Driving in Italy

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Miles vs. Kilometers

  • Speed limits in Europe are posted in kilometers (Km) per hour as opposed to miles per hour in the U.S. Most U.S. speedometers will only show miles per hour (although some show BOTH).
  • One kilometer is approximately 5/8 (.625) of a mile.
  • A quick conversion formula from kilometers (kph) to miles per hour (mph) is to multiply the number of kilometers by 6 and drop the last digit of the result. Ex. 100 kilometers per hour x 6 = 600, drop the last digit to get 60 miles per hour
  • To convert miles per hour to kilometers per hour, divide miles by 6 and add a zero to the results. Ex. 60 miles per hour / 6 = 10, add a zero to get 100 kilometers per hour.

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Driver’s Licenses and Permits: Italy

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SETAF Driver’s License

  • Members of the U.S. Forces and the civilians assigned, attached, or employed with the USA SETAF Area of Responsibility are required to obtain a USA SETAF Driver’s License after arrival in Italy in order to operate any motor vehicles.
  • Only SETAF drivers license holders are authorized to drive a SETAF registered vehicle (aka your personally owned vehicles). This means friends or family visiting from the states can’t legally drive your SETAF registered car, they would have to get a rental car.
  • Sponsors and family members 18 years or older must have a valid stateside or country driver’s license in their possession in order to apply for a SETAF Driver’s License, and it recommended that you renew your license prior to your PCS here.
  • The SETAF license is valid ONLY in NATO countries (countries like Switzerland and Austria are non-NATO countries). Note: sometimes even other NATO countries don’t accept the SETAF license.

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Vehicle Registration, Inspection, and Gas Coupons

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Vehicle Registration

  • Vehicles of all US/NATO personnel assigned to Italy must be registered with Armed Forces Italy (AFI) license plates.
  • The vehicle registration office is located off the main post. A shuttle bus is available to bring you to and from the satellite office.

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Shipping a Personally Owned Vehicle Overseas

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Things to Consider When Shipping a Vehicle Overseas

  • Only one (1) vehicle may be shipped at government expense.
  • Insurance rates can be very high, double to triple your current rate ($2,000-$3,000 per year)
  • Small parking spaces and narrow roads are the norm.
  • Cars will get dinged up and minor accidents are not uncommon
  • Private garages are meant for small cars (sedan-size or larger cars may not fit)
  • Fuel economy: gas is expensive without fuel coupons. You won’t be able to use coupons when traveling outside of Italy or if your vehicle fails inspection.
  • For those with more than one (1) vehicle: you only receive fuel coupons for gas or diesel, NOT both. Whichever vehicle is listed as your “primary vehicle” will be the one you receive gas coupons for.
  • Vehicle maintenance on the economy is much more costly and time consuming than in the states. The auto care center on post only provides basic tune up services.
  • Blending in: car colors in Europe are very neutral (black, silver, white, navy blue). Europeans do not normally drive mini-vans, SUV’s, or pickup trucks. Most American brand cars besides Ford make it easy to identify you as an American.

To ship or not to ship? I would highly recommend shipping at least one vehicle over with you rather than holding off to buy a vehicle once you are in Italy. The USED car selection is very small, old, ill maintained, and over-priced. Finding a used AUTOMATIC car is even more difficult when manuals are the norm. Buying a NEW car in Italy is a big investment with even bigger insurance rates, damage is bound to happen, and the value instantly depreciates. I would suggest sending at least one reliable car from the states. If you find something better when you arrive, there are always tons of eager buyers looking for a used car here!

Is my vehicle too big? Whether or not to bring a truck, van, or SUV over is quite debatable. European roads were built for small cars, although some with larger vehicles argue that they have never had any problem getting around. As far as ease of driving on narrow roads, weaving in and out traffic, finding parking, and gas prices it makes the most sense to leave big vehicles in the states.

Should I ship a second vehicle? Some people decide to pay out of their own pocket to ship a second vehicle over. It is possible to get by with one vehicle, but having a second vehicle could be advantageous for those with children or having a back up in case one vehicle fails. Also finding a second reliable vehicle in Italy can be difficult. Keep in mind you will have to pay road tax on the second vehicle and gas coupons are based off of your primary vehicle. You cannot purchase both gas and diesel fuel coupons, only fuel coupons for your primary vehicle. Choosing to live within public bus route areas, close to base, and near grocery stores, etc. could help eliminate the need for a second vehicle.

Do I need all weather tires or snow chains? During the winter months it is a requirement on the autostrada and some other countries to have either all weather tires installed or snow chains in the trunk of the car. They do have random check points and you can be fined for not having them. In some other European countries you might need to have a certain type of all weather tire or snow chains. It may be best to have both all weather tires and snow chains to make sure you are following regulations in each country. All weather tires can take 6 weeks or more to be ordered. If you do not already have all weather tires before coming over to Italy, I would suggest purchasing some before you get here (especially if you are arriving in the fall/winter).

Should I have repairs done on my car before I arrive in Italy or after? Any work that needs to be done on your car should be done before you send it to Italy, especially if it is needed to pass inspection. Mechanics are expensive in Italy. Parts have to be ordered from the states, adding to the cost and time it takes to have your vehicle repaired. It could take a month or more to have your vehicle repaired in Italy.

Steps to Shipping Your POV

  1. Schedule an appointment for drop off at your nearest vehicle processing center
  2. Gather all of the required documentation for vehicle turn in.
  3. Prepare your vehicle for shipping/storage
  4. Turn in your vehicle at the VPC.

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Buying a Vehicle in Italy

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Fast Facts

  • You do not have to pay Italian Value Added Tax or import fees on personally owned vehicles
  • Because of that, U.S. military members and civilians are only allowed to register three (3) vehicles during their entire 3 year tour.
  • If you purchase a car with European specs, you will not be able to bring it back to the U.S. (unless you change it over to U.S. specs, which can be expensive)
  • Know that whatever you buy, your vehicle will most likely get banged up a bit over in Europe from car doors and tight parking spaces.
  • If you are purchasing a second vehicle in Italy, you will have to pay a road tax on your second vehicle. Also keep in mind that gas coupons are based on your primary vehicle and you cannot purchase both gas and diesel coupons. If your primary vehicle uses gas and your second one uses diesel, you will only receive fuel coupons for gas and pay pay full price for diesel. Note: diesel is less expensive than gas in Europe.

Things to Consider

  • Automatic vs. Manual
  • Diesel vs. Gas
  • U.S. vs. European specs
  • Coupe vs. Four Door
  • Gas Mileage
  • Size
  • Travel vs. Town Car
  • Insurance Rates
  • Car Value
  • Mileage
  • Four Wheel Drive vs. AWD vs. RWD, vs. BWD
  • Tires (tire tread, all weather)
  • Cruise Control
  • Safety Features
  • Extras (GPS, heated seats, fold in mirrors, parking assistance)
  • Maintenance Costs
  • Owner Reviews

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