Buying a car is an exciting and also very important moment in our life; however, as a foreigner or non-resident in Germany, will you be able to do it at all? We all know how strictly regulated the country is and when es especially comes to big purchases, contacts, and insurance.
A foreigner or non-resident can buy a new or used car in Germany. In fact, you can buy a car in Germany even without residency here, you just need to have a valid ID card, enough money to pay the car price, and other additional expenses such as insurance, car plates, and vehicle tax.
In this post, you will learn how to buy a new or used car as a foreigner in Germany and the steps you need to take for this. However, do you actually need a car in Germany? Well, maybe not. Figure out in this article.
Buying a car as a foreigner or non-resident in Germany
Officially there is no problem for a foreigner to buy a car in Germany. In fact, many people just travel to the country to make a purchase and go back to their home country.
The only problem that can arise with registration. In order to register a vehicle, one should have a permanent address in Germany. Nonetheless, it is still possible to buy a car without a permanent place in the country if you, for example, want to export it right away.
The registration is needed to define where the vehicle will be located, as well as the owner of the car, who can later give representation powers to others.
Also, the address is needed to receive a mail regarding the vehicle (section 46 subsection 2 of the Vehicle Registration Ordinance (Fahrzeugzulassungsverordnung).
Additionally, the owner must pay a vehicle tax and sign up for mandatory insurance.
Things to consider when buying a car in Germany:
- Which car to buy, new or used one?
- Which type of car do you want and need, benzin und diesel, automatic or manual?
- Your budget
- Where to buy the car? Whether privately, at the dealer, or abroad, inform yourself about the advantages and disadvantages and what you need to pay particular attention to.
- How will you pay for a car? There are several options such as cash payment, financing, or leasing.
On another hand, the process of buying a car in Germany happens as in any other country, even if you are a foreigner.
If you are looking to buy a car in Germany, read our article on the cheapest cars in Germany and some other car-related posts:
- Can a foreigner buy a car in Germany?
- Used car prices in Germany
- Best car loans in Germany
- Getting a car loan in Germany
- How to buy a car in Germany for export
- Best websites to buy a used car in Germany
- Car insurance in Germany
- Cheapest car insurance in Germany
- Buying vs leasing a car in Germany
- How much does it cost to own a car in Germany?
Buying a car as a resident in Germany
When you buy a car in Germany and want to keep it in the country, you must register it at your permanent address in Germany. So, for regular residents, it shouldn’t be a problem, since everyone must have an official address when living in Germany on a long-term basis.
During the process, you will pay normal vehicle tax would and mandatory insurance.
Buying a car as a non-resident in Germany
This can be tricky, because of the reasons mentioned above. However, if you aren’t residing in Germany and just want to buy a car for export it’s still possible!
In this case, you should buy a special German export license plate for your new car. This is more of a short-term solution, but perhaps suitable for you and lasts long enough till you sell it or move to another country. These license plates are valid for up to one year.
In addition to this, you must pay a vehicle tax which is variable depending on the car and engine, and of course sign for car insurance.
All vehicles in Germany are tracked by the authorities, so in case of a sale abroad, the owner must take out a car from the local register (abmelden) in conjunction with the export (in case of an export to a non-EU state).
And if you are exporting it to the EU country, vehicle registration papers must be handed over to the authorities of the country where it will be transported.
This is a very important step when moving a vehicle abroad because unless the car is taken out of the German register, or re-registered in a different EU state, the last registered owner would remain responsible for anything that has to do with the vehicle, even if it has been sold to someone else.
If your budget is too tight, you can finance a vehicle in Germany. Simply apply for an online loan with Smava, they give loans to foreign nationals with minimal requirements and high approval rate.
Find your dream car in Germany
How to go about finding a car in Germany? There are definitely plenty of online resources out there; however, some of them are offering only the German version. For this reason, knowing some terminology in German will be very helpful in this process.
Here are some useful words and things that one should be looking at when selecting a used car in Germany:
- Mileage (Kilometerstand)
- First registration (Erstzulassung – EZ) – the date indicates the age of the car
- Number of previous owners (Vorbesitzer)
- Fuel type (Kraftstoffart) – Petrol (Benzin) or Diesel
- Engine power (Leistung) – PS is horsepower
- The date for the next periodic technical inspection (Hauptuntersuchung – HU) – you should look for cars with at least one year until the next HU or ideally a new HU upon purchase
- Accident-free car (Unfallfrei) –of course, you don’t want to get a car with major accidents in the past
- Gearing mechanism (Getriebe) – most cars in Germany have manual gearing (Schaltgetriebe), so be aware of that in case you only learned to drive automatic (Automatik)
- Maintenance record (Checkheft gepflegt) – only look for cars that provide a full maintenance record
- Air Conditioning (Klimaanlage) – be aware that not all car manufacturers and used cars have AC installed
- Emission sticker (Umweltplakete) – most German cities are an environmental zone, meaning that only cars with green emission stickers (Euro 4) are allowed to enter. So be sure to look for a car with a green emission sticker.
You can also download a checklist for buying a used car in Germany, with particular tips and information about what to look up to.
Firstly you need to register on a web platform by setting up a profile. After you will be able to search for the best deals depending on the criteria you are selecting.
Check out this article, we have collected all places where one can buy a car in Germany.
It’s also worth it to check sites like eBay Kleinanzeigen, this is the most popular platform to sell and buy used items including cars. Upon finding a vehicle you like, schedule an appointment with the owner, so you can see and inspect it live.
Looking for the cheapest car to buy in Germany in 2022?
How to finance a car in Germany?
Read all about car loans and car financing in this article.
How to register a car in Germany
After you have bought your perfect car, an online appointment at the local vehicle registration office (Kfz-Zulassungsstelle) should be made. You can only register a vehicle in the city that you are registered in.
To register the purchased car, one must pay for license plates, the emission sticker, the registration fee, and potentially the TÜV inspection prior to registration. Prices vary slightly between cities and providers. Our TÜV inspection cost 115 EUR, which was covered by the car dealer.
Which documents do you need to register a car in Germany?
- Identity card or passport
- The car insurance confirmation (EVB number: a seven-digit combination of numbers and letters) for the insurance of the vehicle. These are indicated in the admission office at the time of registration.
- Admission certificate part I and part II
- Proof of the last main examination
- If you send your representative to the registration office, he/she must have written by your authorization, and carry the original identity card and as well a copy of your identity card
When you decide to sell the car, you should deregister it or re-registered to the new owner.
Bringing your own car to Germany
As another option, you can consider bringing your old car with you to Germany. Overall it’s not complicated, especially when moving from an EU state.
If you want to ship the vehicle all the way to Germany, it can be quite pricy and might cost up to 1,100 EUR when you’re shipping from outside of Europe.
One should also calculate import tax on cars which is 10% of the vehicle’s value plus an additional 19% VAT. Classic cars get a slight discount, however, it’s still a 7% tax rate.
If you have a classic car and ship from non-EU countries, you can save even more by having it shipped to another place in the Eurozone with smaller taxes first, and then bring your car into Germany tax-free.
Depending on the value of your car, all these taxes may be worth it – but maybe a better idea will be just to sell your car and find a new one upon arrival to Germany.
Especially when moving from the US, because American cars need to be modified to fit the European standards.
Buying a new car in Germany
If you buy a new car in Germany you will conduct a contract with the dealership, where your vehicle comes with a 2-year warranty. The buyer must also pay VAT taxes on the purchased car (19%).
There is no bargain for cars in Germany, however, you can still get the price a little bit down. Dealers sometimes give discounts for payment in cash.
Some dealers register cars for a day and then immediately deregister them. This turns them into “used cars”, giving flexibility in pricing. Negotiation is possible when it comes to the “extras” such as the sunroof, air conditioning, sound system, and other accessories.
How will you pay for the new car? If you don’t pay cash for a new car (and not many people do) then you will have to finance it, e.g, take a loan.
Many manufacturers in Germany offer internal finance programs, which usually have a slightly better interest rate than in a bank. However, better to find other ways to make a purchase.
Interest rates may be better with the manufacturer but the loan may have to be paid back in 3 years, and you probably won’t be able to manage it. Additionally, a buyer can’t expect to finance a car that is discounted in any way.
Depending on the purchase price, financing can range from 24 to 60 months. The best interest rates are offered when a 20% down payment is made.
The KFZ-Haftpflichtversicherung (vehicle liability insurance) is required by law in Germany and covers the driver against third-party liability claims. Allianz is one of the most popular insurance providers in Germany, you could also find the cheapest car insurance in Germany on the price comparison website Tarifcheck.
What are the pros and cons of a new car?
- Latest safety technology and equipment
- More efficient engines with lower consumption
- No previous owners, really ” the first car“
- Later car sales easier
- Lower car tax
- Higher purchase price
- Higher value loss
- A driver must be more careful
- Is not retracted/driven
Buying a used car in Germany
In Germany, people buy used cars much more often than the new ones, most of the time it’s just smarter. Pre-owned cars can be a good value if you choose carefully and pay attention to the details.
If you buy a used car through a dealer you can expect some sort of guarantee, which isn’t the case on the private market. Some banks and even some dealers may finance used cars, but this isn’t as easy as with a new car.
Wonder how much do used cars cost in Germany?
Factors such as mileage, age, and value play a significant role if you can get a loan for a vehicle. Auxmoney and Smava provide best deals for foreign customers.
Read our full review of Auxmoney.
There are a number of pre-owned car dealerships in Germany that cater to English speakers and have native English speakers to help you throughout the procedures. You can see cars online and arrange a purchase with them directly.
A good option can be a Jahreswagen (Yearcar) or a demo model from the showroom (Vorführwagen).
Employees of car manufacturers are allowed to buy cars at a discount and then resell them after keeping them for a year.
Usually, such vehicles are a good deal, have quite a solid condition, and have a good value for the money. A Vorführwagen has usually been displayed in the showroom and used for test drives. Therefore, the condition is great and the car has low mileage.
The classical way to buy a car from a private owner is an option too, although offers less security. On another hand, you can find a great price for a dream car.
The key metrics to look for when choosing a private own car are odometer reading (mileage), date of the next inspection (TÜV), date of first registration (Erstezulassung or EZ), model year, type of catalytic converter, and the number of owners.
Germans are trustworthy people, one should encounter some fraud when buying a car from a private person. Nonetheless, always require to conduct a contract when making a deal, so you have something to refer to.
What are the pros and cons of used cars?
- Affordable purchase price
- Possible new scrapes are not a too critical an issue
- Car is already driven in
- Possible damage can’t be detected immediately
- It may already be worn out
- Minor or major paint damage present
Things to pay attention to when buying a used car
- Mileage – age of the car
- First registration (EZ – Erstzulassung)
- Number of owners
- Diesel fuel or Petrol (Diesel or Benzin)
- Date of the next roadworthiness check (HU/AU/TÜV).
- Engine power
- Known issues
Agree on test drive before making a purchase
A test drive is a must before buying a car, whether it’s a new or a used one. If possible, the test drive should take place in good weather, daylight, and outside peak hours.
This way you will recognize any defects. Don’t forget to bring your identity card and driver’s license when testing the car.
If you test the car yourself, the seller’s liability insurance covers damage to third parties; however, damage to the vehicle that you have caused will not be covered. So keep it in mind.
If the seller has taken out comprehensive insurance, it will cover everything. As a precaution, make an agreement with the dealer to protect yourself from any claims.
Insurance for your car in Germany
Car insurance in Germany has special importance because you aren’t allowed to use your car without it. So you must get at least a basic insurance package.
It’s also a large part of your running costs – the insurance. Insurance companies have their own preferences regarding the cars to be insured.
In general, there are 3 main types of car insurance in Germany which include third-party coverage – KFZ-Haftpflichtversicherung, partial coverage – Teilkasko, and comprehensive coverage – Vollkasko.
Don’t know what to pick? Just third-party coverage, partial or total package? If you want to be on the roads with your car, you need at least basic car insurance.
This will pay for damage you cause to others in traffic – regardless of whether it is material or personal damage. Damage to your own car isn’t insured by the liability.
However, both partial and comprehensive insurance usually costs significantly more than basic liability insurance. So consider whether you need this additional protection or not. Or if this is the thing where you can save some money.
If you buy a very old vehicle, you usually will be fine with basic coverage. Most of the policies offer coverage of 100 million EUR. Allianz is by far the most recommended car insurance in Germany. The company offers all types of coverage from liability to the full package.
You can find all information related to car insurance and the cheapest one in this article.
The cost of owning a car in Germany
How much is it cost to have a car in Germany? After you buy the car, you must still pay for car insurance, maintenance, vehicle tax, parking, and fuel.
Accordingly, to German statistics, the average costs for a normal car are 520 EUR and 788 EUR for an electric car per month.
A smaller, more economical car will cost you less, of course. Less consumption means lower fuel costs. When it comes to repair and service expenses, you will pay less when having a regular car on the market in comparison to the premium brand.
So before even buying the car, consider whether you can afford the running costs. For that reason we have already written a comprehensive article which provides all the necessary information, you can see it here.
For a small standard car, for example, VW Golf, you can expect to pay between 200 EUR and 400 EUR per month. The bigger and more powerful your car is, the higher the maintenance costs are usually.
Overall, the average car costs lie by 300 EUR per month, depending on which car you drive. You can calculate about 200 EUR per month for a small car, and 400 EUR per month for a car of the middle class with average annual kilometers.
This includes fixed costs such as taxes, repairs, or vehicle liability as well as operating costs such as fuel or TÜV (inspection). The exact amount of the costs depends on several factors, such as the choice of car insurance and others.
What are maintenance costs?
- Fuel costs, car insurance costs, repairs as well as taxes and depreciation of the car’s worth
These costs depend on:
- Type of the car, equipment, your age, your accident risk and region where do you live
Be prepared to pay at least 250 EUR per year for car insurance in Germany, which will be the cheapest option – liability insurance (third-party insurance).
However, it is also the least extensive insurance in terms of coverage. Moreover, the price varies and depends on many factors.
The cheapest packages for car insurance can be found among these providers:
- CosmosDirekt – is a car insurance provider that stands not only on low prices but also for more value for money. In fact, many German tests confirmed the excellent price-performance ratio. You can save up to 40% in price.
- Allianz – the largest insurance provider in Germany.
Inspection, maintenance, and repairs
Each 2-year car needs to be controlled by a special institution TÜV, it’s not free, expect to pay 100 EUR. New auto has to be controlled after the first 3 years.
In addition, an oil change must be done once a year, where you can expect a check of up to 100 EUR. Also, don’t forget about the air filter, pollen filter, etc. This all can cost an additional 100-200 EUR.
Wear parts such as alternators, brakes, exhausts, or tires that must be replaced over time. To fix problems in electronics will be the most expensive.
Here are estimated costs for a standard car such as VW Golf:
- 500 EUR per year for Insurance (Teilkasko)
- Car taxes 150 EUR
- Fuel 1,150 EUR yearly
- Car inspection 100 EUR every 2 years
- Garage/Parking place 100 EUR per month for (not always necessary)
- Changing the tired 100 EUR yearly
Total: 1,950 EUR per year or 162 EUR per month if you don’t have to pay for parking, also individual costs apply.
Here are other examples of cars and their total costs per month:
- Ford Fiesta 168 EUR per month; 2,016 EUR per year
- VW Golf 183 EUR per month; 2,196 EUR per year
- Audi A4 220 EUR per month; 2,640 EUR per year
- Mercedes C class 264 EUR per month; 3,168 EUR per year