Expat Diaries

How To Buy a Car in Germany

July 5, 2020

In January, we decided it was time to begin the search for a German car and send our UK car back to its little island. However, we found it very difficult to find comprehensive information on exactly how to buy a car in Germany. Specifically, how to buy a car privately in Germany.

I decided to document our journey, as it was so different to the process back in the UK!

Applying for a loan

Cars really hold their value here in Germany, and we also wanted to get a good, reliable car that would handle big mileage well.

Having done some research on the types of cars we were looking for, we knew we were looking at around €11,000 to cover the cost of buying the car, insuring, registering and taxing it. Therefore, our first stop on this journey was to the bank to apply for a loan.

We bank with our local VR-Bank, who so far has been absolutely fantastic with us. Their loan applications go through a company called Easy Credit.

We made an appointment with our Ansprechpartner (Customer Consultant) at the bank. We had to present our passports, proof of residency and proof of income. Our consultant then went through a list of basic questions to make the application.

Sadly, we were rejected. Our good credit scores from the UK do not carry over to the German financial market and having lived here for less than 12 months, we were considered too much of a risk. We were disheartened but also understood the reasoning behind it. It did, however, put us in a difficult position.

We needed a car pretty quickly, but did not yet have even half the costs together.

The next consideration was to drop our expectations of buying a nice car privately and get a “normal” basic car on finance from a garage. However, we potentially faced the same issue with this as we did with the loan so decided not to risk it.

We would also then be locked into a fixed repayment plan for several years driving a car we didn’t really like. 

Luckily, our family have been super supportive of us and our journey. A few family members were financially stable enough to lend us the money we needed. We were and are extremely grateful for their help.

An additional note of hilarity for this story – 2 weeks after being rejected for a loan, both Zac and I received advertisement letters from Easy Credit offering us loans of up to €15,000 with a great interest rate and monthly repayments. The cheek!

Finding/Viewing a Car

We used a bunch of different websites and apps to search for cars, but the best 3 we found were:

  • mobile.de (our personal favourite, great search functions if you’re searching for a specific car model)
  • AutoScout24 (similar to mobile.de, but not quite as many vehicle listed)
  • eBay Kleinanzeigen (the go to website for buying absolutely anything in Germany, different from regular eBay as listings are free, so naturally it is used by everyone)

After finally finding a car we both liked that was in our price range and a close enough distance, we arranged with the seller to view it the following day.

Once again, we got lucky. The seller spoke fluent English so was able to show us around the car and describe everything to us without any issues. There was one issue with the complicated air suspension but the seller agreed to cover the costs of replacing the faulty component and so far has been true to his word.

Viewing/Confirming to Buy the Car:

When we arrived to view the car, the seller began by pointing out a fault the car had (he had already highlighted it in his advert as well). He was willing to order and pay for the parts required to fix the issue before we collected the car. The seller was really enthusiastic about the car he was selling and it showed, which I think is always a universally good sign when buying privately.

We took it for a test drive then Zac and the seller spent some time going through the finer details of the car. The seller also provided us with a full ringbinder of service history, right down to receipts for small screws that had been changed.  It is not essential to keep service records for a car in such detail, but it is more common in Germany that people do keep quite complete records of car history here than it is in the UK as residual vehicle values remain much higher.

After further discussions and some financial negotiation, we managed to agree on a price. This all seemed relatively close to our previous car buying experiences in the UK. But it was after this point that things started to become very…German.

After agreeing on a price (no handshakes were made because…well, we’re in the middle of a global pandemic if you hadn’t noticed!), the seller took us to his office where he typed up a Kaufvertrag (contract) for us.  This is a generic document template available from most of the specific car buying/selling websites.

The Kaufvertrag included the details of the seller, our details, the condition/mileage of the car at the time of sale, important identification numbers for the car, the agreed sale price and collection date. Both parties received a copy of the contract and signed them.

We arranged to collect the car the following weekend. The reason for this was largely because it is not possible to simply drive away in a car when you agree to buy it in Germany. The current owner/seller has to de-register the car with their local KFZ-Zulassungsstelle (vehicle registration office) before they can hand over all paperwork to the new owner.

Once again, we got extremely lucky. The seller spoke fluent English and was more than happy to communicate with us in English. I don’t think our experience would have been the same had this not been the case.

Collecting the Car + Temporary Plates:

This is where things start to get even more German. Because the owner has to de-register the car prior to handing it over to the new owner, it also means the car comes with no number plates. Here in Germany, the number plate (Kennzeichen) belongs to the person and not to the car.

This meant we had to order temporary number plates from our local KFZ-Zulassungsstelle that were valid for 5 days in order to legally drive away in our new car. In some cases when buying a car in Germany the seller will let you drive your new car home still wearing their number plates, but this is totally down to the seller if they want to risk you driving on their insurance or not. We chose to source our own temporary number plates and insurance to make sure collecting the car was done as officially as possible since we had a good 2.5-hour drive back to our house through some of the most congested parts of the German road network.

Obtaining a set of Überführungskennzeichen, or Kurzzeitkennzeichen (5-day number plates) was made much easier for us as Zac was able to order them through his work, but usually it would involve an appointment with your local registration office, copies of the vehicle logbooks parts 1 &2 and a copy of the vehicle TÜV certificate. The temporary number plates are then issued with the dates they’re eligible for stamped along the edge of the plate and you receive a reproduction set of vehicle documents along with a temporary insurance certificate for those 5 days. The cost of this service is between €80-€120. Once we had collected our 5-day plates we could attach them to the car and drive it home.


This is Part 1 of our ‘Buying a Car’ journey and was co-written with my partner Zac, as he has a much better understanding of cars and this process than me. Part 2 will be up next week!

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