Buying a Car in Switzerland as a Foreigner

a black car parked in hotel parking area.

If you are a foreigner in Switzerland, moving around can be a bit challenging without your own car. Public transport is great in Switzerland, but if you want the convenience and flexibility of having your own vehicle, then you will need to purchase one. That said, buying a car in Switzerland as a foreigner isn’t as difficult as you might think. 

To buy a car in Switzerland as a foreigner, you must be over 18 years old and possess a Swiss residence permit. This can either be a temporary permit (B), settlement (C), or other permits available. Whether you’re buying a new or used car, formalities are involved, including registration.

This article is your guidance on everything you need to know about buying a car in Switzerland, the requirements, and the step-by-step process. Read on to find out how you can buy a car for export and the best time for purchase. You can also lease a car in Switzerland instead of buying one, read this guide to learn more.

Buying a car as a foreigner in Switzerland

a man driving despite rainy conditions.

Buying a car in Switzerland as a foreigner isn’t challenging, provided you have the necessary paperwork. The requirements for purchase vary based on where you’re buying from. Generally, you’ll need the following documents:

  • Valid ID, which can either be a passport or ID card
  • Valid driving license
  • Proof of address
  • Swiss residence permit
  • Car insurance, but not all car dealers request this

Provided you have all the above documents; you can make your purchase in Switzerland or while living abroad. To buy a car in Switzerland, this is the process to follow:

1. Decide on the type of car you want

You can choose from a new or used car. A new car is more costly than an old one. The option you’ll settle on depends on your budget and the vehicle’s condition.

2. Find financing

Buying a car in cash is the cheapest option because most dealers will provide discounts. There are times you may need additional funding options. These include car loans and leasing. Some dealerships offer leasing and monthly installment options if you have a good credit score.

3. Find a seller

 There are several places you can make your purchase. These are:

  • Car dealerships: Switzerland has several dealerships selling new and used cars. Some sell specific brands, and others offer multiple brand options. If you’re buying a used car, ensure that you get it from a reliable dealer. Some dealers handle the paperwork like registration, maintenance, and insurance for you at an additional cost.
  • Online: You can opt to buy from dealers or car brokers online, especially if you live abroad. They include Comparis and AutoScout24. This option allows you to settle paperwork online or in person. While buying from a physical location will enable you to test the car and negotiate the price, purchasing online is convenient and provides extensive options.
  • Private owners: You can find private car sellers online or through notice boards, newspapers, local forums, and automobile magazines. When buying from a private owner:
    • Use a purchase agreement.
    • Ensure you get all the necessary documents such as the registration details, vehicle report, and a technical report certificate if the car is above four years old.
    • Pay using a third-party service like Escrow if the seller requests upfront payment.

4. Take precautions

 After choosing your car, take time with the paperwork and do a test drive. Ensure you receive:

  • A purchase agreement. This includes your details, the seller’s information, the terms of sale, vehicle information, and the warranty duration. The warranty period for used cars in Switzerland is mostly two years, but it can be reduced or extended.
  • The vehicle’s report if it’s a used car. Vehicles undergo inspections every few years. Run the Vehicle’s Identification Number (VIN) on available decoder portals to find details on mileage and accident history. If the vehicle is over ten years old, ensure that it passes a technical control test to know if it fulfills the Association des Services des Automobiles requirements.
  • Previous owner details which you can find via the cantonal traffic offices.
  • Previous registration certificate if you’re buying a used car because you’ll need it for your registration.

When buying a car in Switzerland, you can choose from various insurance options such as partial Casco, full Casco, and third-party liability insurance. Most car dealers won’t permit you to drive the car out of the dealership without insurance. 

Third-party liability insurance is compulsory; you cannot register it or get its license plate without it. It covers up to 1 million CHF third-party damages and property in case of accidents where you are at fault.

The costs associated with buying a car in Switzerland are as follows:

RegistrationThis varies with cantons, but it ranges from 50 to 300 CHF for plates, inspections, and registration certificates.
Car taxIt costs between 100-800 CHF annually but varies with cantons.
Motorway tollThis is a sticker that you need to use on certain roads in Switzerland. It costs CHF 40 annually.
Vehicle insuranceThe third-party liability insurance costs between 300 CHF and 400 CHF a year, while the full comprehensive covers cost 1,000-2,000 CHF.
FuelCurrently, petrol costs about 1.93 CHF a liter.
InspectionIt costs about 130 CHF. After purchase, you’ll inspect after four years and every three years after that.

With the cost of buying a car in Switzerland all clear, how much will it cost you every month? To answer this question we wrote a dedicated article about the cost of owning a car in Switzerland.

Registering a car in Switzerland

When you buy a car in Switzerland, whether new or used, you need to register it before driving. Some dealerships handle the registration for their clients, but the Road Traffic Office is responsible for all vehicle registrations in Switzerland. You can find a nearby location within your canton of residence.

It costs between 50 to 100 CHF to register a car in Switzerland. To register your vehicle, you need to present the following documents by post, if the car is new or used:

  • Proof of identity: This includes a Swiss passport and a residence permit if you are a non-resident. Residents must present their identity cards. If you’re a business owner, you need to submit a copy confirming entry into self-employment activity or commercial registry from the institute of social insurance. 
  • Address: You need to provide proof of address within Switzerland.
  • Proof of car insurance: You’ll need third-party liability insurance, which the insurance company will submit electronically to the Road Traffic Office.
  • A 13.20 inspection report form: This is necessary for new cars, and you can get it from the dealer.

If it’s a new car, you don’t need to get an inspection report from a motor vehicle inspection company. In the case of old cars whose registration is less than10 years old, you don’t need the report. Only used vehicles above ten years need a technical inspection.

Once you’ve submitted all necessary documents, The Road Traffic Office will issue you a confirmation registration document, the car’s tax bill, and the plate license plate if it’s a new car. For a used car, it will be re-registered using your license. You’ll receive a confirmation registration document and the car’s tax bill.

When you move to another canton, you must inform your local road traffic office within two weeks to update the new address.

Which cars are the cheapest in Switzerland?

Buying a car in Switzerland for export

people waiting for busses in the bus station.

It’s possible to buy a car in Switzerland for export. However, you must comply with formalities to ensure that you’ve made all payments and that the vehicle meets all the criteria for export. These are:

1. Customs declaration: All cars you export permanently from Switzerland for use in non-EU countries need a customs declaration. You can get it at a customs office that handles merchandise. For this process, you must present the following documents:

  • The car’s registration document
  • Identification details
  • Proof of origin
  • Export customs declaration

The customs declaration is in electronic form and should apply within 30 days before the export. There’s an online application platform courtesy of the Federal Office of Customs and Border Security for this purpose. 

If the car costs 1,007 CHF, a customs declaration isn’t necessary.

2. License plate transfer: The Swiss number plates should be transferred to those of the destination country. However, you can use the Swiss plate, but it comes with an expiry date, just like the liability insurance.

3. Valid insurance: Your car’s insurance company will specify the duration that you can use the export license plate. If the insurance company has no coverage in the destination country, it means that the country has no liability insurance.

Best time to buy a car in Switzerland 

Buying a car is expensive, and you can get a good deal by knowing the best time to purchase vehicles in Switzerland. There are discounted holidays and peak seasons for car sales, but purchasing one is advisable when you find a deal you can afford and is within your budget.

Below are the best times you can buy a car in Switzerland.

1. Towards the end of the year

The best time to buy a car in Switzerland is in the last months of November and December. Car dealers have yearly goals based on the number of vehicles they need to sell. Buying during this time of the year means the dealer achieves his sales goals and receives an annual bonus; that’s why you’re likely to get a good deal.

2. During the last days of a quota

Car dealers, like all salespeople, have quotas. These come at the end of March, June, September, and December. You can get a good deal during each quota’s last week, especially on the last day.

3. On holidays

Most holidays come with car sale discounts. Some of these are New Year, Republic Day, Näfelser Fahrt, Ascension Day, and Easter. Car dealers love to entice buyers around these celebrations with good deals.

4. During Black Friday deals

Most car dealers in Switzerland offer Black Friday deals. You can get a good deal on a new or pre-owned car during this time.

Best websites to find used cars in Switzerland

By now you have an idea of how to buy a car in Switzerland. To find the best deal and ultimately purchase a used vehicle, you need to check related marketplaces. Here are the top websites to buy a used car in Switzerland:

1. is the largest marketplace for selling and buying used cars in Switzerland. Currently, there are over 131,000 vehicles available for purchase.


Comparis is a one-stop online car bazaar selling many cars, new and used. You can access any vehicle you want from different marketplaces in a few clicks.


Autoline is a Swiss online car market with over 65,000 cars on offer daily. Find your dream car on Autoline, whether new or old, and you can also sell your vehicle on the site.


Autouncle is another large Swiss car marketplace where you can buy one of the over 125,000 available vehicles.


On OOYYO, you can analyze millions of vehicles from different sources and only show relevant results to a searcher. The marketplace is currently present in 20 car markets and is accessible in 29 languages. 

With more than 10 Million unique car options for sale and over 25 Million listings across different sources globally.

See the full list and review of the used car websites in Switzerland.

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