Buying a car in Georgia (country)

Georgia is a beautiful country to explore by car. But it can be brutal on the car. Road related damage brought three of my journeys last year to a sudden end. Unpaved roads aren’t uncommon either and at the very least can make your ride very uncomfortable if not force you to turn around.

All the sudden those soccer mom wannabe off-roaders generally known as SUVs (Sport Utility Vehicle … yeah, sure.) began to make sense to the point that I bought one.

Buying and registering a car can be daunting in your native country and doing it in another is downright scary. But fear not, Georgia made it simple. In this quick article I walk you through my experience hoping that you get a better idea about the process.

Find your car

Finding a car is fairly simple. Go online to MyAuto, MyCar, AP or any other site that lists cars or maybe even go directly to Rustavi to check them out in person.

I found my listing on MyAuto and bought from a private individual. Whenever I met owners I quickly checked the car. Given my budget I didn’t expect perfection but remember that Georgia is a bit of a final destination for used cars. Some cars looked accordingly.

In a second step I booked an appointment for an inspection. Those cost around 120-150 GEL at the original dealerships. The reports give you a good idea what’s wrong with the car and you may use that to push the price of the car. Also helps to see if you’re willing to take on the problems or not. Expect issues and budget for them.

But don’t be too afraid of issues either. Find a good workshop that’s not the original place. I opted for a car from 2006, I really don’t need brand new parts in it to outlive the rest of the car. Spare parts are usually easy to come by and are much cheaper at those places. Had no issues with them in the past and the workmanship is certainly acceptable. Keep in mind that work hours don’t push you into financial ruin either.

Register and transfer ownership

This is the scary part. Turns out that it couldn’t be any easier.

Have your passport translated. The translation needs to be stamped by a notary. That costs you around 20GEL, maybe a bit more.

Meet the seller at the car registration branch of the Ministry of internal affairs in Rustavi. I left all the talking to the seller.

Reception will issue you a ticket. Your number will first come up at the Liberty Bank counter. There you tell them which number plate you want and pay for it.

You can have any number plate you like as long as it’s available and you’re able to pay for it. Prices range from 72 GEL to 10000 GEL. A complete set of rules for the pricing can be found here on the Police website.

There’s a bunch of plates on display. You can easily see them. Choose one of those and you will only pay the base price. I’m cheap and it’s a number. I don’t care but feel free to blow money on something fancy. They’ll make the plates for you. Just make sure you know what you want before you go there ;)

Once you’ve paid wait for the number to come up on the “right side”. That’s where the government officials take care of your needs. The seller gives up ownership, you hand over your passport and the notarized translation. Keys are pressed, papers printed and you’re good to go.

The final stop is on the outside. Get out of the main building and walk maybe 100m, There’s a small building a little bit elevated. Usually there’s a ton of people waiting and one person shouting out names, handing out little ID cars.

This is you car passport. It takes around 10-15 minutes for your name to come up, pick up your passport, done. Shake hands, drive off.

Bonus: Agree on a form of payment in advance. I paid after the paperwork was all done right from there by bank transfer on the phone. This took only seconds to complete. But other sellers may not be OK with that.

Insurance

Car insurance is not a must have for Georgian registered cars but given the elevated chances of accidents due to the way traffic in Georgia works I’d recommend that you at least look into it.

Banks like BoG, Solo and TBC offer instuance or at least refer you to their partners. Prices are reasonable. Basic insurance is rather cheap. Here’s what I’ve been offered as basic coverage:

  • Limit 10000 USD - 95 USD / year
  • Limit 25000 USD - 115 USD / year
  • Limit 50000 USD - 200 USD / year

This covers all damages to another party if you are responsible for an accident. Georgia is full of cheap cars that cost less then 10.000 USD but if you hit something like a brand new Mercedes you will hate yourself for not being insured.

A full service package was offered to me for 420 USD / year covering total loss, partial loss, injuries, death, vandalism, etc. and also including radside assistence.

These numbers are based on my beaten up 6500 USD Porsche Cayenne S. Your numbers may differ depending on the type and value of the car.

Fines

Traffic violations, while annoying, are efficient and pain free to deal with. You’ll find youself being fined for all sorts of things quickly. Speeding, stopping on one of the many (mostly unused) bicycle lanes to pick somebody up, etc. They do this through video surveillance which is usually announced by a big sign. So you have been warned.

Fines are delivered swiftly via SMS. The messages are lengthy and total gibberish to foreigners (they use the western alphabet, so no google translate will help) but it’s easy to break down. All you really need is the fine number (usually av12356 or something alike). Then use your favorite banking app or portal, select paying patrol fines and enter that number along with your number plate. You’ll be told the amount (seems to be 40 GEL no matter what you did wrong) and pay.

I don’t like fines but at least that way I can deal with it quickly and forget about it. No waiting around, no letters to be sent back and forth, etc. However when I first got an SMS form the “POLICE” I thought it was a scam. I was just about to delete it when I saw my number plate in the text and took it seriously. Since then, I’ve gotten used to this friendly one way exchange of messages ;)