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How to: Register a used car

When buying a used car privately in Abu Dhabi, the onus is on you, not the dealer or previous owner, to do the registration grunt work.

When buying a used car privately in Abu Dhabi, the onus is on you, not the dealer or previous owner, to do the registration grunt work. As is the case with obtaining many services, this is a multi-step exercise in organisation, diligence and, most importantly, patience. But once the paperwork is in order, the process is fairly straightforward and you should be able to get your fancy new wheels legally on the road in about half of a concerted weekday, including some unexpected delays.

Have your employer write a letter of no objection to you purchasing a car. Your company should be familiar with the format. You'll then need a certificate of transfer from the licensing department of the emirate where the car was registered by the previous owner. This authorises the transfer of the vehicle to you. If the previous owner financed the car through a bank, he will need to take a letter from the bank stating that he owns the vehicle fully, which might only be possible once you've handed over the cash. If the car was registered in another emirate, you'll need to go with the owner to that emirate's licensing office - in Dubai's case, the Roads and Transport Authority (RTA). Once there, you will need to sign a few forms, scurry back and forth between different counters and departments, and pay some relatively nominal transfer fees.

If your vehicle was previously registered in Abu Dhabi, skip this step. If not, you officially need to export the vehicle to the emirate. You will be issued with temporary export plates, and you will need to buy temporary insurance to cover the car while using the temporary plates. In Dubai, you can do this in the RTA building.

Unsurprisingly, you'll need to buy insurance for the vehicle. You cannot register the car without insuring it first. There are a number of insurance companies to choose from, so shop around. Prices vary, but having had a valid driver's licence for at least a few years either in the UAE or one of many other countries can drastically lower the cost, often by more than 30 per cent. Count on paying around five per cent of the vehicle's insured value for comprehensive coverage.

From here on out, you'll be at an Abu Dhabi registration centre. To register in the city, go to the Driver and Vehicles Licensing Department, just off Muroor Rd at 27th St. For a list of other centres around the emirate and their hours, go to www.adpolice.gov.ae/en/portal/ls.aspx. No matter how new the vehicle is or when it was last inspected, you will need to have it examined by Abu Dhabi inspectors. To do this, take your car to the test centre located down the street from the main licensing office. You will need to pay a Dh60 inspection fee, and the whole process should take about half an hour, not including potentially long queues. There are half a dozen inspection bays, and the procedure is efficient, with an adjacent air-conditioned office for waiting and watching through the windows as your car rises on the hydraulic lift. Collect your receipt and hand it to the inspection desk inside where you will be issued a pass certificate.

Take a number from the front desk in the same office at the test centre, and be absolutely sure to bring these documents: * Black and white passport copy, including residence visa for expats * Abu Dhabi driver's licence * Letter from your employer * Certificate of transfer * Motor vehicle insurance certificate * Vehicle test certificate * Dh200 registration fee, in cash (an ATM is available at the office) To avoid tedious queues, head to the office on Thursday afternoons or in the evening. Centres are generally open until 8pm or 9pm, and closed on Fridays and Saturdays.

It's best to bring every single document you think you might need each step of the way, including your valid foreign driver's licence, if applicable. You'll save a lot of time and possibly days of frustration by being prepared for whatever information the different authorities might ask to see.

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