It was an idle afternoon when the idea of genius stroke: buying a car in Hungary is a great idea. We knew nothing about driving in Hungary, what are the requirements, how the insurance works and where to buy the autópálya matrica (I will tell you how to pronounce this in a second).
Nevertheless, all great adventures start out of impulsive decisions, so we didn't duel too much on the idea. We were about to do a long drive in Europe, start from Debrecen and drive all the way to Portugal. Was it fun? Oh yes! Was it tiring? You bet! So pack those bags, get your credit card, and let's go shopping for a car in Hungary.
Buying a car in Hungary
I realise that not all of you will want to actually buy a car in Hungary, and some will prefer to rent. If you are a digital nomad who has residency in Hungary, buying a car is a great option for you.
There are a few advantages of buying a car in Hungary:
- Prices are lower than other countries in the EU.
- Insurance is very cheap.
- You are in mainland Europe so you can explore the continent by land.
- Hungary is part of Schengen which means you can travel freely (without being stopped at the border) almost anywhere in the EU.
- You can bargain, most salons will actually lower the price.
So what are the cons?
- Well, you have to speak Hungarian to buy a car in Hungary (at least this was the case for us).
- Some dealers will speak English, but probably you won't be able to bargain much and some details might get lost in translation.
- The cars might not be as good as advertised, so you should always triple check all the information received, make sure everything is in working condition and challenge the dealer if not.
For example, we managed to get a great deal on our car. But, we didn't check if the car comes with an alarm (although it was advertised this way) and we thought it has a special type of aircon mechanism (which it didn't) and one of the USB ports doesn't work (bummer!). The general consensus is that car dealers in Hungary are not to be trusted. Sorry, awesome dealers, but some of your colleagues created a bad reputation for you all.
Another thing to consider when buying a car in Hungary is to ensure you buy a Hungarian car with a Hungarian number plate. Many bring cars from abroad and there is no way to properly check if the car was stolen or was tempered with. As absurd as it might sound, apparently tempering with the kilometres is a thing in Hungary. If a deal is too good, it probably is.
What do you need to buy a car in Hungary
As a buyer, you need to ensure you check the ID of the seller.
Triple check the name of the owner on the car's registration paper and the registration card; the seller must be the registered owner. Don't forget to check the car's history in the maintenance log book (szervízkönyv).
Compare the chassis number (alvázszám) and the engine number (motorkód / szám) on the registration paper and in the maintenance log book.
There should be four copies of the contract, two for the buyer and two which remain with the seller. Upon completion, you should get the car, ALL keys, the registration card, all manuals and the maintenance log book.
The new owner must obtain third-party insurance for the car.
The VIN checks (Vehicle Identification Number - eredetvizsga) then has to be carried out. Before the actual sale takes place, both the buyer and the seller must take the car to an authorised garage for an official VIN check to be carried out.
Over 150 identification numbers and codes and all documents are checked to ensure the car in question was not a stolen car.
As a buyer, you must go to the Office for Administrative and Electronic Public Services (Okmányiroda) and register the car in your name.
You will need the following:
- ID card or passport
- Address card (lakcímkártya)
- Two examples of the contract
- Car's registration paper (forgalmi igazolvány) and registration card
- Result of the VIN checks
- Proof of valid third-party insurance (a paid postal cheque or proof of direct debit)
At the same time, the seller must deregister the car at the local Office for Administrative and Electronic Public Services within eight days. The following documents are required:
- ID card or passport
- Address card (lakcímkártya)
- Two copies of the contract
Car insurance in Hungary
There are two types of insurances available in Hungary.
Third party liability auto insurance (kötelező felelősség biztosítás) and comprehensive insurance (CASCO). The third party liability insurance is compulsory and you must carry your policy with you at all times. CASCO is optional but strongly recommended.
If you are planning on driving abroad, you must obtain a green card from your insurance company. You cannot drive abroad without it and you must carry it with you at all times.
How much did we pay? Third party liability costs us about £90 per year. CASCO is £120 per year. CASCO will protect you against theft and accidental damage as well. So you can see why this is such must.
It goes without saying that since G is a dual citizen (Hungary and UK) we bought the car in his name, using his awesome passport. Besides, he is, of course, native in Hungarian so we could haggle, understand what was going on and deal with the paperwork. I was there to test drive. You got to love international couples!
The mighty Hungary vignette
The mighty Hungary vignette is called autópálya matrica in Hungarian. Autópálya means motorway and it is pronounced as ˈɒutoːpaːjɒ
This is because Ly is the twentieth letter of the Hungarian alphabet. Ly is pronounced as jé (same as Y in You or Yes).
Matrica means vignette and it pronounces as matrǐtsa. The C in matrica is pronounced as /ts, the same as pots.
The best and easiest way to sort out a Hungary vignette is to go online and buy the pass there. Select the type of vehicle, select the length of time and simply get your vignette paid. You will be registered in the system and when you pass through the checkpoints, your number plate will be already associated with the payment made in the Hungarian system.
Driving in Hungary
Driving in Hungary is actually quite nice. The motorways are well defined and the signs are international. There are a few exceptions but nothing major. Driving in Hungary is on the right-hand side. There are a lot of checks and police cars along the motorways, so speeding is not an option. There are lots of cameras too and from what I heard, fines are pretty nasty, so better to keep calm and within the limits.
It is compulsory for the driver and all passengers to wear seat belts when travelling on public roads.
In general, the infrastructure is good in Hungary. Motorways are pretty empty, except the ring roads and the approaches to Budapest, of course. People tend to drive alright, although some will tailgate until you move back into your lane. I found that people drive quite well in the city, but residents have a specific speed and dynamic to which they like to adhere to. If you are new to driving in Hungary and you're still trying to find your way around it, you will get some weird looks from time to time. Ignore them and move on. Another interesting thing I found is that not many women drive in Hungary. This is different in the capital city, but in general, people were actually staring when overtaking on the motorway and seeing a women driver. That was a bit weird.
In Hungary, it is absolutely forbidden to drive any type of motor vehicle after having consumed alcoholic drinks.
So keep it cool, respect the laws and always, ALWAYS have all car paperwork, green card and insurance policies with you.
Driving in Hungary - what you need with you
You must always carry your driving licence with you while driving. Pink format or photocard UK licence is accepted but International Driving Permit is required if you have a green licence.
When driving in Hungary you will need the following documents
- Full, valid driving licence (as well as International Driving Permit depending on the case)
- Proof of insurance/green card (third party or above)
- Proof of ID (passport or EU card)
- Proof of ownership (V5C certificate)
While driving in Hungary you are required by law to carry the following items in your car:
- Headlamp beam deflectors: depending on your vehicle, you will either need deflector stickers or have to adjust the beam manually.
- Lights: In daylight, outside built-up areas, passing lights must be used at all times, even when travelling on motorways.
- Warning triangle: compulsory on board all motor vehicles.
- Reflective jacket: a reflective jacket must be worn in the event of a breakdown or emergency on a motorway. It is also compulsory for motorcyclists.
- First aid kit: compulsory on board private vehicles.
Car speed limits in Hungary:
- Inside built-up areas: 50 km/h
- Motorways: 130 km/h
- Semi-motorway: 110 km/h
- Road: 90 km/h
Are you ready for an adventure? What is your story? Leave a comment and tell me about your experience driving in Hungary.