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Car import and re-registration

Import of the car into Switzerland and treatment as removal goods

If you want to bring your car from your home country and drive in Switzerland, there are a few things you should consider. If you can prove that you have owned the vehicle for at least 6 months, you can and should declare it as a removal item when you move.. With the confirmation you get from customs, you have one year to declare the car, otherwise it has to be imported and customs cleared. By importing the car as removal goods, there is no taxation, as this counts as your own belongings. If possible, the car should be re-registered at the same time as the driving licence.

Change of registration and vehicle inspection

For the re-registration of the car, one gets an invitation to the vehicle inspection. The vehicle inspection is also known in Switzerland as MFK. This invitation also says that the vehicle should be presented cleaned and is meant to be cleaned and no joke. It is best to have the underbody and the engine compartment thoroughly cleaned before the inspection. Since the inspectors look at everything carefully, they expect a cleaned vehicle without fail. The interior is not so important. The inspection is a bit stricter than the normal inspection at MFK. Since the car is being registered for Swiss road traffic for the first time, the inspector understandably takes a closer look. After the examination you will either get a list of defects to be corrected or, if everything is fine, the new license plates. The vehicle should be in good condition for the inspection.

Important documents for re-registration:

  • Customs documents
    • For new cars inspection report form 13.20A
    • For removal goods Form 18.44 (for most of them the case)
    • For equipment goods Form 18.45, inheritance goods Form 18.46
    • Or form 15.30 / 15.40 for duty unpaid vehicles
  • VAT receipt for direct imports with recipient address (not necessary for removal goods)
  • EEC certificate of conformity (COC document)
  • Proof of insurance from a Swiss car insurance company
  • Exhaust document with exhaust maintenance performed by a brand representative (Not applicable for vehicles with OBD and good emission standards. More details under the point exhaust maintenance)
  • Foreigner's identity card (Ausländerausweis)
  • Original Vehicle registration document
  • Original vehicle title    

License plate

For the new license plates you usually need new license plate holders, because the formats are often different in Switzerland. You can get them in every well sorted garage (workshop). With Swiss license plates, the two letters at the beginning stand for the canton where the vehicle is registered and the following number is consecutive. In other words, normally the numbers get bigger and bigger over the years. There are also desired number plates, but they are not available for small money. The lower or more popular the number the more expensive. This can be from a few hundred francs up to several thousand francs. If this is important to you, you can find out the price from the road traffic office. The number plate belongs to you and not to the car. Therefore, if you sell the car, you can keep the license plate number and use it for the new purchase.

MFK - Official inspection

All vehicles in Switzerland are subject to an official inspection (MFK). You will be invited to this as when you register your vehicle. So you do not need to think about the date yourself. The vehicle must also be presented cleaned (underbody and engine compartment). If only minor defects are found, there is no need for a new demonstration; the signature of the workshop that has repaired the defect is sufficient as proof. Only in the case of serious defects does the vehicle have to be presented again. The first official inspection is carried out 4 years after the first placing on the market, the second inspection is carried out 3 years later and then the inspection is carried out every 2 years.

Exhaust gas maintenance

For the official inspection, exhaust gas maintenance every two years is no longer required for vehicles with on-board diagnostic (OBD) systems since 01.01.2013. The prerequisite is that an emission code B03 or better is noted in the vehicle registration document for petrol vehicles and B04 or better for diesel vehicles. It is therefore essential to check the vehicle registration document after the transfer. However, the new regulation also requires that, after the indicator light of the on-board diagnosis system lights up for the first time, the vehicle must be driven to the workshop for repair within one month. Likewise, maintenance by the garage according to the manufacturer's specifications is still necessary. Vehicles without a diagnostic system must still be serviced every 2 years and vehicles without a catalytic converter every year.

Speed limits

The speed limit in Switzerland should be adhered to as far as possible. Lightning is a common sight. When measuring speed, a tolerance of only 3 - 5 km/h is usually deducted. For example, exceeding the speed limit of only 1-5 km/h costs CHF 40 (half the cost on the motorway), doesn't sound like much, but it can add up quite a bit. In general, the traffic rules in Switzerland are similar, but there are a few important differences. You should definitely learn them beforehand.

Vehicle registration document and vehicle title

For vehicles registered in Switzerland, the vehicle registration document and the exhaust gas maintenance certificate must be carried along and presented if required. Switzerland does not have a separate vehicle title and vehicle registration document, which separate the owner and driver, there is only the vehicle registration document. 

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Frequently asked questions and answers

Who is allowed to drive where and with what?

With the exception of the transitional periods for immigration/immigration, the registration of the vehicle under customs law applies first and foremost.

A vehicle may only be driven in another country if the driver is resident in the same country where the vehicle is registered. If the combination is, there may be criminal consequences.

Residence and
Driving licence
On the road
in ...
Permitted /
Not permitted?
Switzerland Switzerland Abroad Permitted
Switzerland Abroad Abroad Permitted
Abroad Switzerland Abroad Not permitted
Abroad Abroad Abroad Permitted
Switzerland Switzerland Switzerland Permitted
Switzerland Abroad Switzerland Not permitted
Abroad Switzerland Switzerland Permitted
Abroad Abroad Switzerland Permitted
When I move, I am not sure if I want to take my car/motorbike with me. Can I do this later?

Yes, that is possible. You have up to 2 years to subsequently import your vehicle as removal goods. However, the vehicle may not be taken across the border into Switzerland without being imported.

The car is registered to my parents. Can I still bring it in with the move?

Yes, provided you have been the main user of the car for the last 6 months. The parent to whom the car is registered must certify in writing that you have been the main user and that you can register the car in your name in Switzerland.

My car is leased or financed and the bank forbids me to register it abroad. What to do?

The best thing to do is to find a bank in Switzerland that will take over the financing or the leasing contract. Then you can register the car in Switzerland despite the financing.

I bought a new car from a dealer abroad before moving to Switzerland. Now the question is how can I import it into Switzerland and what do I need to do this? What is the situation here with the refund of the German VAT?

The rough procedure for importing a new vehicle is as follows:

  1. Register the export of the vehicle abroad at the inland customs (best done by the dealer or a forwarding agent).
  2. Obtain a transfer licence plate.
  3. Export at foreign customs.
  4. Import at Swiss customs (7.7% Swiss VAT, 4% automobile tax + handling fee). New vehicles may be subject to additional environmental taxes.
  5. Buy vignette.
  6. Make an appointment at the road traffic office for the MFK (motor vehicle inspection) and registration. The deadline depends on the workload of the road traffic office. It can take 3-4 weeks.
  7. Have your foreign driving licence exchanged for a Swiss driving licence.
  8. Have the car cleaned for the MFK (extra costs).
  9. After a successful MFK (extra costs) you get the Swiss licence plates (extra costs).

For the VAT refund, a valid Swiss residential address must have been available at the time of purchase. In addition, the VAT refund must have been agreed with the dealer before the purchase. If either of these is not the case, there is no right to a VAT refund.

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