Buying a car

Overview

If you decide to buy a new or used vehicle once you have arrived in Switzerland, you should consider whether you have the time (and patience) to shop around for a car by yourself, or whether you would prefer the more efficient solution of having support from a professional dealership experienced in organising vehicles for newly arrived persons.

Procuring a car by yourself means visiting car dealerships on location, searching online forums and marketplaces, and handling much or all of the transaction and registration by yourself.

As this can be difficult and time consuming, some dealerships offer advisory and support services for expats. By carefully assessing their client's requirements and budget, specialised advisers will suggest suitable vehicles and provide support throughout the process.

Having no Swiss credit history, expats can experience problems obtaining leasing arrangements through from regular Swiss dealerships. Specialised expat dealerships usually have a solution for this issue.

 
 
Checklist
 
  • Assess whether you should buy a car in Switzerland or in your home country
  • Contact a Swiss car dealership early to discuss the timeline for buying in Switzerland or importing from abroad
  • Understand financing and leasing options in Switzerland
  • File quotes and purchase/leasing documents

Need to know

  • Vehicles in Switzerland can be costly. You are advised to compare costs of importing your existing vehicle (see the previous Step) with that of purchasing a new vehicle
     
  • The main "do it yourself" online marketplaces are AutoScout24 and AutoRicardo. These sites are not available in English. There are Facebook expat groups for buying and selling cars in most Swiss cities.

    In both cases, you will need a detailed understanding of the purchase, transfer and registration procedure
     
  • Regular walk-in Swiss car dealerships provide good customer service and have cars available for test driving. Bear in mind that the objective of these dealerships is to sell the cars they currently have on stock and not necessarily to guide you to the vehicle that best meets your requirements
     
  • Specialised expat dealerships often do not have showrooms, so test-driving might not be an option. But with no vehicles on stock, advisors can be more flexible in sourcing a car that meets your requirements, budget and taste
     
  • Specialist expat dealership are experienced in consulting for internationally mobile people by email and telephone. This is a great way to ensure you have a suitable vehicle ready for when you arrive in the country or shortly thereafter
     
  • In Switzerland many people finance cars using a leasing programme.

    Newly arrived persons do not have a credit history in Switzerland, and so obtaining a leasing agreement via a normal dealership can be difficult, particularly for persons holding work/residence permit B. Specialised expat dealerships are more likely to have a solution for this

How to proceed

  • Decide on your budget, and consider your needs and requirements
     
  • Decide on whether you want to source a car yourself, through a regular dealership or through an expat specialist dealership
     
  • Consider the re-sale of a car before you purchase it. How much will it be worth when you are planning to leave Switzerland? Will it be easy to sell? Can you export it to your next destination / back to your origin country?

     
  • Understand the purchase, transfer, registration and insurance processes related to buying a car

Expected timeframe

  • It can take a few months for a new car to arrive once a purchase order has been placed
     
  • To have a car ready on arrival or shortly thereafter, start working with a specialised expat dealership ideally 3-4 months before you relocate
     
  • If you are under time pressure, communicate this to the dealership (you may have to compromise on model or price)

Where to find help

  • Online marketplaces are AutoScout24 and AutoRicardo. These sites are not available in English
     
  • There are many car dealerships all over Switzerland. Advisers may or may not speak English. All documentation and contracts will be in the local Swiss language
     
  • There are a small number of specialised dealerships who are experts in helping expats get on the road. They can consult and advise in English. Most or all documentation can be provided in English, and includes re-sale information

 

Let the experts handle it for you

Markus Häfeli founded Autociel in 2002.

Markus and his team of auto experts is here to advise you on all matters related to renting, leasing, purchasing or selling cars.

 

How much does it cost

  • Vehicles are available to suit all budgets
     
  • Annual Swiss road tax is based on your engine capacity and your canton of residence, and lies between CHF 100 and CHF 1,000
     
  • Mandatory third party liability insurance varies on specifics of car and driver (see insurance provider for details)
 
 

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