SHARE
COPY LINK
For members

DRIVING

‘Clean the car’ – What you need to know about Swiss vehicle inspection rules

If you have been living in Switzerland for more than a couple of years, you’ve probably gone through the vehicle inspection process. As one reader recently found out, there is more to it than many people realise.

'Clean the car' - What you need to know about Swiss vehicle inspection rules
Car inspection may find problems you never knew your vehicle had. Photo by Photo by Artem Podrez/ Pexels

The fact that the Swiss are safety-conscious and sticklers for rules and regulations is not a surprise to anyone living here. This attitude extends to car inspections as well.

Reader Anna de Cleene from Geneva found this out recently when she brought her nine-year-old vehicle for inspection. This was the first time she had done this in Switzerland so her learning curve was steep. “I had no idea what the process would entail”; she told The Local.

She had to pay 70 francs upfront, but then inspectors found the vehicle did not meet all the required safety standards.

As Anna explained it, “my vehicle failed for three reasons: there was a phone holder on the windscreen, the tax disc displayed was more than one year old, and the winter tyres were not the original car manufacturer’s”.

She had to get a “certificate of conformity”, for the tyres which cost 80 francs.

For people who have never had their vehicles inspected in Switzerland, “these are easy mistakes to make”, she said.

After everything was brought up to scratch, Anna had to take her car for a second inspection, for which she paid another 70 francs.

Car inspections at a glance

Like almost everything else in Switzerland, cantons, rather than federal authorities, set testing rules.

One thing they all have in common though is that cars must meet criteria for maintenance and safety.

Generally speaking, all motorised vehicles must be inspected four years after purchase, and then every three years up to the age of seven. After that, they must be tested every two years.

This is how it works

Your cantonal inspection office will send you an “invitation” (more like summons, actually) to bring your vehicle for inspection, suggesting day and time.

If that date is not convenient, you can reschedule, either online or by calling the traffic office.

The location of the inspection will be the one closest to your place of residence.

So far so good.

However, as Anna and many others have found out, sometimes just bringing your car in is not enough.

It may be a good idea, if you can afford it, to bring the car for pre-inspection to a garage  to service the vehicle and fix whatever is not up to par.

This is not cheap; prices vary from one garage and region to another, and depend on the condition and roadworthiness of your car, but will likely cost you several hundred francs.

The advantage is that you can be sure the car will be ready for inspection and will pass it quickly and easily. If some flaw is found regardless, then the garage, not you, will be responsible for fixing it.

An important thing to keep in mind is that your vehicle has to be totally clean inside and out, including the underside. If it is not squeaky clean, the inspector may refuse to test it.

What are the fines for failing to bring your car for inspection?

Again, this depends on the canton and the reason you do not show up at the inspection location on a date and time assigned to you. without cancelling the appointment first.

This official site provides useful information about inspections, including a link to all the cantonal traffic offices.

READ MORE: EXPLAINED: How visitors to Switzerland can avoid driving penalties

Member comments

Log in here to leave a comment.
Become a Member to leave a comment.
For members

DRIVING

What costs do drivers face in Switzerland and where might you pay more?

From parking fees to motor vehicle taxes, owning a car in Switzerland can be quite expensive. These are some of the charges you should budget for.

What costs do drivers face in Switzerland and where might you pay more?

To be far, all countries have more or less stringent rules pertaining to car ownership; Switzerland is not exceptional in this sense.

Still, if you live here, it is helpful to know what various car-related costs are, and where are they the highest / lowest.

Here’s an overview.

Parking

Switzerland’s Watson news outlet analysed recent data from the Price Surveillance Office pertaining to hourly rates at municipal parking metres in various Swiss cities.

It turns out that Zurich, Lucerne, and Lausanne have the most expensive tariff — up to 3 francs — for under one hour of parking.

Bern and Biel follow at 2.2 francs, but here is a surprise: in Geneva, which, along with Zurich, is the most expensive city in Switzerland and among the priciest in the world, a parking fee for less than an hour amounts to only 1.4 francs.

Now, if you park for more than two hours, Zurich is the most expensive city, at 7.5 francs, followed by Basel and Lucerne — 6 francs in each. Oddly enough, in Lausanne, the fee for the two-hour parking is almost the same as  its rate for less than one hour: 3 francs.

These Swiss cities make the most from parking fees. 

1.     Zurich: 21,4 million

2.     Lausanne: 13,7 million

3.     Geneva: 9 million

4.     Biel: 7,2 million

5.     Fribourg: 4,2 million

6.     Bern: 3,8 million

7.     St.Gallen : 3,2 million

8.     Yverdon: 3 million

9.     Basel: 2,5 million

10.  Schaffhausen: 2,3 million

On the bright side, while paying for a parking spot is never fun, keep in mind that all the money that municipalities “earn” in this way is used for public benefit in one way or another.

Registration

To drive on Swiss roads you must have your car registered. 

In addition to the permission to drive – an important component to owning a car – your registration will get you a set of licence plates, a registration certificate and you may need to have your car inspected to see if it is roadworthy. 

As with pretty much everything on this list, the cost of registering your car will depend on the canton, but it will be between CHF50 and CHF100 in most cases. If you do need to have your car inspected, that will cost roughly an additional CHF50. 

What about the motor vehicles tax?

Anyone who owns a vehicle in Switzerland must pay this tax, used to finance the maintenance of the road infrastructure.

The amount you must pay depends on where you live and what kind of car you drive, but basically it takes into account the capacity of the vehicle, its horsepower and weight, carbon dioxide emissions (CO2), or the combination thereof.

According to consumer website Comparis, cantons of Aargau, Fribourg, Glarus, Graubünden, Lucerne, Nidwalden, Obwalden, Schaffhausen, Solothurn, Thurgau, Valais, and Zug base their tax on the car’s cubic capacity and horsepower.

Appenzell Innerroden, Appenzell Ausserrhoden, Bern, Basel-Country Jura, St. Gallen, and Uri determine the tax based on the vehicle’s weight, while Schwyz, Ticino and Vaud use both horsepower and gross vehicle weight.

In Zurich, cubic capacity and vehicle weight determine the tax, in Geneva it is based on horsepower, in Basel-City on unladen (rather than gross) weight and CO2 emissions, and in Neuchâtel only on CO2 emissions.

Your tax will be lower if you drive a car considered to be environmentally-friendly, for instance a hybrid or electrical vehicle. However, Aargau, Appenzell Ausserrhoden, Lucerne, Neuchâtel, Schwyz and Valais don’t grant any environmental discounts at all.

A typical vehicle tax rate in Swiss cities car varies from 500 to 1,000 francs a year, though it could be more or less, depending on the car model. Motorcycles tend to vary between 200 to 500 francs. 

While vehicle taxes are compulsory, some charges are self-inflicted. For instance…

Speeding fines

A speeding ticket depends on where you are caught (a town or motorway) and by how much you exceed the speed limit.

While fines are more or less standard throughout the country, as this article explains, what changes are the administrative fees attached to each fine.

 A Comparis.ch study carried out in 2021 found that motorists in Neuchâtel are usually slapped with lowest costs (50 francs in administrative fees), followed by Lausanne (60 francs), and Fribourg (73 francs).

The further east you go, however, the higher speeding-related prices are, Comparis reports.

In Bern, exceeding the speed limit will set you back  200 francs, you will have to pay 300 francs in Glarus, 350 in Appenzell. 370 in Lucerne, 430 in Zurich, 450 in Schaffhausen, and the mind-boggling 500 francs in Aargau.

READ MORE : EXPLAINED: What you should know about speeding fines in Switzerland

Toll roads

Unlike most of Europe, Switzerland doesn’t have an abundance of toll roads; the system of stopping at a booth and paying for driving on a certain section of a road is replaced  by the 40-franc motorway sticker, which should be renewed each year.

More information about this vignette is here:

Swiss vignette: What you need to know about Switzerland’s motorway charge sticker

However, toll must be paid in two tunnels: the Grand St. Bernard and Munt la schera Tunnel. Both connect their respective cantons (Valais and Graubünden) with Italy.

In the Grand St. Bernard, the toll depends on the type of vehicle you drive (based on the number of axles), ranging from 29.50 francs or 27.80 euros for the smallest vehicle to 177 francs /167 euros for a truck. Note, however, that the franc-euro conversion was calculated in 2020; these days the two currencies are closer to parity.

You can find the tolls for all car types here.

At Munt la schera, the price of a one-way ticket for a standard passenger car from December to April is 29 francs if purchased online and 35 if paid for in the tunnel. Between May and November, the price is 15 francs online and 17 at the tunnel.

Tolls for other types of vehicles can be found here.

Fuel prices

The cost of gasoline has gone up since Russia invaded Ukraine in February 2022, topping 2 francs per litre nearly everywhere in Switzerland. Adding up to the already high costs is the fact that since January 1st, petrol in Switzerland has been taxed an additional 3.7 cents per litre to finance environmentally friendly fuels.

Before the war in Ukraine, the cheapest fuel could be found at Rasthof Platenenhof station in Gampelen, canton Bern.

Another cheap fuelling option was a few kilometres away, at the Pit-Stop de Boudevilliers in Val-de-Ruz in canton Neuchâtel.

In fact, this whole region benefited from cheaper gasoline due to its proximity to the Cressier-Cornaux refinery and large volume of purchases.

Another low-cost location is in Samnaun, canton Graubünden in the region of Engiadina Bassa / Val Müstair.

The price there is 30 percent cheaper than in the notoriously expensive Lake Geneva region.

And while we can’t really talk about “cheap” fuel these days, you could possibly save a few cents per litre if you shop smartly.

For instance, auto club memberships often offer discounts on petrol. ACS  and TCS members can save between two and five cents per litre. 

READ MORE: Where in Switzerland can you find the cheapest fuel?

Larger petrol retailers will also often have discount deals, while stations owed by Swiss supermarkets like Coop and Migros also offer occasional deals.

Prices are usually the highest on (or close to) motorways, in or near large cities, and at branded chain stations. You can find better deals at smaller, independent stations away from main roads.

However, you should avoid going too far out of your way to save on fuel.  

“A one-cent difference on the price of the litre justifies a detour of  two to three kilometers, at most. Otherwise, the excess consumption drowns the economy on a 50-litre tank”, said TCS’s Erich Schwizer.

One useful website listing cheaper petrol options throughout Switzerland is this.

Insurance

While your car insurance will largely depend on the type of vehicle and your driving record, geographical aspects count too.

The amount of premiums for car insurance can therefore vary from one canton to another.

The most expensive insurance (as pretty much everything else) is located near borders or large cities, such as Geneva, Zurich, and Basel, for instance.

The reason is that the number of accidents and claims higher in these cantons, impacting premiums.

The cheapest insurance policies, on the other hand, can be found in Obwalden, Nidwalden, Fribourg, Bern, and Appenzell Innerrhoden.

READ MORE: Ten ways to save on car insurance in Switzerland

SHOW COMMENTS