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Importing a Car Into Germany

Updated May 2015

If you intend to become a resident of Germany, you can probably bring your personal vehicle in without paying import turnover tax and import duties – provided certain conditions are met.

Importing a car from outside the EU

A car or other motor vehicle imported to Germany from outside the EU is normally subject to a 10% import duty and a 19% import value added tax. (The value-added tax on imports is called import turnover tax (Einfuhrumsatzsteuer).

However, if you are moving to Germany with the intent to become a full time resident you can, if you meet certain requirements, bring in your personal car (and household goods) free of duty and import turnover tax.

To escape the duty and tax you are be required to prove:

  • that you have actually given up your residence in the non-EU foreign country you are coming from
  • that you are establishing a new residence in Germany
  • 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 also prove that you are establishing a new residence in Germany with a lease agreement; with correspondence with your employer in Germany; a registration receipt from the local Registry Office (Einwohnermeldeamt); a residence permit issued by the local authorities.

The duty and import tax 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 you can show the registration certificate issued by your home country 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 at least year after arriving in Germany. Both of these requirements can be waived in extraordinary circumstances.

Registration, Inspection and Insurance

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. And you'll have to show proof of insurance. Also, the vehicle may have to undergo a technical inspection to prove its roadworthiness. You should ask the shipping company about this.

If your stay is going to be longer, whether the car is imported duty free or not, it must be registered at your local motor vehicle registration office (Kfz-Zulassungsstelle) and pass a technical inspection for roadworthiness and safety, as well as an emissions control test. This may mean that some cars (especially North American cars) may need to be modified to meet German standards regarding such things as headlights, emissions, brakes, rust and tires.

In order to register the imported car/vehicle you need the following:

  • passport or other identification
  • proof of official address registration in Germany
  • customs clearance papers
  • export permit
  • proof of ownership
  • original vehicle registration papers
  • certification from the German Federal Motor Vehicle Registry indicating the vehicle has not been registered in Germany before
  • proof of insurance
  • proof the vehicle has successfully completed the safety and roadworthiness inspection and emissions control test

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 customs may ask for the original title with two notarized copies.

If you must pay duty and taxes on the vehicle, the actual amount of the 10% import duty and 19% import turnover tax depends on the value of the vehicle. This is usually based on a dealer's invoice, but there is also a "blue book" giving the current value of each car/vehicle by make, model and model year. The vehicle can also be appraised. Vintage cars and collector's cars require only a 7% duty.

Motor Vehicle Tax

A motor vehicle tax is assessed on cars in Germany. According to the website of the German Customs Office (Zollamt):

"Vehicles that are registered in a third country and that are entered for free circulation at German customs offices as, for example, property moved in connection with a transfer of residence are subject to German vehicle tax. The Vehicle Tax Act does not provide for a tax exemption for the journey to the vehicle's place of registration in Germany. The driver submits a tax declaration to the border customs office; the tax is immediately payable there. After payment of the tax, the border customs office issues a tax card and receipt as a record of tax paid."

Importing a car or vehicle within the EU

Moving a car/vehicle from one country to another within the EU is, as would be expected, somewhat easier than importing a non-EU vehicle. But there are some regulations that you need to know about.

If you are bringing a new car/vehicle into Germany you'll probably to pay the 19% German VAT within days of buying the car. (If you paid VAT in the country of purchase already, you should be able to get a reimbursement once you have registered the car in Germany.) A vehicle is considered "new" if it is less than 6 months old or has been driven less than 6,000 kilometers.

Used vehicles can be also be brought into Germany free of any customs duty. However, proof of having paid the VAT in the country of origin is required. Other things you might need include:

  • proof of ownership
  • original registration papers
  • proof of insurance
  • Emissions test certificate if the car is over 3 years old
  • certification from the German Federal Motor Vehicle Registry indicating the vehicle has not been registered in Germany before

Registration procedures for EU cars is essentially the same as German vehicles and those imported from non-EU countries with one big exception.

An EU regulation from 1996 requires manufacturers to provide cars bought within the EU with a certificate that allows those cars to be imported to other EU countries without having to undergo a technical inspection. You should try to get this for your new or used vehicle to allow it to be brought into Germany. If a vehicle doesn't have a certificate of conformity, it will probably have to undergo an official inspection in Germany to determine whether or not it meets the German safety and emissions requirements.

Also, the motor vehicle tax will have to be paid after your car has been registered in Germany.

Helpful links:

Click here for information in English from the Customs Office (Zollamt) on importing a car from outside the EU.

This link from TÜV Nord has information in English on importing cars as well as meeting technical specifications.

Information in English about the Import Turnover Tax is here.

Click here for more information in English about the Motor Vehicle with a link to a Motor Vehicle Tax Calculator (in German).

This link will take you to the English language web page of the Central Vehicle Registry

This site has information in English on the EU Certificate of Conformity

Click here for an English language page of the Customs Office for information on exporting a car bought in Germany