Expat Diaries

How to Buy a Car in Germany (pt.2)

July 19, 2020

A couple of weeks ago, I shared part 1 of How to Buy a Car in Germany. Here’s part 2!

I’m also going to provide an approximation of costs at the end, so stay tuned if you’re wondering how much it *really* costs to buy a car in Germany!

Getting Insurance:

In the UK, it’s common to physically purchase a car and then insure it. In Germany, before you can register a purchased car, you must prove it is first insured.

Insurance works slightly differently here compared to the UK. There are 3 levels of insurance available:

  1. Haptpflicht (Third-party) – minimum legal requirement covering any damage caused by your car against other cars, people or property (inc. medical bills).
  2. Teilkasko (Partial Coverage) – the same as Third party, but with additional protection against accidental damage, fire, theft, and depending on the provider, windscreen cover and wild animal damage.
  3. Vollkasko (Comprehensive) – Similar to British fully comprehensive, this level covers accidental damage, fire, theft, vandalism, third parties, wild animal damage and also covers any damage you might cause to your own vehicle.

Despite being able to transfer across our No Claims Bonus history from the UK, insurance prices were still significantly higher than in Britain (like triple the price higher). We made the decision to go with partial coverage for our first year, intending to upgrade to full coverage later on, when money allows.

We also decided to pay slightly more for our first year of car insurance and sign up with a specialist Expat Agency, to ensure we could get an English speaking representative should we ever require one.

Exchanging Licences:

I’ve read lots of horror stories about exchanging your license online, that I wanted to add some positivity. It was not scary or difficult for us! However, I suspect this is because we were already driving on EU driving licenses so it was a case of exchanging for one with a German flag and address instead of a British flag/address. I am not sure what this process will look like post-Brexit, but it will be something I cover here when the information is available (could be another 4 years at the rate the UK government moves…).

We had to make an appointment with our local KfZ office and provide a biometric photo, our British passports, and proof of residency. 

As I understand it, the process has changed a little due to coronavirus.

When we arrived, we gave our names, date of births and appointment time to the security guard at the door, who then gave us a ticket. We had to attend the front desk and provide our passports before taking a seat and waiting for our appointment. Sure enough, bang on appointment time, we were called through. Obviously, face masks were worn throughout the entire process.

The clerk took our passports and old licenses to make copies and we filled out a form with basic info. She then took the biometric photos, gave us back our passports and old licenses and told us we would get an email when the new license was ready for collection.

She warned us that it could take 2 months for new licenses to arrive, but in true German style (z.B. Sehr effizient), they arrived within 2 weeks!

Registering the Car:

The strangest and trickiest part as a Brit!

We had to reserve our number plate choice online through the local government website. Here in Germany, the number plate belongs to the owner of the car and is then “assigned” to a car when you register the vehicle. The first letter(s) of the number plate indicates the region of residency, so ours was automatically generated as A for Landkreis Augsburg. Then you essentially get free reign with the rest of the letters/numbers if they are available. If you want something different from the normal format it is possible, however, there are several additional forms to fill out and then they must be submitted for approval by the local government.

The wait for our registration appointment was a little bit longer than the appointment to exchange our licences, but luckily both services are done in the same building. To register a car you must first provide proof of insurance, a form of ID and the vehicle documents to the reception desk. If everything checks out, you then wait for one of the clerks to be available to complete the process. The clerk checks the validity of your insurance then fills out your name and address onto a new set of official vehicle documents (much like the V5 logbook of a British vehicle, except in Germany there are two separate parts, the latter of which must be kept in the vehicle at all times). The paperwork is then stamped and signed off in your name. You can also purchase the green emissions sticker that you are likely to see displayed in the windscreen of most cars in Germany. This sticker is available to any vehicle that meets the requirements of euro 1 for petrol, hybrid and LPG engines, or euro 4 for diesel engines. The sticker allows you to drive into any low emissions zone in Germany.

Getting Number Plates:

Once all the documentation has been completed, you are given a plastic card which you take to a machine where you pay for the services you have used so far (€49,20 in our case). The machine then gives you a ticket which you take along with your numberplate reservation to a business next door, which prints the number plates. In Germany, this process isn’t regulated so you will find numerous plate printing shops in the area surrounding a vehicle registration office, although there is generally one attached to the office for convenience. The number plates cost €34,00. Generally speaking, the further away from the registration office you travel, the cheaper you can get them printed. You can also spend more if you want carbon fibre effect letters or other customisations. 

With your plates in hand, you head back into the registration office where someone will attach your official government stickers, one with the state flag and one for your region (in our case Landkreis Augsburg).

The rear plate receives a round sticker which displays how many years and months of TÜV the vehicle has left (similar to a British MOT, but lasting 2 years instead of 12 months). And with that, you’re done! Now just attach your new plates and you can drive your new car. 

Tax:

Once the car is registered, a notification is automatically sent to the Zoll (Customs). They then very kindly send you a letter telling you how much tax they are robbing you of for the year. The amount you pay is calculated in KG of CO2 your engine produces. Similar to the UK, the bigger the engine, the more tax you pay. Diesel engines have an additional premium in road tax in Germany but this difference is reflected in fuel prices with diesel being around €0,20 cheaper than petrol. In fairness, the roads in Germany are top-notch and they are constantly doing work to improve them, so paying our tax doesn’t feel so much like being robbed here. 

Total Costs + conclusions:

The entire process overall was pretty stressful, but also easier than I thought it would be. I think it was culture shock more than anything. Anyway, total costs listed below:

Car: €11.000,00

Temporary Plates: €80,00

Insurance: €1.293,00

License Exchange: €29,00 each

Registration: €49,20

Number Plates: €34,00

Tax: €617,00

Total Costs: €13.131,20


All in all, a pretty expensive venture. I’m thankful that, coming from the UK, we were just about clinging on to the EU when we moved here so we were able to drive our UK car for a little while. This allowed us time to save up for a decent German car.

I hope you enjoyed this detailed explanation. It was definitely an experience for us!

bis zum nächsten mal!

Steffi x

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