Buying a car in Germany & registering it

With a few years in the country behind you often comes a more stable job with a more stable income. When this happens, you decide it’s time you earned some comfort and stopped with those dodgy BlaBlacar car-sharing trips and those horribly late Deutsche Bahn trains. You have earned some independence and so you might want to buy a car in Germany.

However, you are not really familiar with the rules that governs the local car’s market and you don’t want to be screwed over because the dealer took advantage of your lack of knowledge. I crafted a guide to a prospective car owner so you don’t make the mistakes i did. 🙂

Buy car germany

Here it goes.

1 – Buy a car in Germany

Buying a new car in Germany

I won’t go into much details about buying a new car in Germany as most of the process is similar to what you might know in your own country.

  • Create an account and search alerts on platforms like Mobile.deAutoScout24 or AutoHaus24
  • There are dealerships which sell your favorite brand of car
  • You go in one to test drive it and talk about options with the sales man
  • You discuss leasing rates if you can’t afford to pay for it cash
  • You discuss the trade-in value of your own car if applicable
  • You shake hands and wait 2-3 weeks to pick it up

The only additional information that is relevant to you at this point is that the dealerships usually offers to assist with the insurance & registration process. It is sometimes a way to get good prices on car insurance in Germany. Otherwise, there is little room for negotiation on the price than in other countries. Options’ prices can be more flexible though.

Buying a second-hand car in Germany

My father once said; “a new car is the worst investment you can make in life as its value only drops with time”. That might put you off buying a brand new car and will push you to go towards the more affordable second-hand options (Gebraucht). It’s a good idea. German people absolutely love trading cars and they also take good care of them so it’s not rare to find second-hand cars in Germany that are in pristine conditions.

My father once said; “a new car is the worst investment you can make in life as its value only drops with time”

Speaking of car value; there is scale known as the “Schwake Liste” that all car traders who sell & buy cars in Germany recognize. It sets the value of all cars down to every model of every year. This is handy to compare the listed price with the offers you will find. Although it’s excellent guidance, this list also reflects price drops due to the bad reputation or perception of certain brands.
Typically, German cars experience a smaller value drop than french cars due to their reputation. Although it is often justified, some cars with less “prestige” might also be worth a second look. Other example; Skoda cars which use the same parts as Volkswagen experience a higher price drop. If you have already have a car, this list will help you trade it too.

You can find second-hand cars in Germany on platforms like AutoScout24 or Mobile.de too. I found my beloved Peugeot 308 on Mobile.de after creating an account and a search agent with my main criteria. Not too narrow, not too broad: “A Peugeot 308 or Skoda Fabia less than 10 years old, less than 150.000 km” was a good start for me.

 

What to look for when buying a car in Germany

Now all those are just reminders, i know you’ve made your research already! 😉 The ADAC also has a full check-list there (DE) or another check-list here in English.

  • 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

How to find cheaper second-hand cars in Germany

You can take advantage of certain tips & rules to drive the price down further and making the most of your budget if you want to buy a car in Germany.

Jahreswagen

Those are vehicles bought new by employees of car manufacturers such as BMW or Volkswagen with a special discount. To avoid unlawful trading, they have to keep it at least a year before selling it again. This means that the car are in a really good condition, fairly recent, and at a good price. Definitely something to look for in listings.

EU cars

The European Union has introduced the common market where each country can freely trade their goods & products with anyone in it. This is also true for cars; you can buy them from other countries where they are cheaper, thank to lower tax rates among other things. In other words, you are free to shop for a second-hand car in Germany (or new cars too) in other countries. Be careful though; some models have different options from a country to another and the terms of the sales contract & warranty might be less protective of the buyer than in Germany. There might also be less included service in the contract. Make sure to read to small prints. Another drawback is naturally that you can’t test-drive the car before you buy it.

Vorführwagen

This literally means “test drive cars”. Those are the new cars used to take around customers looking for a new car in a dealership. Although it’s not exactly a second-hand car, there can be a significant rebate on a car that has been driving only a few kilometers. However, what you see is what you get. No possibility to take different options or a different engine. There is only this one car.

Graffiti of the Berlin Wall

Graffiti of the Berlin Wall

2- Administrative steps to take once you found your dream ride

Finding a car to buy in Germany is only your ticket to get into the ring, you need to fight a few more rounds to finally drive away with it. You have to make all the technical checks happen, insure and register your car in Germany.

  • TÜV/AU/HU – Roadworthiness inpsection

In Germany, roadworthiness inspections are a public safety mission executed by private organizations such as TÜV & DEKRA in mandated garages. They make your car go through the “Hauptuntersuchung” (HU) & the “Abgasuntersuchung” (AU). The latter is since a few years part of the first, and german people will often simply say the “TÜV check” when talking about the HU. They are pretty much synonyms today. If everything goes well, your car will be given the green light for 24 months, after which a new inspection has to be performed. This inspection is mandatory to register your car in Germany and costs around 110€.

  • Insurance

I teach you nothing; to buy a car in Germany also means having an insurance. I have made an extensive post about it here on this page. It is also a step-by-step-guide and a recommended read. The EVB Nummer is also mandatory to register your car in Germany.

  • Registration

Once you have collected all the right documents (Insurance certificate, TÜV certificate, sales contract, passport, Meldebescheinigung), you are ready to go to the local car registration office, the Zulassungsbehörde also know as KFZ-Zulassungsstelle. Once all the documents have been checked, you will pay 46€ to receive a paper that will finally allow you to buy your license plates. You can’t miss all the shops right next to the Zulassungsbehörde which sole’s business is to sell you those. You can negotiate prices between 15€ & 20€. When you have bought them, you need to come back to the registration office so the Zulassungsbehörde employee can put an official sticker on one of them before the end of the same day. Yes, convuluted administration also applies when registering a car in Germany.

3- Drive in the sunset

The road to buy a car in Germany and register was long and full of darkness, but you finally made it. Don’t forget to enjoy now. 🙂

Tip 1: In Germany, every car owner has to pay a “car tax” yearly to finance highways among other things. Its price differs depending on the power of your engine. I pay around 250€ a year for my Peugeot 308.

Tip 2: If you buy a car in Germany through a dealership (second-hand), it automatically comes by law with a 12-months warranty. This means that in case of repairs, the dealership has to cover the costs for a year. Beyond that, the seller might offer an special insurance for used cars that covers 50% of repairs. Again here, read the small prints.

Tip 3: Here are some commons terms of features on a car will you encounter during your research.

  • Getriebe (Schalt / Automatik): Gear box (manual/automatic)
  • Türen: doors
  • Klimaanlage: air conditioning
  • Tempomat: cruise control
  • Wegfahrsperre: Anti-theft device
  • Lenkrad: steering wheel
  • Serienausstattung: standard equipment
  • Bremskraftverteilung (EBD): ABS
  • Allradantrieb (AWD): 4×4
  • Handbremse: handbrake

Tip 4: If you are short on cash and need a loan to buy your ride, have a look at this post about getting one here. There are loans to buy cars too.

37 Comments

  • Reply Sara 29/07/2017 at 23:33

    Hello , and going to Germany for about 3 to 4 month and am thinking about buying a cheap used car instead of using public transportation to save time, I was wondering if I can register a car with holding a touristic visa only to,Be noted am not a EU citizen

    • Reply Bastien - Settle in Berlin 31/07/2017 at 10:01

      Hi Sara. If you fit all requirements and give all papers mentioned in this document, i don’t see why not. However as a tourist, i’m not sure you will be able to register an adress somewhere in time to start the buying and insurance process.

  • Reply Saketa Musinipally 14/07/2017 at 00:37

    Hi Bastien!
    I am a diplomat in Berlin and I am getting lots of mixed advice on the depreciation of cars in Germany. Mercedes is currently offering me 24% of on list price and 10% tax is refundable as well ( I am only here for 1 year).
    So does it make more sense to buy a used car and get the 10 % tax back or should i buy a new one and get a larger discount. My main consideration is to lose as less money as possible!
    Also, is it just my experience or is the used car market in Berlin way overpriced than outside. I understand that people can buy cars from say, Frankfurt and drive them in Berlin. There is no state/lander restriction, so why do you think berlin is so expensive??!
    Thanks in advance!!

    • Reply Bastien - Settle in Berlin 15/07/2017 at 19:22

      Hi Saketa. I don’t know why it’s more expensive in Berlin. I guess if you are confident you can sell your new car before you leave, it could be a good option. If not, then maybe a used car is preferable.

  • Reply Paolo gari 09/07/2017 at 00:24

    Hello everyone,
    I am italian and I live in rome. I am planning to buy a used car from germany for my son.
    Here are my questions:
    How ling does it to finish all the procedures when i find the car?
    How much does it cost to insure it for one week( just the time to get it to italy)?
    Can i register it in my son’s name without him
    Being present with me in germany?
    I will appreciate your help and thank you in advance.

    • Reply Bastien - Settle in Berlin 10/07/2017 at 11:15

      Hi Paolo. When you find the car, and you have all necessary papers, it depends how soon you can get an appointment at the local “Zulassungsstelle”. Hopefully a matter of days. You need to check with your insurance provider for costs. It depends on your record as a driver, model of the car, etc. If you are buying the car to bring it to Italy, register it to your name in Germany, and then register to your son’s name in Italy.

  • Reply Naumil 09/06/2017 at 12:12

    Hi,
    Great post. Very Helpfull!
    I am currently living in Saarland and im planning to buy a second hand car from Munich (since they have better and favouable options there). Is that possible? If yes, are there any particular things i should take care of (like registeration place or kfz)?
    Also, which option is more preferable, dealer or private owner?
    Thanks 🙂

    • Reply Bastien - Settle in Berlin 10/06/2017 at 19:25

      Hi Naumil. The process should be the same. I’d prefer a dealer since you have more guarantees that if something is wrong post-purchase, he needs to fix it.

  • Reply Pedro 23/05/2017 at 00:22

    Hi!

    This post is really really helpful, thanks a lot!

    I have a question, I hope you can help me with this. I’m currently living in Germany (I have my residence here) and I would like to buy an used car from Spain. He is a private seller and it’s his first time selling a car. In your post you say that I’m going to need a sales contract in order to register the vehicle here in Germany. Do we need to make any kind of specific/official contract? Is there any model in the internet?

    Maybe it’s better to find a specialist in this kind of paperwork? How are they called in german, do you know?

    Thanks!

    • Reply Bastien - Settle in Berlin 28/05/2017 at 12:09

      Hi Pedro. A quick research uncovered the following templates (here and there) for you to use. They are from trusted sources and should be fine but don’t hesitate to add any particular conditions. Hope this helps.

  • Reply Zlatko 04/05/2017 at 15:22

    Very helpful article! I’m looking to buy a second-hand car. My only question is when I have all the needed documents, do I need an appointment at the KFZ-Zulassungsstelle or can I just show up early in the morning and the job done the same day? Checking for appointments, it takes more the one month to get one.

    Thanks,
    Zlatko

    • Reply Bastien - Settle in Berlin 05/05/2017 at 10:14

      Hi Zlatko. I’m glad you find the post helpful. You should check on the website of the Zulassunstelle to see if they are open to walk-ins. In Berlin for example, it seems to only be working with appointments.

      • Reply Daniel 07/05/2017 at 22:57

        So does that mean that you cannot drive your car for about a month after you buy it (until having appointment for registering it)?

        • Reply Bastien - Settle in Berlin 08/05/2017 at 10:13

          Hi Daniel, you might want to use temporary plates if you want to drive it before hand. It’s only just valid for a few days though. But yes, no driving if you don’t have plates.

  • Reply Martin Vermaak 07/04/2017 at 14:48

    Thank you this information is super helpful it made my car buying experience much easier!!!! You are a Hero and thanks for taking the time to do this

  • Reply Sergio 07/04/2017 at 11:47

    Great article, thanks!
    I work and live in Spain, I will soon exchange my Argentinian Driving License for the Spanish one. Been driving for +12years. I am cosidering buying a car from an individual in GER. Some doubts:
    1. I need to check that TUV/AU/HU are ok; at least until I arrive to Spain. Correct?
    2.How do I do with the insurance? Considering I need to drive to Spain and then, once I register it there with the new plates, get a local insurance?
    3. Regarding the Anmeldung… as I don’t live in GER, what do I need to do?
    4. I need to get temporary plates then so I can register then the car in Spain?
    5. and finally, is there any special sales contract? to transfer the ownership of the car from the previous owner to me?
    Thanks a lot!

    • Reply Bastien - Settle in Berlin 08/04/2017 at 13:50

      Hi Sergio. All those points are regulated on the Spanish-side, so you are probably in a better situation to do research than me as i don’t speak Spanish. I’m sure there is a guide for this somewhere. If you don’t live in Germany, you will need to register the car in Spain, with a spanish insurance, get spanish plates etc… Sorry i can’t help further.

  • Reply Orges 28/03/2017 at 16:37

    Hello. Yesterday i bought a car in Berlin but i need to take temporary plates because i live in Albania. Can you help me by teelin me where can i get those temporary plates?
    Thank you!

    • Reply Bastien - Settle in Berlin 29/03/2017 at 09:46

      Hey Orges. If you bought from a dealer, they can probably arrange that for you. However, those temporary plates are only tolerated within EU countries as mentioned here.

  • Reply Robert Paul 26/03/2017 at 17:06

    Hello. I am resident and citizen of Romania, and I am looking forward to travel to Germany for a day or two and buying a second hand car from there to bring it home, because of some reasons including dealers in my country ripping people off in a great manner like unwinding / rewriting the odometer sometimes even tens of thousands of kms backwards . and the price is sometimes more than double than it is in Germany. I need to be filled in with some details. Step by step. So. I travel there, I pick a car and I want to buy it. I’ve seen some cars on mobile.de already have the TUV check. Do I need to do it again? What do I need to do to just drive it home? Do I need to re register it? Can I get to an understanding with the seller to keep the plates so I can get the car home and send them back once I get new plates in my country? Also. Are the sellers going to sell me the car and help with paperwork in English, cause I don’t know how to speak German unfortunately. Thanks a lot in advance and have a great day!

    • Reply Bastien - Settle in Berlin 27/03/2017 at 10:13

      Hi Robert. Regarding the TÜV, this is a technical check that’s valid for a certain time. If still valid, no need to do it again but TÜV is probably not recognized in Romania, so you might have to make this again but the Romanian version. When you buy it, you will get temporary plates on the car to drive it home (arranged from the dealer, maybe for an extra fee). Regarding in English, it’s probably a case by case basis thing, you will need to ask before-hand if they can assist in English. Good luck.

  • Reply T. Smith 05/03/2017 at 03:31

    Looking to buy a cheap car for travelling a few countries (I’m from canada). Would I have to go through all the steps of registering etc or is there a quicker way to get one and start my trip?
    Thank you!

    • Reply Bastien - Settle in Berlin 05/03/2017 at 16:11

      Hi Tory. If you plan to buy one, i’m afraid that you will need to do all that yes. Another solution would be to borrow one from a friend or relative with appropriate insurance to cover you too.

  • Reply Gary 22/01/2017 at 05:15

    Hello
    Do I need to be legally resident and/or have a German driver’s license to own a vehicle? I have a holiday home and am registered with the local council, but not a full time tax paying resident. I’d like to have a motorbike to use while on holiday in Germany.
    thanks

    • Reply Bastien - Settle in Berlin 23/01/2017 at 15:30

      Good question Gary. Although you don’t need to be resident to buy a vehicle, you need to be resident to register and drive it. It seems less complicated and less hassle to simply rent for that time instead of buying a motorbike.

  • Reply Peter Spartalis 13/01/2017 at 15:15

    Hi I live in Australia and was looking at purchasing a motorcycle in Germany to tour though Germany and surrounding countries. Can you give me any advise on registering a bike. Is there any form of international registration?

    • Reply Bastien - Settle in Berlin 13/01/2017 at 18:28

      Hi Peter. Registering a bike is the same rough process. You can drive anywhere in the E.U with the same registration number. Just make sure to book an insurance that cover international trips. It shouldn’t be a problem.

  • Reply Benjamin 05/12/2016 at 16:21

    please can i have a a local site to check out used cars in germany

    • Reply Bastien - Settle in Berlin 05/12/2016 at 18:25

      As mentioned in the article both Autoscout24 and Mobile.de are platforms with used-cars as well.

  • Reply 1r 22/11/2016 at 20:16

    Hi,

    can anyone say about how much time I (as a german) have before I need to register car in Germany if I bought it in France?

    • Reply Bastien - Settle in Berlin 23/11/2016 at 13:15

      In theory, it should be as soon as possible and no longer than 6 months after you have moved the car. Source: Europa.eu

  • Reply Nigel Russell 22/11/2016 at 17:45

    Hi Bastien,

    My daughter is looking to register a GB car in Germany as she is going to be there for around 12 months which is the limit I believe., I has a full UK MOT, insurance etc. Any ideas of the process she’ll need to follow.

    Thanks foe any help you can give.

    Nigel

    • Reply Bastien - Settle in Berlin 23/11/2016 at 13:13

      I think the process is the same but you will probably need to switch to a German insurance to get a policy recognized by the German government to go through the whole process.

  • Reply MIGUEL MARQUES 26/10/2016 at 23:12

    Hi! I wanted to buy a car in Berlin and it is a private seller.. do you know if anyone can take care of things for me there? I would pay for their service of course.. here we also have companies that should handle it but they work too slow.. I’m still waiting for them to contact one seller there in Berlin… thanks

    • Reply Bastien - Settle in Berlin 27/10/2016 at 09:43

      Hi Miguel. Thanks for your message. If you are looking for a middle-man, maybe try the keywords “gebrauchtwagen zwischenhändler berlin” – used cars middle man berlin – on Google to see if you can find a company that can manage the sell for you. Hope this helps.

  • Reply Kasun 07/10/2016 at 08:06

    Your article is so helpful. I’m a crazy person when it’s come to vehicles. I’m a student, and I study Maschinenbau. I still don’t have a Führerschein. But I found a good deal for 600€. I feel like buying and keep it until I get my Führerschein. It might at least take 6 months me to get it. So after I get it done only I can register the car right? Will it be a problem if I buy the car and keep near my apartment? Or can I do every other thing without my Führerschein? Like the insurance and the registration
    (Why I want to buy a car so badly – It’s a 1995 old car, free time I just want to spend time on it and make it. I know it sounds crazy)
    But I’m looking for an advice. Thank you 🙂

    • Reply Bastien - Settle in Berlin 10/10/2016 at 09:52

      Even though it’s not a problem to keep the car on the streets. I wouldn’t do that since you will also need to pay for insurance for the time you can’t drive it, which might cost more than the price of the car itself. You can indeed register the car & book an insurance without a Führerschein. Just a lot of costs for now. Mabye wait a little bit?

    Leave a Reply