Importing cars to Germany from U.S. or Canada

Tips about the TÜV and registration

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isaak
Importing a car from North America can be tricky, beware of the Tüv!!

The Tüv can do and say whatever it wants. Without it's approval it is impossible to get German licence plates. Therefore I am taking my sweet time, and continue to drive with my Ontario plates since August. I even been to Holland, The Czech republich and Switzerland without any trouble. The police and border dudes only care about your driver's license, and insurance (which I got as I arrived in Munich, even without plates ... that was cool!)

The problem with my car is that they cannot find the model number of the engine in their databases. I verified before coming here, and apparently honda civic coupe's are sold in Germany, but I have yet to see one in Europe. Another problem has to do with the red turning signals in the tail lights, and "always on" orange in front headlights.

It cost 165 Euros for some moron at the Tüv simply to tell me what I needed to change. I have to pay them again once I've modified the vehicle. They actually wanted to me completely change my front headlights because of the orange nightlights, but I finally convinced them that I could dissable the bulbs as to have only orange turning signals. That saved me 300 euros. So my suggestion is, consult the dealers all over Germany about their opinions, and compare your car with the European version, if there is one.

I finally got an estimate for the work. New tail lights, an engine block stamp, and a rear set of foglights (obligatory on 1999+ models) will cost me under 600 Euros. I just can't wait to see what the Tüv will charge me when I visit them again next month!

My car is certainly not a carrera4, but it sure gets attention from other drivers because of those funny Canadian plates, and it's funny vomit color. I've got another 2 months to keep driving with these plates, so maybe you'll catch me on my way to work on Thomas-Wimmer ring or Isartorplatz.

Related topic: Importing a car from the U.S.
randy
If they absolutely cannot find you're engine in their database - then you're going to have to pay dearly for the Tuev to do the correct, first-time inspections. Such as the sound check (idling, and fixed rpms on the track). It cost me ~220 for that one. Plus the mods to the front and rear lights as you mentioned; the additional fog light; and the inspection itself will cost ~200.

On the bright side, you'll be a hero to those who follow after you, who have the same engine - but won't need the full battery of tests as yours will already be in the Teuv database.
randy
Well, I finally got my import registered today. New, boring terrorist-friendlier German plates, whew. I didn't see the following anywhere else on the net; the final two gotchas were:

If you can't get the rear red tail-light blinkers changed - then you won't be able to sell the car in Germany. Technically, it's an illegal car - with the sole exception for the importing owner. The car will be refused registration in the event of a sale. Dunno about sales in other countries though...and maybe only U.S. cars have red blinkers - so not a worry for other EU importers?

If the standard German license plates won't conform to the molding - be sure to have the Tüv mark down the dimensions that will be required on the "Gutachen zur Erlangung der Betriebserlaubnis". Standard dimensions are:

Car - 52w x 11h
Motorcycle - 34w x 20h

Centimeters, of course. Happy driving!
ubercam
I know this is a super old topic... BUT I'm thinking of doing exactly this and I'm having a hell of a time finding any information about this! This is the closest thing to some real information I've ever seen, so forgive me for digging up a 3 year old post!

Anyways, here's my story:

I'm in my final year at Uni, I'm 22 years old, 23 in February. I'm in the process of applying for a position as a Fremdsprachenassistent with the CAUTG or the Government of Manitoba (through an education agreement with Niedersachsen & Hamburg) for at least the 2006/07 school year. I might decide to stay longer, so who knows. I'm going to apply for Bayern, Berlin or Rheinland-Pfalz for the program. I was in Germany in Trier on exchange for the 2004/05 academic year. I had an absolute blast, but I was dearly missing my car, despite european fuel prices (I was 15 mins away Luxembourg, so it was like €0,95/L when it was €1,30 in Germany). I won't have any idea as to where I'll end up, or even whether I'm accepted before next April, so it's a long time coming yet. I like to plan everything in advance. I also don't know how long I'll be staying there, but at least 1 year, possibly more. It all depends on a billion things right now.

As for a car, I have a 1997 VW Golf, which I am sure complies with all the German tail/head/blinker light rules. My blinkers are orange, I have ones on the side, the headlights don't have orange in them, etc, like you guys were complaining about American market cars. No rear fogs, but my car is not 1999+, so I doubt I have to worry about that. German cars sold outside of Europe tend to still comply w/ the European standards for lights and signal markers, since they are better than the American/Canadian standards anyways. I've also been told they purposely make them way better than they need to be so they definitely pass the necessary inspections by the respective transport agencies to be allowed to be sold in the US/Canada.

The only thing that worries me about my car is that VW, for some reason, created a Canadian market ONLY 1.8L gas engine, the ACC or AAC model, I forget exactly which, but I know from the VW service manuals it's Canadian only. My best guess is this was due to differing emissions laws in the US. I can't afford the TÜV telling me it's not in their database and €600 of "tests", and for what? It's a VW for Pete's sake!

Also, someone mentioned driving around with Ontario plates on German insurance. How the hell did you do that? I asked Autopac (our craptastic public insurer) if their insurance covered Europe and they of course said no (why would it?), but I never got a straight answer out of them as to whether I can keep the Manitoba plates without Manitoba insurance. Also, did you have to put a CDN sticker on your car to identify it as being Canadian? I know you're meant to put those on. I have a D on my car right now, just for fun.

Also, which insurer did you use in München? My friend's Bavarian cousin told me that Bavaria has it's own state public insurer (like Autopac & SGI), but I'm not sure if that was bounced off the language barrier a couple times. Also, if you don't mind, how much was the insurance for a year on a '99 Civic? Is insurance more expensive because the car isn't common and difficult to find parts for? What about accident history and speeding tickets and things? I know they can't access those details from your home insurance company because of privacy laws, but did you declare them or not? I tried using an online insurance calculator thing, which by fudging some details (like plate #, and Schlüssel number... whatever that is) and guessing my way through most of it, I got what I guess is a half decent price (just under €700) on a full year of Vollkasko with all the trimmings. That's cheaper than a year of Autopac w/ a full 5 merit discount. Though, insuring there with German plates wouldn't be so bad after all, but I'd miss the ol' MB plates. They have pretty trees on them, and come in handy with those pesky speed cameras and getting out of London congestion charges.

Another option I considered is selling my car, and buying something even older that will be 15 years old by the time I decide to go home, so Transport Canada even considers it being allowed in the country. That or store it in my girlfriend's parents' back yard (sorry, back garden) in England until I return... if they let me of course Something like an older MK2 Golf or a Corrado perhaps. Nothing too expensive though, but definitely something German! Anyone have experiences with bringing a car back home to Canada, or the US, but more specifically Canada.

Thanks,
Cam
Hutcho
Doesn't it cost an absolute fortune to import a car? I remember once I was going to ship a box hardly bigger than a suitcase from London to Australia and it was going to cost me 150 pounds, and I really looked around for the best deal. I can only imagine it would be thousands to import a car.

Why not sell it in Canada/US and buy a new one here?
Keydeck
We shipped a car from South Africa to Ireland and it cost about €1500. Doesn't sound like it'd be worth it for an old Golf. I'd sell it and buy in Germany. If you don't end up staying too long you can just buy something else on your return to Canada. It is a LOT less hassle than having the car shipped over here, dealing with the necessary paperwork, etc, etc.
Allershausen
It does seem a bit pointless, a Volkswagen to Germany? Have you ever heard the phrase 'Coals to Newcastle'?
Ketchup
All I can say about this is that I investigated this when I came over years ago and in the end you'll save yourself a lot of trouble by not bothering. If I remember correctly, it would have been a financial wash for me at best so in the end I was better off selling my car at home and buying a new (used) one here. Check www.mobile.de, there's a large used car market in Germany and it's a lot less hassle. If you're not going to be here that long you might want to consider a long-term rental contract too. Depending on where you will be living, you may not need a car at all. You can certainly make a good argument against owning a car if you live in Munich. Then you could always just rent one for the odd occasion.
ami58
My sage advice is to leave the car at home so you'll have it when you go back. Just because it's a VW does NOT mean you won't have to change the head and taillights plus many other things. When I moved here my van fit in the container with our other stuff. Cost approx. 750 Euros to change the headlights and add a red fog light on the back, and upgrade the brakes. For you this money is better spent on a yearly train pass. Plus the insurance for someone your age is extortionate here.

If you'll only be here for a year or so, you don't need a car as the puiblic transport is excellent and will get you anywhere you want to go. If you need a car for a special occasion, Sixti will rent you one on the weekends for really cheap, from 5 to 8 Euros a day if you hit the right day (www.sixti.de).

BTW I was able to drive with my Michigan plates for 6 months before I had to get German ones.
Joe_Frank
Please, let me know which insurance I can use for the first 6 months in Germany on California Registered License Plates before I get my car ready for TUV.

Thanks.
saradj
Hi,
we moved to California in June, because of a nice job offer. We might have to go back to Germany soon though(like next June). So I was wondering, since we bought a new MAZDA CX-7 here, what is the process and does someone know about importing Mazdas from US to Germany? Thanks!
2B_orNot2B
Please, let me know which insurance I can use for the first 6 months in Germany on California Registered License Plates before I get my car ready for TUV.

Thanks.
Hard to understand why Joe Frank, a TT member several years, even dug up a 3 year dormant Topic not titled anything like Car Insurance to post this question. I imagine he did remember how to use the Search Box to find a more relevant thread meantime.

Hi,
we moved to California in June, because of a nice job offer. We might have to go back to Germany soon though(like next June). So I was wondering, since we bought a new MAZDA CX-7 here, what is the process and does someone know about importing Mazdas from US to Germany? Thanks!
Hi saradj

welcome back to TT

May I suggest you check out these other 3 relevant Toytown threads, dealing with the subject of your enquiry, I am adding below. There is a larger amount of good info, including import taxes, TÜV conversion costs, in these threads although a some of it may not be relevant to your specific case.
If, after reading all 3 threads you are still in need of further info or advice please feel free to PM me your specific questions.

Anyone ever sold an American car to a German?

Importing a car into Germany from the U.S.

Probs converting U.S. spec car lights for Germany

For any other future readers: BEFORE adding questions to dormant Topics or starting new ones you can usually obtain swifter help if you first follow the advice in the Forum Guidlines and learn about the humongous archives of TT.
It is often easier to find them than posting (already dealt with) questions by putting a few key words pertinant to your needs in to the SEARCH BOX (top right) and if no (or few replies) come up then use the Website Options in the system for FULL SEARCH or the Google Supported Search.

HTH

2B

Edit:PS. You may find this info on shipping a car from California to Bremerhaven in a container very useful too.

ladybeans5
My husband shipped a new Audi from the US to Germany. Even though he still saved money in the end. It was SUCH a pain in the ass. It was unbelievable the differences between a German Audi and an American Audi. The newer cars are made to be purposely difficult to switch over. Audi is well aware of how much cheaper it is to buy one in the US and ship it, and they have taken steps to prevent it. And as someone earlier wrote, it's very difficult if not impossible to sell later. The only reason why it was worth it was because the car was practically new, but not new enough to pay VAT. It cost about 3000 USD to ship from NY to Hamburg. And another 1000 Euros to bring it to German standards. But it's still not perfect, the GPS system in the car does not function, the car is programmed to not go faster than 220 km/hr, and as of right now, not even Audi can do anything about it because it was made for the American market.

One suggestion: try to find a garage that specializes in imports and have them do the Tuv work for you. The guy my husband used was friends with the TUV and that made the process at bit easier. But it still took a long time and would not be worth it for an older car.
kathik
the car is programmed to not go faster than 220 km/hr, and as of right now, not even Audi can do anything about it because it was made for the American market.
I would freak out if my husband wanted to drive faster than 220 km/hr, especially with all the kiddos in the car too . And really, are there many opportunities to even go that fast on the autobahns? They always seem much too full, and here around Munich, I swear people drive much slower than other parts of Germany - 3 or 4 lanes of traffic and they are all going 100 km/hr. Could be because of the congestion, of course.

We used Kalkhofen in Bremerhaven to do our conversion - you can contact them and they can give you a quote as to how much it might cost to convert. They are a good place to start. Ours cost 1500€ as it was a VW Routan, and they were apologetic that it cost so much -they had never done one before, and they couldn't find a cassette to fit for the lights. The mazda might be easier to deal with.

I will admit that the car part was the most stressful part of the move for us (documents like the contract to buy the car were in the container and German Zoll wanted to see it) - so if you know ahead of time what paperwork to have and what to expect, that should ease the pain. Of course, it was most stressful as the company moved our household goods but not a car, so we had to figure that out ourselves. Our shipping and insurance was about $2000 from NY to Bremerhaven, I believe.
2B_orNot2B
The shipping costs I'm reading here are unusually high, IME.

I did sell U.S. cars in Germany for about 12 years and could see what both the wholesale and retail charges were. I do see that inflation could have had some effect, but according to what I read we're on +500% in 14 years.

According to the TTer who wrote contents of my last link in post #12 he was still able to ship a new Honda from Southern California to Bremerhaven in a container for $1350 US last year (2009). Anyone considering the shipping of a car from the USA would probably do well to check out that link.

2B
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