As of 2018, there were 4,6 million vehicles registered in Switzerland, more than one car for every two people. If you have recently bought a car or have imported one from abroad, it is essential that you register it with the Swiss authorities.
Switzerland operates a system where each holder of a driving licence has a specific number plate assigned to them or to a family, which they keep for the duration of their time driving. Some car dealerships offer to register the car for you. Do contact your car dealer for more information.
Vehicle registration for a Swiss car
Registering a vehicle in Switzerland is to make sure that the authorities know which car belongs to whom when determining vehicle taxes and speeding fines. The process of registering a vehicle depends on the origin of the car, whether it is new or old, and whether it is new to Switzerland.
Where do I register my vehicle in Switzerland?
According to the Association of Road Traffic Offices (ASA), all vehicles must be registered where the vehicle is based. This typically means that the county (canton) where the car is parked is where it should be registered. All registration documents must be sent to your local traffic office, which is usually based in the capital of your canton of residence.
Registering a new vehicle in Switzerland
If you have recently bought a new car from a dealer in Switzerland or abroad, you must register it with the Swiss authorities in order to put it under your name and number plate. If you have bought a car abroad and wish to register it, check out our guide to importing a car into Switzerland. Once this is complete, or you have bought a new car from a Swiss car dealership, you will have to provide the following to your local traffic office:
- A form from the dealership where you purchased the vehicle, designation "13.20 A".
- A tax valuation by your dealership in order to determine car tax.
Once you have submitted this information to your local traffic office, they will register the new car with you. You will receive confirmation of the registration alongside your first car tax bill. In the interim, you are unable to use the car until confirmation is provided. However, many car dealers allow you to use a temporary number plate or a loaner car upon agreement.
Swiss registration with a used vehicle
If you have bought a used car in Switzerland, the process of registration is to switch number plates from the previous owner to you. In order to register a used vehicle you must provide:
- A new tax valuation for car tax
- The vehicle’s registration document, as completed by the previous owner
Once this is complete, the vehicle will be re-registered under your licence. You will receive confirmation of this alongside a car tax bill.
Expats registering a vehicle for the first time in Switzerland
If you are new to Switzerland and do not have a Swiss number plate assigned to you, you must apply for a new one when registering your car. In addition to the steps above you must also provide your residence permit for Switzerland. Once confirmed, you will be provided with a new licence plate.
Personalised Swiss number plates
Historically, the first families to get cars in Switzerland received number plates with the lowest numbers. Typically, the lower your number plate is in Switzerland, the older and more esteemed the family is. As number plates are tied to families, the owners of ZH 1 for example are the descendants of the first owner of a car in Canton Zurich. Generally, the lower the number, the more valuable the number plate is.
Swiss number plates can be purchased at an online auction at your local traffic office. The most expensive number plate ever sold at one of these auctions was SG (St. Gallen) 1, which sold for 135.000 Swiss francs in 2018. Number plates with more than three digits sell for an average of 17.000 Swiss francs.