Importing a Car into Germany

Basic Info:

The Information below was kindly provided in February 1998 by the German Consulate General in Montreal. It has been written primarily for Canadians planning to ship a vehicle to Germany. However much of it also applies equally to vehicles from other countries.


There are no general restrictions on importing vehicles to Germany. Regardless of their age, all vehicles are treated equally as far as duties, taxes or technical inspections are concerned.


1) DRIVER'S LICENSE (Führerschein)

A valid driver's license is required for driving, any kind of motor vehicle. Driving without one, as in most countries, is against the law.

a. Driving with a Canadian Driver's License

You do not have to obtain a German Driver's License for up to 12 months as long as your Canadian one has not expired. Although it is not required by law, we recommend that you obtain an international driver's license in addition to your Canadian one.

b. Obtaining a German Driver's License

If you stay in Germany for more than 12 months or your Canadian driver's license expires during the same period, you will need a German license. A German license may only be obtained through driving schools, which are costly and time consuming. Addresses of driving schools can be found in the local "yellow pages".

You can obtain the required German license, if you:

The German License is divided into various classes. Different vehicles such as motorcycles, heavy trucks (a maximum weight of more than 7.5 tons}, taxis and buses require different qualifications and classes. In these cases, consult a local driving school.

The minimum age for receiving a driver's license for cars and light trucks (below 7.5 tons) is 18 years. This is a 'Class 3' license.

Because of a new EU guideline the former Classes 1 to 5 will be replaced by the international Classes A to E. The new 'Class B' licence will include the driver's licence for cars and light trucks below 3.5 tons. The new license classes are expected to be introduced in the second half of 1997

If foreigners under the age of 18 already possess a valid foreign license when moving to Germany, they are allowed to drive in Germany provided they obtain a preliminary license (vorzeitige Erteilung der Fahrerlaubnis).



a. Export Permit

A permit is not necessary for the export of motor vehicles manufactured in Canada or in other countries.

The export of motor vehicles manufactured in the US is controlled under item 5400 of the Export Control List. However, there would be no need to obtain an individual export permit nor would there be a requirement for prior written authorization before exporting to Germany.

The goods may be exported under the authority of General Export Permit (GEP) 12 to Germany. To use this GEP, it may simply be written "GEP-12" in the appropriate box of the Canada Customs' export declaration (B-13) form.

b. Customs Tariffs and Import Duties

A motor vehicle is subject to import duties (Zoll) and import value added tax (EinfuhrUmsatzteur / EUST) either when crossing the German border or at a later date (for example, following the expiry of the car's original Canadian registration).

Note. Vehicles imported for private use for a maximum of 6 months are exempt from taxation under certain conditions.

The vehicle must be registered outside the EU while visiting Germany. However, there is a time limit of 6 months (with or without interruptions) within any given 12 month period. Lending or renting out the vehicle or giving it away for whatever reason to a citizen of an EC member country is prohibited.

Note: Automobiles which are considered household goods are also duty and tax free when moving to Germany to establish residence, if the following criteria apply;

After payment of all duties and taxes a customs receipt or clearance certificate (Zollquittung) or otherwise a permit of customs exemption (Unbedenklichkeitsbe-scheinigung) is usually issued.

Remember: This document will be needed to register the vehicle (see Section 3.c Registration Procedure).

The following tariff and tax rates are charged equally for every kind of imported motor vehicle:

Import duty: 10 % based on the purchase price + freight costs to the place of destination in Germany +freight insurance.

Value Added Tax (EUST): 15 % based on the purchase price + freight costs + import duty,

7% for vintage cars and collector's vehicles under certain circumstances.

It is standard procedure to present a recent dealer's invoice to declare the market value of the vehicle. However, if this is not fair market value, customs officials can determine the value by referring, to a dealer's car-buying guide ("Schwacke Liste") or demand a certified appraisal ( Wertgutachten).

Note: We recommend that private importers, who do not have a recent invoice of their vehicle or who ship an uncommon type of car, have their car appraised before declaring the value. This should avoid lengthy discussions afterwards.

If necessary, appraisals can be arranged in Germany. Local branches of the DEKRA organization (see the Appendix) offer such services and staff certified experts. For a fee, some shipping agencies complete clearance and customs formalities on your behalf.

For further questions contact German Customs directly (see the Appendix).

c. Tax Reimbursement in Canada

Federal Sales Tax Refund of GST and PST

A reimbursement of the Goods and Services Tax (GST 7%) can be obtained from Revenue Canada on following conditions:

A Reimbursement of the Provincial Sales Tax (PST up to 12.5% depending on the Province) is generally possible. For Ontario, the following conditions have to be met:

For further information on this subject, please contact Canadian Customs officials.



This paragraph summarizes the legal procedures and prerequisites of bringing a motor vehicle into Germany. If this area does not apply to you, please continue with Part II.

Note: Foreigners staying temporarily are allowed to drive their imported motor vehicles with their home license plates and registrations in Germany for a period of up to 12 months, as long as the registration does not expire. A registration document with a German translation is required. The use of the vehicle is duty and tax free for 6 months only. (see Section 2 b Customs, Tariffs and lmport Taxes).

Reasons for obtaining a German registration:

a. General Operating License (Allgemeine Betriebserlaubnis)

Motor vehicles can only be registered if they are officially licensed by the Federal Motor Vehicle Authority (Kraftfahrtbundesamt / KBA).

Each motor vehicle is subject to a general inspection including a safety and emissions test. After successful completion an operation permit (Allgemeine Betriebserlaubnis) is granted. Normally, the manufacturer or importer initiates the procedure for a certain model line. This inspection ensures that the performance of the vehicle meets with German regulations for technical, environmental, and safety standards. The KBA issues a title (Kfz-Brief) for every vehicle, listing all its technical features. The title is automatically issued by the car manufacturer or importer.

A certified expert (Kfz-Sachverständiger) is also permitted to issue the title after carrying out a technical inspection (see Section 3.b. Technical Inspection). This is usually necessary when the technical data of used cars have changed.

Note; Don't add any modifications or special features to licensed motor vehicles without consulting a certified German expert; otherwise you might lose the operating license, as well as the insurance coverage. Furthermore, you may have difficulties registering a car which has not previously been registered.

Foreign vehicles imported on private initiative usually do not have the required German title. This must be obtained at the beginning of the registration procedure (see Section 3.b. Technical Inspection) at the Local Motor Vehicle Branch (KfzZulassungsstelle). The title has to be issued with the car's technical data by a certified expert.

Note: It is the sole responsibility of the owner or otherwise legitimated person to supply all the required technical data of the imported motor vehicle if a general operating permit for the vehicle has not previously been granted.

Very few American cars and only some Japanese models are popular in Germany. These cars have already passed the general vehicle inspection and have been granted a general operating permit.

To meet the German motor vehicle standards several modifications to the imported car will be necessary. Be aware of costs for required modifications (see Section 3 b Technical Inspection)!

Note: The date of the vehicle's first registration determines the applicable legal standard. That date must be supplied by the applicant.

Note: To avoid the time-consuming and expensive procedure of gathering the technical features of your car through a general inspection, contact the manufacturer or importer of your car prior to the shipping date for information on the VIN (vehicle identification number), year of manufacture, type, and technical data such as:

Note: If the vehicle does not have any other valid plates, special license plates can be obtained to drive the vehicle to the place of inspection. Ask for "red license plates" (rote Kennzeichen) at the Local Motor Vehicle Branch.

b. Technical Inspection

Technical Inspections (Fahrzeug-Hauptuntersuchung, common "TUV") through a certified expert are required by law for each vehicle, The TUV and DEKRA organizations maintain local test centres in most German towns and cities, where they perform the necessary inspections. Costs are approximately DM 65 per car. Addresses are listed in the telephone directory. Many gas stations and car repair shops also offer this service for a reasonable fee.

The car's mechanical condition and fittings are checked to comply with the data in the certificate (see Section 3 a General Operating License). The vehicle is also checked for its roadworthiness and compliance with safety standards. e.g. brakes, lights, rust perforation of the chassis, shock absorber, and tire condition.

After any major changes, the vehicle is checked to determine whether the modifications influence the handling or operating characteristics of the car. This will determine whether the operating permit may be kept (see Section 3 a. General Operating License).

A little round sticker (TÜV-Plakette) affixed to the rear license plate by the test centre and a certificate are proof of a successful inspection and bear an expiry date.

The certificate for cars and motorcycles expires two years after the inspection and it is the sole responsibility of the owner to renew it. Special regulations exist for trucks and buses.

Note: Pay special attention to the renewal date, as one may be fined for exceeding it.

A yearly emissions check (Abgassonderuntersuchung / ASU) is also required for gasoline powered cars. At the moment, there is no comparable ruling for diesel powered vehicles, but one is expected to come into force soon.

Both certificates are required at the time of registration of a motor vehicle. Therefore imported cars usually pass the technical inspection together with the above mentioned general inspection, when such is required.

Note: To avoid high expenses and disappointment contact a German certified expert prior to the shipping date for the requirements of your car.

"TÜV Rheinland of North America'' (see the Appendix) will supply the newest technical requirements for each car model available on the US or Canadian market, for a fee of U.S.$ 30 (payable by cheque in advance).

c. Registration Procedure (Zulassung)

The registration of each motor vehicle has to be applied for at the Local Motor Vehicle Branch (Kfz-Zulassungsstelle) in the town of residence of the owner or legitimated person.

In the countryside, the Motor Vehicle Branch is usually a department of the county authorities, in cities it is a department of the community authorities.

The following documents are required:

The title (Kfz-Brief), if one has been issued before. Otherwise a blank title will be issued which must be completed by a certified expert (see Sections 3.a. General 0perating License & 3.b. Technical Inspection)

The technical inspection and the emissions test certificates, if such were completed. Otherwise you will be instructed as to how and where to get them (see Section 3.b. Technical Inspection).

A fee of approximately DM 30 - DM 60 must be paid in cash.

Note: German authorities do not accept credit cards.

German license plates (front and rear) have to be purchased. The clerk will advise you where to obtain them. The costs vary between about DM 35 and DM 50, depending on the required size of the plates.

After presenting the receipts of payment, the registration certificate (Kfz-Schein) will be issued and three round stickers will be affixed to the license plates. These show the validity of the vehicle registration, the passing of the last technical inspection (on the rear plate) and the passing of the emissions test (on the front plate). Be prepared to put the plates on before leaving.

Note: By German law, you are required to carry the registration certificate, the emissions test certificate, and your driver's license with you while driving your vehicle.

Do not worry about the apparent length of this procedure. Normally, it does not take too much of your time, if you have collected all the above mentioned documents before approaching the Motor Vehicle Branch.

d. Insurance Coverage

Germany's automobile insurance system is strictly regulated by law and supervised by federal state authorities.

A liability insurance for third-party damages is compulsory for each motor vehicle to cover the risks of self-caused accidents (Haftpflichtversicherung).

In addition, two kinds of property damage insurance are available:

Also, a special passenger insurance coverage is usually offered.

Rates are based on the policy-years an individual has driven accident free, and are treated equally by all insurers.

The property damage insurance and, starting from July 1, 1996, also the liability insurance are linked to a vehicle classification system based on damage or theft hazard and average repair costs. The rates are subject to annual changes.

Before July 1, 1996, the liability insurance was linked to a classification system based on the amount of horsepower. In the same way that additional vehicle power and high repair costs increased the rate, longer intervals without any self-caused accidents lowered it.

Most of the insurance companies are expected to adapt the new rate system for the liability insurance starting from January 1, 1997. Former insurance contracts can be adjusted to the new rates (which is not recommendable for old cars, cars with diesel engines or off-road vehicles).

Note: We recommend you bring a letter (along with a German translation) from your insurance company stating how many years you have driven accident free, as this may give you better rates. While it cannot be guaranteed that the German insurer will recognize your accident free years, it is nevertheless worth trying.

For further information contact the German Car Insurer, the Association of Liability, Accident and Car Insurers {HUK-Verband) or the German Automobile Club ADAC (see the Appendix).

e. Motor Vehicle Tax

Every motor vehicle registered in Germany is automatically subject to a special motor vehicle tax (Kfz-Steuer). The first payment must be paid soon after registering the vehicle (Kfz-Steuerbescheid).

The yearly rates are high compared to other countries. They are grouped between approx. DM 11.00 and DM 30.00 for every 100 cc of cylinders. A different calculation is used for trucks depending on the size of its loading surface.

Rates differ depending on certain engine specifications, such as whether the car is equipped with a catalytic converter or whether it is gasoline or diesel powered. For example, the rate is DM 11.80 for a car with U.S. standard catalytic converter and DM 28.40 for a new car without any emissions reducing devices. For diesel engines the rates are even higher. For a 3.0 litre gasoline engine the payable tax would be 30 times DM 11.80, giving a total of` DM 354.00 per year.

Recently, political discussion has surfaced calling for a reorganization of the rate categories. It has been suggested to classify only according to a car's effects on the environment.



Helpful Addresses :

1. Export Permits
External Affairs & International Trade Canada
Export Permits
Lester B. Pearson Building
125 Sussex Drive Ottawa,
Ontario, Canada K1A 0G2
Phone (613) 996-2387
Fax: (613) 952-3904
2. Federal Motor Vehicle Authority
Kraftfahrt - Bundesamt
Foerdestrasse 16
D - 24944 Flensburg
Federal Republic of Germany
Phone; 011-49-461-31-6-O
Fax; 011-49-461-316-1495 or 1650
3. Technical Requirements and Vehicle Inspection Appraisals
a) TÜV - Rheinland of North America, Inc
32553 Schoolcraft Road
Livonia, Michigan 48150
Phone; (313) 261 - 8881
Fax; (313) 261 - 8929
Schulze - Delitzsch - Strasse 49
D - 70565 Stuttgart
Federal Republic of Germany
Phone: 01149-711-7861-0
Fax: 01149-711-7861-240
4. Association of Liability Accident and Car Insurers
HUK - Verband
Glockengiesserwall 1
D - 20105 Hamburg
Federal Republic of Germany
Phone 011 49 - 40 - 32 10 70
Fax 011 49 - 40 - 32 10 72 - 00
5. Customs
a) Revenue Canada - Customs & Excise
Travellers Directorate 5th Floor,
Connaught Building,
Ottawa, Ontario,
Canada K1A 0L5
Phone (613) 954 - 7125
Fax (613) 996 - 5822
b) Oberfinanzdirektion Berlin
Kurfürstendamm 193-194
10707 Berlin
Federal Republic of Germany
P.O.Box 15 09 60
10671 Berlin
Federal Republic of Germany
Phone: 011 49-30-88070
Fax; 01149-30-882-4089
c) Oberfinanzdirektion Hamburg
Rodingsmarkt 2
D - 20459 Hamburg
Federal Republic of Germany
Phone; 011 49-40-3706-0
Fax; 011 49-40-3706-2547
6. Car Importer's Association
Verband der Importeure von Kraftfahrzeugen e.V. (VDIK)
Kirdorfer Str. 21
D - 61350 Bad Homburg
Federal Republic of Germany
Phone 011 49 - 6172 - 840 40
Fax. 011 49 - 6172 - 842 253
7. Car Clubs
a) Allgemeiner Deutscher Automobilclub (ADAC)
Am Westpark 8
D - 81373 München
Federal Republic of Germany
Phone- 011 49-89-76-76-0
Fax: 011 49-89-7676-2500
b) Automobilclub von Deutschland (AVD)
Lyoner Strasse 16
D - 60528 Frankfurt am Main
Federal Republic of Germany
Phone: 011 49-69-660-60
Fax: 011 49-69-660-62-10

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