Cross-border car purchase and registration

Consumers are increasingly taking advantage of the European Common Market to find lower product prices in other EU-countries. Many German retailers offer their cars to consumers across Europe through online websites.

For most part, sales conversations are held in English, or with the help of a translator. After an agreement is reached the salesman hands out a contract in German. But beware: This pre-written contract may differ from arrangements previously discussed!

This allows the seller to evade warranty rights and gives the supplier an unfair advantage as well as the opportunity to sell damaged cars.

Buying a Used Car in Germany: Watch out for Unfair Sales Pitches!

First Case: professional business or private sale

According to the law, the seller can only exclude warranties for the used car, either when the seller acts as a private person in private sales or when both the buyer and seller act as traders in professional businesses. To achieve this, the trader may use one of following phrases in the sales contract:

„Händlerkauf“, „Händlergeschäft“ = buyer and seller are traders  

„Käufer bestätigt Gewerbetreibender“ = buyer confirms to be trader             

„Kauf zwischen zwei Verbrauchern“ = buyer and seller are consumers

If you find the phrases mentioned above in your contract, the used car dealer will most likely try to exclude the warranty by inserting additional clauses like: „Ohne Garantie“/ „Unter Ausschluss jeglicher Gewährleistung” / „Ausschluss der Sachmängelhaftung”.

Second Case: Free of defects or defects known

Dealers also try to withdraw their warranty obligation by letting the consumer confirm that the car was sold free of defects or – even worse – the existing defects were known by the buyer.

„Verkauft wie gesehen“ =sold as seen       

„Käufer bestätigt, dass er auf Mängel hingewiesen wurde und diese akzeptiert hat“ = Buyer confirms that he was made aware of and accepts the damages

The salesman will often make promises, which he later will know nothing of. If these promises are not agreed upon and placed in a written contract, the salesman will often go back to the old sales contract and previous regulations.

„Nebenabreden bedürfen zu ihrer Gültigkeit der Schriftform“ = Supplements to an agreement need to be made in written form.        

„Ich bestätige, dass mir der Verkäufer keine Zusicherungen gemacht hat“ = I confirm that the salesman gave me no warranties or assurances.


A few tips you should keep in mind when buying a used vehicle abroad

  • Make sure that the seller is reliable: How does the seller present himself on his website? Is he selling in the backyard or in a proper shop?
  • Never sign a contract, if you do not understand every phrase that the seller uses. You could ask a German friend to come with you and read over the contract.
  • Be insistent that the supplements to the agreement are made in written form.


Buying a new car: Watch out for the VAT!

Buying a new car is always a costly investment. Sometimes, it is worthwhile to buy your car in another EU country in order to make a good deal. This is what a Swedish consumer thought when he bought his dream car in Germany for a relatively low price. He did not hesitate for long before buying “his” BMW at a Germany car dealer, who offered the car for 21.815 EUR. The sales price included VAT in the amount of 3.483,07 EUR.  The consumer therefore agreed with the car dealer that the German VAT would be reimbursed after the vehicle had been properly registered at his place of residence, Göteborg. This, however, was not the case: in vain did the consumer wait for the reimbursement, even though he handed in all the necessary documents. The car dealer gave no reaction, even upon enquiry. The consumer subsequently contacted the European Consumer Center in his home country, Sweden. Our colleagues in Sweden then got in touch with thelawyers of the ECC Germany, who in turn contacted the German car dealer. The intervention of the lawyers soon showed results and the Swedish consumer was reimbursed the full VAT amount.


A few tips you should keep in mind when buying a new vehicle abroad

  • Insist upon the car dealer specifying the reimbursement of VAT in your contract. Only in this case you are legally secured if problems should arise. In case there is no legal agreement, the car dealer is not obligated to refund the VAT amount.
  • Prepare for the purchase of a vehicle abroad: Get information from the car dealer on the documents that are needed for the smooth export of the vehicle.
  • In case of a new vehicle or one with a mileage of less than 6.000 km, you only need to pay VAT in the country where you register the car, not in the country where you purchase it. This is governed by an EU directive.

Fact sheets regarding country of purchase and country of registration

Please click on the country to get more information.

Study about cross-border car purchase and registration in the EU and Norway

The whole ECC-Net realised an extensive study in 2015, analyzing obstacles consumers may encounter when buying a car cross-border. Practical advice guides through the process from buying a car in another EU Member State or Norway to the registration in the consumer’s residence country.

Funded by the European Union. Views and opinions expressed are however those of the author(s) only and do not necessarily reflect those of the European Union or the European Innovation Council and Small and Medium-sized Enterprises Executive Agency (EISMEA). Neither the European Union nor the granting authority can be held responsible for them.