You can own a car, lease, subscribe to it (especially interesting for international newcomers), rent it (long or short term) or share it - there are so many options available. Find out how to tackle the car ownership issue and where to get help.
You can own a car, lease a car, subscribe to a car (especially interesting for international newcomers), rent a car (long or short term) or share a car.
Swiss motorway vignette is mandatory when driving on motorways. It costs CHF 40 per year.
It is mandatory to exchange your foreign driver’s license into a Swiss driver’s license after one year of residing in Switzerland.
Foreign license plates may be used for maximum one year.
Although public transportation is impeccable in Switzerland, cars are still quite popular, since the cost of fuel is relatively cheap. A longer trip by car might end up costing less than that of a train ticket.
Now once you decide owning a car is the right thing for you, you can either import your own car, buy it, lease it or (extremely well suited for international residents in Switzerland) subscribe to it. A car subscription is comparable to a long term car rent, but with far superior advantages. With a car subscription you have your own car, without the hassle of leasing or buying it. The contract duration is flexible and all the admin is taken care of for you. This means you don't worry about waiting in line to register the car, or pay anything car related (tax, insurance, etc), you don't even have to change the tires.
You may bring a car into Switzerland free of tax and duty if you have owned and used it for at least 6 months as it is considered to be part of your personal effects.
If you import a car, you must register it in Switzerland within one year of you taking residency in Switzerland. Foreign license plates may be used for maximum one year.
Basic car registration fee, license plates and technical check generally cost around CHF 300.
Take into account the costs of importation and any potentially necessary vehicle modifications to comply with Swiss specifications and pollution / CO2 requirements. These factors can be costly for cars designed for non-European markets.
Bear in mind that in case of repair or accident, obtaining replacement parts for foreign vehicles may also create delays and extra costs.
If you have owned your car for less than 6 months at the time of your residency registration, you will be liable for Swiss tax/duty. You will need to provide official documentation confirming the value of the car, its country of origin and a certificate of compliance with Swiss standards.
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?
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. These 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.
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.
If you are in Switzerland for a limited duration of time, then car subscription has the following advantages versus buying or leasing a car: no down-payment is required, the subscription fee includes all costs except fuel (this means you don’t pay for nor are in charge of: insurance, registration, taxes, tire change etc.) and also, you are free to change to mind, return or change the car after 6 months time. Conditions do apply.
If you have purchased or imported a car, in order to obtain Swiss licence plates for your vehicle, you will need to provide confirmation of third-party vehicle liability insurance. This covers damage incurred to third parties, and is available from most Swiss insurance companies.
Insurance against damage to your own vehicle is optional.
In addition to mandatory third-party liability vehicle insurance, semi-comprehensive and fully comprehensive coverage is available: semi-comprehensive insurance typically covers theft and damage caused by vandalism, fire, hail, storms and collisions with animals. Comprehensive insurance covers all other damage sustained by your own vehicle.
Passenger insurance covers injuries to passengers. It makes particular sense where passengers are not covered by accident insurance, for example visitors from abroad.
In Switzerland, roads are good but driving conditions can become difficult, especially in the winter. Make sure you have a good solution for roadside assistance.
Many company car and standard car insurance policies include a limited degree of breakdown recovery and roadside assistance coverage. These policies generally include pickup services, with recovery work taking place at the closest partner garage of the insurance company.
Full peace-of-mind solutions are provided by national motoring clubs. These are similar to the USA’s Automobile Club of America or the UK’s Royal Automobile Club. In Switzerland, the national motoring club is called TCS - Touring Club of Switzerland and it carries the status of a national institution. The majority of Swiss drivers are a member of the Touring Club of Switzerland.