Vehicle Registration in Germany

The strict letter of the law is this:

You can use a non-German registered car in Germany for the first six months of your stay here. After that, if you are living and working in Germany, that is where the car should be registered.

Is this enforced?

I know one person who was reported to the police by his neighbours. I know one city where the authorities emply a man to visit likely hot-spots and enter foreign car registrations in a portable computer. If a car is present for more than six months, the city takes action.

If you live in Germany but do not keep a car there all the time, you are unliely to be jumped upon if you keep a car in the UK on UK plates and drive it in Germany occasionally.

Why all this rigmarole?

Well, you are much more likely to be subject to German road traffic laws if you are driving a German registered car. However, the main reason is one of tax. EU rules say that purchase taxes (that's VAT in most places) must be paid in the country in which a vehicle is registered. Also, of course, the yearly road taxes are paid in that country and the car is then subject to local vehicle safety tests like the British MOT.

So, how do I register a British car in Germany then?

My advice is not to try but if you must:

First, you will need to convert the car to an acceptable condition for German registration. This means that you must deal with all of those little assymetries that come from having a right hand drive car in a country where the default is otherwise.

OK, of course, you do not need to move the steering wheel but there are a number of chaneges needed. You must swap the lights over for ones that dip to the right. If your car only has a single rear fog light fitted, you must fit one of the left rear as well. You must fit an approved rear view mirror on the left exterior of the car. Yes, that's a passenger door mirror to you and me but it must be one that will satisfy the nice man who will inspect the car when you bring it in for its roadworthiness test.

You may need to make other changes. Assuming that your car has been sold in Germany in LHD form, there will be a list of approved fitments such as tyre sizes. You will not be allowed to use wheels and tyres that are not of a size approved for your car in Germany. German rules say that there must be room to fit snow chains and if your car is some special version with extra wide wheels you may find that you must replace them for Germany. There may be other changes too. A friend bought a VW Polo in Italy and had to change the lights for some reason.

You also need a letter from the vehicle registration office in the UK that affirms that the car has not been stolen.

Once you have all of this, you must take the car to the local testing station. There you will have two tests, one is the two yearly safety check and the other is the annual emissions test. You will need to pay a little over one hundred Marks for these. The exact amount depending on the type of catalist that is fitted to the car. Of course, if any work is required, you must pay for that as well. In general, this test is substantially stricter than the British MOT test.

Having passed the test, you then take the documents for the car and the test and your insurance documents to the local licensing office. Then on payment of another fee, you will be issued with a set of number plates for the car. The plates are date coded and so they are used a little like a British tax disk!

The annual fee for the vehicle will vary depending on the engine type and size and the assessed polution levels.

Finally, you may also be assessed for purchase tax.

All in all, if you must drive a German registered car, it is a much better idea to buy one locally.

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