Can I import my car to Germany?

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Can I import my car to Germany?
Can I import my car to Germany?

There are many variables involved in sending a car from the US to Germany. It’s certainly feasible, but may or may not be worth it, depending on your goals and circumstances. Let’s look at some of the scenarios.

How long are you planning to be there? Bringing your vehicle for a permanent move makes more sense than for a temporary one.

How old is the car, and how much is it worth? These factors influence the costs of getting it licensed in Germany. 

What are the taxes levied on cars imported to Germany?

Any motor vehicle imported to Germany from outside the EU is subject to both a 10% import duty and a 19% value-added tax (VAT). That adds up to 30 percent of the car's value, which is a hefty price to pay. If your residence in Germany is temporary, you may want to think twice about whether you really need your car. If your move to Germany is going to be permanent, you may be able to avoid both the import duty and the VAT, but the burden of proof is substantial. Be prepared to show all of the following:

  1. You have been residing outside of Germany (and the EU) for at least 12 months (with some exceptions).
  2. You are establishing permanent residence in Germany.
  3. You are relinquishing your residence in the non-EU country you are leaving.
  4. The vehicle must have been registered to you in the country you are moving from, and used by you personally, for a minimum of six months before moving it to Germany.
  5. Plan for the car to arrive at approximately the same time that you arrive.

What are the exceptions to the import taxes?

If the vehicle is older than 30 years, it is considered vintage and is exempt from the import duty and the VAT. In that case, there is a 7 percent duty, which also applies to collectors' vehicles.  If you are just visiting or passing through, you can opt to pay a tax deposit and apply for a refund after you have come and gone. 

Do I need to register my car locally?

German vehicle registration is required if you are staying for longer than 12 months. As noted above, permanent residence is required to avoid that 30% combined import tax, so again, consider your planned length of stay carefully when deciding whether to bring the car. If you are registering an imported car, you will need to have it inspected. The safety inspection, often referred to as a TUV, will include an examination of the following:

  • Brakes
  • Frame and body
  • Exhaust system
  • Steering system and steering wheel
  • Lights and signals
  • Wheels and tires
  • Rear-view and side mirrors
  • Seatbelts

Germany has strict environmental laws, and vehicles driven in certain areas must display stickers that comply with relevant Umweltzonen (Environmental Zone) requirements. Your import, whether registered locally or still bearing plates from the US, must display the appropriate sticker or risk the imposition of a fine if traveling in a restricted environmental zone. 

In addition to proof of passing the safety and environmental requirements, you will need the following documentation to register an import in Germany:

  • passport or other identification
  • proof of official address registration in Germany
  • customs clearance papers
  • export permit
  • proof of ownership
  • original car registration papers
  • certification from the German Federal Motor Vehicle Registry stating the car hasn’t been registered in Germany before
  • proof of insurance

Word to the wise:  Be aware that in most cases, your vehicle must be fully paid for (lien-free) for you to ship it anywhere outside the US, including Germany. One exception is if you are a US Military or Government Contractor on deployment with proper authorization.

Once you have considered the financial and regulatory factors if you decide to import your car to Germany, what is the best way to do it? You do have options, but you will need some patience. The cost can be under $1000 and could take less than a month,  but both cost and time involved may be much higher depending on where you start, when you need it, and how you choose to ship. 

Container or Ro/Ro?

Options for shipping your car are Roll On/Roll Off (Ro/Ro), Shared Container, and Full Container/germany-container-shipping/.

In a Ro/Ro transit, the vehicles are driven onto a vessel with a huge cargo area that is essentially a parking lot on board. The departures may happen frequently, and the only costs involved other than shipping are port charges and customs.

Shared container involves multiple vehicles loaded into a shared container. There are more fees-- terminal handling charge, a trucking charge, unloading charges for when the vehicle reaches a bonded warehouse, and customs clearance charges. The time involved is generally longer as well because the container has to be filled up.  

Full container means one vehicle per container, which is generally the costliest, but also the most secure and fastest means of transport. 

What does it cost to ship a car to Germany?

Where you live in the US can add a lot or a little to the cost of shipping your car. Major US shipping ports include San Francisco, New York, Miami, and a handful of other coastal cities. If you are starting from the middle of the country, you will be adding the cost of transport to the coast. Similarly, transport at the destination can be costly. If you can pick your car up at the port, you will be limiting the costs and additional delays. Otherwise, you will be adding more steps, more time, and more money. 

Depending on the origin, destination, and method selected, as well as the weight of the vehicle, it can cost between $900 and $4000 to ship a car to Germany from the US. The amount of time involved can be anywhere from three to twelve weeks. If you are in a hurry and need to pay for expedited shipping, you will pay on the higher end of the scale. If you are shipping a more substantial vehicle, and starting from the middle of the country, and choosing a container as opposed to a Ro/Ro transport, you can expect to be at the higher end of the scale. But it may be worth it to have your cherished vehicle where you need it to be when you want it. 

Remember, you should get an insurance policy to cover your car while it is being shipped. Many things could go wrong during the transit process, including hurricanes, piracy, flooding, or fire. Consider a total loss or all-risk policy to protect your investment and exposure in case of the unexpected.

Joe Webster
Written By:Joe Webster
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Joe Webster began his journey in the auto transport field by attending the University of Southern California (USC), where he graduated with a Bachelor of Business Marketing. 

After college, he started his career in the auto transport industry from the bottom up and has done virtually every job there is to do at A-1 Auto Transport, including but not limited to: Truck Driver, Dispatch, Sales, PR, Bookkeeping, Transport Planner, Transport Manager, International Transport Manager, Brokering, Customer Service, and Marketing. Working with his mentor Tony Taylor, Joe Webster has learned the ins and outs of this industry which is largely misunderstood. 

With over 30 years experience in the industry, we've been helping people ship their vehicles, motorcycles, RV's, heavy equipment, household goods and more across the country or overseas without a hitch. Ask us anything.

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