Importing cars
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When importing a vehicle to Switzerland for personal use, you will be faced with one of three situations:

  • You've owned your vehicle for less than six months. You will thus have to pay import duty.
  • You've owned your vehicle for more than six months. In this case, you will not pay import duty.
  • You reside abroad. You can thus purchase a vehicle duty-free in Switzerland.

It is advisable to enter at a major border check point such as Geneva or Basle, since the smaller border posts are not always able to process car imports without prior notice.

The first person you need to contact is the customs authority, who will draw up a report required for the technical inspection (for more details on vehicle registration, see section 4).

Vehicle owned for less than six months
If you have owned your vehicle for less than six months, you will have to pay import duty when importing it to Switzerland. You will need to provide official documentation confirming the value of the car and its country of origin, and possibly a certificate of compliance.

You will be subject to four taxes:

  1. Customs duties based on the weight of the vehicle and engine capacity. So be sure to remove all baggage and non-standard accessories before the vehicle is weighed. For example, the owner of a 1,500-kg car with less than a 3-liter engine capacity will pay 210 Swiss francs in customs duties. A 2,000-kg car with more than a 3-liter engine capacity will cost 300 Swiss francs. Motorcycles pay a set duty of 37 Swiss francs. EFTA countries are exempt from customs duties.
  2. A consumption tax amounting to 4% of the vehicle's worth is collected on all vehicles.
  3. 7.5% VAT is also added for all vehicles.
  4. And, finally, a 15-franc fee is charged for the report (13.20 A), a document required for vehicle registration in Switzerland.

Example: import from Germany of a BMW 540i worth 100,000 Swiss francs (price of a new car with options and shipping to Switzerland), 4-liter capacity, 1,705 kg:

Duty to be paid on the import of a BMW 540i
There is no custom duty since Germany is a member of EFTA


4% consumption tax 4,000 CHF
7.5% VAT 7,800 CHF
Total 11,800 CHF

In this example, the import costs represent approximately 12% of the vehicle's worth.

Vehicle owned for more than six months
If you've owned your vehicle for more than six months, it is considered to be part of your personal effects. You simply have to fill in a clearance request form for moving purposes and it will be exempt from import duty and VAT. You have the right to drive your car with foreign plates for a maximum of one year. The car is reserved for your personal use and cannot be loaned, rented or sold to a third party in Switzerland for a period of one year from the import date. If you do not comply with this condition (by selling your car, for example), customs will charge you retroactive import duty. The amount is determined on a sliding scale according to the age of your vehicle. Make sure that you are legally insured to drive in Switzerland during this period.

About a month after you import your car, you will receive a letter from the motor registration office advising you that within a year your car will have to pass the official motor-vehicle inspection. The proper authority for this inspection is your canton of residence. Each canton has an Automobile Service that conducts technical inspections and issues vehicle registrations.
If your foreign plates are temporary and non-renewable, your car has to be inspected to obtain Swiss plates.

Once the test is done, you will have to pay the Swiss road tax, which is anywhere from 100 to 700 Swiss francs depending on your engine capacity. You will also have to pay for insurance and license plates.

However, you will not have to pay any import duty whatsoever, as long as you do not sell your car within the first 12 months following its import to Switzerland.

If you are only a temporary resident and domiciled outside of Switzerland, you can buy a car duty-free in Switzerland and run it on customs license plates (Z plates) for a maximum of two years.
Z plates can be issued from the Automobile Service in your canton upon presentation of a special certificate from a Swiss insurance agency. This certificate proves that your car passed the technical inspection. Insurance can be more expensive with Z plates, mainly because the fully comprehensive insurance is mandatory in such a case.

If you are planning to leave Switzerland to settle in another country, you have the right to buy a duty-free car in Switzerland and run it on Z plates for up to three months before your departure. After this time, you cannot re-import the car to Switzerland without paying duty and tax.

Specific cases
In certain situations dependent upon your status, you are exempt from import duty and VAT. Such is the case for

  • Import for marriage trousseau: the car is considered part of the goods acquired for use by a newly married couple
  • Import for succession purposes: the car is considered part of the inherited goods
  • Import for foreign diplomats: the vehicle owner benefits from diplomatic or consular privileges and immunity

For further information, we encourage you to consult the Swiss customs Web site or to contact the Automobile Service of your (future) canton of residence.

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