So you want to import your car to Germany. Oh dear, where do I start? This has been the longest, most exhausting, time consuming, and the only (so far) ridiculous bureaucracy-related operation we had to perform in Germany.
Here I summarize the sequence of long operations that you need to perform. All of them require the previous one to be completed.
- Buy a green emission decal.
- Begin the German car insurance issuing process.
- Pass the TÜV general car inspection.
- Obtain a German vehicle license and license plate.
- Buy another green emission decal.
- Cancel the previous (Italian) car insurance.
- Finish the German car insurance issuing process.
Does it look complicated? It’s because it is complicated. Let’s see how I made sense out of it.
The green emission decal
Most (if not all) major cities in Germany require you to have a green emission decal (Feinstaubplakette) on your windshield (bottom right). The decal shows that your car is at least a EURO 1 car. Why would you need a sticker to show that your car is at least a EURO 1 car? So that you won’t get fined, of course. If you circulate without that sticker within most German cities, you might get fined (ca. 80,00€, as far as I know). Now, if your vehicle registration certificate (Fahrzeugpapiere or Zulassungsbescheinigung) shows when the car was produced, why would you need an additional decal to show it? No one knows.
There are various ways to obtain the green emission decal. The easiest way is to go to a TÜV center with your vehicle registration certificate and a personal ID card. There are ways to obtain the decal online. However, it seems that they ship to Germany only.
At this point, you might be wondering. How the heck do I obtain this decal in the city, if I have to possess the decal for entering the city at first? Good question, which we asked to the TÜV clerk. The answer? Literally “Just hope to be not fined when you enter the city”. I am not kidding.
- Your vehicle registration certificate (Fahrzeugpapiere or Zulassungsbescheinigung), which should show the license plate number. Otherwise, also the license plate number (Kfz-Kennzeichen).
- Your identification document.
- A green round sticker (Feinstaubplakette), to be placed bottom right on your front windshield.
Begin the car insurance process
Once you get your green sticker on your windshield, you have to start the process for a car/vehicle insurance (Kfz-Haftpflichtversicherung / Autoversicherung). I wrote about insurances previously.
- Variable, according to the chosen insurance options. We are talking hundreds of Euro.
- Your identification document.
- Your vehicle registration certificate (Fahrzeugpapiere or Zulassungsbescheinigung) and license plate number.
- A claims experience letter form, to be filled by your previous insurance company, that shows how well you behaved while insured. This is optional but highly recommended, as it will likely lower your annual insurance fees. The German insurance company will provide you an empty form.
- Car manufacturer code (Herstellerschlüsselnummer, HSN) and car model code (Typschlüsselnummer, TSN). These numbers were completely unknown to me before coming to Germany. Luckily, there is the website hsn-tsn.de for obtaining the two codes.
- Data about the drivers and the car itself.
- A pre-insurance form with a code (elektronische Versicherungsbestätigungsnummer, eVB-Nr.). This code will be requested when registering the car in Germany.
Pass the TÜV general car inspection
Before registering the car, the car should be certified to conform to the German safety standards. The TÜV is responsible for this certification (Hauptuntersuchung). What you do here is either to call the TÜV of your city to reserve an appointment, or you just go there at opening time in the morning and wait a little. I found out that it is actually quicker to go there without appointment. Bring any car-related document with you, especially the vehicle registration certificate (Zulassungsbescheininung or Fahrzeugpapiere), check-in, and wait in line.
Eventually you will pass the TÜV test or you will fail it. For both cases, you will receive the test results documentation (Hauptuntersuchung § 29 StVZO). If you pass the test, the first line will read Ergebnis: Ohne festgestellte Mängel. If you fail the test, the first line will read Ergebnis: erhebliche Mängel. If you fail the test, you need to look for a good mechanic (Mechaniker) and bring the TÜV failed results there.
The TÜV Technical data sheet
Here is a tip. In addition to paying for a car inspection, pay for translating your vehicle registration certificate (or whatever document contains the technical data of your car) into a German technical data sheet (Technischen Datenblatt). When you register your vehicle, you need a German approved document that holds the technical data of the vehicle. No, they won’t accept your current registration document. Not even if it is also in German (as it was my case). Many websites suggest to buy an European certificate of conformity (also known as COC, EU-Übereinstimmungsbescheinigung). However, this certificate will cost more than 150€. The TÜV Fahrzeugdatenermittlung will cost you about 75€ in comparison. At least, these were the prices for my car.
Obtain a German vehicle license and license plate
Now you’ve got a car that is certified to be street legal. Congratulations! There is still quite some work to do. You need to go to the authority for motor vehicles (Kfz-Zulassungsstelle) to register your vehicle. The authority for motor vehicles will essentially do seven main things:
- Provide you the registration of a license plate.
- Register your car into the German register of vehicles.
- Withdraw your old license plate, vehicle registration certificate, and certificate of property. You will receive a written proof of the withdrawal. You might need the proof in order do un-register the car from your country of origin, as well.
- Provide you a German vehicle registration certificate and certificate of property ( Zulassungsbescheinigung Teil 1 und 2).
- Ask your IBAN and signature for a SEPA mandate. You know, for paying road-related taxes.
- Provide you a seal of registration of the car ( Stempelplakette), to be later put over your license plate.
- Provide you a seal for the passed general vehicle inspection (Prüfplaketten).
The folks at the authority office keep the seals for points 6 and 7, because you need to print the vehicle license plates first. Yes, you need to look for an Autoschilder, that is “the place where they make plates”. Basically, everybody is free to print any kind of plate in Germany. Only those plates that are in the valid format for vehicles and have a seal of registration of the car and a seal for a passed general car inspection are valid license plates.
Usually, you will find the service right outside the authority for motor vehicles. Often, you will find more than one. The price for producing both plates is variable, around 20€.
Here is another tip: measure where the holes of your old license plates are. They will need the measurements at the Autoschilder, otherwise you won’t be able to install the new license plates. Alternatively, kindly ask at the authority for motor vehicles to have the old plates just for drilling them. Remember to bring the old plates back!
Finally (yeah!), go back to the authority for motor vehicles with the new plates. They will put the stamps at points 6 and 7. Head back to your car. Install the plates. Drive away. Celebrate. This was really heavy.
- Your identification document.
- Your vehicle registration certificate (Fahrzeugpapiere or Zulassungsbescheinigung).
- Your certificate of property of the vehicle (Fahrzeugbrief).
- A pre-insurance form with a code (elektronische Versicherungsbestätigungsnummer, eVB-Nr.).
- Your license plates. I mean, the physical plates, not just their texts.
- Your IBAN for filling out a SEPA-mandate.
- German vehicle registration certificate ( Zulassungsbescheinigung Teil 1, Fahrzeugbrief). You need to put this one in your car.
- German vehicle certificate of property ( Zulassungsbescheinigung Teil 2, Fahrzeugbrief). You need to keep this one at home.
- Written proof for the withdrawal of the old certificates of registration and property
- A new green emission decal (Feinstaubplakette).
- A seal for the registration of the car ( Stempelplakette).
- A seal for the passed general vehicle inspection (Prüfplaketten).
- The actual license plates (Kfz-Kennzeichen).
- Around 100€ for the documentation and the license plates.
- Around 100€ for the annual motor vehicle tax.
Cancel your previous car insurance
Contact your old car insurance company and cancel your insurance. The reason is that the German insurance company will refuse finishing the process if the car is still insured elsewhere. Ask for a proof of insurance termination.
Finish the German car insurance issuing process
Go back to the German insurance company with the proof of termination of the previous car insurance and the new vehicle certificates. The insurance company will finish the insurance process.
- German vehicle registration certificate ( Zulassungsbescheinigung Teil 1, Fahrzeugbrief).
- German vehicle certificate of property ( Zulassungsbescheinigung Teil 2, Fahrzeugbrief).
- German vehicle insurance documentation (Kfz-Versicherung).