Using Your Car When Studying Abroad in Germany

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Can you use your car when studying abroad in Germany? ► Timespan ✓ Registration ✓ Inspections ✓ and Co. ✓

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Using Your Car When Studying Abroad in Germany

As a student of Brown University, you have access to many exciting international programs in Germany. If you are looking to live there for a semester or longer, having your own means of transportation might be useful. If you want to import your own car, or buy a new or used one in Germany, you have to consider some bureaucratic processes. Learn here how to handle car registrations and any necessary steps that are tied to it in Germany.

Can I Bring and use my Car in Germany?

The short answer is yes.

Generally, if you stay in Germany for less than a year, you can drive your car with your US license plates and registration. You will only need a translated copy of your registration documents. Before six months have passed, you must visit the local registration office and notify them that you want to keep using your car this way for the remainder of your stay. This requires proof of how long you will stay, like your enrollment certificate for a German university.

If you stay longer than 364 days, you will need to register your car at the local registration office, the Zulassungsbehörde. You might also need a German license.

Registering Your Car

Registering your car is a 4-Step process:

  1. Buying License Plates

To save time, when you have an appointment to register your car, you can buy German license plates in advance. There are local shops or online-services that allow you to do this. Often, you can customize and reserve specific license plates for up to 90 days.

The license plate starts with a letter or abbreviation marking the district where your car is registered. You can find a list of them here: wunschkennzeichen-reservieren.jetzt. The following letters and numbers can be customized, as long as the specific combination isn’t already registered to somebody else.

  • Buying a set of license plates (front and back) will cost you about €30.

  1. Inspection

German cars must pass an inspection every year (cars older than 7 years) or every two years. If the car is considered unsafe, you will need to have the cause of the problem fixed, or you won’t be allowed to drive it in Germany. There are several certified workshops that will inspect your car, like:

  • TÜV
  • DEKRA
  • KÜS
  • GTÜ

If your car is considered roadworthy, you will receive an inspection certificate. When you buy a new car in Germany, this step is not necessary. If you buy a used car in Germany, it might already have a valid certificate for the year, and you won’t have to have it inspected yourself. Ask the seller about it. Buying a car with a pre-existing certificate might jack up the price, but it can be worth it if you avoid any costs for necessary repairs they find at the inspection.

  • The inspection can cost between €70 to €150, not including repairs.

  1. Getting Car Insurance

Car owners in Germany are required to have at least the basic car liability insurance. How much the insurance costs is dependent on the provider, your car, your age, and your region.

  • The insurance will most likely cost you around €250 for a year. Naturally, you can upgrade the insurance to a fully comprehensive car insurance, if you’re willing to pay more.

The insurance provider will give you a code, the eVB number. You will need it to prove you have insurance when you register your car.

  1. Registering Your Car

If you have a digital passport and your used car was first registered after January 2015, you can register your car online. Otherwise, you will have to book an appointment with the local registration office. You can Google which Zulassungsbehörde is responsible for your area.

It's best to make the appointment a bit in advance, in case there are waiting times. Once you have all the mentioned documents and made your appointment, you can visit the registration office. Check the website to see if you can download any forms in advance and fill them out to save time.

You will need:

  • your passport
  • your German residence card (temporary, permanent, or blue card)
  • proof of insurance (eVB number)
  • your license plates
  • for old vehicles: the inspection certificate and the Fahrzeugschein (registration certificate part 1)
  • for new vehicles: the Certificate of Conformity (COC-Papiere)

They will ask you to fill out a permission slip for direct debit payments, so keep your bank account information on hand. You will also have to pay the registration fee. It's best to pay using cash or a debit card, because many German government offices do not take credit cards.

  • Depending on your region, it will cost something between €30 to €60.

Hint: Ask if you need an emission sticker. The inspection certificate should note your car’s emission output, and you will get a colored sticker marking the car’s environmental burden. Some cities do not allow cars with high emission to enter certain areas, like city centers. The sticker costs €5.

The Costs for Registering Your Car

The total cost for registering your car in Germany can be combined by using the fees for:

  • License Plates: ~€30 (+ €12.80 for reserving custom plates)
  • Emission Sticker: ~€5
  • Inspection: ~€110
  • Car Insurance: ~€250
  • Car Registration: ~€45

Meaning, all together you will pay about ~€450.

Conclusion

You can bring your car from the US or buy a new car in Germany, when you plan to stay there for a while. If it's longer than a year, you will need to register it. This includes buying license plates, getting insurance, and possibly an inspection. With these and any required documents, you can visit the registration office. 

Overall, this process will cost you about €450. If you stay for a shorter time, you only need translations of your registration documents, a proof of your stay’s duration, and visit the registration office to declare the use of your US car before 6 months have passed.

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