If you would like to bring your car or motorbike with you to Switzerland from your previous home or wish to return with a vehicle you have purchased in Switzerland, you must go through the import / export process. Switzerland is not part of the EU but has agreed to reduce customs rates for cars from EU countries. If you plan to use a foreign car in Switzerland for a long period of time, you must declare it.
Importing a vehicle into Switzerland
The amount you must pay to import a vehicle into Switzerland is based on how long you have owned the vehicle and where the vehicle is from. Each car and motorbike has a detailed sales history, showing where the vehicle was purchased and when it was imported. The system applies to used and new vehicles in different ways. When you reach the Swiss border, you must declare that your vehicle is being imported to the border authorities.
Importing a used car or motorbike into Switzerland
If you have owned your vehicle for over six months, it is counted as a personal possession. This means that you will not have to pay any duty on it and may pass freely into Switzerland. At the border (Zoll), you will not have to declare the car or motorbike specifically, but as part of the total assets that you declare when moving to Switzerland.
In the process you must provide:
- An identification document or residence permit
- Vehicle registration documents
- Proof of residency for Switzerland (generally considered to be a rental contract or deed if you have bought a house)
- Declaration of household effects as part of moving to Switzerland
Once this is complete and you have successfully entered Switzerland, you will only have to go through registration - see below.
Importing a new vehicle into Switzerland
If you have owned your vehicle for less than six months or are trying to import a brand-new automobile, it cannot be classed as personal property and must be declared. This means that you must provide the following documents to the customs authorities:
- Proof of residence in Switzerland
- Proof of purchase
- Vehicle registration
Cost of importing a new car or motorbike
The costs involved in importing a new vehicle into Switzerland are significant as you must pay duty and value-added tax. The costs involved are:
- 4 percent of the vehicle's value as a vehicle tax
- 8,1 percent of the vehicle’s value as value-added tax
- 12 to 15 Swiss francs per 100 kilograms of weight, if the car is not from the EU / EEA or the United Kingdom
Once you have declared and paid the duties, you must register the vehicle for the first time.
Swiss vehicle registration
If you have successfully imported a car or motorbike into Switzerland, you must have it registered to get new Swiss number plates and to allow the vehicle to drive in the country more permanently. New vehicles must be registered within one month of arriving in Switzerland, whereas used cars and motorbikes can be used for one year before having to be registered.
Motor vehicle inspection
In order to register your imported vehicle, it must be deemed to be safe and compliant with all Swiss traffic laws. The motor vehicle inspection will be completed alongside regular registration and will determine whether your vehicle is safe to drive on the roads. Motor vehicle inspections must be booked at your local traffic office.
When should I book a motor vehicle inspection in Switzerland?
If your vehicle is classified as a personal possession, you will be able to use it for one year on foreign plates before you must go through registration. Do bear in mind that vehicle inspections can take up to six months to book, so it is advised to book as early as you can.
Vehicles classed as new must be registered within one month of arrival, so it is recommended to book your vehicle registration and inspection as soon as you arrive.
Documents to provide for a Swiss motor vehicle inspection
In order to complete a motor vehicle inspection, it is essential that you provide the following documents:
- A full inspection report as provided by your dealer or garage.
- Confirmation that you have motorbike or car insurance in Switzerland.
- Proof of vehicle registration in a foreign country.
- A full inspection report as provided by your local traffic office.
- An anti-pollution booklet, as available from your dealer or garage.
- Confirmation that you have declared the vehicle to customs.
- Full specifications of the car as confirmed by a maintenance booklet.
- Confirmation of compliance with European standards, if your vehicle is not from the EU then you will need an exhaust gas and noise emissions certificate.
You will also need to confirm that you have paid for a vehicle registration before attending.
Once you have provided the relevant documents, your car will be assessed to see if it fits the criteria as road legal for Switzerland. If it passes, you can use the vehicle in Switzerland. If it does not pass the motor vehicle inspection, all faults must be fixed before applying again.
Cost of a motor vehicle inspection in Switzerland
The cost of a motor vehicle inspection is determined by the type of vehicle. The costs also vary by county (canton) and are payable on top of any charges for importing the vehicle. The average cost for a motor vehicle inspection is between 100 and 1.000 Swiss francs.
Can I drive a left-sided vehicle in Switzerland?
According to Swiss regulations, you are allowed to operate a British or left-sided vehicle on Swiss roads. As long as you have the correct documentation and have successfully imported and registered the vehicle, you should be able to operate the car indefinitely. However, you must apply a “GB” sticker to the rear of the vehicle, regardless of licence plates. Please bear in mind that driving a left-sided vehicle on Swiss roads will lead to reduced visibility, so it is recommended to purchase a right-sided vehicle as soon as possible.
Exporting a Swiss vehicle
If you would like to export a vehicle from Switzerland permanently, you must go through the customs process. This process is to ensure that the appropriate payments have been made and that your vehicle complies with the criteria used to export.
In order to export the vehicle, you must complete the following actions:
- Complete a full customs declaration. This is a similar document to importing a vehicle and can be found at the customs office at the border.
- Transfer of plates to the national number plates of where you are importing to, or export control plates as provided by the customs office.
- Application for a duty-free import if you are importing to a member of the EU or a nation that has a free trade agreement with Switzerland.
Once this is complete, your vehicle will be ready to leave Switzerland. Please consult with the country you are importing to for further instructions.