Driving and owning a car Looking for a car? Need to know?

If you want to own a car in Switzerland, or even just drive one, the main things to consider are terms of buying or leasing, insurance, and taxes and regulations. Note the driver's license regulations for different countries.

The Swiss public transport system can get you almost anywhere but if you want your own car, consider the following:

Importing you car from the UK and continental Europe or from the USA/overseas

Buying or leasing a car

Insurance options and servicing


Car test

Vehicles are subject to a 4 year examination for serviceability. The owner will be notified in writing when the test has been arranged. The car must be clean inside, outside and underneath. Your garage should check the car before the test.

Motorway tax

To use Swiss motorways, the motorway sticker (called a Vignette) must be displayed on the front windscreen. It is available from the customs border, post offices, service stations and garages and costs CHF 40 per year. There is a fine of over CHF 200 for vehicles without a valid tax sticker.

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.

Driver's license

It is possible to drive with a foreign driver's license for up to 12 months. Within this first year, it is mandatory to apply for the Swiss driver's license. Applications must be made once permanent accommodation is secured but before the 12th month period is over. Licences in another alphabet (e.g. Arabic, Chinese, etc.) must be translated and notarised by your consulate.

A Swiss driver's license can take up to 6 weeks to process but you may continue to drive. If stopped by traffic police, inform them of your application and they will verify this in their system.  On receipt of the license, the original will also be returned with a stamp on the reverse stating that it is not valid for Switzerland. The Swiss license will be issued in the same categories as the original.

A test drive is required for licenses issued by countries outside of the EU or EFTA. Licences issued in Australia, USA, Canada, Israel, Japan, Korea, New Zealand, and Singapore are not subject to the test drive but additional documentation, such as proof of driving test and the issue date, may be required if not stated on the license. If you are required to take the test drive, you would be well advised to take a couple of driving lessons beforehand.


US/Canadian driving licence

US and Canadian license holders must have an attestation from authorities confirming dates of establishment, test and issue. This is mandatory in order to be issued with a Swiss license. US and Canadian licenses need to have been obtained at least 3 months before arrival in Switzerland, and this must be certified as well.

Contact the authority that issued the license or the driving school where the test was taken, requesting copies of these documents. The US Consulate in Switzerland may also assist.

Author: Markus Häfeli

Markus is an entrepreneur and owns two companies that specialise in catering to the needs of expats in Switzerland. Autociel (www.autociel.ch) caters to the car needs of expats in Switzerland and includes rental, leasing and sale of quality cars. Markus has worked with expats for over 17 years. He enjoys contact with people from around the world and takes an avid interest in cars, health and fitness. He enjoys spending time with his son.

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