Registering a vehicle in Switzerland
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Like in most countries, Swiss cars and other vehicles must be identified with license plates.

To register your vehicle in Switzerland, you need to request license plates from the Automobile Service in your canton. If you buy your car from a garage, they will request the plates for you and take care of all the necessary procedures. You still need to provide a certain number of documents, however.

Any car sold within the European Community and that meets EU standards is automatically in accordance with Swiss law and can be imported without modification. Other vehicles, such as American cars, must undergo a specific inspection and conform to Swiss standards.

Once a car is imported, various documents are necessary for it to be registered. The procedure applied by the Automobile Service varies according to your situation. There are several possible cases:

  • Import for moving purposes (cf. Importing vehicles... 1.)
    • Import for marriage trousseau
    • Import for succession purposes
    • Import exempt from customs procedures, Z plates
  • Import of vehicles for foreign diplomats (cf. Importing vehicles... 2.)
  • Import with EUR1 compliance certificate (cf. Importing vehicles... 3.)
  • Import with no particular status (cf. Importing vehicles... 4.)
  • Import from the USA with no particular status (cf. Importing vehicles... 5.)

If you buy a second car, you can obtain interchangeable plates from your Automobile Service. This allows you to drive two or more cars under the same insurance plan and on a single set of plates. Take note, however, that only the car with the set of plates is roadworthy: the other car has to wait its turn in the garage.

Vehicle inspection
To register your vehicle, the Automobile Service of your canton has to conduct a technical inspection.
Each new car must undergo a technical inspection by the Automobile Service. (The fee for this service is 130 Swiss francs, and the registration papers cost 45 Swiss francs.)

Cars are subject to the inspection every three years (this period can be reduced to two years for older vehicles), except for new cars that do not require subsequent inspections for five years. The Automobile Service is often running behind in certain cantons, so your car could actually be summoned several months after the deadline. Of course, nothing is stopping you from asking the Automobile Service to advance the inspection date. If you want to sell your car, a good technical report is a badge of quality that is highly appreciated by the Swiss, who are rather skeptical by nature.

When your vehicle is summoned for the technical inspection, you can ask an automobile club to check your car before taking it to the Automobile Service. (The Touring Club Swiss is an automobile club much like the AAA, which offers a wide range of services such as vehicle inspections, repair cost estimates, emergency assistance or even tourist information. Its status as a not-for-profit association guarantees advantageous conditions, as the annual membership fee is only 75 Swiss francs per vehicle.)
If you wish to register an imported vehicle, the TCS can explain what modifications, if any, need to be made to pass the technical inspection. For example, the tire rib must be 1.6 mm, the vehicle must contain a triangular warning sign, there must be a CH sticker on the back of the car, and so on.

Adapting your car to Swiss safety and pollution standards is not always worth the expense: if you have an old car, it might be better to buy a new one in Switzerland and export your old one, rather than try to pass the inspection. Bear in mind, however, that the Automobile Service is more lenient with cars that have been imported for moving purposes. In fact, these cars are exempt from emission and noise level requirements.

All cars registered in Switzerland must also pass an anti-pollution test every two years (every year for very old cars). If you are stopped by the police and your pollution control maintenance record is not in order, you will be fined 200 Swiss francs.

Road taxes
The tax burden for passenger cars varies throughout the 26 cantons. On average, you will pay:

Cubic capacity


1,000 cc 125 CHF 250 CHF
2,000 cc 225 CHF 500 CHF
3,000 cc 300 CHF 7,000 CHF

If you have two or more cars running on the same set of plates, you will pay only one road tax on the car with the highest engine capacity.

Registering a vehicle in Switzerland if you are not a Swiss resident
The Automobile Service's authority to issue Swiss plates depends on where the vehicle is stationed. If you are not a resident, but have a second home in Switzerland, and the vehicle is stationed in Switzerland, then it can be registered. Plates are issued according to where the car is stationed. You must pay all registration fees and taxes in advance.

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