Whether you’re wanting to bring your own car with you from abroad, or just want to take advantage of lower vehicle prices in different countries, there are many reasons why you might consider importing or exporting a car in Germany. There are, however, some things you need to take care of, including taxes, safety inspections and registration.
Taxes on imported cars in Germany
If you import a vehicle (Kraftfahrzeug) to Germany, you may be required to pay import duties and VAT. Whether you are liable depends on where you bought the vehicle, its condition, and where you live.
Importing a new car within the EU
New cars that are bought in a different EU country and imported into Germany are subject to 19% VAT (USt). A vehicle is defined as “new”: if:
- It has been in use for less than six months, or
- It has been driven for no more than 6.000km.
If you have already paid VAT on the car in the country where you bought it, it must be refunded.
Importing a used car within the EU
If you import an old car to Germany from another EU country, you do not have to pay VAT on it. (An “old” car is defined as one that has been in use for more than six months, or has travelled more than 6.000km). You will, however, be required to register the car in Germany and pay the associated registration costs, insurance and vehicle taxes.
Importing a car from outside the EU
If you bring a car to Germany from outside the EU, you are liable to pay an import duty of 10% of the car's value, plus VAT, unless you fulfil all of the following conditions:
- You are moving to Germany as a full-time resident.
- You have given up residency in your home country.
- You have been residing outside of Germany for at least 12 consecutive months prior to your arrival.
- The vehicle is registered in your name.
- You do not sell or export the car for 12 months after importing it.
Registering your imported car
If you are only staying in Germany temporarily, you can continue to use your own number plates and registration documents for 12 months, as long as you have a German translation of your registration documents and proof of coverage from a car insurance provider. You may also have to submit your car to a TÜV examination that assesses its roadworthiness and whether it conforms to German standards.
If you are staying in Germany long-term, you need to register your car to get German licence plates. You will also be required to pay vehicle taxes, get car insurance and submit to vehicle inspections (TÜVs) every 24 months.
Exporting a car from Germany
If you have bought a vehicle in Germany and wish to export it to a non-EU country for private use, you must make a customs declaration.
If you are going to be exporting the vehicle on its own wheels (i.e. drive it out of Germany, rather than transport it in any other way) you can make a customs declaration at the border through which you are leaving the EU. If the vehicle is worth less than 1.000 euros and weighs no more than 1.000kg you can make this declaration orally.
Otherwise, you must lodge a declaration via the electronic ATLAS export procedure. Your chosen shipping company can help you with this.
In addition, you must obtain export licence plates (Ausfuhrkennzeichen) for your vehicle. You can get these at your local vehicle registration office.
Be aware that your destination country will have its own process for testing and registering imported cars. You may also be required to pay import duties. Check with the car registration authority in your home country to make sure you are complying with all necessary regulations.