Buying and Selling a Car in Switzerland

Information on the paperwork and process involved when buying or selling a car in Switzerland. Also information on Swiss licence/number plates...

The new and used car market in Switzerland is generally well developed and most makes and models are available, although rural areas may have fewer options than the major cities.

Cars in Switzerland: Registration/Licence/Number Plates

In Switzerland, a vehicle's registration plates are associated with an individual at their registered address, not with a vehicle. When a person first buys a car in Switzerland, their first set of number plates can be obtained (for a fee) from the Road Traffic Office (Office Cantonal des Automobiles et de la Navigation/Strassenverkehrsamt) in their Canton of residence. When a car is bought or sold, the seller removes their plates while the buyer attaches theirs to the vehicle.

Note: When buying from a car dealership, the dealer will usually arrange the issue of new plates for a buyer.

A person may use their licence plates for more than one car; for example, someone who owns two cars may swap the number plates between them. However, only one of the cars may be on the road at a time.

Buying a New Car

New cars are generally sold at car dealerships; they may also be bought abroad and imported. Substantial discounts may be available on the asking price - it's recommended to negotiate. Any new car in Switzerland undergoes a test before it may leave the showroom to ensure that it is in perfect condition. The seller of a new car provides the buyer with the Rapport d'expertise 13.20A/Pruefungsbericht 13.20A which is used to register the car.

Many dealerships are affiliated to an insurance company and can set the buyer up with a policy; many also take care of the registration process on behalf of the buyer.

Buying or Selling a Used Car

Second hand cars are plentiful in Switzerland and can be bought from car dealers, garages or from private individuals. They may be advertised in car magazines or websites such as:

Buying privately

Buyers should check the dates of the last anti-pollution test, the vehicle's service record and that the seller's identity is the same as on the vehicle's registration papers (permis de circulation/Fahrzeugausweis). The buyer and seller should (but are not obliged) to sign a contract.

The Swiss Automobile Club has a model contract that can be used for the sale of a used car between two private individuals.

The seller provides the vehicle's registration papers and then cancels the permis de circulation/Fahrzeugausweis before handing it over to the buyer. This can be done at the local Road Traffic Office either in person or by post.

Registering a car

If the buyer and seller are in the same canton, the process is fairly simple as they can both present themselves at the local Road Traffic Office, where the owner can cancel the permis de circulation/Fahrzeugausweis and the buyer can register the car in their own name.

However, if the buyer and seller are in different cantons, the situation is more complicated. Once the permis de circulation/Fahrzeugausweis is cancelled, the buyer has two options:

  • Rent temporary number plates from the Road Traffic Office in the canton where they are buying the car, for 24, 48, 72 or 96 hours, in order to return home with the new car before registering it in their own canton (this can be costly; the buyer must return the temporary plates); or
  • The seller cancels the permis de circulation/Fahrzeugausweis and sends it to the buyer, who then registers the vehicle in their own name and collects the car, taking their own number plates with them

Note: Once the permis de circulation/Fahrzeugausweis has been cancelled, a car may be driven until midnight on the same day, after which it becomes illegal until re-registered.

Documents required for registration

To register a vehicle (either new or used) the new owner must send by post (or present in person) the following to the local Road Traffic Office:

  • Valid driving licence
  • Proof of insurance
  • Residency permit
  • The former owner's vehicle registration papers (permis de circulation/Fahrzeugausweis) for a used car or the Rapport d'expertise 13.20A/Pruefungsbericht 13.20A if the vehicle is new or imported
  • The technical control certificate (if applicable). If the car is over four years old then the seller should provide this

When buying a used vehicle it is recommended to include a technical control clause either in the contract or the invoice. The buyer usually pays for a technical control to be carried out and the seller agrees to finance any necessary repairs.

If the car is over ten years old then it must pass a technical control test to confirm that it satisfies the norms and requirements set by the Association des Services des Automobiles (ASA)/Vereinigung der Strassenverkehrsaemter. If this test was carried out by the previous owner then it must not have been carried out more than one year before.

All imported vehicles (used or new) have to undergo a technical control test before registration.

Further Information
  • Information on registering a vehicle from Touring club Suisse: Click here (in French)
  • Recommendations when a paying a used car from Touring club Suisse: Click here (in French)
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