I recently purchased a car in the Republic of Georgia (that’s the country in the Caucuses, not the US state). I found very little information online about the process of buying a car in Georgia, how to find a car for sale in Georgia, or if it is even possible for a non-resident to buy a car without an address.
Georgia turned out to be a great place to buy a car to explore Europe or Central Asia. Hopefully our experience will help some future travellers find the process a little less daunting.
Can a foreigner and non-resident buy a car in the Republic or Georgia?
Yes. Along with tasty khachapuri, good wine, and an extremely hospitable visa-free policy (360 days for citizens of most countries), the Republic of Georgia has made the process of buying a car very easy.
Cars in Georgia are cheap, and the registration process is simple. Only a passport and Georgian mobile phone number are required to register a car, and the whole registration process can be completed in 30 minutes. No address is required to buy and register a car in Georgia.
With low import taxes, and a steady supply of cars from Japan and Europe, cars in Georgia are far more affordable than in surrounding countries. I checked a few websites, and the asking price for most used cars was between 2.5x and 5x lower in Georgia than in nearby Russia.
Until 2016, it was completely legal to buy, register, and drive a car in Georgia with the steering wheel on the right (wrong) side. Due to the large number of used car imports from Japan, it seems like every second car in Georgia is right-hand-drive. The government is currently legislating to ban the registration of RHD cars, and many neighbouring countries do not allow temporary importation of RHD cars. I’d recommend buying a car with the steering wheel on the left-hand (right) side.
Where to find cars for sale in Georgia
I found our car for sale on MyAuto.ge. The site is available (mostly) in English, and there are plenty of cars for sale. Most of the cars on MyAuto seem to be sold by private sellers. The descriptions of most cars on the site are in Georgian, but most just say “Great car, excellent condition”.
I also searched on AutoPapa, the largest car market in the region. There were fewer cars for sale on the site, and we had a harder time communicating with the sellers, who seem to be mostly car dealers.
Inspecting cars in Georgia
Many people under 30 years old in Georgia speak at least some English, people over 30 will likely speak at least some Russian. We enquired about 10 cars by calling in Russian. Most sellers spoke at least some Russian, others had a friend who spoke Russian call us back to arrange an inspection. I found one seller with an ad in English.
In the end, the sellers of two out of the four cars we inspected spoke English, and the other two spoke Russian. If you don’t speak Georgian or Russian, you might as well call and ask if the seller speaks English, if they don’t they might have a friend of family member who can help with communication.
Buying a car in Georgia without speaking Georgian is possible, but the help of a friend who speaks Georgian would be ideal.
Registering your new car in Rustavi
Registration for all cars in Tbilisi takes place at the Service Agency for the Ministry of Internal Affairs in Rustavi, 25km south of Tbilisi. When you’re ready to buy a car, you will need to visit the agency with the seller to transfer the registration.
The whole process should take less than half an hour. The only document required is your passport. Make sure the seller has the current registration certificate with them.
At the Service Agency in Rustavi
- Take the old number plates off your car. The seller will keep them.
- Go to reception inside the Service Agency and say that you would like to transfer the registration of a car. You will receive a ticket number to pay the registration fee. Wait for your number to be called by one of the cashiers, and pay the registration fee of 70 lari (around $32).
- Take the car to be inspected. Take the car to the inspection station in front of the Service Agency and pull into an inspection bay. The inspection took less than a minute, and involved little more than popping the hood of the car.
- Return to reception in the Service Agency, and ask for another ticket to complete the transfer.
- When your number is called, a police officer will complete the transfer for you. You will need to give them your IDs, the car’s registration certificate, the receipt for the registration fee, and the inspection certificate. The officer will translate your name into Georgian, ask for your phone number, and let you choose a new set of number plates for your car from the selection on display.
- Once you’ve got your number plates, head outside to the building to the left of the car park (Drivers Licensing Centre of Georgia’s Ministry of Internal Affairs on Google Maps). Go to the window that says “Registration Certificates” and show them your passport and new number plates, and receive your new registration certificate.
- At the back of the Driver Licensing Centre on the right hand side is a small kiosk selling number plate housings to fit your new number plates to your new car. The price includes installation by one of the guys hanging around the car park in orange safety vests. Just show them your receipt.
The registration certificate (also known as a technical passport in some countries) is your proof of ownership of the car. It contains your name, passport number, your car’s VIN, and other information like engine size and paint colour. Keep the certificate with you when you are driving. You will also need it to prove you own the car when crossing borders.