Driving in Brazil?

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Drive in Brazil: Legal and Admin Issues

Although expats may dream of Brazil’s laidback lifestyle, driving in Brazil is anything but relaxed. To help you cope with the notorious traffic, this guide on driving in Brazil provides a succinct overview. From tolls to traffic laws, from CNH to IPVA, our intro to driving in Brazil covers it all.

Traffic Regulations in Brazil

The new Brazilian license has 20 demerit points, which will be deducted based on violations made, for example, four points for driving without a seatbelt. Once you reach zero points, your license will be immediately revoked.

When driving in Brazil be sure to have on you at all times your license, car registration certificate, proof that road tax has been paid (IPVA), a first-aid kit, and a fire extinguisher.

Here is a list of some of the basic road rules for driving in Brazil:

  • Brazilians drive on the right-hand side of the road.
  • Everyone in the vehicle must wear a seatbelt.
  • Since 2008 the legal maximum blood alcohol level is 60 mg/100ml. If you are caught with a higher alcohol content, you can be fined and even have your license suspended.
  • Child car seats are required for all kids under the age of seven.
  • Speed limits are usually 60 km/h in urban areas and 120 km/h on major highways, if not indicated otherwise. However, many drivers seem to regard these rules as negotiable guidelines since enforcement can be rather sporadic.  However, in order to reduce speeding, Brazilian authorities have installed speed bumps and electronic speed radars. The fines for getting caught are pricey, and you may encounter that Brazilians driving in front of you break suddenly and slow down drastically when they notice that a trap is ahead.
  • Using cell phones while driving is strictly banned.

Brazil: Importing, Registering, and Insuring Your Car

Brazil has a large automotive industry and, as a result, has strict, protective protocols for importing cars. Even though you may be very attached to your car, you probably have to say goodbye to it before moving to Brazil. It is illegal to bring used cars into the country (unless they are over 30 years old) and the cost for bringing new cars into Brazil is insanely high. The paperwork to do so is also extensive and complex as you require official import authorization from SISCOMEX, the Brazilian Integrated Foreign Trade System. Therefore it is probably easier and cheaper to buy a car in Brazil once you have settled down. There are numerous car dealers throughout Brazil’s larger cities, and if you look in any of the local newspapers’ classified sections, you will be sure to find a car that meets your needs and budget.

Maintaining a car in Brazil is affordable for expats, and gasoline prices are just below the world average. You have to register your car at the DETRAN once you purchase it. If you buy a new car, the dealer often takes care of registration on your behalf, so ask them beforehand if they can do this for you. However, since DETRAN also handles the regular vehicle inspections and annual road tax payments, you will sooner or later find yourself at the nearest office. When you go there for the first time, take a Portuguese speaker with you, so you can find out whether they have English-speaking staff to assist foreign residents.

The Brazilian road tax is a motor vehicle ownership tax (IPVA – imposto sobre propriedade de veículos automotores). The IPVA is due annually and the amount is based on a percentage of the total value of your car. The state traffic department (DETRAN), where you registered your car, sends you a letter in the mail reminding you to pay and indicating the amount due. The process of payment is called licensamento (licensing), and in some states you are able to pay the fee online.

Included in this IPVA is compulsory third party insurance. This covers damages caused to your car and your person by other vehicles and vice versa. It is wise to get full coverage insurance in addition to the compulsory one as the danger of getting involved in an accident is high. You should also insure your car against theft; it is not uncommon to have your car broken into when you park it on streets in larger cities.


We do our best to keep this article up to date. However, we cannot guarantee that the information provided is always current or complete. 

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