CAR IN BULGARIA: YEARLY COST
In our series Car in Bulgaria we look at the Yearly Cost of a vehicle.
The cost are fair and probably cheap for most, take a look!
Bulgaria is a beautiful country and just cruising around the country side is already a good reason to have one. Other people will need a car just for getting to work or doing the groceries. A car is freedom and therefore it is good to know a little bit more about owning a car in Bulgaria. In our series of articles on Car in Bulgaria, here we take a closer look at the yearly cost of a car.
Everywhere cars cost money, also in Bulgaria. A positive point is that for most expats the cost of owning a car in Bulgaria are considerably less than in their home country. In this article we look at the yearly cost of owning a vehicle, and in lesser extent we look at operational cost.
As stated in our article Car in Bulgaria: Registration, the registration for municipal taxes is automated since 2016 (Yeah!). Each year by March 25th your tax is due. You can choose to pay the full amount in March and get a 5% discount or you can split the payment over two periods, the second in October. The amount of taxes is related to the region, age, kilowatt/horsepower and fuel of the car. The yearly tax is not related to weight of the car or even annual mileage.
Recently we learned, that there are state incentives to apply further tax discounts for cleaner cars, such as hybrids, electric or EuroVI cars. However last we heard is that you need to pay an extra fee to receive this discount. So in the end most drivers will pass. In fact the contrary we see, based on age, for older cars taxes are lower. In other words when you change your old diesel guzzling, polluting car for a brand new clean car, you will pay more taxes. So much for promoting cleaner driving.
You can get a quote from this page: Car Tax Calculator. For non-Bulgarian speakers, open the site in Chrome with translator on, fill out the fields and to get your quote.
You can pay the taxes at any Easypay office (cash payment), at the local tax office or through internet banking.
From the 3rd year all cars need a yearly technical control. You receive a little card valid for 12 months and this document you need with you when driving around. If the police ask you and you do not have one or it has expired, you can get a fine.
There are many garages, that can do the technical control for you. In smaller cities the cost are usually less. For example in Sofia the price is around BGN 45, while the exact same control in Lovech is BGN 25.
For this technical control you need to bring your car and the following documents:
The last one you can either present in the form of a receipt of eg. Easypay or the tax office. If paid through internet banking, then you need to get an official stamped and signed bank declaration. Forget any of these documents and you are sent away again.
You might think your car will be thoroughly checked for safety, 3-point seat-belt safety, lights, breaks etc. Some garages actually do perform a full technical and safety test. Unfortunately many other garages have reduced this check into a mere formality. Good if you do not want a full check, but for your safety this obviously does not help much. Some years ago cameras became mandatory in these garages. This is to proof a car had actually visited a technical control unit. It was no longer possible to just buy the new technical control card.
We found an article that announces new mandatory car insurance policies. In an attempt to have better control over the road safety, the Bulgarian legislator has introduced this new insurance system. The aim of this system is to reward safe drivers with lower insurance premiums. Even up to 50% discount for those without traffic violations. Drivers who get speeding tickets, drink and drive or cause collisions will be punished with up to 180% higher premiums. It beats us how and why the government should have a say in the fees people pay to private insurance companies. But from our own fees we can say, that, if this system is in place, our careful driving certainly did not result in lower premiums. On the contrary, our premiums just keep rising.
Forget the above for now, if it exists, it is bonus for the good drivers among us. Let us look at average Joe’s insurance options. There are two main car insurances: the minimum mandatory 3rd party insurance and the casco insurance. The 3rd party insurance insures damage caused to others. Casco insurances also picks up the bill for any damage to your own vehicle. Casco insurances come in two variations: full casco for all your damage or casco with own risk, eg. you can claim up to a certain amount of damage per year. Be aware that insurers work with selected garages and only there they will accept a repair. Keep in mind that you need a police report for each claim. In our experience you can always find a customer service agent that speaks English, so it is not hard to find out what you need to do.
There are many insurers in Bulgaria, big ones are Generali, Lev-Ins, 24Ins or Allianz. The choice of insurer is up to you. In our opinion it is worth consulting an independent broker. A broker will be able to give you an overview of options and you can ask questions. If you need a contact, let us know.
For an average passenger vehicle the 3rd party liability costs somewhere between BGN 300 to 600 a year, depending on the insurer and vehicle. The upgrade will set you back anywhere from BGN 1000 and up. You can pay the full amount in one payment or split the payment over 2 or 4 periods. Refunds of fees are hard to impossible to get, so in some cases a split payment could be the preferred option.
In all cases of damage: leave your car where it is until the police arrive. Because you always need an official damage report to start a refund process.
Bonus malus in insurance terms means that if you have no claims, you benefit from lower premiums in the following year(s). Unlike most countries, Bulgarian insurers do not apply a bonus malus system. Driving damage free does not mean your insurance premium will improve. Actually, it is quite the opposite: insurance fees have increased significantly over the past years. This is mainly due to excessive claiming. Full casco insured drivers claim every bit of damage they see fit and everybody pays the bill.
Driving cost of course depend on usage. Now we will not go into this, however we can say the fuel prices in Bulgaria remain fairly steady at BGN 2,12 for Euro95, BGN 2,20 for Diesel and BGN 1,00 for gas. In Bulgaria there are many petrol firms active. Be aware that many petrol firms sell ‘dirtier’ petrol. Newer cars might be sensitive to this. Your other fluids: cooling liquid, break fluid, oil, can be found at reasonable rates and are often available at discounted rates. These liquids cost less at DYI centers or even supermarkets.
Other than these, Bulgaria has a road vignette. The road vignette is mandatory for those travelling outside urban areas. Road vignettes are sold at service stations and are available for weeks, months and years. For vehicles up to 3500 kg the price is BGN 96 per year (2019). Since 2018 the vignette is valid from date to date, where before it was valid until December 31st. Good for us. The advise is to always hold on to your receipt, as people have found their car window smashed for this vignette. The absence of a vignette is fined. Vignette controls are done both by traffic police and automated gates around city limits. Look for the cameras above the road, they scan the vignette. We do not know if these cameras actually work, but better save than sorry.
Prices of your consumables are equally reasonable, if you chose premium parts, obviously you pay a little more. Break parts, tires, exhaust pipes, windshield wipers, etc, you find in many places. If you do not speak Bulgarian, it always helps to know the OEM (Original Equipment Manufacturer) numbers of the parts you need. These numbers avoid confusion and are the language any car parts place understands.
To have parts fitted is another matter. Labor cost are low, so you will find that this maintenance comes at reasonable prices. With that we will also address the fact that there are many dodgy work shops around. There are stories of people finding their premium parts missing or exchanged for lesser quality parts. If you wish to visit trustworthy service centers, we can always advise to consult Bosch Service Centers. If you need a contact for a good English speaking mechanic, ask us for advise.
We hope you enjoyed our article Car in Bulgaria: Yearly Cost. If you have questions, comments or suggestions, always contact us.