An expat guide to buying a car in Germany


Updated on Dec 04 • 4 minute read

Nothing beats a car in terms of personal freedom and mobility, so buying a car when you’ve moved to Germany is a great idea! Now that you’re eager to roam the Autobahn, let’s look at the process of buying a car in Germany at a dealership, as well as all the things you need to look out for when buying a second hand vehicle. After that, we’ll discuss the specific paperwork you’ll need to complete before you can bring your new car onto the road!

The buying process summarised

How to buy a car in Germany

Owning a car is very popular in Germany, and your now fellow Germans like to buy both new cars at a dealership, as well as buy and sell cars privately. Before buying your own car, make sure you transfer your foreign license to a German driving license! All in all, the process of buying a car looks like this:

Buying a car in Germany.

  1. Select the car you want
  2. Decide on a private or dealership purchase
  3. Approach a seller or dealership
  4. Inspect the vehicle and paperwork
  5. Negotiate the price
  6. Congratulate yourself on the deal!

The paperwork needed to legally drive your new car in Germany.

  1. Make an appointment at the local registration office
  2. Gather and fill in the paperwork
  3. Receive your eVB number
  4. Register the vehicle
  5. Mount a new set of license plates
  6. Arrange car insurance

Buying a secondhand car in Germany

As you might expect, buying a second hand vehicle is a little less straightforward than doing so at a dealership. So here are a number of things you should look out for when dealing with a private seller.

Make sure you inspect the car properly

A secondhand car might have been lovingly cared for by its owner, but some more dubious car owners might be trying to hide flaws that could influence the price! Whether they’re acting out of greed or out of ignorance, it helps for you to be prepared. For example, you could search the internet for the most common issues with the model you’re looking to purchase, or bring along a friend or mechanic who knows an issue when they see one.

Make sure all the paperwork is there

When buying a car, getting your hands on all the associated paperwork is essential! If there’s something missing or wrong, you may not be able to register the vehicle, meaning you can’t drive it.

Sales contract First of all, you should make sure there is a sales contract. This contract contains all the details of your transaction, all the essential information about the car as well as any known defects. A seller might not be prepared to have this document ready, so make sure you print one yourself, such as this one by the German ADAC(it will download the pdf straight away).

Registration certificates You also need 2 registration certificates. They are 2 parts of the same document, where one is designed and required to be brought with you wherever you drive the vehicle. The other, larger document, is ment for your administration at home.

The maintenance record If something ever happens to the vehicle, it’s good to know what has been done in the past. Thankfully, most Germans keep meticulous records of any work or inspection done on their cars. It’s also a good idea to ask to see this record before you buy, as it tells you if the car has been well maintained or not. Older cars will have trouble passing the mandatory vehicle inspections (TÜV inspection), so one of those coming up could influence the price in your favour! But if it’s recently passed the inspection, you’ll have the security of knowing the car is fit to drive.

The manual and original parts All German cars come with an owner’s manual, that can help you perform basic maintenance or repairs. If the owner has been tinkering with the car, it’s likely that they have or kept any original parts they may have replaced, so make sure you ask for them too!

Your keys Last, but not least! Make sure you get all the keys to your shiny new vehicle!

Now that you’re the owner of a shiny new car, remember that if the car hasn't been used in a while, it might no longer be registered or insured. This means you can’t drive the car home yet at this point! If it’s still registered and insured, you can ask the owner if you can drive the car home. Either way, you’ll have to register the car in your own name before you can drive it around any further.

How to register a car in Germany

If you’ve bought a car from a dealership, this part's easy! Why? Well, they can register the car for you, for a small fee. This's worth it, as an appointment at the registration for yourself can be weeks away. In the meantime, you'll have to keep exploring Germany by bicycle!

If you bought the car privately, you’ll have to book that appointment as soon as possible, at your local registration office (Kfz-Zulassungsstelle). So, give them a call and set up an appointment. While you wait for the appointment, you should find a car insurance company of your choice, and ask them for an eVB number. This number proves the car is fit for insurance, and you will need this number at your registration appointment as well! With some companies you can apply for this number online.

If this is the car you'll be driving every day, make sure you request your eVB number for the entire year. Why? Well, in Germany it’s possible to register your vehicle for only a part of the year. This is relevant for vehicles you’d otherwise only drive in the summer, such a cabriolet or a motorcycle.

Your registration appointment

When you go to the appointment, you need to bring the following documentation:

  • Your vehicle’s eVB number (no documentation, just the number).
  • A filled-in registration form.
  • the old license plate(s).
  • a valid Passport or photo-ID.
  • Your Meldebescheinigung (proof of registration at your address).
  • the registration fee and fees for new plates (around €60 total).

At this point, you should pick up your newly printed plates with the right stickers on it at a nearby booth. Now that your car's registered, you can finalise your car insurance, mount the plates on your new vehicle and you’re ready to go!

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