Buy a Car in Germany [How-To English Guide 2023]
Updated: Nov 3
The ultimate guide to buying a car in Germany. We covered everything you must know about purchasing a vehicle in Germany: buy a car online, how to register a vehicle, car insurance options, car financing, TÜV inspection, etc.
You can buy a car online, from a dealer, or from a private seller in Germany.
Used cars in Germany are 50% cheaper than the new cars.
There are many ways to finance a car in Germany.
Table of Contents
Cars are not cheap in Germany. Hence, you should answer four questions before buying a car.
Which car are you buying? Think about how much money you want to spend and whether to buy a new or used car.
From who are you buying the car? You can buy a car from a private seller, at a dealership, or abroad. Take into account the advantages and disadvantages of each and decide which suits you best.
How do you pay for the car? Choose between cash payment, financing, or leasing.
When are you buying the car? Vehicle prices vary based on when you buy them. For example, used cars are cheaper in summer and new cars in winter.
The process of buying a car in Germany consists of seven steps.
Researching the car market to find your dream car.
Visiting the car seller to inspect the vehicle and negotiate the car price.
Buying the car, i.e., paying the car price, signing the purchase contract, and getting the car documents.
Taking a car insurance.
Getting the vehicle inspected at one of the TÜV certified workshops.
Registering the vehicle at your local vehicle registration office (KFZ zulassungsdienst in German) and getting the license plates for your car.
Picking the car up from the seller.
Let's dive deep into each step of the car-buying process.
Step 1: Find the car you want to buy
The first step in buying a car is to know which car you want to buy and to find it. You can use several websites to find new and used vehicles in Germany.
Websites to search for a good car
Here are the most popular websites to find cars in Germany.
There are other websites also. But the above two are the most popular vehicle search websites in Germany.
On these websites, you can find both new and used cars.
Learn about the car you want to buy
Of course, you want to do some research about the cars before you buy one. We find YouTube the best source to learn about the car model you want to purchase.
Buying a vehicle from Private sellers vs car dealerships
In Germany, you can buy a car from a private seller or a car dealership.
A private seller is an individual like you or me. They are not selling cars as a business.
Let's understand the difference between buying a car from a private seller and a car dealer.
The warranty includes fixing existing issues in the car. You can even return the vehicle if it has several problems.
The warranty does not cover the
Private sellers offer no guarantee.
Some car dealerships in Germany offer a guarantee of up to three years on top of the warranty. You have to pay for this additional coverage.
It covers problems that arise after the purchase of the vehicle. There are many types of guarantees offered by car dealerships in Germany. Hence, check carefully what is included in yours.
Vehicle guarantees usually cover the labor costs and partial car parts costs.
No car financing
No VAT or taxes
19% VAT on the purchase price
Cars are usually cheaper if you buy from a private seller.
Car prices are more expensive than the private seller.
The reason is the price includes the profit margin of the dealership and 19% tax.
However, it's rare to find exactly the same car model with the same features at a dealership and private seller. Thus, it's difficult to compare the prices.
More room for negotiation
Private sellers put the vehicle price based on the price of other similar vehicles in the used car market. Thus, there is more room for negotiation with the private seller as compared to the dealership.
The private seller may or may not provide the latest TÜV inspection certificate.
Every car dealership provides a TÜV inspection certificate no older than 3 months.
Selling your old car
It's rare that a private seller will buy your old car.
If you are planning to sell your car and buy a new one. Buying a car from a car dealer is more convenient. The reason is the car dealer can buy your old car and will take care of the vehicle's de-registration.
Considering all the benefits of buying a car from a dealership, we prefer buying from a dealership over a private seller.
Buy a car online in Germany
There are several websites in Germany to buy cars online. It's like buying something on Amazon.
You browse the vehicle on the website and buy the one you like. You provide all the necessary paperwork online.
Once you make the payment, the company delivers the car to your doorstep.
Advantages of buying a car online.
Online platforms take care of car registration, insurance, and other paperwork.
Offers 1-year warranty like any other car dealership in Germany.
Inspects the car thoroughly and highlights all the defects the car has.
You can return the car within 14 days if you don't like it without giving any reasons.
They offer car financing.
You can also sell your old car here.
However, it comes with its drawbacks.
You cannot inspect and test drive the vehicle before buying it.
Vehicles are usually expensive on these online platforms.
Websites where you can buy a car online.
Step 2: Visit the car seller
You found the car you want to buy. It's time to book an appointment with the seller to inspect the car.
If you like the car and the price, you can reserve it. Car dealers usually reserve the car for 48 hours.
However, you must pay the car price within this time, or else the car will be sold to someone else.
But what to check before you buy the car?
Things to check before you buy a used car in Germany
Inspect the car during test drive
The best way to inspect a vehicle is by driving it. Ensure you test drive the car during the day, in good weather, and outside of peak traffic hours.
Things to check during the test drive
Is the vehicle making strange noises? Open the windows while driving at a slow speed.
How does the vehicle behave when steering, braking, and on uneven roads?
Does the car engine start smoothly?
Can you change the gears smoothly and silently?
Does the car have cruise control, and is it working properly?
Does the car stay in its lane and drive straight ahead without steering?
Does the vehicle react quickly while steering? Turn the steering wheel fully and ensure that there are no clicking noises.
Do the brakes work well? Also, press the brakes hard to check whether the vehicle stops within a reasonable distance in case of an emergency.
Drive on uneven roads to test the shock absorbers. You can also test the shock observers without driving the car. Simply press down firmly on one corner of the vehicle several times and let it go. The rocking movement should not last longer than 1-2 oscillations.
Ensure there are no warning lights in the cockpit.
Things to check after the test drive
Ensure no oil is dripping under the hood.
The rims are not hot after driving.
General vehicle inspection
Inspect the body for signs of accidents, rust, and paint damage.
Check the tires and rims for cracks and dents.
Check the engine to see whether the engine oil, brake fluid, and coolant are filled correctly.
Check the interior to see if there are any traces of water.
Test all electrical components such as windows, sunroof, exterior mirrors, lights, windshield wipers, etc.
Compare whether the mileage matches the overall impression of the car.
We have created a check sheet summarizing everything you must check before buying a car in Germany.
You can also get a vehicle inspection report from TÜV, Dekra, or ADAC. They are neutral entities that inspect the car and note any issues. Getting such an inspection report costs around 120 to 150€.
Usually, the seller already has a car inspection report. But if the report is older than 3 months or the seller refuses to get one, you should reconsider buying the vehicle.
Car Inspection Checklist - Free Download
Download a car inspection checklist summarizing everything you must check before buying a car in Germany.
You can use the damages you found to negotiate the car price.
Negotiate the price of a used car or a new car
Here are some tips to negotiate the car price in Germany.
Car market research: During your online vehicle search, you reviewed several similar car offers. Hence, you have an idea of the market price of the vehicle. Consider it while negotiating with the seller.
Find out what's missing in the vehicle and use them to negotiate a better price.
Identify the defects in the car. It is the best way to get a reduced price.
Stay objective and professional: Show your interest in the vehicle, but don't be overly enthusiastic. Never let yourself be put under pressure, and find a good compromise.
Use your instincts: Read the seller and their situation. For example, you can negotiate better if the seller has the vehicle for a while.
If necessary, leave the sales conversation: If you are unsure, don't buy the car out of impatience. It's best to leave in such cases. And guess what? Sometimes, salespeople propose a new offer to close the deal.
Negotiate services: If you can't agree on a price, try to negotiate additional services such as a free inspection, a fuel voucher, or a set of winter tires.
NOTE: If you receive an offer better than the market, you should not get too greedy and over-negotiate. You may lose the car if you over-negotiate.
Step 3: Car purchase - Purchase contract, car payment and documents
Once you agree to buy the car, you should
get a purchase contract from the seller,
pay the car price,
and ensure you have all the car documents.
Once you agree to buy the car, you should get a purchase contract from the seller. You can download a sample purchase contract here.
The purchase contract makes things formal, and the seller must reserve the car for you. It contains the following information.
Personal details of seller and buyer. Ensure that your personal details are correct.
Vehicle data: The contract lists the following vehicle data
vehicle identification number (VIN),
vehicle registration number,
previous license plate,
next inspection date,
day of first registration,
special equipment and accessories.
All defects and accidental damage (including time, type of damage, and repair costs).
Commercial use or replaced parts (renewals).
Purchase price: The vehicle's purchase price and by when you must pay it.
Vehicle keys and documents: It mentions what car documents you'll get from the seller and the number of car keys
Car insurance: If the car is not deregistered, it'll be transferred from the seller to you. As a buyer, you have a one-month special right to cancel the current car insurance and take a new one. The contract contains the information of the current insurance provider and insurance number.
Warranty: By default, all car dealers in Germany must provide a 2-year warranty on new vehicles and 1 year on used cars. Private sellers can exclude the legally required warranty. However, if vehicle defects were concealed during the time of sale, you can dispute the contract.
Signature: Lastly, both buyer and seller sign the contract.
Car Purchase Contract - Free Download
Download a car purchase contract written in both English and German to make your car buying process easier.
High-quality vehicle purchase contract in PDF format.
You can use it to buy or sell a car in Germany.
Car financing and payment
You have signed the purchase contract. It's time to pay the vehicle price.
You can pay in cash or finance the car. If you pick the car financing option, you can get a car loan in three ways.
Take a vehicle loan from the car dealer.
Get a car loan directly from a bank.
You can learn more about car financing in our guide on "How to find a cheap car loan in Germany."
Find Cheap Car Loan In Germany
Compare offers and prices.
Comparison calculator to find suitable loan offers.
User-friendly and consistent data protection guidelines.
You'll receive the following car documents once you conclude the vehicle purchase and pay the car price.
Car purchase contract
Seller's ID: If you buy a used car from a private seller, you should take a copy of the seller's ID to be on the safe side.
Power of attorney if the seller and vehicle owner are not identical
Registration certificate Part I ("Fahrzeugschein" or "Zulassungsbescheinigung Teil I")
Registration certificate Part II ("Fahrzeugbrief" or "Zulassungsbescheinigung Teil II")
Certificate of the last general inspection (Hauptuntersuchung (HU)) and emissions inspection (Abgasuntersuchung (AU))
Service booklet, if available. Modern cars don't have a physical service booklet; all the information is saved in the car's computer.
Maintenance and repair invoices, if any
Pictures and reports in the event of accident damage, if available
General operating permit (Allgemeine Betriebserlaubnis (ABE)) for accessories and attachments, if available
Building permits (Baugenehmigungen) and partial reports (Teilgutachten) for accessories and add-on parts, if available
Step 4: Take car insurance
You fill in your personal and car details on the portal. Based on the information, portals show different vehicle insurance plans.
Pick the one that offers the best return on value and apply directly on the portal. You can find what good car insurance consists of in our guide on "car insurance in Germany."
You will get an eVB number from the car insurance company via email within a few minutes after buying car insurance. You need this for registering the car in Germany.
You can also request the eVB number from your car insurance company at a later point in time.
Later, you will receive the insurance contract via post. Learn more about different types of vehicle insurance and how to find cheap insurance in our guide.
Car Insurance In Germany
Your vehicle insurance coverage sum should be at least 50 million euros.
Change your car insurance every year to save money.
Switch to an annual plan to save money.
Every vehicle in Germany should have at least third-party liability insurance.
Step 5: TÜV inspection
Every car in Germany must get an inspection certificate every 2 years. It is called Hauptuntersuchung (HU) in German.
TÜV inspection certificate ensures that the vehicle is roadworthy.
Many people refer to HU as TÜV. It's because TÜV has a monopoly on issuing inspection certificates in Germany.
However, you can get the vehicle inspection certificate from workshops certified by TÜV, Dekra, GTÜ, or KÜS.
The cost of getting the certificate depends on vehicle type and the federal state. For cars (PKW in German), a TÜV certificate costs between 120 € and 150 € (as of 2023).
You can find the current prices in your federal state here.
After the successful inspection, your car's license plate gets a color-coded sticker. It mentions when the next inspection is due.
Here is how to read the sticker.
The sticker color and the number in the center represent the year the next inspection is due. In our example, it is "21" or "2021."
Numbers from 1 to 12 represent the months.
The number at the top represents the month in which the next inspection is due. In our example, it is "8" or "August."
Step 6: Register the car
There are four ways to register your car in Germany.
In-person at the KFZ office
Car dealer registering the vehicle on your behalf
Using the services of a third party to register your vehicle on your behalf. They are called "KFZ zulassungsdienst" in German. You can find many service providers by searching the term "KFZ zulassungsdienst" on Google.
We find registering the car online the most convenient way. Simply Google "KFZ anmeldung online," and you'll find the online portal of your local car registration office.
The documents required to register the car remain the same, irrespective of the way you choose.
Documents required to register a car in Germany
Vehicle registration of a NEW car
Vehicle registration of USED cars
ZB I (registration certificate part 1)
ZB II (registration certificate part 2)
TÜV certificate (if the car is older than 3 years)
Proof of your personal identity (eg., passport, Aufenhaltstitle, etc.)
Meldebescheinigung, if your personal identity proof doesn't show your current address
Old license plates (even if you want to keep the current license plate)
SEPA direct debit mandate
Power of attorney if someone else registers the car on your behalf.
COC papers (for an imported vehicle)
Commercial register extract (for a company)
Business registration (for a company)
Register the vehicle at the car registration office (KFZ Zulassungsstelle in German)
Take an appointment online
Some KFZ offices don't offer online appointments. In that case, you should consider going to the KFZ office at least 30 minutes before it opens.
Prepare and bring the required documents at the appointment.
Choose a desired license plate number. You may have to pay extra for certain license plate numbers.
The employee will give you a plastic card to pay the registration fee.
After you pay the fee, collect the new registration certificates and "Green Sticker" from the KFZ office.
Get the license plate from one of the many shops outside the KFZ office.
If you get the stickers from the KFZ office for the license plate, paste them yourself. Otherwise, bring the license plate to the KFZ office, and they'll paste it for you.
Register your car online
The steps to register the car online are the same. The only thing you need extra is the eID.
You can find it on ZB I. You need to scratch the surface to reveal the code.
NOTE: Once you scratch the surface, the ZB I becomes invalid. Hence, it's important to keep the online car registration confirmation till you get the new ZB I certificate.
You can find the detailed guides and video explanations for the same here.
Step 7: Pick the car
Once you have registered the car and have the license plates, it's time to pick up the car.
Cost of buying a car in Germany
As you can see, the used cars are 57% cheaper than the new cars in Germany. Moreover, Germans are famous for taking good care of their cars. Hence, used cars in Germany are usually in very good condition.
Thus, we recommend buying a used car over a new one. You not only save money but also contribute to the environment.
Car Insurance Cost
Car Registration Cost
Automobile Club Membership
ADAC is the most popular automobile club in Germany. They offer three plans ranging from 54€ to 139€ per annum.
It's optional to take an automobile club membership.
Cost of owning a car in Germany
Car maintenance cost
You must do a car inspection every 1 to 2 years or every 30000 KM.
The vehicle inspection cost depends on the car. It may cost between 250€ and 800€.
You pay extra for any issues found during the inspection.
Vehicle insurance cost
The cost of car insurance in Germany depends on several factors: your SF class, insurance type, the car itself, etc.
It can range from 100€ to 1000€ per annum.
Annual Car Tax
Car tax depends on the year the car was first registered, engine power, and CO2 emission. You can calculate your car tax using the below calculator.
Benzin: 1.85 € per liter (Super 95) (as of Nov 2023) Diesel: 1.81 € per liter (as of Nov 2023)
In Germany, you don't pay any toll tax. However, several European countries charge tolls (Vignette in German).
You must buy a toll sticker (Vignette in German) before you enter the country. You can buy it from any gas station near the border.
Car Tax Calculator