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swiss-list: Importing a car to Switzerland

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swiss-list: Importing a car to Switzerland

From: Fabian Meier <click for textversion of email address >
Date: Tue, 5 Feb 2002 23:27:18 +0100
X-Mailer: Microsoft Outlook Express 5.50.4133.2400

Here is a little report about importing your own car to Switzerland. It's
not complete, and if I forgot something, let me know.
I imported a Mitsubishi Eclipse 2000 to Switzerland last November, I am
finally getting my Swiss licence plate this week.

S.F. to Antwerpen/Belgium: $900 shipping, $300 insurance, $250 release
fee = total $1450. Extra fee for shipping it directly to Switzerland:
$600. That is why I picked it up in Belgium (Train ticket: about CHF

- Swiss insurances typically don't insure cars with non-swiss licence
  plates, this is the reason that you have to register your car in
  Switzerland with the Swiss DMV (Strassenverkehrsamt of your Kanton).

  Recommendation: Herr Schoonhen, Winterthur Versicherung (direct: 01 208 46
  91, lamber.schoonhen_at_winterthur.ch. Gives you insurance
  with international licence plates, if you are in the process of getting
  Swiss licence plates. Very helpful and competent guy.


The Strassenverkehrsamt has relatively strict guidelines, see their
publications below. The whole process is not well documented. There are bits
and pieces of information that you have to collect.

- Your specific car model exists in Switzerland: (call your car company
  in Switzerland, give them the exact model data. Just "Honda Civic, 3drs,
  1999" doesn't do it, because in this particular case the body shape of a
  Civic is even different). It helps if your car has been approved by the
- If your car doesn't exist in Switzerland (this was my case): These are
  the things you need to know:

0) You should own your car more than XXX months, and you should have
   lived in the US for more than XXX months. Your registration at the DMV
   is proof for that. This is important so you have to pay no customs. You
   also can't sell the car in Switzerland within a year, otherwise you have
   to pay customs.
1) You need ALL your car data, such as engine size, XXXXXXX. Get the
   data from your car company, not the dealer. You can ask the dealer to
   get you the data.
2) You need the maximum speed of your car. Sounds crazy, was a huge pain
   in my butt. The reason (doesn't make any sense): They make sure the
   maximum speed of your tires are above the maximum speed of your car.
   Even if your car runs above 200 km/h. In the worst case, they tell you
   to change the tires....
3) Your speedometer has to have a km/h scale, it is okay if there is a
   MPH scale as well.
4) On your speedometer there must be a number in km/h at the maximum of the
   scale. Whacky little detail, you can check with the Strassenverkehrsamt
   about that one.
5) Odomoter in miles is okay.
6) Positioning lights (standlichter) must be white, not orange as in the
   US. I had to change that (did it by myself), can be some work).
7) Your car needs to pass a smog test in Switzerland. Since CA has the
   strictest smog test in the world, if your car passes the CA test, it
   should pass the Swiss smog test. Once you are in Switzerland, you have
   to go to a garage to get the smog test.

Reasons for importing a car:
- If you want a car that nobody else drives in Switzerland.
- If you purchased a car recently in the US and you loose too much
  selling - besides, the car prices are quite a bit higher in Europe at
  the moment. Despite the strong dollar.
- Oldtimers are easier: your car must be older than XXXX.

Reasons for not import a car:
- If you don't want any hassles, don't do it. It is hard to predict in
  advance if ther is work and trouble - everything might go super smooth
  or it might be a bumpier road.
- Selling the car and make a business. Unless you already are in this
  business. There are some cars that you can get in California that you
  could sell for a lot more money in Europe, but you should have
  experience in that.
- If you have an older car, that might have plenty of repairs.

Car prices in Europe:
- Switzerland has some of the lowest car prices in Europe, mostly
  because of the lowest taxes (Mehrwertsteuer).
- Cars seem to cost quite a bit more than in the US. However, for
  example Honda's and Toyotas are fairly cheap compared with other cars.
  At the moment, everybody is buying European cars, especially German
  cars. Japanese cars are out of vogue.
- A car looses a lot of value after one year in Switzerland. A lot more
  value than in the US.
- A car with more than 100'000 km becomes suddenly very affordable. This
  is still the typical age for a car. So don't think your imported car has
  still a lot of value with "only" 70k miles. On the good side, you can
  get high quality cars with more than 100 km for a relativly low price.

Procedure how to do the whole thing (not complete, I might finish it in the
near future):
--- In the US ---
- Get the title of your car. This is needed by the US customs (so you
  car can leave the country) - this prooves it is your car and it is not
  stolen. Very important. If you have a credit on your car - pay it off.
  Then you will get the title. In this case the credit company also needs
  to write a letter stating that you paid it all off, and you own the car
  now. Do this way in advance - I did it shortly before leaving,
  everything got really thight (companies are slow handling those things).
  Your shipper will do this paperwork, so you need to provide him with the
- Find a shipper. Shipping the car will take about 6 to 8 weeks.

--- In Switzerland ---
- First thing, get insurance. Otherwise you might not get your car from the
  shipper. Ask them what documents to bring.
- Import: Receive the car in Switzerland, or drive it from Belgium to
  Switzerland (7 hours ride). Drive over the border, no worries.
- Go to the Customs:
  Declare it as 'Umzugsgut' - a big
  difference. You will get a "Stammnummer" - something like a VIN number
  of your car, but this is a Swiss numbering system only. This is a way to
  keep track of all the cars that are sold in Switzerland.
- Get a smog test at a garage
- Go to the Strassenverkehrsamt. If your car passes, you will get the Swiss
  licence plates.

Why all the hassles with the Strassenverkehrsamt? You need insurance. And
the insurances only give you a policy if you have a Swiss licence plate (or
you are in the process of getting one).

Fabian Meier, Zurich

- Strassenverkehrsamt Zurich: http://www.stva.zh.ch/
- Page about Import: click on "Technische Auskunft", then on
- Kundeninformationsblätter: http://www.stva.zh.ch/tk_infoblaetter.htm
- Merkblatt über den Selbstimport von Fahrzeugen:

Tire Ratings:
185/70 R 15 Q Q = 160 km/h S = 180 km/h U = 200 km/h V = 240 km/h
 R = 170 km/h T = 190 km/h H = 210 km/h usw.

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Received on Tue Feb 05 2002 - 22:41:29 PST

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