Buying a car in Germany can be daunting, especially if you need to become more familiar with the language, laws, and procedures. However, with some preparation and research, you can have a pleasant car purchase process and enjoy the benefits of driving in one of the most car-friendly countries in the world. In this guide, we will walk you through the fourteen steps to successfully buy a car in Germany, whether new or used, from a dealer or a private seller. We will also provide you with a video that shows you the process in action and gives you some tips and tricks along the way.

Step 1: The Process of Getting Roadworthiness for a Car

Before buying a car in Germany, you must ensure it meets the roadworthiness standards regulated by the Technical Inspection Association (TÜV). The TÜV is a body that certifies the safety and environmental compatibility of vehicles and other products. The name of the test that a car must undergo to get roadworthiness is Hauptuntersuchung (HU).

Hauptuntersuchung (HU) Is A Must

Every car in Germany must undergo a HU check every two years to be roadworthy. The owner receives a license plate with a sticker that shows the year and month of the next inspection. The color changes every year to make it easier to identify. The color does not indicate the car’s current status, but only the year of the last inspection.

Getting A New Sticker

If the car passes the inspection, it gets a new sticker with the current year and month. If the vehicle fails the inspection, it does not get a new sticker but a written report that lists the defects and the deadline for fixing them. The deadline is usually one month, but it can be shorter or longer depending on the severity of the defects.

If you do not resolve the defects and have the car re-inspected within the deadline, you must pay for a complete re-examination. Driving a vehicle without a valid TÜV sticker is illegal and can result in fines and penalties. Below is a breakdown:

ChecklistHU inspectionEmission standard inspection
PurposeTo check if your car is safeTo check if the emission of your car is clean
FrequencyShows the date of the next inspection and the color of the previous inspectionEvery two years, but sometimes sooner or later, depending on your car
StickerShows the date of the next inspection and the color of the last inspectionYou get a report with the issues and the time to fix them
PassingYou get a new sticker with the current date and colorYou get a new sticker with the current date and color
FailingYou get a report with the problems and the time to fix themYou get a report with the problems and the time to fix them
Re-inspectionYou have to do it within the deadline or pay more moneyYou have to do it within the deadline or pay more money
Driving without a valid stickerYou can get in troubleYou can get in trouble

The positive aspects of the HU Inspection are:

  • Both inspections help keep your car in good condition and protect the environment. ✅
  • Both inspections indicate when you need to do the next inspection and what year you did the last inspection. ✅
  • Both inspections reward you with a new sticker if you pass them. ✅

The negative aspects of the HU Inspection are:

  • Both inspections can be costly and time-consuming and are mandatory. ❌
  • Both inspections can result in fines and penalties if you fail them or drive without a valid sticker. ❌
  • Both inspections can vary depending on your car type, age, and emission class, which can be confusing. ❌

Step 2: Emission Standards (Green Sticker)

Another requirement for buying a car in Germany is to comply with the emission standards, which the TÜV regulates. Depending on the type and age of the car, it may need to have a green sticker that indicates that it meets the Euro 4 or higher emission standard.

The green sticker is mandatory for driving in the environmental zones (Umweltzonen) in some cities where only low-emission vehicles are allowed. If you go to an ecological zone without a green sticker, you may face a fine of 80 euros. You can get a green sticker from the TÜV, the car dealer, or some gas stations for a fee of around 5 euros.

Eligibility Criteria For The Green Emissions Sticker

Vehicle typeEngine typeEmission standardEligibility for green sticker
ElectricElectricN/AYes
PetrolPetrolEURO 1 or higherYes
LPGLPGEURO 1 or higherYes
HybridHybridEURO 1 or higherYes
DieselDieselEURO 4 or higherYes
DieselDieselEURO 3 + DPF (Diesel Particulate Filter)Yes

This table helps you understand the eligibility criteria for the green emissions sticker when buying a car in Germany. You can also check your vehicle registration certificate to find out the emission standard, vehicle category, and fuel type of your vehicle.

Step 3: How to Approach a Car Dealer or Seller

Once you have checked the roadworthiness and emission standards of the car, you can start looking for a car dealer or seller. There are two main options for car buying in Germany: a dealer (Händler) or a private seller (Privatverkäufer). Each option has pros and cons; you should weigh them carefully before deciding.

Buying A Car from a Dealer

Buying a car from a dealer in Germany can be more convenient and secure, as they usually offer a warranty, a service contract, and a trade-in option for your old car. They can also help you with the registration and insurance paperwork and may have a more comprehensive selection of vehicles.

However, buying from a dealer can also be more expensive, as they charge a higher price and a commission fee. They may also try to sell you additional services or products you do not need, such as financing, insurance, or accessories. Therefore, you should always compare prices and negotiate with the dealer to get the best deal possible.

Buying from a Private Seller

Buying a vehicle from a private seller in Germany can be cheaper and more flexible, as you can bargain directly with the owner and avoid the dealer’s fees. You may also find some rare or vintage cars unavailable in the dealerships. However, buying from a private seller can also be riskier, as you need a warranty, service contract, or trade-in option.

You also have to take care of the registration and insurance paperwork and inspect the car thoroughly to ensure that it is in good condition and matches the description and the documents. Therefore, you should always ask for a test drive, a vehicle history report, and a purchase contract before buying a car from a private seller.

Uncover the truth about the car purchase process: Buying a car in Germany can be a rewarding experience.

Step 4: Online Marketplaces to Find Used Cars in Germany

One of the easiest ways to find a car in Germany is to use online marketplaces, where you can browse thousands of listings from dealers and private sellers nationwide. Some of the most popular online marketplaces for buying a car in Germany are:

  • Mobile.de: This is Germany’s largest and most comprehensive online marketplace for buying and selling cars. You can filter your search by price, location, model, mileage, fuel type, and many other criteria. You can also compare prices, read reviews, and contact the sellers through the website or the app.
  • Autoscout24.de: Another large and reliable online marketplace for buying and selling cars in Germany. You can search by similar criteria as Mobile.de and view the car’s inspection report, emission rating, and accident history. You can also use the website or the app to contact the sellers and arrange a test drive.
  • Ebay Kleinanzeigen: This is the German version of Ebay Classifieds, where you can find various products and services, including cars. You can search by price, location, model, and other criteria and see the seller’s rating and feedback. You can contact the sellers through the website or the app, but you must arrange the payment and the delivery yourself.
  • Car Buyers Broker: A professional who helps individuals find and buy a car in Germany. They work on behalf of the buyer to negotiate the best price and terms for the purchase, and they may also assist with locating specific makes and models, arranging test drives, and handling paperwork and financing. Car buyers brokers are typically paid a fee or commission for their services, and they can be a valuable resource for individuals who want to streamline the car-buying process and ensure they get a good deal.

Step 5: Test-Driving and Buying a Vehicle

Whether you buy a car from a dealer or a private seller, you should always ask for a test drive before paying and signing a contract. A test drive can help you assess the condition and performance of the car and give you a chance to negotiate the price and terms of the sale. Here are some tips for test-driving and buying a car in Germany:

  • Arrange the test drive in advance and bring your driver’s license and passport. You may also need proof of insurance, as some sellers may still require one for the car.
  • Scrutinize the car before and after the test drive. Look for any signs of damage, rust, leaks, or wear and tear. Check the tires, the brakes, the lights, the windows, the doors, and the trunk. Ensure that everything works correctly and that no strange noises or smells exist.
  • Drive the car on different types of roads and at various speeds. Test the acceleration, the steering, the suspension, and the transmission. Pay attention to how the car handles and responds and how comfortable and safe you feel.
  • Ask the seller about the car’s history, maintenance, and repairs. Request a vehicle history report (Zulassungsbescheinigung Zeil 2 Fahrzeugbrief) and a service record (Scheckheft) if available. These documents can show you the previous owners, the mileage, the inspections, and the car’s repairs. However, if you want to get the most recent condition of the vehicle, then you need a pre-buy inspection.
  • Negotiate the price and the terms of the sale. Compare the cost of the car with similar models and conditions on the online marketplaces. Feel free to haggle and ask for a discount, especially if you find any defects or problems with the car. You can also ask for some extras, such as a new set of tires, a full gas tank, or a free service. However, be moderate and reasonable, as this may offend the seller and ruin the deal.

Download Infographic: How To Test-Drive A Car In Germany

How To Test-Drive A Car In Germany

You want to get the best deal possible while ensuring the car you’re buying is in good condition and meets your needs. One crucial step in the car-buying process is test driving. This section covers five tips to help you achieve the optimal test drive experience in Germany.

Additionally, you could have hired a professional auto broker to assist you as a non-German buyer throughout this process. You also had the option to pay for a pre-purchase inspection before committing to the car. Those are extra tips you remember while aiming to achieve the optimal test drive experience in Germany.

Test driving is a crucial part of the car-buying process, and following these tips can help ensure you make an informed decision and get the best deal possible. Remember to thoroughly inspect the car, ask the seller questions, and negotiate the price using your test drive experience and inspection findings as leverage. With these tips in mind, you’ll be well on your way to finding the perfect car in Germany.

Step 6: The Requirement of a Car Purchase Contract

After you have agreed on the price and the terms of the sale, you need to sign a car purchase contract (Kaufvertrag) with the seller. This is a legal document that confirms the transfer of ownership and the details of the transaction. It also protects both parties from any disputes or liabilities that may arise in the future. You can find a standard car purchase contract template online or use the one the seller provided. However, you should always read the contract carefully and make sure that it includes the following information:

  • The names and addresses of the buyer and the seller
  • The date and place of the sale
  • The make, model, color, year, and VIN of the car
  • The mileage, condition, and features of the car
  • The price and the method of payment
  • The warranty and the service contract (if any)
  • The delivery and registration of the vehicle (if applicable)
  • The signatures of the buyer and the seller

You should also ensure that the contract is written in a language you understand and get a copy for your records. You should keep the original vehicle registration certificate (Zulassungsbescheinigung Zeil 2 → Fahrzeugbrief) and the vehicle title (Zulassungsbescheinigung Zeil 1 → Fahrzeugschein) until you register the car and afterward.

Step 7: Getting a Vehicle Registration Certificate

The vehicle registration certificate (Fahrzeugbrief) is a document that proves the ownership and the technical specifications of the car. It contains the name and address of the owner, the make, model, color, year, and VIN, engine size, fuel type, emission class, and inspection date. The vehicle registration certificate is issued by the local registration office (Zulassungsstelle), and it is required for registering, selling, or transferring the car.

Who Gives A Car Registration Certificate?

You can get a car registration certificate from the seller or apply for a new one from the registration office if the car is new or imported. To apply for a vehicle registration certificate, you need to provide the following documents:

  • The original vehicle title (Zulassungsbescheinigung Zeil 1 Fahrzeugschein) is a document that shows the car’s registration and license plate number. You can get the vehicle title from the seller or request a new one from the registration office if the vehicle is unregistered or has a foreign license plate.
  • The proof of identity and residence includes your passport, visa, and registration certificate (Anmeldebescheinigung). You can get the registration certificate from the local citizens’ office (Bürgeramt) when you register your address in Germany.
  • The proof of insurance includes your insurance policy or your electronic insurance confirmation number (eVB-Nummer). You can get the insurance confirmation number from your insurance company when you apply for car insurance in Germany.
  • The proof of payment of the vehicle tax (Kraftfahrzeugsteuer) is a tax you must pay annually for owning a car in Germany. The amount of the tax depends on the engine size, the fuel type, and the emission class of the car. You can pay the vehicle tax online or at a bank, and you will receive a confirmation email or a receipt.
  • The proof of a valid TÜV inspection and a green sticker, if applicable. As explained in the previous steps, you can get these from the TÜV or the seller.
  • As explained in the previous step, the car purchase contract (Kaufvertrag) is the document you signed with the seller.

You can apply for a vehicle registration certificate in person at the registration office or use an online service that can handle the process for you for a fee. You can find the nearest registration office or the online service on the official website of the Federal Ministry of Transport and Digital Infrastructure. The vehicle registration certificate costs around 30 euros; you will receive it by mail within a few days.

Step 8: How to Get an Inspection Certificate

The inspection certificate (Hauptuntersuchung) is a document that shows that the car has passed the TÜV inspection and meets the roadworthiness and emission standards. It is required for registering, selling, or transferring the vehicle and is valid for two years. As explained in the previous steps, you can get the inspection certificate from the TÜV or the seller. However, if the inspection certificate is expired or missing, you must obtain a new one from the TÜV. To acquire a new inspection certificate, you need to provide the following documents:

  • The vehicle registration certificate (Fahrzeugbrief) is the document that proves the ownership and the technical specifications of the car, as explained in the previous step.
  • The vehicle title (Fahrzeugschein) is the document that shows the car’s registration and license plate number, as explained in the previous step.
  • The proof of insurance, such as your insurance policy or your electronic insurance confirmation number (eVB-Nummer), is explained in the previous step.

You can book an appointment for the inspection online or by phone, and you can find the nearest TÜV station on the official TÜV website. The fee for the inspection is around 50 euros, and you will receive the inspection certificate and the sticker on the spot.

Step 9: Car Service History (Maintenance Record)

The car service history (Scheckheft) is a document that records the maintenance and repairs of the car. It shows the date, mileage, service type, and service provider of each service. The car service history is vital for assessing the condition and value of the car and is also required for some warranty and insurance claims. You can get the car service history from the seller or request a copy from the service provider if the seller does not have it.

However, the car service history is incomplete or missing. In that case, you may have to rely on other sources of information, such as the vehicle history report, the inspection certificate, or the seller’s testimony. You should always check the car service history carefully and compare it with the other documents and the car’s actual condition. You should also ask the seller about any major repairs or modifications the vehicle has undergone and request the receipts or the invoices if possible.

Step 10: What to Check Before Leaving the Auto Dealer’s Place

Before you leave the auto dealer’s place with your new car, you should ensure everything is in order and that you have received all the necessary documents and items. Here is a checklist of what to check before leaving the auto dealer’s place:

  • The car: Check that the vehicle is clean, fueled, and ready to drive. Check that the license plate, the sticker, and the registration number match the documents. Check that the keys, the spare tire, the jack, and the tool kit are included. Check that the car has no damage, scratches, or dents not disclosed or agreed upon. If you find any problems, report them to the dealer and ask for a solution or compensation.
  • The documents: Check that you have received the original or a copy of the following documents: the car purchase contract, the vehicle registration certificate, the vehicle title, the inspection certificate, the green sticker, the proof of insurance, the evidence of payment of the vehicle tax, the car service history, and the warranty and the service contract (if any). Check that the documents are complete, accurate, and signed by both parties. If you still need documents, ask the dealer to provide them immediately.
  • The extras: Check that you have received any extras you negotiated or paid for, such as a new set of tires, a full gas tank, a free service, or a gift. If you are missing any extras, ask the dealer to deliver them or to refund you the difference.

Step 11: An Insight into the German Vehicle Insurance System

The German vehicle insurance system is a mandatory and comprehensive system that covers the liability, the damage, and the injury of the car and the driver. There are three main types of car insurance in Germany:

Liability insurance (Haftpflichtversicherung)

Liability insurance (Haftpflichtversicherung) is the minimum and the most basic type of car insurance. It covers the damage and injury you cause to other people, vehicles, or property with your car. It does not cover the damage or the injury to your car or yourself. Liability insurance is required by law for every car owner in Germany, and you cannot register or drive a car without it. The liability insurance cost depends on the type, age, power, and region of the car, as well as the driver’s age, experience, and record. The average annual cost of the liability insurance is around 300 euros.

Partial coverage insurance (Teilkaskoversicherung)

Partial coverage insurance (Teilkaskoversicherung) is an optional and intermediate type of car insurance. It covers the damage to your car caused by fire, theft, vandalism, natural disasters, animals, or glass breakage. It does not cover the damage to your auto caused by collision, vandalism, or negligence. Partial coverage insurance is recommended for older or cheaper vehicles that are not worth repairing or replacing in case of a significant accident.

The cost of the partial coverage insurance depends on the same factors as liability insurance, plus the car’s value and condition. The average annual cost of the partial coverage insurance is around 100 euros.

Comprehensive insurance (Vollkaskoversicherung)

Comprehensive insurance (Vollkaskoversicherung) is an optional and the most advanced type of car insurance. It covers the damage to your car caused by any reason, including collision, vandalism, or negligence. It also covers the damage and the injury to your vehicle or yourself caused by an uninsured or a hit-and-run driver. Comprehensive insurance is recommended for newer or more expensive cars worth repairing or replacing in case of a significant accident.

Complete insurance costs depend on the same factors as partial coverage insurance, plus the deductible and no-claims bonus. The deductible is the amount you must pay out of your pocket before the insurance pays the rest of the claim. The no-claims bonus is the discount you get every year you do not make a claim. The average annual cost of comprehensive insurance is around 500 euros.

Choose the type of car insurance that suits your budget. You can compare and apply for different insurance plans online or through an agent. You can change or cancel your insurance plan based on what is on the insurance contract you signed if you notify your insurance company and registration office in advance.

Step 12: List of Companies that Can Help You Get Insurance Cheaper

If you want to save money on your car insurance, you can use online platforms or services to help you find your car’s best and cheapest insurance plan. Some of the most popular and reliable platforms or services are:

Check24.de: This is Germany’s largest and most comprehensive online comparison platform for car insurance and other products and services. Entering your car and driver details will prompt the platform to display the best and most affordable insurance plans from over 300 companies.

Filtering, sorting, and comparing plans by price, coverage, rating, and customer service is possible. Applying for your preferred insurance plan directly through the platform ensures you receive confirmation and a contract within minutes. The platform also allows you to modify or cancel your insurance plan anytime.

Verivox.de: This is another large and reliable online comparison platform for car insurance and other products and services in Germany. You can use it similarly to Check24.de and benefit from exclusive offers and discounts that the platform negotiates with the insurance companies. You can use the platform to change or cancel your insurance plan anytime.

Friday.de: This online insurance company offers Germany flexible and affordable car insurance plans. You can choose from three types of plans: liability, partial coverage, or comprehensive. You can also customize your plan by adding or removing some optional features, such as a deductible, a no-claims bonus, a rental car, or a breakdown service.

Paying your insurance monthly, quarterly, or annually and adjusting your mileage and coverage is an option. Applying for the insurance plan online ensures you receive confirmation and a contract within minutes. The website or the app can modify or cancel your insurance plan anytime.

Step 13: Car Registration Processes in Germany

The car registration process (Zulassung) is the final and most crucial step for buying a car in Germany. It is registering the car in your name and getting a license plate and a registration number. Completing the car registration process within one week of purchasing the car is imperative to avoid facing a penalty.

How To Register Your Car In Germany

You can complete the car registration process in person at the registration office or use an online service. Find the nearest registration office online on a search engine like Google or Bing. To complete the car registration process, you need to provide the following documents and items:

  • The Zulassungsbescheinigung Teil 2 (Fahrzeugbrief) proves car ownership and technical specifications.
  • The Fahrzeugschein displays car registration and license plate number.
  • The inspection certificate (Hauptuntersuchung) is the document that shows that the car has passed. The TÜV inspection meets the roadworthiness and emission standards.
  • The green sticker is the sticker that indicates that the car meets the Euro 4 or higher emission standard.
  • The proof of insurance includes your insurance policy or electronic insurance confirmation number (eVB-Nummer).
  • The proof of payment of the vehicle tax (Kraftfahrzeugsteuer) is the tax you must pay annually for owning a car in Germany.
  • The car purchase contract (Kaufvertrag) is the document you signed with the seller.
  • The proof of identity and residence includes your passport, visa, and registration certificate (Anmeldebescheinigung).
  • The license plate (Autokennzeichen) is the metal plate that shows the car’s registration number.

Getting A License Plate (Autokennzeichen) After Buying A Car In Germany

You can get a license plate for your car from the office, online, or shop. You can pick a number from a list or make your number for more money. The number has letters and numbers that show where your car is from and which office you got it from. It also has a blue part on the side that displays the EU flag and the letter D for Germany. The license plate costs about 20 euros. But there are some rules you have to follow:

  • Big or old cities have one letter for the city, like B for Berlin. Small or new towns have two or three letters, like TR for Trier.
  • The office you got the license plate from has one or two numbers, like B-AB 1 or B-AB 12. The more people want a license plate from that office, the more numbers they have.
  • The letters and numbers after the office code can be random or chosen by you. But you cannot have bad words or symbols, like SS, 18, or 666.
  • The whole number cannot be longer than eight characters, including the city and the office codes. For example, B-AB 1234 is okay, but B-AB 12345 is not.
  • To make a personalized number, you must pay extra money. Reserve it online or at the office for a few months. The total cost of a custom license plate is about 40 euros.

The fee for the car registration process is around 40 euros. You will receive the new vehicle title (Zulassungsbescheinigung Zeil 1 → Fahrzeugschein). The registration sticker on the spot and your vehicle registration certificate (Zulassungsbescheinigung Zeil 2 → Fahrzeugbrief). You must attach the license plate and sticker to the car’s front and back. Keep the Fahrzeugbrief where it is saved (at home). And the vehicle title (Fahrzeugschein) with you when you travel with the car.

Step 14: What Do You Need for the Registration of Your Car

To summarize, here is a list of what you need for the registration of your car in Germany:

  • The vehicle registration certificate (Fahrzeugbrief)
  • The vehicle title (Fahrzeugschein)
  • The inspection certificate (Hauptuntersuchung)
  • The green sticker
  • The proof of insurance
  • The proof of payment of the vehicle tax
  • The car purchase contract (Kaufvertrag)
  • The evidence of identity and residence
  • The license plate (Kennzeichen)

You can get most of these documents and items from

  • the seller,
  • the TÜV,
  • the insurance company, or the registration office.

You can also use online platforms or services to help with car registration, such as [Zulassungsdienst.de] or [Kennzeichenheld.de]. Always check the documents’ validity and accuracy and keep a copy of the papers and items for your records.

Conclusion

Buying a car in Germany can be rewarding. It will be an enjoyable experience if you follow the 14 steps outlined in this guide. You can find your dream car and drive it legally. And safely in one of the most car-friendly countries in the world. You should know the costs and responsibilities of owning a car in Germany, including insurance, tax, maintenance, and inspection. It would help if you also respected the rules and etiquette of the road and always drove cautiously and carefully. We hope this guide has helped you buy a car in Germany, and we wish you happy and safe driving!

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