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What you should know about buying a car in Switzerland

Helena Bachmann in Geneva
Helena Bachmann in Geneva - [email protected] • 18 Oct, 2022 Updated Tue 18 Oct 2022 15:17 CEST
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Buying from an authorised dealer offers some guarantees. Photo by ANTONI SHKRABA on Pexels

If you are a foreigner, you may be wondering what is involved in purchasing a vehicle in Switzerland, and what paperwork you need.

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You may believe — given how complex some Swiss rules are — that buying a car is also subject to some draconian regulations.

But you will be pleasantly surprised to discover that most of the time the process is quite straightforward.

Okay, let’s just say it is usually quite simple, but if you are looking for a vehicle right this minute, you may not find one immediately.

Blame it on the limited supply, especially for used models.

“The demand for used cars has increased", said Andrea Auer, mobility expert at Comparis price comparison platform, attributing this phenomenon to difficulties in the supply of new cars due to the pandemic and the war.

"On the one hand, this is because of longer waiting times for new cars, and on the other hand, because there are fewer trade-in offers”, she explained.

This doesn’t mean you won’t be able to find a car at all; it just means you have to be patient.

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As pretty much everywhere else, you can buy a car in Switzerland either through a dealer or a private transaction.

Also, as is customary in other countries, Swiss dealerships usually sell (both new and used) vehicles from the same manufacturer, but there are also some that have a stock of various makes.

You can also buy directly from a previous owner if you happen to find someone who is selling the model and make you want.

What are the pros and cons of buying from a dealer versus an individual?

There is no set rule, it all depends on what you are looking for.

The most common advantages of purchasing from a dealership is that you will obtain a warranty — certainly for a new vehicle and sometimes for a used one as well.

Also, a dealer can help you make financing arrangements, get your new car registered and insured, and offer some perks like free service for the first xxx miles or xxx months.

They will also likely be willing to take your old vehicle as a trade-in.

The flipside of buying from a dealer is that you can’t really negotiate down the price on new vehicles, though it could be possible for second-hand ones.

This is a list of all the official car dealers in Switzerland.

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One of the pros of buying from a private owner is that you will likely be able to negotiate on the price. Also, if you are looking for a specific car (make and year), it may be easier to find one privately, especially if it is a rare model.

On the other hand, you can’t expect a private seller to offer you any warranties, because you are buying the car “as is”. This means you will have to get it inspected by a mechanic yourself, which will add to the original purchase price.

You will also be responsible for all the processes that the dealer usually takes care of on your behalf, such as registering the car with the Road Traffic Office in your canton.

What documents do you need to buy a car?

Dealers will ask for your ID (your name and age; you must be over 18 to register a car in your name), a valid driver’s license, proof of address, and a residence permit if you are a foreign national.

You should also already have an insurance to drive the vehicle home, as driving without proper coverage is illegal in Switzerland.

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READ MORE: Everything you need to know about car insurance in Switzerland

You will also need to sign a contract.

“When you buy a car, you should make sure that a legally correct contract exists", according to Comparis.

“If the seller is a dealer, you can assume that there is a customary purchase agreement. If, however, a car is sold between private individuals, it is important to draw up a purchase agreement. It must contain all relevant information in order to prevent legal problems".

You can download a PDF template for a car purchase agreement here.

This is what must be included in a contract:

  • Make, model and type 
  • First registration date
  • Chassis number
  • Mileage
  • Date of last inspection

"For used cars there should always be a written confirmation that the car is not an accident vehicle (and if it is, the damage should be described in detail). The price and the payment method must be stated as well. Both parties sign the purchase agreement stating the place and date".

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How do you pay for the car?

Obviously, this is a question that the seller will ask. Be ready to put down an initial payment and finance the rest over time.

If purchasing from a dealership on a monthly plan, you will need to have paperwork from the bank to prove you’ve secured a loan, or you can ask the dealer to help you with this process.

A number of financial institutions offer car loans with varying interest rates, which you can compare to see what suits you best.

In case you are lucky to have enough in the bank to purchase the car outright, the dealer will give you a payment slip and you can transfer the money this way.

A private seller, however, will likely want all the money upfront.

Last but not least, is now a good time to buy a car in Switzerland?

It may not be.

Because of a limited stock, the prices of second-hand cars have increased by 28 percent, while hybrids cost 26 percent more, and the electric cars went up by 14 percent, according to Comparis.   

Also, as Swiss National Bank has raised the key interest rate in September, big-ticket items that are usually purchased with credit — like cars — have become more expensive.

READ MORE: EXPLAINED: What the steep rise in Swiss interest rates could mean for you

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Helena Bachmann in Geneva 2022/10/18 15:17

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