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Buying or Selling a Car

Switzerland - Buying or Selling a Car

When buying a car to use in Switzerland, you have two main options, i.e. to buy from a Swiss dealer or to import from another EU country. You will need your residence permit to be able to register the car in Switzerland, therefore it is not advisable to buy until you have obtained your permit.

By importing you can often find better deals, but do need to be aware that offers such as free servicing are sometimes invalid outside the country of purchase, and that Swiss garages may charge higher costs for work on your vehicle. The resale value can also be a little lower as the Swiss prefer to buy cars originating from Switzerland and reportedly the more vibrant colours that are popular elsewhere are not to the modest Swiss tastes. In most cases you should avoid importing a right-hand drive car.

You will need to follow the import procedure outlined in the previous section and to pay tax and VAT. You will later be able to reclaim the VAT you paid in country of purchase and with the Swiss VAT rate being lower than other European countries this should save you money. Ensure you obtain all the necessary paperwork from the dealer, including the official invoice, a certificate of CO2 emissions, insurance details, and the registration document.

When buying in Switzerland, you can either buy from a Swiss dealership or from an import lot (Direktimport) located in Switzerland. They will take care of the import process for you and the costs for this will either be taken into account in the purchase price of the vehicle or you will be given a separate quote for import charges.

If you buy from a dealership, they will take care of registration of your vehicle. Cars sold via Swiss dealers tend to have high specifications, although this is reflected in the premium prices. You will also have the advantage of knowing you can resell your car in Switzerland without difficulty and of building a relationship with a local garage which may be helpful for future repairs and maintenance. Whether buying new or used, it is acceptable to negotiate a better price. You may be offered finance but should look into the small print carefully and it is generally safer to pay the full price upfront. Also check the purchase agreement to ensure it includes all relevant details such as make, model, modifications and accessories, mileage, and the final price. The year of manufacture should also be double-checked if you want a brand new car made to current specifications and not one that has been in storage. You should be wary of clauses that allow the dealer to increase the purchase price of a new car during the period before delivery. You can expect to receive a warranty with a new car covering 2 to 3 years or 100,000 kilometres. You may also be offered free servicing for a number of years or up to a certain mileage, but should weigh this up against the cost of the vehicle which is likely to be higher.

You can also buy a used car privately and will find adverts online via services such as comparis.ch, which has a 'car finder' search facility in English, or via the used car market search on the TCS (Swiss Touring Club) website. The Swiss equivalent of eBay is Ricardo.ch and this has a large selection of cars throughout Switzerland. Be alert for scams which can occasionally crop up. Sellers are given ratings so check these before parting with your cash, and inspect the vehicle if possible before committing to a purchase. Payments can be made via bank transfer. Ensure you receive the car registration document (Fahrzeugschein), which will normally be stamped with the word 'Ungultig', meaning the seller has had it annulled by the local traffic authority. Whether or not it has been stamped, you can now transfer the registration to your own name by visiting your own local traffic office (Verkehersamt).

If selling your car, you will often have the option to part-exchange your vehicle against a new one at a dealership, but don't expect to be offered a good price for it. The TCS recommend that you first check the current market value of your vehicle, which you can obtain from Hotline 0900 900 047 (CHF 4.23/min). There is a quick value calculator available without cost on the front page of the Car Market section of comparis.ch.

Adverts to sell privately can be placed via Autoscout.ch, Ricardo.ch and similar online services. You will first need to register as a member of the site, which on Richardo.ch can take a couple of days to complete, and will also have to pay a fee to advertise. Once you have a buyer, you will need to hand the registration document over with the car. You can have this annulled by your cantonal traffic office or at the post office but will not be able to drive it once this has been done. If the buyer is from another canton you will need to hand in the licence plates to the authorities so should remove them from the vehicle before handing it over. For peace of mind, you may wish to ask the buyer to sign a copy of your sale contract. Remember to advise your insurance company that the vehicle has been sold.

Useful Resources

Classified vehicle advertisements online:
Comparis.ch Car Finder
TCS Used Car Advertisements
Ricardo.ch Auto Section

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