- Do you need a car?
- Step 1: Look at vehicles
- Where to look for a vehicle
- Visiting a seller
- Dealership or private sale?
- Papers and registration
- Seasonal licence plates
- Scooter licence plates
- TÜV inspection
- Environmental zones
- Cost of ownership
- Step 2: Buy a vehicle
- Step 3: Get an eVB number
- Step 4: Fill the paperwork
- Step 5: Register the vehicle
- At the Kfz-Zulassungsstelle
- With a registration service
- Step 6: Drive your vehicle
- Step 7: Look for cheaper car insurance
This is how you buy a car or a motorcycle in Germany. This guide tells you how to buy a vehicle from another person, and from a dealership.
Do you need a car?
Not in Berlin. Cars are expensive to own, and they are not useful in Berlin. Driving in Berlin is not fun. There is too much traffic. Parking is expensive, and hard to find.
Public transportation is better, cheaper and often faster. A car is more useful to travel outside of Berlin, or to move big things.
Step 1: Look at vehicles
Where to look for a vehicle
Germans use two websites to find vehicles:
- eBay Kleinanzeigen
You can also visit car dealerships, but their cars are usually listed online. It’s easier to look online.
Visiting a seller
When you see a vehicle that you like, contact the seller, and schedule a visit. When you go to see the vehicle, you can usually go on a test drive.
Dealership or private sale?
Taxes: When you buy from a dealership (a business that sells cars), you pay a 19% VAT1. This tax is included in the price. When you buy a vehicle from a private seller, you do not pay VAT.
Warranty: At the dealership, all new vehicles come with a 2 year warranty (Gewährleistung), and all used vehicles come with a 1 year warranty1, 2. If you buy from a private seller, there is no warranty. If you buy the vehicle for your business, there is no warranty.
The warranty covers current problems with the vehicle, not future problems. In other words, if you buy a vehicle with hidden defects, the seller has to fix them1. It does not cover oil changes, normal wear, or problems that are your fault1. If there are too many defects, you can even give the vehicle back. Most dealerships also offer an optional warranty (Garantie) that costs money1.
If a dealership says that they are selling a car for someone else, it means that you do not pay taxes, and that you do not have any warranty1, 2. It’s like buying a car from a private seller. Some dealers try to make you sign a paper that removes the warranty. Read everything before you sign.
Papers and registration
In Germany, vehicles come with registration papers. It’s almost impossible to register a vehicle without registration papers. If you can’t register your vehicle, you can’t drive it.
If the seller lost the papers for a vehicle, don’t buy it. You won’t be able to drive that vehicle on the streets. It might be immobile since a long time. It might also be stolen.
If a vehicle is deregistered (Abgemeldet), you can’t test drive it. It has no insurance, so it can’t go on the road. You must get temporary licence plates (Kurzzeitkennzeichen) to test drive it. People sometimes deregister their vehicles to save money. It’s not a bad thing.
Request temporary licence plates — Berlin.de (in German)
Seasonal licence plates
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Seasonal plates (Saisonkennzeichen) only let you drive a vehicle during the months you choose. The months are written on the plate. You can only drive the vehicle between those months. Outside of those months, you can’t drive, and you can’t leave your vehicle on the street.
Seasonal plates are a good way to save money. You only pay insurance and taxes for the months when you use the vehicle, so it’s cheaper. Motorcycles often have Saisonkennzeichen for the summer months, because they spend the winter in the garage.
If you want to test drive a vehicle out of season, you must get temporary licence plates (Kurzzeitkennzeichen).
Request temporary licence plates — Berlin.de (in German)
Scooter licence plates
If you have a scooter under 50cc, you don’t need to register it, and you don’t need to pay a vehicle tax1, 2. Instead, you must get Versicherungskennzeichen from your insurance company. If you are buying a scooter under 50cc, you don’t need to go to the vehicle registration office.
Electric bicycles are treated as normal bicycles. You don’t need licence plates for them.
Vehicles in Germany must be inspected every 2 years. This inspection is called the Hauptuntersuchung, HU or TÜV1. This inspection is very thorough. They check everything. Only workshops certified by TÜV, Dekra or KÜS can do this inspection. It costs around 120€1.
If a vehicle fails the inspection, it can’t be registered, and you can’t drive it. This is why old vehicles are cheaper when their inspection approaches, and much cheaper when it’s overdue (TÜV abgelaufen). You might need to spend a lot of money to make the vehicle pass the inspection again.
Mobile.de and eBay Kleinanzeigen show the next inspection date in their listings.
Central Berlin is an environmental zone. The entire area inside the Ringbahn is an environmental zone. You can only drive in this area if your car meets certain emission standards, and has a green environmental sticker (Umwelt-Plakette) in the corner of the windscreen.
You get that sticker when you register the vehicle. You can also buy it from garages and gas stations. Motorcycles don’t need a sticker; they are always allowed inside environmental zones.
More information about the Umwelt-Plakette ➞
Cost of ownership
After you buy the car, you must still pay for car insurance, maintenance, vehicle tax, parking and fuel. If you just got your licence, car insurance can be very expensive. Maintenance can also be expensive.
Cost of owning a car in Germany ➞
Some vehicles are listed as “für Bastler”. This means the vehicle has important mechanical problems or simply doesn’t work. These vehicles are not ready to drive, and need big repairs. A parts carrier (Teileträger) should only be used for spare parts. It could be broken beyond repair, or missing important parts.
Step 2: Buy a vehicle
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After you have seen and inspected the car, it’s time to buy it. Some sellers want to be paid in cash, but others will accept bank transfers (SEPA-Überweisung).
After you have paid, you should get these documents:
- Sales contract (Kaufvertrag)This contract includes basic information about the vehicle and its condition. It explains the known defects of the vehicle. You should insist on having one. Use this contract template from ADAC, or this one from Mobile.de.
- Registration certificate, part 1 (Zulassungsbescheinigung Teil I)When folded, this document fits in your wallet. You must have it with you every time you drive.
- Registration certificate, part 2 (Zulassungsbescheinigung Teil II)This is a sheet of paper folded in half. You leave this document at home, not in your vehicle. If you are buying an old vehicle, you might receive a Fahrzeugbrief instead. The Fahrzeugbrief is the old format of the Zulassungsbescheinigung Teil II.
You should also get these things:
- Maintenance recordGermans religiously collect invoices for every oil change, repair and inspection. You should get all those papers with the vehicle. These papers show that the vehicle was well-maintained. It’s important to keep them.
- All vehicle keys
- Owner’s manualThe seller will usually have the owner’s manual. If you’re lucky, you will even get the service manual. The service manual is useful if you do your own repairs.
- Extra partsThe seller will often give you extra parts for the vehicle. For example, if they installed aftermarket parts, they will often give you the original parts too.
After you bought the car, the rest is your problem. You will not need to talk to the seller anymore. You are not allowed to drive the vehicle yet; you must register and insure it first. If the vehicle is still registered and insured, some sellers will let you drive it to your home.
Step 3: Get an eVB number
When you register a vehicle, you must prove that it will have insurance. You must get a quote from a car insurance company, and ask for an eVB number. You can usually do this online. You will need this number when you register the vehicle.
Use Verivox or Tarifcheck to compare car insurance prices. If you don’t speak German, GetSafe offers car insurance in English.
Car insurance in Germany ➞
Your eVB number is only valid for the type of insurance you asked for. If you requested insurance from March to October, your eVB number is only valid for Saisonkennzeichen. You can’t ask for full-year plates at the Kfz-Zulassungsstelle with that eVB number.
Step 4: Fill the paperwork
You must bring a few things to your Kfz-Zulassungsstelle appointment:
- The registration formThis is a one page form that you must fill before your appointment.
- The direct debit authorisation (SEPA-Lastschriftmandat)This allows the vehicle registration authority to withdraw money from your account. They will collect the vehicle tax directly from your account.
Print both of these documents and bring them to your appointment.
Step 5: Register the vehicle
The next step is to register the vehicle (Kfz-Zulassung). You can’t drive the vehicle until it’s registered. When you register the vehicle, you receive new registration papers (Zulassungsbescheinigung) with your name and address on them.
If you are buying a scooter under 50cc, you can skip this step. When you get insurance for the scooter, you will receive scooter plates from the insurance company1. You don’t need to register it.
There are 3 ways to register a vehicle: in person, online, or at the dealership.
At the Kfz-Zulassungsstelle
You can register your vehicle at the vehicle registration office (Kfz-Zulassungsstelle). You must get an appointment, gather the required documents, go to your appointment, and receive new vehicle papers.
In Berlin, this can take a few weeks. Appointments are hard to get, and they are sometimes 2 or 3 weeks in the future. You can’t drive the vehicle during that time.
When you go to your Kfz-Zulassungsstelle appointment, bring these documents with you:
- Your old licence plateAlways bring the old licence plate with you. Even if you’re keeping the same plate number, they will need to see it.
- Your passport or a valid photo ID
- Your MeldebescheinigungIf your ID does not show your address, you must bring your Meldebescheinigung.
- Money for the registration feeThe registration fee is 19.60€ to 31.50€1. The Kfz-Zulassungsstelle only accepts EC-cards and cash1, 2.
- Money for a new plateIf necessary, bring an extra 15€ to get new licence plates. There are many kiosks that make licence plates next to the Kfz-Zulassungsstelle. The kiosks in front of the building.
- The filled vehicle registration formPrint and fill the vehicle registration form.
- The filled direct debit authorisationPrint and fill the direct debit authorisation form. This allows the government to collect the vehicle tax (Kraftfahrzeugsteuer) from your bank account.
- The eVB number from your insurance companyYou don’t need to print the number. You can save it on your phone.
During the appointment, the employee will give you a plastic card. Bring this card to the payment machines downstairs, put it in the machine, and pay the registration fee. Take the receipt, and bring it back to the employee.
The employee will put a new sticker on your licence plate, and give it back to you. If the vehicle is already registered in the same city, you can use the old licence plate.
If you need a new licence plate, you can go to one of the kiosks in front of the Kfz-Zulassungsstelle. They will make a new plate for you. This costs around 15€, and it only takes a few minutes.
In Berlin, you can register a vehicle online. This works for new and used vehicles. The fees are the same as in person.
If you are buying a used vehicle, the old registration papers must have an eID. If they don’t have an eID, you can’t register the vehicle online. If the vehicle was registered in Brandenburg, you can’t register it online.
- Register a new vehicle online — Berlin.de (in German)
- Register a used vehicle online — Berlin.de (in German)
With a registration service
You can use a vehicle registration service (Kfz Zulassungsdienst). You send them your documents, and they register the vehicle for you. It’s easier and faster than going to the registration office, but it’s more expensive. The biggest one is Kroschke, but there are many more.
If you buy a vehicle at the dealership, they can usually register it for you. It costs around 150€. I used that service twice. If you can’t register your vehicle online, and you want to drive it as soon as possible, it’s worth it.
Step 6: Drive your vehicle
You are now ready to drive! Don’t forget that you must still pay the vehicle tax (Kraftfahrzeugsteuer). This tax will be taken directly from your bank account once a year. You will receive a confirmation (Kraftfahrzeugsteuerbescheid) by mail.
Step 7: Look for cheaper car insurance
Most car insurance contracts are for 1 year. Every year, 1 or 2 months before your contract expires, look for cheaper car insurance. Add it to your calendar.
Use Verivox or Tarifcheck to compare vehicle insurance options. If you find something cheaper, cancel your current contract, and switch to the cheaper insurance. You can save a lot of money by doing this.
If you sell your car, you can end your insurance contract immediately. You do not need to wait until your contract ends.
- Car insurance in Germany
- Tips to save money in Germany
- Cost of car ownership in Germany