Importing Your British Car To Germany
Thinking of importing your car from the UK to Germany? Helpful information for British Expats.
Want to take your British registered car with you when you become an expat in Germany? Wondering if the process is expensive, time consuming and worth the bother? You’ve come to the right place. As expected, there are hoops that will have to be jumped through, but it is generally a very straightforward process.
What are the issues importing a British car to Germany?
Back to the very basics, British cars, owing to being driven on the left-hand side of the road are generally right-hand drive (RHD) and whilst German cars, being driven on the right, are generally left-hand drive (LHD). Do not panic, your steeling wheel does not have to be repositioned, but there are some other relatively minor changes that will need to be made to your car for it to be considered road legal and insurable in Germany.
What modifications will need to be made to my British car?
As I mentioned the steering wheel can (happily) stay where it is, but there are some other modifications that will need to be made to your car. Headlights/fog lights and any lights which are directional on the outside of your car will have to be altered permanently, this involves their removal and reinstallation with Germany appropriate lights. If you are lucky your car may have this function internally, which will save you some money. Your speedometer also must have a kilometre function otherwise you will need to buy an appropriate replacement.
Most vehicles will require a certificate of conformity (COC) which is issued by the manufacturer to ensure that the car is up to the European legal standards for German roads. This COC needs to be presented with the car, when all the modifications have been made, to the Technischer Überwachungs-Verein (TÜV) or the Deutscher Kraftfahrzeug-Überwachungs-Verein (DEKRA) and they will judge whether the car passes the German MOT. This test is required bi-annually and without it a car is not road legal. If your car has modifications or adaptations the entire process may be longer and/or more extensive.
Be aware that Germany has different standards on emissions than Britain, some cars which attract little car tax on British soil because they are considered low emissions are considered more polluting and consequently the tax will be a lot more expensive in Germany.
Why import your British car to Germany?
There are many different reasons why people import their British cars into Germany. Maybe the purchase price of that model is cheaper in the UK, they prefer a RHD, can’t bear to part with their beloved car, want to trade it in for a newer German model or simply aren’t going to live in Germany permanently. Whatever the reason it is important to know what is expected by the German authorities to avoid potential financial consequences and to save yourself additional stress when moving abroad.
How much will it cost?
Importing a car from Britain to Germany means you will be liable for import duty at 10% of the cars value plus VAT. This statement however comes with a huge caveat, well a few actually.
If you fulfil all the following criteria, you will be exempt from this duty:
- You are moving to Germany as a full-time resident, shown by your registration (Anmeldung) with the authorities in Germany
- You have given up residence in your home country, also demonstrated by your registration in Germany
- You have been residing outside Germany for at least the last twelve consecutive months before your arrival
- The vehicle is registered in your name
- You do not sell or export the vehicle for twelve months after you import it to Germany
Classic cars, knowns as ‘old-timers’ in Germany, which are over thirty years old, are historically accurate and are no longer in production will have a VAT rate of 5%, so they may be more financially viable to import than a newer classic. They will also not be required to make all the modifications required for younger cars to be issued with a TÜV certificate due to their age.
Comparatively importing a new car from within the EU would generally be subject to a 19% VAT charge, whilst a used car (older than six months) would not attract any additional taxes and fees beyond the usual registration charges and insurances.
Some useful vehicle and driving vocabulary
- Der Allradantrieb - All wheel drive vehicle
- Der Anhänger - Trailer
- Die Anmeldung - Registration of your home address with German authorities
- Das Auto - Car
- Die Autoversicherung - Car insurance
- Das Cabrio/Das Cabriolet - Convertible (car)
- Deutscher Kraftfahrzeug-Überwachungs-Verein (DEKRA) - Vehicle inspection company
- Die Elektronische Versicherungsbestätigung (eVB) - Electronic insurance confirmation, proof of insurance
- Das Fahrzeug - Vehicle (of any type)
- Das Familienauto - Family car
- Das Fließheck - Hatchback
- Der Gebrauchtwagen - Used car
- Geländewagen/SUV - SUV
- Geländewagen - Off-road vehicle
- Die Haftpflicht - Liability (insurance)
- Der Jahreswagen - Low-mileage car that is only one year old
- Das Kraftfahrzeug (Kfz) - Motor vehicle
- Die Kraftfahrzeug Zulassungsstelle - Local car registration office
- Das Kfz-Kennzeichen - Number plate
- Der Kombi - Estate
- Der Lieferwagen / Der Transporter - Van
- Der Lastkraftwagen (Lkw) - Truck, lorry
- Das Mofa - Moped
- Das Motorrad - Motorcycle
- Der Personenkraftwagen (Pkw) - Passenger car
- Das Schaltgetriebe - Manual transmission
- Der Sportwagen - Sports car
- Die Straßenverkehrsordnung (StVO) - Highway Code
- Das Teilkasko - Third party, fire and theft insurance
- Der Technischer Überwachungs-Verein (TÜV) - German organization that provides safety inspection for machinery and motor vehicles
- TÜV-geprüft - Safety tested by the TÜV (similar to an MOT)
- versichern - To insure
- Die Versicherung - Insurance
- Das Vollkasko - Fully comprehensive insurance
- Das Wohnmobil - Motorhome
- Zulassen - To register (a vehicle)
- Die Zulassung - The registration (of a vehicle)
How do I register my car in Germany?
Cars are registered according to where they, or rather their registered owner, lives. All German numberplates display one, two or three letters at the beginning, these letters indicate where the car is registered. K indicates a Cologne (Köln) registered vehicle, whilst HH is Hamburg and BAD is Baden-Baden. If you’re ever stuck in traffic on the Autobahn, finding a particular city registration can be an entertaining way to pass the time.
To register your car with your local authorities you will an appointment at the Kraftfahrzeug Zulassungsstelle, smaller councils will have walk-in appointments whilst larger ones will usually offer appointment booking online.
At this appointment you need to present all your documentation:
- Valid ID (passport)
- Your personal registration certificate (Anmeldebescheinigung)
- Proof of vehicle ownership
- Proof of vehicle insurance
- Certificate of conformity (if applicable)
- Proof of roadworthiness - TÜV certificate
- Road tax payment
Once you’ve had your documents approved you will be issued with an official registration plate number, which you need to then take (immediately) to a licence plate shop. This is the fun bit, when you get to your appointment you will see people going in and out, and in and out again, they are getting their registration plates made. There will be a shop very close by the office, if in doubt ask the official to point you in the right direction. Once your licence plate is made, you’ll take it back to the office and the official will affix your official seal to the plates. Simply fit them to your car and you are good to go!
Living in Germany for twelve months or less
In this situation you can drive your British registered car in Germany without having to make permanent modifications. If your car is fully taxed, has a valid British MOT and is fully insured (insurers that cover British cars in Germany are hard to find, but they do exist) you will be able to use it as normal on German roads and beyond. It is important to always carry proof of your insurance and your registration documents in the car. The same conditions that you would have if you were holidaying in Germany apply, beam deflectors for headlights, a UK sticker, and additional items in your breakdown kit, like a high vis vest.
If you are considering taking your British car to Germany in the short or long term, I hope that this guide has given you the confidence to take on the challenge. Being prepared for German bureaucracy is half the battle. Happy driving!