170
Per year - 500


- Vehicles category 3
Per week - 10
Per month - 25
Per year - 67



Periods of Validity

- Daily vignette - valid for the day marked on the vignette;
- Weekly vignette - valid for 7 days in a row including the day of issuing;
- Monthly vignette - valid until the same day of the following month as the date of issuing;
- Annual vignette - covering the time from 1 January to 31 December



Deyan Angeloev