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A Guide to Used Cars - Bulgaria

Bulgaria has a thriving used cars market, so much so that there is even a market for 20-year old Ladas. The strength of the market is partly attributable to the lax regulations regarding automobile safety and the Bulgarians desire to own their own vehicle, this coupled with the fact that the average income for a Bulgarian is less than 2,100 lv. has lead to a strong used car market - the majority of Bulgarians simply can’t afford new cars.

The Choice of Four Models

Up until 1990 there were not many Western cars in Bulgaria. Those lucky enough to have one kept it running for as long as possible, using it as a status symbol because Western cars were considered far superior to those from the Eastern bloc. Even when the cars finally ground to a halt, their owners kept hold of them – scrap yards only came to fruition after 1991. Within the Communist countries of the East, there were only four models of car and they all had similar, box-like frames and many are still running on the Bulgarian roads today; in fact the average lifespan of cars in Bulgaria is 14 years, but there are many cars over 20 years old here. Some of the most popular models on the Bulgarian used car market include the Lada, Fiat, Dacia, Renault, and Mercedes Benz.

New Car Market is Expanding

As the Bulgarian economy grows richer, the new car market is expanding dramatically; more than 420,000 new cars were registered here in 2007 compared to 200,000 before 2007. This level of growth is expected to continue in 2008. Aleksi Stratiev, head of Bulgaria's Road Police estimates that the number of cars in would reach three million by the end of this year.
Bulgaria Looks to Create its own Motor Industry

There are around 2.22 million cars in Bulgaria for a population of 8.3 million people, which is low compared to Western standards where two car families are considered the norm. Bulgaria is also one of the few countries in Southeast Europe, which doesn’t manufacture or assemble cars. However, Bulgaria is endeavoring to get in on the act; the newly-formed Litex Motors plans to assemble car from China, but attempts to put these cars into production has faced rigid opposition from the EU on the grounds of safety regulations. Should Litex succeed in producing China’s low cost family saloons, the second hand car market in Bulgaria may take a nose dive with Bulgarians opting for the cheap, new Chinese alternative.

The Cost of Second Hand Cars

Buying a used car in Bulgaria is a simple task; you choose a car from one of the many second hand car lots, pay the seller the asking price or the price you have managed to barter and he arranges for the documents to be transferred to your name and for you to receive temporary plates. After that the car is yours and you have to register it with the traffic police KAT in the municipality you live in. The car can either be registered in your personal name or your company’s name. The problem is that if you don’t know the first thing about cars then you are advised to take a friend who does with you. Second hand cars in Bulgaria may have had several owners and even been involved in serious accidents; they may also not have been subject to a stringent MOT test – a good mechanic can disguise the car’s hard life and unless you know what you are looking for this can lead to problems later and you are unlikely to have any form of guarantee from the car dealer.

A1994 Volkswagen Passat would cost you around 4,000 Euros in Bulgaria compared to around 10,000 Euros in the UK, whilst a 1994 BMW 320 Coupe would cost 5,500 Euros compared to around 16,000 Euros. An old 1991 Ford Fiesta may be hard to locate in the UK because of its age, but in Bulgaria it would cost about 1,900 Euros compared to 3,000 Euros in the UK. Obviously mileage and condition need to be taken into account before you decide to buy in Bulgaria, but a rough guide to pricing is; a small, old run around costs around 2,000 Euros, a family saloon around 5 - 6,000 Euros, a used jeep or 4x4 vehicle – probably the most suited car to the Bulgarian terrain will cost around 6-7,000 Euros. Another thing to consider is that all second hand cars sold here will be left hand drives and therefore far easier to manoeuvre on the roads than a British left hand drive.

Importing your own Car

Many Bulgarian second hand car dealers source their stock from Austria or Germany, where the second hand car market is weak. The benefits about bringing in your own car from one of these countries are that you will be able to buy a left hand drive car, which has passed rigorous MOT tests at a low price. Bringing your imported car into Bulgaria is simple; you need to arrange temporary plates with a local insurer in the company where you bought the car – usually the car dealer will do this for you. When you cross the border you will be asked to show all of your ownership documents. You will then have a short period in which to register the car with the Bulgarian authorities and you have from 3 to 17 days from the date of temporary registration. Prices in Germany can start at 1,000 Euros for a family saloon like an old model Renault Megane. If you don’t fancy the hassle of importing yourself, you may be able to find a Bulgarian friend who is willing to do this for you for a small fee, which still makes the cost of the car cheaper.