Your Italian Driver’s License and Your Car

Italian driver's license and your car.

Your first year of having an Italian driver’s license imposes some restrictions on the car you drive.

These two topics, getting your Italian driver’s license and your car, may seem to be marginally connected. WRONG. I dodged a bullet on this one, thanks to coincidence. Let me explain….

Prior to moving to Italy I confess I was lax in my “due diligence” in understanding and connecting the dots regarding getting an Italian driver’s license and buying a car in Italy. In no way did I expect that my Italian driver’s license would affect the my choice of car. Basically I  had “lucked out” by going for a Fiat Punto, after establishing residency and while still driving with my U.S. driver’s license. You see, once I had my Italian driver’s license, I discovered the following: For the first year, a new driver (to Italy) isn’t allowed (legally) to drive a car that is deemed to be too powerful for someone who is such a novice. Yes, I can hear you saying “But, I’ve been driving for so many years in the States.” Too bad. With your new Italian driver’s license you are put in the same class as an 18-year old on the roads of Italy for the first time.

My Fiat Punto, fortunately passes under the threshold at which I legally am able to drive. I had been toying with the idea of a Fiat Giulietta (I’m still fantasizing about having one), but I went with the Punto, which was also available in a metano (methane gas) version. Gas and diesel are outrageously expensive in Europe, so my decision was one of economy. The Giulietta houses a more powerful engine, and one that would have exceeded the power threshold. In short, had I bought the Giulietta, I would not have been able to drive it once I was driving under the authority of my Italian driver’s license.

So, take this in consideration when you buying a car in Italy. Be sure to check the Italy driver’s manual and/or a certified driving school instructor before you make your purchase. If eventually you want to drive a more powerful car, then consider buying a cheaper used car that meets the requirements for your first year.

You are also expected (legally) to drive at a lower speed than other drivers during the first three years of having your Italian license. As posted in the Mototouring website, under “Speed Limits”:

“A driver who has held their licensee for three years or less must not exceed 100 Km/h on motorways and 90 Km/h on urban roads (even if the limit is higher).”

As for the process of buying a car in Italy, you first must be a resident. And, to have your residency, you first must have your permesso di soggiorno*. Both your residency card and permesso will need to be presented to the car dealership before they can complete the transaction, register the vehicle, and provide you with the license plates. You also will need to provide proof of insurance, and your codice fiscale (Italian tax number). For more information, check out, which is an excellent resource for many other expat related matters.

First year restrictions aside, you’ll want to consider carefully the different fuel options of your vehicle. I’m sure you already know how pricey fuel is here in Europe. Filling up your tank certainly will leave you saying “ouch” each time you hit the fuel stations. You’ll find many more car makes and models available in Italy for diesel. And, if you are serious about finding ways to economize, consider the many GPL (liquid propane gas) and metano (methane gas) options. Currently GPL is more prevalent in the “green” fuel category, and many more stations carry it. But, with a GPL vehicle, you may be prohibited from parking in some underground garages (not an issue with metano). Metano is becoming more widely available, but currently where we live in Umbria, there are only a few stations that sell it. And, you won’t find it self service (nor for GPL). My 2013 Fiat Punto runs on metano, but also has a tank for benzina (gas) which gives me assurance that I will be able to still drive a good distance if I can’t find a station selling metano. To fill my metano tank costs about 11.50 euro, and this buys me about 210-220 kilometers. I’d say that is pretty decent.

Bottom line…research this topic fully and have a plan of action. Also, be prepared to lease a car for several months (four months in my case) until your residency is established and you have the necessary documentation* in hand. I found the best, and most competitive pricing (full insurance included) with Peugeot Leasing through

*The mail receipt for your permesso di soggiorno, because it will be your first application, will not be accepted by a car dealership.

An important disclaimer: These are simply my opinions and observations based on my experience of getting an Italian driver’s license and buying a car in Italy, and are in no way meant to be a substitution for your own research and decisions in how to proceed.

By |2015-11-09T21:42:09+01:00December 5th, 2014|Driving in Italy, Get a Head Start|5 Comments

About the Author:

I’m an American expat living in Italy!


  1. Robert Crivellone May 17, 2017 at 1:39 am - Reply

    Hi Jed, So glad to have found your blog, great site with invaluable information. I’ve been going over your wonderful writing for the past couple of hours (subscribed also) and I’ve found a bunch of mistakes you’ve saved me from making, really thanks for that. I’m planning to move to the Ligurian coast in a couple of years to spend my retirement years. Your blog came to me via Manu of Italy Made Easy, where I’ve been studying for over a year in hopes of being able to interact well with the wonderful Italian people that I hope to meet. Robert

    • Jed May 17, 2017 at 11:04 am - Reply

      Salve Robert, Thanks so much for writing. I’m happy you found your way to my blog, via Manu (isn’t he awesome?), and have found some useful information. I’ll do my best to keep updating the information, based on my experience. Don’t hesitate to reach out to me if you have specifics questions about something I’ve written, or even something I’ve yet to write about. I’m always eager to now what topics might be of value. Please stay in touch! Jed

  2. Craig Snively February 20, 2017 at 2:13 pm - Reply

    Jed, you mentioned there is a limit to the engine size of the car for the first year driver. Do you know what that limitation is?


    • Jed February 20, 2017 at 6:01 pm - Reply

      Hi Craig, I don’t have this information committed to memory, since it’s been almost three years. I do remember the instructor of my driving school asking me what kind of car I had, and she looked up the engine specs for my Fiat Punto. Thankfully it was within the limit. Good thing I didn’t buy the Alfa Romeo Giulietta. It wouldn’t have passed. I’ll poke around and see if I can find the specifics. Even Google doesn’t seem to be helping me out on this one. If you find the specifics about this before I do, please let me know so I can share with my other readers. Car insurance also might be affected by this. Jed

  3. Getting an Italian Driver's License November 9, 2015 at 9:47 pm - Reply

    […] WHY American expats need an Italian’s driver’s license. 2. The paradoxes of Italian driving. 3. Your Italian driver’s license and your car. 4. Italian driving school – welcome back to high school. 5. The Italian driver’s manual […]

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