Some people say it's easier to get a driver's license than to register a car in Germany. Well, it's not quite that bad, but German bureaucracy can definitely be difficult to navigate. Elon Musk discovered this the hard way last year when Tesla had to deal with a mountain of red tape for its new electric car plant in Brandenburg.
In this article, we’ll tell you how car registration - or in German officialese, “KfZ-Zulassung” - works in Germany. We’ll also discuss the differences between registration and “Umschreibung” (change of owner) and the advantages and disadvantages of self-registration.
What are the advantages to registering your car yourself? Showing a little initiative and tackling a tough job yourself isn’t a bad thing and you can learn a few things along the way. After all, if you get to grips with the processes of registration and the relevant authorities, you'll understand the German car market a little better afterwards. For most people, however, the most important argument is probably: If you don't do it yourself, you have to pay someone else to do it.
On the other hand, what might the downsides be to taking care of the vehicle registration yourself? Well, learning on the job is fine, but not every experience is necessarily a valuable one! Bureaucracy can be quite annoying, especially if you don't know German or German officialese very well. And of course, you only learn something the first time you do it. If you’re registering a car (or changing its owner) for the second or third time, you probably won't learn much more. As far as saving money goes, it depends a bit on your personal attitude to the adage "time is money" and what you think your time is worth. Registering a car yourself costs between 50 and 100 euros. If Driverama does it for you, it’ll cost 190 euros. So, the amount of money you save isn’t huge, but the time difference can be several weeks!
Due to the Coronavirus pandemic, the registration process has become a bit of a hassle. Appointments are often delayed and there are more safety rules and regulations to follow. In Germany, in theory, the option of online registration has been available since fall 2019. In practice, it’s not really working yet. Not every registration office is as far along with digitization as the Ministry of Transport would like and not all citizens have an e-ID card (or the corresponding e-documents for residents) with the necessary digital functions needed for certain steps. If you need anything non-standard, for license plates for example, you often have to come in person anyway. And don’t forget, older cars with first registrations before 2015 aren’t even eligible for online registration! In our experience, it’s currently taking about three to four weeks for the average person to finish registering their car. With Driverama and our PS team partner, it only takes a few days, even with the special pandemic-related rules. So, the bottom line is simply; what’s your time worth?
If you’ve decided your time is too valuable to waste: order our PS Team registration here!
Before we finally start with the step-by-step instructions, a brief note on terminology, as this could be important when communicating with the official institutions described below: The opposite of registration; deregistration, is sometimes called " Außerbetriebssetzung eines Fahrzeugs " in German officialese. Registration itself is usually called " Zulassung," and a distinction must be made between initial registration (“Erstzulassung”) and re-registration (“Wiederzulassung“). While the average John Doe simply wants to “change the vehicle owner” in the relevant documents, some authorities call that a “Umschreibung bei Halterwechsel und Kennzeichenmitnahme eines Fahrzeugs“ which is hard to translate but definitely way more complicated! And you won't believe what can happen to terms for handbrake, steering wheel or a boot when the official language accelerates from 0 to 100. But back to the topic at hand: The registration process can be roughly divided into 6 steps, and the order of the steps has a little flexibility. Let’s get started!
To register a car in Germany, you don’t need a driver's license, but you do need a German residence and a European bank account. When registering, you must show a valid passport or ID card e.g., a temporary or permanent residence permit or something similar. In addition, you must provide the IBAN of a European bank account as part of the registration, because this is required by the responsible customs office. This is connected to the vehicle tax that everyone has to pay in Germany with a few exceptions. If you’ve recently moved to Germany, it is better to check the EU websites to see what the situation is in your case with the (re-)registration of the car and whether you have to pay car taxes and car insurance in Germany. According to the website www.simplegermany.com, which explains life in Germany for English expats, for example: If you move to Germany from another EU country for more than six months and bring your car with you, you must register that car within the first six months of your stay.
If you want to register a used car in Germany, it must be officially classified as roadworthy. Or in simple words: "How long does it still have its TÜV?" To do this, the car must pass the so-called “Hauptuntersuchung” (general inspection), which everyone just calls "HU" for short. This means that you, as the vehicle owner or driver, can always prove that your car is safe and meets all the applicable environmental requirements. This is important, for example, during police checks or in connection with accidents, but it is also very important when buying vehicle insurance.
An “HU” takes about 30 minutes and usually costs between 70 and 150 euros. If the inspectors find any problems, you have four weeks to have these problems fixed. Then you get a second chance. The “Hauptuntersuchung” is usually carried out by one of these four certified providers: by a regional TÜV office, by Dekra, by the Gesellschaft für Technische Überwachung mbH (GTÜ for short) or by the Kraftfahrzeug-Überwachungsorganisation freiberuflicher Kfz-Sachverständiger (KÜS for short). The best known is definitely still the TÜV, which is why the sticker that certifies a successful HU is also usually simply called the "TÜV Plakette". How often a car has to be inspected in Germany depends on how old it is: for new cars, the first general inspection is due after three years. For used cars, it is due after just two years. If your used car is more than seven years old, it has to be inspected every year.
Driverama cars have all been successfully tested and are delivered with TÜV approval complete.
All car owners in Germany are required by law to have motor vehicle liability insurance. We have three types of car insurance here: “Haftplicht” insurance (Third-party liability insurance) is mandatory. You can top it up with “Teilkasko” or “Vollkasko” insurance (partial or fully comprehensive insurance). The final amount of your insurance premium depends on how long you’ve been driving and how old your car is, as insurance companies consider these the main risk factors. Of course, the better the insurance, the more it’ll cost. To give you a rough idea: according to figures from the German Insurance Association, the average annual premium for car insurance in 2019 was around 260 euros a month for the compulsory “Haftpflicht”, 350 euros a month for partial comprehensive and 590 a month for the fully comprehensive coverage.
With your car insurance you receive a digital number, the so-called "eVB", which stands for electronic insurance confirmation. You‘ll need this eVB number for registration.
To officially register your car for German roads, you’ll need the okay from an official Registration Office, or “Zulassungsstelle”. It’s like getting a stamp, figuratively speaking. The jurisdiction always depends on your place of residence, i.e. your city or district (“Kreis”).
We’ve put the appointment as step 4 in our list, because you need both the eVB number from the insurance and the “TÜV sticker” after the vehicle inspection for the registration. Of course, you could make the appointment in parallel or before these steps to shorten the waiting time. Some people only wait for the “Hauptuntersuchung” (vehicle inspection) and then make an appointment for the registration.
If you already have license plates that you want to keep, this step isn’t necessary of course. If you don't have them or want to change them, you should budget 20 to 40 euros for the two license plates plus 10 euros if you want to use a specific letter-number combination on the plates. Near the registration offices - sometimes even directly on the premises or inside - there are special stores that sell them, or you can order the license plates online in advance.
If you use the website www.strassenverkehrsamt.de you can be sure that no one will cheat you and you can also order custom combinations. Germany’s biggest car association, the ADAC, has published an overview in which you can find all the letters used and other important information about personalized license plates.
As already mentioned, the entire registration process is, in theory, also available online. The Federal Ministry of Transport and Digital Affairs calls this "Internet-based vehicle registration," and by following the link you'll find some really nice sentences to take your German officialese to the next level! Try this one: „Mit Inkrafttreten der Vierten Verordnung zur Änderung der Fahrzeug-Zulassungsverordnung und anderer straßenverkehrsrechtlicher Vorschriften wurde die internetbasierte Abwicklung aller Standardzulassungsvorgänge für Privatpersonen ermöglicht (Stufe 3) – für ausgewählte Fälle auch vollautomatisiert.“ Trust us - it’s a doozy!
Whether online or onsite (which might not really be a choice as mentioned earlier), the principle is always the same: The registration office checks whether all requirements for registration have been met. This is where the eVB and HU described above come into play, as well as your ID and residency documents. If someone is doing it for you, they’ll need to have a signed power of attorney from you, or appropriate consent in the case of minors. In addition, all car-specific documents are checked and for new cars, you must now also show the CoC papers. This stands for "Certificate of Conformity".
Most German CoC papers are labeled with "EG-Übereinstimmungsbescheinigung". Car manufacturers use this document to prove that the car complies with EU and national technical and environmental standards, including CO2 emissions among other things. For used cars, in addition to the main inspection report, the registration certificate Part I (“Fahrzeugschein”) or the deregistration certificate (Abmeldebescheinigung/Abmeldebestätigung) are also important. The exact procedure for registration, for example, what you fill in when and how, differs from state to state.
Once you have gotten over the bureaucratic hurdles connected with all the documents, certificates, and proofs, you are now allowed to pay the official registrations fee! By the way, in some locations it’s not always possible to pay by credit card. The price depends on which state you’re registering in but will be somewhere between 30 and 60 euros. After all this effort, you do get something more durable than a simple stamp; you can stick your new “Umweltplakette” (environmental sticker) in the lower right-hand corner of the windshield yourself, and the other stickers are affixed by the staff on site. The stickers for your city or region will be put on both license plates and the sticker confirming the general inspection on the rear license plate. You will also receive updated documents, i.e. a new registration certificate Part I (“Fahrzeugschein”) and an amended registration certificate Part II (“Fahrzeugbrief“).
By now we hope you have a pretty good overview of the vehicle registration process in Germany. Around 8 million vehicles are re-registered every year and of course, the bigger the bureaucracy, the bigger the mountain of red tape. And don’t forget - if your car isn’t registered properly, you won’t be able to drive it anywhere until it is!
Luckily there is an easier way. We’ve partnered with PS Team to save you time, stress, and hassle. For a reasonable fee your car can be delivered to you fully registered with every document, proof, and certification up to date and every sticker properly affixed to your car. No waiting in lines, no missed appointments, and no decoding German officialese! All you have to do is get in your shiny new Driverama car and drive. 🚘
If you’ve decided your time is too valuable to waste: order our PS Team registration here!