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Importing a Car Into Germany

A car imported to Germany from outside the EU is subject to a 10% import duty and a 19% import value added tax. However, if you are moving to Germany you can, if you meet certain requirements, bring in your car (and household goods) free of duty.

To escape the duty you are required to prove:

  1. that you have actually given up your residence in the USA or other non-EU foreign country
  2. that you are establishing a new residence in Germany
  3. that you have been residing outside Germany for at least 12 consecutive months (this can be waived if the reasons for your earlier return are beyond your control)

You can prove that you have given up your residence outside Germany with documents showing the termination of your lease/employment; sale of your residential home, or a statement by your employer that you have been transferred to Germany. You can prove that you are establishing a new residence in Germany with a lease agreement; with correspondence with your employer in Germany, or a German police registration receipt.

The duty-free import of a motor vehicle is permitted only if it has been registered in your name as its sole owner and personally used by yourself at your previous residence for at least six months before moving to Germany. For proof show the registration certificate issued by your Department of Motor Vehicles. The vehicle should arrive in Germany at around the same time you do, and you must usually keep the vehicle for personal use for a year after arriving in Germany. Both of these requirements can be waived in extraordinary circumstances.

If your stay in Germany is only temporary you can drive your imported motor vehicle for a period of up to 12 months with your home license plates and registration. A registration document with a German translation is required. If your stay is going to be longer, whether the car is imported duty free or not, it must be registered at your local Kfz-Zulassungsstelle and pass the Technical Inspection (TüV), which often means that American cars must be modified to meet German standards in such things as headlights, emissions, brakes, rust and tires.

In order to register the car you need the following: passport or other identification, customs clearance, US export permit, proof of ownership, proof of liability insurance, TüV certificate and insurance confirmation. The TüV, meanwhile, needs to know the manufacturer and type of vehicle: the car body form (limousine, hatchback, coupe, etc.) and the model year. All registered automobiles must carry third-party liability insurance and be equipped with a triangular caution sign and a first aid kit.

Details and the necessary customs forms may be obtained through your shipping company. It is recommended that you choose a shipping company experienced in shipping to Germany, and also that you take out risk insurance for the shipment. For an export permit the US customs ask for the original US title with two notarized copies. Shipments from the US east coast to Germany take about two weeks; from the west coast about 25 days. Arrival cities in Germany are Bremerhaven or Hamburg.

If you must pay duty on the car, the actual amount of the 10% import duty and a 15% import value added tax depends on the value of the car. This is usually based on a dealer's invoice, but there is also a "blue book" giving the current value of each car by make, model and model year. The car can also be appraised. Vintage cars and collector's cars require only a 7% duty.