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February has become the month of making our VW from Switzerland street-legal in Germany. Turns out, registering a non-EU car in Germany involves navigating a confusing maze of bureaucracy for newly arrived expats.  After bouts of intense frustration and consternation, countless hours at the German “DMV,” two vehicle inspections, and multiple appointments at an auto shop to bring our VW up to the different road standards, our German registration and license plates have finally been approved.  Total cost?  Tallied at the end.  But first, the circus hoops you’ll have to jump through to register a non-EU car in Germany.

Timeline of Insanity

January 28th –  Appt at HUK to get German car insurance.  Request basic coverage only. Approved.  Cost?  €310 per year.  VW is 14 years old – fingers crossed it survives 2 more years of road trips (Lithuania, Norway, and ?!) til we leave Germany.  Problem, still have Swiss car insurance…..

February 2nd, 3:30 pm – Visit to Rathaus (town hall). Two goals.  #1. Update address at office of Einwohnerangelegenheiten (Resident Affairs).  #2. Register car at office of Kfz-Zulassungsstelle (German “DMV”).  Hours of business posted on general Rathaus website, wrong.  Kfz-Zulassungsstelle closes at 3 on Tuesdays.  Leave, dejected.   Lament loss of dollarydoos given to parking meter.

February 5th, 8 am – Return to Rathaus to accomplish two goals.  #1. Update address with authorities.  #2. Register car.  Take ticket at Einwohnerangelegenheiten, wait, meet with nice employee.  State goal #1.  Provide copy of 14-page lease as proof of address.  Rejected. Receive one-page form instead for landlord to complete.  “New law” in Germany.  Why??  Dunno, but lease is no bueno.  Leave, dejected.

February 5th, 9:30 am – Walk down hall to Kfz-Zulassungsstelle to complete goal #2: register car.  Rejoice at automated ticket machine in English!  Take ticket, wait an hour.  Number called. “DMV” rep doesn’t speaka da English.  We don’t speaka da Deutsche.  She keeps saying one word: “toof.”  Huh?  Finally, she spells it: Tüv.  Nope, still nothing.

February 5th, 9 pm:  Google Tüv.  Too – much – information.  Websites in German.  No straight answers.  So many requirements.  So many fees.  Poorhouse looming.

February 6th thru February 10th – Spend thrilling days reading about TÜV.  Mandatory vehicle inspection required on German cars every two years and for foreign cars arriving in Germany.  No biggy, need inspection before we can register it.  But first, need oil change and winter tires put on, the better to pass a TÜV inspection.

February 11th – Email Helvetia agent requesting to cancel Swiss car insurance.  Now have German car insurance.  Success!

February 12th – Receive prompt (as always) response from Helvetia agent.  Can’t cancel Swiss insurance until car is registered in Germany and Swiss “DMV” receives proof.  Now paying for German and Swiss car insurance.  Fail.

February 20th, 4 pm – Stop by A.T.U. auto shop. Schedule appointment for oil change and swapping out summer–>winter tires.  Sales rep assures us they’ll do oil change, tires, and TÜV during same appt.  Quoted cost, about €200 euros.  No problem that car is currently registered in Switzerland.  Leave, relieved.

February 20th, 7 pm – Dinner with friends downtown at Ethiopian restaurant.  Lovely evening.  Park in nearby parking garage.  Fail to see important sign.

February 20th, 11:15 pm – Offer to give friends a ride home after dinner.  Return to parking garage to find it locked.  Closed at 10 pm.  Closed Sunday.  Overcome with relief we left our dog at home and not in car during dinner.  Friends save our hides, look up bus schedule.  (We don’t have functional cell service.)  Trav buys us ice cream cones.  Friends walk us to correct station.  Catch last bus of the night.  Bus driver makes us throw away our ice cream cones.  Passengers at next stop get on with ice cream.  Bus driver lets them keep their ice cream.  Arrive home 15 minutes later, grateful for ride, grateful for friends.  Want ice cream.

February 21st – Cancel plans to drive to Harz National Park.  Car imprisoned until Monday.

February 22nd, 8:30 am – Catch bus in Nikolausberg to Göttingen.  Walk to parking garage.  Pay €28 to free our car.  Flip off empty parking garage.  Sing at top of lungs on drive home, happy to have car back.

February 22th, 2 pm – Arrive at A.T.U appointment 5 minutes early.  Pat self on back for arriving early.  Drop off keys.  In pouring rain, walk to Dänisches Bettenlager, great Danish home store, shop to kill time.  Buy new non-ratty bath towels.

A.T.U. auto shop in Göttingen, Germany

February 22nd, 3:30 pm – Return to pick up car.  Find out TÜV agent not able to do inspection – car registered in Switzerland.  Summer tires still on car – ATU not able to swap out.  Our plan, use two summer tires on back and two winter tires on front, not permitted in Germany.  New quote: €207 for oil change, purchase of 2 additional winter tires, and swapping out summer–> winter tires but without TÜV.  Say nein danke.  Weather in Göttingen is a cakewalk.  Don’t need no stinking winter tires.  TÜV can’t come to me, I go to TÜV.  A.T.U. sales rep says two TÜV locations in Göttingen.  Give directions to one “you can see from here.”  Pay €59 for oil change.  Leave, purposeful.

February 22nd, 4 pm – Search for TÜV SUD office to schedule inspection.  Not visible from A.T.U.  No phone to search Google maps.  No fancy nav in VW.  Drive around for 20 minutes, searching.  Find a home decor shop instead.  Too much pink.  Buy nothing.

February 23rd – Travis asks German-speaking friend to call TÜV and explain sitch.  Receive dire news.  Can’t get TÜV on a non-EU car. Switzerland is a lone wolf, yo.  None of that EU club-member perk BS.  Or maybe we can if we get some docs from other agencies.  Deets not clear. What docs?  What agencies?  Need proof the car is safe to drive on European roads.  Pinky promise from Two Small Potatoes, insufficient.  Geriatric 2002 with 1/4 million km prolly won’t pass inspection. Also, hear whispers we must pay import tax of 10% the car’s value + 19% VAT. 

Wha?!  Can’t be true…

February 24th, 9:30 am – Drive Swiss-registered VW to TÜV NORD, second inspection center in Göttingen.  Take 7 kg binder of official documents, ready to provide vehicle proof-of-purchase, Swiss MFK inspection record, proof of Swiss insurance, proof of German insurance, service records, small monetary bribe.  Explain sitch to nice man behind counter.  Hand over single document – half-page Swiss registration…in French. Saintly TÜV NORD agent accepts said document. Schedule same-day appt for 2 pm.

TÜV NORD in Göttingen, Germany

February 24th, 2 pm – Return to TÜV NORD.  Forty minutes later, get keys back.  Receive list of required repairs.  Have four weeks to complete or…bad things happen.  Pay €98 for regular auto inspection required every two years in Germany.  Also pay €78 for second inspection required for non-EU cars registered in Germany.

February 24th, 3:30 pm – Drive to A.T.U.  Hand over “to-fix” list.

Inspection repairs from TUV NORD

Wait 30 minutes for estimate. €597.  Types of things on list?  Downsize e-brake, €32.  ?!?  Four new tires, tread too low, €265.  Schedule appt for next day for all repairs.  Will take three hours.  Say “Thank you, bye” to employee in German.  Watch as he laughs so hard while nodding his head vigorously that his face turns red.  Must speak flawless German.  Only explanation.

February 25th – Arrive at A.T.U.  Show auto mechanic four extra tires in back of car: two winter, two summer.  Four summer tires on car are shot…need to know if four tires in back are usable.  All are.  Bad sitch though – summer tire rims are size 16.  Winter tire rims are size 15.  Agh!  Mismatched due to flat tire in Spain (long story).  Ask to swap out old bare tires with two usable winter tires in trunk and buy only 2 new winter tires.  Wait two hours instead of three.  Chat with nice sales rep.  Meet his dad visiting from Turkey.  Enjoy cup of coffee he offers.  Pay €350 instead of original estimate of €597.  Leave, elated.

February 26th, 10 am – Return to TÜV NORD.  Talk to helpful German gal with charming Scottish accent.  Request to have car reinspected.  No appt.  Wait 20 minutes.  Car passes re-inspection.  Pay €13.  Jump for joy!

TÜV NORD office is completely empty during my visit – no appt required.

February 29th, 8:30 am – Arrive at Rathaus.  Two goals.  #1. Update address at office of Einwohnerangelegenheiten (Resident Affairs).  #2. Register car at office of Kfz-Zulassungsstelle (German “DMV”).  At Einwohnerangelegenheiten, take ticket.  Wait 5 minutes, meet with employee.  State goal #1.  Hand over form signed by landlord.  Wait 5 minutes.  Leave with correct address on German visas.  Goal #1 complete!

February 29th, 8:45 am – Goal #2.  At Kfz-Zulassungsstelle, take ticket, wait 15 minutes, meet with nice employee.  Listen carefully, understand zero words in German.  Hand over TÜV report. Not enough.  Hand over US passports, Swiss driver’s license, current car registration in French. Wait in suspense.  Receive sticky note with new German license number written on it and HESS card.  Proceed to Kassenautomat (Pay Station) and pay €56 for registration.  Exit Rathaus, cross street.  Descend to questionable basement Autoschilde shop for license plates.

Meet Helmut.  Hand him sticky note with plate number.  Watch in awe as he makes our plates.  Receive two shiny new license plates.  How to attach?  Helmut to the rescue!  Pull car across street to Autoschilde shop.  Helmut removes Swiss plates with tools.

Registering a non-EU car in Germany

The Autoschilde shop across from the Rathaus has all the tools needed to swap our Swiss plates for German ones.

Return to Kfz-Zulassungsstelle with German and Swiss plates.  Take ticket, wait.  Meet with nice employee.  Show receipt for €56 for German plates, hand over German and Swiss plates, receive back German plates only.

We surrender our old Swiss plates in exchange for new German ones.

German plates now have two pretty round stickers.  Receive official letter to send Swiss “DMV” proving VW now registered in Germany.  Return to Autoschilde shop across street.  Give plates back to Helmut, who has bolted new, larger holders to our car during our absence.  Watch as he pops in new license plates.  Talk horses for a spell – he’s buying two Franches-Montagnes from Switzerland.  Also has Quarter Horses!  Thank Helmut.  Pay €22 for license plates.  Drive away in street-legal, German-registered VW.

February 29th, 3 pm – Tally up cost to register Swiss car in Germany.

  • TÜV regular inspection (Hauptuntersuchung mit einer Abgasuntersuchung , Dieselmotor) – €98.90
  • TÜV import inspection (Datenerstellung für die Zulassungsbescheinigung aus COC/Typgenehmigung) – €78.85
  • Appt at A.T.U. to complete all repairs required by TÜV – €350
  • TÜV follow up inspection to ensure repairs completed – €13
  • Kfz-Zulassungsstelle (German DMV) fees to register car – €56
  • Autoschilde shop fee for license plates – €22

Grand Total: €618.75

March 1st – Buy Costco-size bottle of rum.  Drink bottle of rum.  Now cannot drive.

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