Importing your car from the USA / overseas Find the right option for you

Importing your car to Switzerland from outside of Europe can be costly and complicated. It is important to be well informed and to start the process early.

There are many factors to weigh up when deciding whether or not to import your car to Switzerland from outside of Europe. For some people, importing their car from overseas is a good option.

Autociel can help you decide if importing your car from overseas is right for you. We will help you through all steps of the import process.


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.

Things to consider when importing your car from the USA / overseas

American cars, even when they are European brands, are built slightly different from European cars. Thus, they might be more difficult or more expensive to service in Switzerland. This fact also affects the car's resell value in Switzerland.

Standard practice in Switzerland is for expats to sell their non-European cars for 20% under the market price for comparable cars in Switzerland.

Another thing to consider is that 99% of all US insurance companies will not cover your car in Switzerland. You will have to register for Swiss insurance as soon as your car arrives here.

Finally, the sat-nav system that comes in many cars is often faulty or simply does not work in Switzerland. This is because only around 50% of the radio frequencies used by foreign sat-navs to determine your position work in Switzerland. Updating an in-built sat-nav can be complicated and costly. Autociel recommends using Tom Tom navigation in Switzerland.

Import fees

Swiss VAT on car imports is currently 8% and customs duties are 4% of the current value of the car. There are quite a few other bureaucratic hurdles to deal with in addition to these taxes. Find more information on the official Swiss customs page.

Autociel is an expert on importing cars and can provide complete assistance.

Carbon dioxide emissions tax

In 2012 Switzerland implemented new law requiring taxation on car emissions. Cars with high CO2 emissions values (cars that pollute more) are charged at a higher tax rate than cars with low emissions. The CO2 exchange in Switzerland answers questions about the Swiss CO2 car emissions tax and can help reduce the cost of the tax.

Importing a car to Switzerland tax-free

If you buy your car more than six months prior to beginning work in Switzerland it qualifies as part of your "moving goods", the goods you bring with you as part of your relocation to Switzerland. In this case, you would not have to pay the Swiss VAT or customs taxes mentioned above on your vehicle.

Compulsory car testing and vehicle registration

Depending on your car and whether it meets Swiss road standards, you may have to undergo testing by the Swiss car registration authorities. Each Canton has its own road vehicle authority, but they follow a common standard. Following testing, you may need to make mandatory modifications to your car in order to continue with the import. Cars with a European Certificate of Conformity can be imported without tests or modifications.

Cars that qualify as tax-free imports must be registered with Swiss license plates within 12 months of arriving in the country. Be sure to check with your insurance company to find out whether or not they will continue to cover you once you have arrived in Switzerland, and for how long.

Find professional support

Autociel has been providing expats with cars since 2002. We assess for you, in advance, the cost of importing and registering your car in Switzerland and compare that to the cost of locating and purchasing an equivalent car in Switzerland. A six month lead time is ideal for assisting customers but don't hesitate to get in touch if you have less time to work with.

We are flexible in our approach to finding you the right car. On you have the option to buy a car with cash or lease it so you can give it back when you leave Switzerland. Read the article Autociel Customer Service article for more on our individualized approach. 

Every year Autociel imports 50 cars from the USA, and the number continues to rise. We can import any car from the USA for you, with the small exception of classic cars (if you need this service contact Car Logistics). If your car needs modifications in order to meet Swiss road standards, Autociel can provide these services too.

Autociel services for importing your car to Switzerland

Autociel can provide you with the following support on car imports:

  • Calculating the full cost of importing your car before you start the process
  • Assessing whether your car qualifies as a tax-free import
  • Arranging customs clearing for both taxable and tax-free imports
  • Arranging a reduced CO2 tax fee (if your car is less than six months old) through the CO2 exchange program
  • Ordering all the necessary paperwork for the car
  • Arranging the mandatory car testing
  • Arranging registration at the Cantonal road vehicle authority
  • Key-in-hand delivery

We look forward to serving you!

Author: Markus Häfeli

Markus is an entrepreneur and owns two companies that specialise in catering to the needs of expats in Switzerland. Autociel ( 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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