View Full Version : Bringing a car from USA to Switzerland... what do I need to do?

05-25-2010, 10:59 AM
Hey guys,
I am looking to bring a car next year (fall of 2011) to switzerland. I will be doing a semester abroad, which might turn into a full year abroad if I like it. The only thing is I cannot live without a car! My cousins (who live in switzerland) tell me that taking the train is an option to get around, but it is much better to have a set of wheels.

What does it all take to get a car brought over from Los Angeles to Switzerland? ** I went on a car transportation site that quoted me $750 to take the car from Long Beach Port to Hamburg, Germany.

Once its in Hamburg, what do I need to do?
- Swiss Insurance (which one is the cheapest)
- Registration (I am guessing I am going to need swiss plates and registration)
- Inspection?

What do you guys think??

Also, I will be going from July to December and then if I decide to stay longer, will stay from December to June. Do I need an All-Wheel-Drive car for the winter?

Currently my two cars that I would consider brining are:
- 2004 Bmw 330ci - Rear Wheel Drive
- 2004 Audi A4 3.0 V6 - Front Wheel Drive

Which one is better for Europe? Or should I look into buying another car?


05-25-2010, 12:57 PM
I have not researched Switzerland, but i have Germany and this is what I've found:

You can bring a vehicle over for personal use duty free for 6 months and use the plates and registration from the USA. It must be properly insured.

If your stay is longer than 6 months you will have to pay duty and VAT (20%) on what value the government thinks your car is worth. After that time you will also have to register it and make it conform to EU specs. There may or may not be a an extension period after that 6 months.

You also need to investigate what licensing requirements you must go through, Germany will allow you to operate a vehicle with your US license but only for a limited amount of time. Ans as you guessed getting a drivers license in Germany at least is a very expensive process.

Many people do take the train, mainly because owning a vehicle in Europe is very expensive.

You can contact the nearest Swiss Embassy and they can likely help you out with any questions you may have.

05-25-2010, 10:30 PM
It would just be easier to buy a cheap old car over there then ship one over. You can get some sweet old cars man.

05-28-2010, 04:31 AM
do NOT bring it to Switzerland! I imported my car to Austria for the same reason and it has been a pain in the ass. Switzerland is even worse from what I hear. I am actually still in the process of getting all the Typenscheinen and stuff done. Anyway, here are a few suggestions:

Swiss Inspection: MFK (Motorfahrzeugkontrolle)

Registration and general info: http://www.ch.ch/private/00081/00083/00228/00231/index.html?lang=en

BEST shipping ever! http://www.rinkens.com/ they were cheap, friendly, quick and have an office in LA (Long Beach maybe?)
1. Look at Clements Insurance (they do deals for expats etc.)
2. Take any aftermarket wheels off (Unless you know they will pass Swiss standards)
3. Make sure aftermarket parts are hidden well if there are any
4. Look up temporary circumstances - I know that technically you can have it for 6 months registered out of the country in Austria
5. Consider buying a car temporarily then trying to sell it later
6. Don't bring your car unless you plan to stay longer - public transportation is just fine

As you can tell I am bitter and frustrated and do not advise this at all for the more "Anal" of countries like Switzerland or Austria. My CA plates were recently stollen as well, which was a pain in the ass at the Police station submitting a report... Anyway, there are lots of problems with it, but if you must do it (Like I did) I wish you luck.

On a brighter note, you could be like me. European life is pretty good and has sucked me in. I planned on only being here for a year at most and will be back in August which will start year 2! They say if you don't leave after a year you are staying for a looong time, which doesn't seem so bad right about now.

05-29-2010, 05:50 AM
I'm in the process of doing so. The car is still on the boat, but there's another guy at my work from Cali who's also got his car here. Will keep you posted. It's worth doing some checks with some local importers to make sure that your car is "importable". There are three key things to worry about, speedo needs to be in kph, headlights and indicators. Some people say it's easy, some people say it's hard. The swiss are rather insular people and don't like foreginers generally so they can make it difficult if they get up on the wrong side of the bed. In any case, it is certainly possible, and it is certainly worth it as you can potentially sell it for a profit when you leave. A couple of comments to the above posts: You can drive on foreign plates in Switz for a year, but then you have to take it out of the country if you don't do conformity. Conformity only really means you can register it and sell it. If you intend to take it back to the states, just get insurance. Also if you are shipping household goods as well, and you have owned the car for more than 6 months then you can import it into the country tax free. When you drive across the border make sure you have the appropriate documentation with you (certificate of title), proof of insurance.

The other thing is to do lots of research! www.englishforum.ch is a good one.

Otherwise I'll let you know how it goes when my car gets here next month

08-17-2010, 01:07 AM
Not sure if you are still considering this, however, here is a short status update:

We shipped the car in the same container as the household goods. I was there when they opened the container (customs had not even inspected our goods at the border!). The customs agent got a piece of paper from the customs officials that gave me a "Stamm nummer" which is really just a document & number saying that the car has been officially imported into switzerland and all taxes/duties have been assessed. If you are driving it across the border for the first time, I would go through Basel and discuss with the customs agents there.

Customs need to have the lien to demonstrate that you own the car. Also you need insurance. Some of the local swiss insurance companies will insure your car under foreign licence plates, so long as you have the "Stamm nummer". However, Geico has international insurance as well as Clements. They are the only thing you need to start driving your car in Switzerland/EU under foreign plates.

Unless you plan on taking your car back to the US. The next step is to have the car pass MFK (swiss motor control) to get a number plate/registration. This needs to happen within 12 months of you arriving/registering (not the car). Will let you know how that goes. :) Otherwise, it gets quite a bit of attention driving everywhere with Cali plates! :) We took the car to Monaco and driving through Casino square people were taking pics of our car! Not like we have a Lambo or something! :)

08-31-2010, 10:06 PM
I am going to be doing this same thing in about a year or so.

09-02-2010, 12:08 AM
Man, I don't know why you'd ever want to bring a car there. Plenty of used B5 RS4's around to buy... and I'm sure you wouldn't have too much of an issues selling when you leave.

C6 RS6's too!

09-07-2010, 04:11 PM
If I ever buy a B5 please shoot me.

12-15-2010, 10:47 PM
[QUOTE=GaroBlu;5321915]do NOT bring it to Switzerland! I imported my car to Austria for the same reason and it has been a pain in the ass. Switzerland is even worse from what I hear. I am actually still in the process of getting all the Typenscheinen and stuff done. Anyway, here are a few suggestions:

Hi GaroBlu,
I'm getting my job transfer me to Austria from Cali and want to take my TT 3.2. The Job will pay for shipping and insurance so that helps. The shipping co. only asked to get a letter from manufacturer stating the US car is emissions compliant in Austria. Did you get that? How? I have not received a response from Audi in Germany and would hate to go through all the red tape and hit a hardstop on this.

Also, did you have to change the taillights, add back foglights with switch, and rechip the car? I read from VW forums that Germany requires that, so I assume that Austria will do the same?


01-03-2011, 06:44 AM
From Hamburg to Austria is also possible to but your car on train, if you dont want to ride with it. Prices? At that time i dont have no idea. How long you stay there? and what time of year season. When you live as you say in LA and then bringing your car to Austria fo a year, then think abou that. There they but salt on roads in winter time. And winter there is not small, but quite serious. My friend in Austria bought a T1 Vw from Florida and then shiped it to Austria. After driving one year there T1 has quite badly damaged under it by the salt. I recomend a 4WD car there. Or if you buy/bring a 2WD car, then use in winter snow chain on small backroads.
About the car technical details. Most lights are same as in Europe as in States.

Public transport in West - South Europe is very well organized, so you can use ne train to ride long distances when you want to travel.

12-20-2014, 01:47 PM
I see this is an older thread, but I'll add some updated info that others may find helpful in they're in a similar situation. Even in 2011 dollars, $750 for shipping from LA to Hamburg is ridiculously cheap and you should run in the other direction if you're quoted a similar price. In addition to insurance and registration, you'll also need to make sure the car is compliant with their vehicle regulations, which could be anything from the engine capacity to the actual size of the car. This has some more info related to this http://www.a1autotransport.com/ship-car-to-switzerland.php The best thing you can probably do is to contact the embassy for the country you're shipping to and find a company that is experienced enough to know their stuff with international transport. They should be able to take care of a lot of this, or at least be able to point you in the right direction.