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 inspection

In Germany, roadworthiness inspections are a public safety business conducted by private organizations such as TÜV & DEKRA in mandated technical center. They make your car go through the “Hauptuntersuchung” (HU) & the “Abgasuntersuchung” (AU). Both checks are part of the same test now, 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€.

If the car you bought still has a valid certificate, you don’t need to make it test again. Make sure to get the certificate from the previous owner then.

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.

Can i register my car in Germany online?

In theory, yes but it won’t be possible for a lot of people. The reason for that is that a so called Neuer Personalausweis (nPA) oder elektronischer Aufenthaltstitel (eAT) with the new online authentication chip (eID) is needed. Other requirements include:

  1. A vehicle first registered after 01/01/2015. Ein nach dem 01. Januar 2015 zugelassenes Fahrzeug
  2. License plates including the stamp badge/tag (Stempelplaketten, the round sticker thing) with hidden security codes.
  3. Zulassungsbescheinigung Teil I with hidden security codes, mit verdecktem Sicherheitscode

Detailed process is explained on this page.

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.

183 Comments

  • Reply Alessandra Neri 21/04/2018 at 22:49

    Hi
    I read all the questions and answers but I still have a doubt:
    I am an EU citizen and want to buy a second hand van in Germany and register it in Germany. Is the Anmeldung enough to do it, or do I need to be resident in Germany?

    • Reply Bastien - Settle in Berlin 30/04/2018 at 09:23

      Hi Alessandra. Yes.

  • Reply Tim Svensson 18/04/2018 at 12:35

    Hi!

    An old (bj.1993), broken german registered car is now in Sweden so how to buy a german registered car out side Germany and get registration papers from Germany (otherwise it is impossible to register car to me in Sweden) and in this case, I do not need to have a “export plates”.

    • Reply Bastien - Settle in Berlin 22/06/2018 at 14:40

      Hi Tim. I don’t see where the problem is. You can do all of that even if the car is not physically located in Germany. The only problem is that you need to have the TÜV certification, which can probably only be done in Germany.

  • Reply samboy 13/04/2018 at 21:19

    Hi! Firstly, this post has been a god send, so thank you for posting it.

    I have one question though – I’m in somewhat of a rush and want to get a car on the road ASAP… How long should I expect the entire process to take? I have read in a number of comments that the registration can take a few weeks. Is there any way to drive it before then? Or do the temporary plates only last a day or so?

    Thanks!! ::)

    • Reply Bastien - Settle in Berlin 16/04/2018 at 08:51

      Hi Sam. Yes, depending on the insurance, the Zulassungstelle, etc. It can be anywhere between a few days and weeks. Temporary plates could be a solution depending on what you need.

  • Reply Raj 08/04/2018 at 23:18

    Hello Bastien,

    I just moved to Berlin for work on Blue Card and I registered my address here. Can I buy a car and register it using my Indian drivers license? Will I be able to also get car insurance on my license. I will eventually apply for German drivers license but for now, I am legally allowed to drive in Germany for 6 months. Not sure if this 6 months rule is only for driving rental cars or can I actually buy a car and drive here in Germany. Please clarify.

    Thanks,
    Raj

    • Reply Bastien - Settle in Berlin 12/04/2018 at 08:48

      Hi Raj. I guess it boils down to if your license will be recognized and valid by the German authorities to do that.

  • Reply Zyad Sherif 08/04/2018 at 22:32

    I have a question about having the car parked on the street without plates, I bought a car and the handler drove it to my home and parked it there. the registration will take at least one week and am afraid I’d run into troubles with the controllers if the car is just standing like this. Anything I can do?

    • Reply Bastien - Settle in Berlin 12/04/2018 at 08:50

      Hi Zyad. Good question. I think it’s in theory not allowed but can’t you have the temporary plates there instead?

  • Reply Barak 24/03/2018 at 08:31

    hi Bastien,
    I bought a new car and waiting for it’s registration by the car dealership. the process started a week ago but wasn’t completed because of a mistake in the insurance. I have now the right insurance and I need the car ti be registered maximum on 27.3 (Tuesday). in the car dealership they told me that it will take additional week because they need to start the process from the beginning.
    do you have any suggestions how to complete the process quicker and hopefully have it done by Tuesday? is there an option for a sofort registration somehow? I am willing to drive anywhere if there’s an option like that.
    thanks, Barak

    • Reply Bastien - Settle in Berlin 28/03/2018 at 19:07

      Hi Barak. I’m sorry i don’t think it can go faster in that case.

      • Reply Misha 29/03/2018 at 16:56

        I was so naive to go to register my future car with an appointment. I wasted time and I ended up with an appointment on April 16th. It’s frustrating to have the car ready waiting for you while you have to wait for the appointment. 1 week is not bad in your case Barak

  • Reply Kasun 15/03/2018 at 23:38

    Hey, thanks for the advice. I got my Führerschein done.
    I live in Berlin. If i buy a car out of Berlin, what’s the procedure?
    Can I just drive it back to Berlin and register here? Thanks

    • Reply Bastien - Settle in Berlin 17/03/2018 at 10:45

      Yes kasun. Yes. Pretty much.

  • Reply Nasser 13/02/2018 at 23:38

    Hi Bastien,
    I’m new her in Germany and recently i have Anmeldung.
    Can i buy and register a used car, as my driving licence was issued from Dubai.
    I’ve been told that i can drive only for six months with Dubai driving license.
    But after that i need to replace it with German one, but this will take time.
    So, is there any chance to buy and register a used car with Dubai driving license.
    Thanks a lot for your kind advice.
    Nasser

    • Reply Bastien - Settle in Berlin 14/02/2018 at 22:47

      Hi Nasser. It won’t be a problem in my opinion.

    • Reply linda DUKES 04/03/2018 at 11:54

      Hey Bastien,
      I’ve posted before.Thank you for your comment. I am now buying a secondhand car (2015) Renault Kangoo froma registered Renault garage here in Berlin. I hope to travel back to the UK in it next weekend. What should I do next? I need insurance, what else? I am officially living here now.

      • Reply Bastien - Settle in Berlin 07/03/2018 at 17:20

        Hi Linda. Well, all steps are listed in the post. Is something unclear?

  • Reply Larisa 13/02/2018 at 14:33

    Hi Bastien! I will probably not find the car of my dreams near me, so if I want to go to Bavaria or Hesse or somewhere else would I be able to register it there with papers and license plates showing my Landkreis (for insurance purpose, I prefer not to have it registered in a big city) or I have to get temporary yellow plates (Kurzzeitkennzeichen) and register it where I live?
    And if temporary plates is the answer, do you know perhaps if I can get those there or I have to bring them with me from my local Zulassungsstelle?

    • Reply Bastien - Settle in Berlin 14/02/2018 at 22:46

      Hi Larisa. Tmeporary plates are probably the answer. I think you can get them from any Zulassungstelle or even directly for the handler in some cases.

  • Reply Leon 19/01/2018 at 03:26

    Hello Bastien,

    A really useful article about buying a car in Germany! I am now trying to purchase one too in Berlin and naturally I have some questions related to the topic. I would be relieved if you tried to answer them.
    1) I live in Berlin from 2012. By nationality I am Spanish, my driving licence is Spanish as well. My question is: could I register a car in Berlin with my spanish driving licence?
    2) unfortunately now I do not have Anmeldung (where I live). Question: would it cause any problems while trying to register the car?

    Thank you a lot for your time.

    Best wishes,
    Leon

    • Reply Bastien - Settle in Berlin 21/01/2018 at 09:47

      Hi Leon. 1) No. 2)As mentioned in the post, yes.

      • Reply linda DUKES 22/01/2018 at 18:06

        hello Bastien, Ive not posted before so unsure if it will get to you??? 2 questions please. I have an english number plate skoda octavia estate here in Berlin. Is there anywhere in Berlin I can exchange for a german reg car? Also. Ive lived in Berlin for a year and a half, have a german bank account but Im not regisitered as being here although I rent an apartment.. I need to buy a secondhand car here in Berlin, Can I without credentials? thanks Lin

        • Reply Bastien - Settle in Berlin 22/01/2018 at 18:21

          Hi Linda. The process is the same for your car, as described in the post. You can buy a second hand car sure, but you won’t be able to insure it.

          • linda DUKES 22/01/2018 at 22:48

            well without insurance, its a non starter, isn’t it? Sooooo, I need to register that Im living here at presence?

          • Bastien - Settle in Berlin 27/01/2018 at 09:36

            Yes.

      • Reply Larisa 02/02/2018 at 13:43

        Hi! I am in the same situation and this answer worried me. For sure you can’t register a car in Germany without a German driving license? I have an EU one, it should be accepted everywhere in EU.

        • Reply Bastien - Settle in Berlin 05/02/2018 at 20:18

          HI Larisa. Yes you can register a vehicle with any license recognized by the German state, including any EU issued document.

      • Reply Berhram 07/02/2018 at 23:43

        Hi Bastien. I am not living in Germany. I want to come to Berlin and buy a motorbike and then ride it back to istanbul.
        In this condition I will not use that in Germany just will ride highways to border.
        1) Is it (buying car/motorcycle) possible for whom dosent live in Germany and he/she is just a tourist?
        2) What about taxes?

        Thank you

        • Reply Bastien - Settle in Berlin 12/02/2018 at 08:25

          Hi Berhram. I guess it’s possible for anybody to buy a vehicle in Germany, it’s the questions of the cots of bringing it back home. Concerning taxes, i guess you have to check what the import duties are with the Turkish administration. Can’t help you there. Good luck. 🙂

  • Reply Adrian Dulea 15/01/2018 at 21:00

    Dear Bastien, Kindly ask for your assistance as I do not find no information on my topic. As I am leaving in Germany from 2015 and i bought an used car from a dealer in april 2015. Car was financed by VW Bank and in 2019 April i have the ,,schlussrate’’. But from July this year I need to go back with work in my home country Romania. What possibilities do I have? Can I keep the car with German plate no. As I will have no longer German address and reaidance? Do I have the possibility to give back the car to the deaer? What do you recommand? Thank you in advance.

    • Reply Bastien - Settle in Berlin 16/01/2018 at 14:23

      Hi Adrian. I think you’d better look at the contract to see termination conditions for that financing. Worst case scenario, you take the car with you to Romania but you still need to pay for it.

  • Reply Karine JR 14/01/2018 at 21:52

    Hi Bastian,
    Thanks for this great job. As you can see, it is helpful for many people.
    As fa as I’m concerned, It could be off topic but I actually am about to create my own car export business here in France to an Indian Ocean country and my clients are only interested in german mercedes benz sprinter, so I’d like to know if you can give me some tips of how to handle it : getting in contact by phone with a car dealer settled in Germany (have you any names, any wellknown places?) or moving myself to Germany to do the search myself ?
    Now I know at least how to handle with papers thanks to your guide.
    Sorry for my poor english.
    And thanks for your kind answer
    Karine

    • Reply Bastien - Settle in Berlin 16/01/2018 at 12:47

      Hi Karine. I am afraid i can’t help you further for b2b related requests. Good luck.

  • Reply Robert Mark 10/01/2018 at 21:34

    Hi Bastien,

    A quick one as I can’t manage to find a clear answer anywhere. I brought my personal car recently in DE from another EU country, after moving here a while back, and want to register it here and have two questions.

    Regarding the Proof of Ownership. I have a short contract in my native language, is this accepted by the registration office or are authorized translations a must? Second question is regarding the DE plates, do I need to hand in my old plates when I go for the registration or after I get the new plates?

    Thank you!

  • Reply RONALD V PERRIER 07/12/2017 at 22:56

    I quickly perused all the answers and could find nothing about new cars. I have paid the down payment on a factory order VW California (30%) and take possession on January 31, 2018. I understand that I can only keep the car in Europe for one year then need to leave Europe or sell it. But I understand that I can register it without an address. The dealer can arrange insurance but how does the registration work? If I want to drive the vehicle to Italy a few days after purchase, can the dealer arrange licence plates so that the vehicle is all ready to go? Thank you.

    • Reply Bastien - Settle in Berlin 09/12/2017 at 11:24

      Hi Ronald, yes the dealer can arrange license plates. Registration and insurance process is the same as described in the article above.

  • Reply rachel 18/11/2017 at 12:12

    Bastein, I do wonder if you could help me please! I have spent endless days trawling through pages and trying to translate and still no answer to my question. Which is…I want to buy a vehicle in Germany because they are lots cheaper than Spain (where I live) and UK (where I am from). I plan to live in the van or travel a lot therefore I am not sure where to register the vehicle or import it to. It would be a lot easier to keep it as German, but I do not live in Germany. Do you know if I can keep the vehicle registered there for my nomadic tendencies? Thanks so much, this damsel in destress appreciates all advice 😀

    • Reply Bastien - Settle in Berlin 18/11/2017 at 14:45

      Hi Rachel, you’d need a local German address and registering at the city hall to be able to do the whole process of getting an insurance, registering it etc.

      • Reply rachel Noel 18/11/2017 at 21:43

        Ok thanks I think that is impossible for me right now so I guess I will have to import it to either uk or spain 🙁

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