Buying a Car in Germany

The process of buying a new car in Germany is comparatively easy. A reputed dealership would take care of and advise on all the processes involved, from the test drive to the registration.

This page contains the following topics:

  1. Buying a used car in Germany
    1. Odometer manipulation
  2. How do you register a used car in your name?
  3. Cost of vehicle registration
  4. Importing a vehicle to Germany
    1. Import from a non-EU country
    2. Importing a vehicle from an EU member state

Learn German on Your Own
A self-study guide for beginners

1. Buying a used car in Germany

As anywhere else in the world, a thorough inspection of a used car and its documents before buying is necessary. Documents you should check are:

After you have inspected the car mechanically, you must test it on the road and settle the price. Do not forget to write a buying contract (Kaufvertrag). There are many ready-to-print examples of the "Kaufvertrag" available online. For example, this one is from TÜV Süd.

Buying a used car is not an easy task. People in Germany often avoid buying used automobiles from used car dealerships and used car dealerships in general are not trusted. Instead, they find it more convenient and trustworthy to buy a used car directly from the owner. There are many websites where used cars can be found. Some are:

Some companies also sell their approved second-hand cars, like the following:

1.1 Odometer Manipulation (in German: Tachomanipulation)

Among other mechanical checks is odometer tempering, to which most people don’t pay attention. Though any alteration or manipulation of the odometer is illegal in Germany, there are some people, especially in Eastern Europe, who have systems to change the kilometer readings (mileage) of vehicles.

There are various smartphone applications, such as "Carly," that can detect tachometer tampering. Investing in such software or hardware can help you avoid a bigger loss.

2. Registering the Vehicle in Your Name in Germany

After purchasing a used car, you must register it in your city of residence in your name. The authority responsible for the registration process is the Fahrzeugzulassungsstelle, or, in short, normally called Zulassungsstelle.
The following documents are required to register a vehicle:

2.1 Proof of Identity

  1. Identity card or passport (In the case of EU citizens, an identity card is enough with the residence registration certificate, i.e., Anmeldebescheinigung.)
  2. You have to personally appear before the vehicle registration authority. Alternatively, you can provide power of attorney to a third person.

2.2 Proof of the German Address

In Germany, registration of a residential address (or addresses, if you have more than one residence) is mandatory for everyone. The vehicle registration office (Kfz-Zulassungsstelle) has access to your registered address, but the authority there can also demand proof of address. German ID cards have the address written on them. Foreigners can take the residence registration certificate (Anmeldebescheinigung) from the town hall office (Rathaus) as proof of address with them.

2.3 Proof of Ownership of the Vehicle

You must get two vehicle documents from the previous owner. These are:

  1. Zulassungsbescheinigung Teil I (also called Fahrzeugschein)
  2. Zulassungsbescheinigung Teil II (also called Fahrzeugbrief)

The third document you should have is the buying contract (Kaufvertrag).

Zulassungsbescheinigung Teil II (Fahrzeugbrief) is the original document that has all the details of the vehicle. It should be kept safe at home. Zulassungsbescheinigung Teil I (Fahrzeugschein) is the summary of Zulassungsbescheinigung Teil I (Fahrzeugschein) that drivers keep in their vehicles with them. Registration is possible without a Fahrzuegschein, but not without a Fahrzeugbrief.

2.4 Driver’s License

2.5 eVB Number (Electronic Insurance Confirmation)

Third-party liability coverage is mandatory before vehicle registration in Germany. Liability coverage is the minimum officially required insurance. There are also partial coverage insurance and comprehensive coverage available.

Please visit this page to read more details about insurance in Germany.

2.6 Proof of Vehicle Safety Test (Hauptuntersuchung (HU)) & Exhaust Emissions Test (Abgasuntersuchung(AU))

If the previous owner was still driving the car at the time of selling and has not deregistered it, he or she must provide an HU and AU inspection certificate for the vehicle. (If there’s no entry in the vehicle registration.)

HU and AU inspections are mandatory after three years for a newly bought vehicle, and after the first inspection, the vehicle must be subject to inspection every two years. Many firms conduct these inspections and issue certificates, for example, TÜV, DEKRA, etc.

If the previous owner has already deregistered the vehicle, chances are that the validity of the inspection has also expired. The buyer should mechanically check the deregistered vehicle thoroughly before buying. Unregistered vehicles may have serious problems. After buying, the vehicle must be brought to the inspection firm, which then issues a new inspection certificate. This certificate will be valid for two years.

To learn more about car inspection in Germany, please visit the page: Car Inspection in Germany.

2.7 Old Registration Plates or Number Plates

The previous owner should also provide old registration plates if they are not attached to the deregistered vehicle.

2.8 Direct Debit Authorization (Sepa-Lastschriftmandat)

You have to provide direct debit authorization to the authority for the deduction of vehicle tax.

2.9 COC Papers (for New Cars Only)

COC papers provide certification that a car complies with EU standards. COC papers are handed over by the manufacturer when the car is first sold and contain all the important features and technical details of the vehicle.

3. Costs of Vehicle Registration

The cost of vehicle registration can vary from 20 to 50 euros, depending on the case. If you are just changing the registration district of your vehicle and not the owner, this may cost up to 15 euros. If the registration has to be changed from one owner to another, it can cost up to 30 euros. You can even get the registration number of your choice by paying an extra 40 euros.

4. Importing a Vehicle to Germany

4.1 Import from a Non-EU Country

Vehicle imports from a non-EU country are subject to the following taxes:

If you intend to get permanent German residence, you can avoid these import taxes on all of your households, including the tax on your personal vehicle. Please see this page for more details.

If you plan to live in Germany for less than a year, then you are allowed to drive in Germany with registration plates from your home country. You would need to translate the original vehicle documents into German (from any authorized translator or interpreter or any national motoring club, like ADAC). Additionally, you would need mandatory insurance for your vehicle and an inspection test. Please note that most foreign vehicles need mechanical alternations to pass the roadworthy test in Germany.

For a stay longer than one year, the vehicle must be registered with your local Fahrzeugzulassungsstelle (vehicle registration office) in Germany. In that case, you would need the following documents:

4.2 Importing a Vehicle from an EU Memeber State

Importing a used car from an EU state into Germany is relatively easy. The big headache of vehicle inspection is over, as according to current EU regulations, a car from one EU state can be imported into another EU state without a mechanical inspection. However, it needs to pass the vehicle safety test ( Hauptuntersuchung (HU)) & and the exhaust emissions test (Abgasuntersuchung(AU)).

The process of registering a vehicle imported from within the EU is the same as registering a car bought inside Germany.

Please note that an import of a used car with an odometer reading of up to 6000 km or a car not older than 6 months falls under the category of "new car" in Germany.

Explore Other Topics