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German Cars. How to import used cars on your own?

31 July 2023

When buying a used car abroad, Germany remains the favorite “source” for Polish buyers. In 2022 alone, almost 416,000 used cars from across the Oder came to Poland. German cars are invariably the most popular.

Screenshot of auction listing for German cars

Buying a car from Germany on your own


Some buyers decide to import a car from Germany on their own. What is the procedure for deregistering and transporting a car from abroad if you later want to register it in Poland? And do you even have to deregister a German car to use it in the country?

When it comes to importing a car, there are many possibilities – passenger cars, commercial vehicles, vans and trucks, motorcycles or trailers. You can buy a car imported from Germany to Poland by means of a company specializing in importing cars, and you can go abroad to get a used car yourself.

In this article, we describe exactly what the procedures and formalities look like when buying a German car in order to register it in Poland. 


Where to look for offers to buy a German car?


Importing a car from Germany has to start with finding an interesting specimen (Photo: Ryan Syrle/Unsplash)

Importing a car from Germany has to start with finding an interesting specimen (Photo: Ryan Syrle/Unsplash)


The market for used cars in Germany is very large. You can come across both vehicles in good condition, nearly new cars, as well as heavily used cars with huge mileage. This is facilitated by an extensive network of motorways – annual mileage of 50.000-60.000 km is not uncommon.

Of course, you should not worry about the mileage itself. Whether it is worth buying a given car depends on many factors – primarily on its technical condition. Before you go into negotiations and start the formalities related to the purchase, order the autoDNA report. Thanks to it, you will learn about the vehicle’s history and it will be easier to decide whether a given model will meet your expectations.




Offers to buy a German car are traditionally best searched online. On advertising services, you can find offers from private sellers, as well as commissions and traders. When buying a car, it is worth comparing many different advertisements to better understand the German market.



Used German cars – from whom? 

An extensive market is divided into several segments. Used German cars can be purchased at one of many used car lots or at professional dealerships offering used cars (where the transaction is analogous to the purchase of a new car).

An alternative is to look for a car on your own on popular websites with automotive advertisements.

It is worth searching for offers issued by a private person (“Privatanbieter” option in search engines), among which you can hunt for a real gem. Importantly – and it concerns not only German cars but the whole of Europe – there is no hope for “bargains”.


It is good to know

Good used German cars cost no less than in Poland. Keep this in mind when importing a car on your own. Sometimes just a visit to the Authorised Service Point is enough to discover the real reason for the “bargain” price.



Here are some examples of German sites where you can find offers:

You can find out more in our article on German car websites.


When buying a German car – keep this in mind


Photo of a toy car placed on a clip of banknotes, representing the import of German cars and their financial impact.

How not to get ripped off when looking for used cars from Germany – and more (photo: Kredite/Pixabay)


There is sometimes a big discrepancy between the description in the advertisement and what the used car actually looks like in reality. Therefore:

  • pay special attention to the description and photos of the car – whether they are clear and how detailed they show the car;
  • contact the seller – remember that the owner of a vehicle who has nothing to hide should agree without major problems to take the car to the workshop and for a test drive;
  • calculate the costs of departure, add travel and excise (3.1% or 18.6%), VAT tax (23%) and vehicle registration in Poland, including translation of documents;
  • check the technical condition of the car. If you are not able to assess it yourself, use the services of a professional appraiser or a diagnostic station;
  • if you’re buying a vehicle as a natural person, you have the right to the lemon law.


What does importing a German car look like?

The car can be brought on a tow truck or you can hire a special car transport company for this purpose. However, it is quite expensive and has its limitations. The best solution is to bring the car “on wheels” yourself.


Volkswagen Beetle, a classic German car, on a trip, symbolizing the import of German cars and their popularity in international markets

Importing a car. What it’s like to import used cars into Poland (Photo: Wes Hicks/Unsplash)

Importing a German car – formalities and documents


It is good to know

Any arrangements made during the conversation must be written down in the contract.
Only then they have legal authority.


Registration certificate (Germany), an official document providing details and proof of vehicle ownership and registration in Germany.

German vehicle registration certificate (Fahrzeugbrief), an official document proving the registration and ownership of a car in Germany.

German vehicle registration certificate (Fahrzeugbrief), an official document proving the registration and ownership of a car in Germany.


The contract is most often written in German (and then requires translation) or in the Polish-German version. The seller should inform about the legal status of the car, whether it is not tied up with a loan, and provide the buyer with a set of documents:

  • Fahrzeugbrief – proof of ownership, the so-called large Brief
  • Fahrzeugschein – registration certificate, the so-called small Brief
  • HU-Hauptuntersuchung – confirmation of the technical condition inspection
  • AU-Abgasuntersuchung – analysis of the composition of exhaust gases
  • service book
  • vehicle card (if issued)
  • if the car had been previously imported – proof of purchase abroad and proof of payment of all taxes and duties

Before signing the contract, it is necessary to pay attention to its individual points. If someone appears in the contract as an entrepreneur or buys a car from a company, they will not have the right to lemon law. The case is similar if there is a stipulation in the contract that any defects of the vehicle are known to the buyer. After signing the contract, and handing over the keys and a set of documents, you can proceed to the necessary formalities on the spot.


yellow german plates


Purchase of a vehicle already deregistered in Germany


Stunning sunset view with a German car, representing the beauty and allure of imported German automobiles.

De-registered car on the German market – what it means in practice (photo by Leon Skibitzki/Unsplash)


The vast majority of offers on the secondary market in Germany consists of already deregistered vehicles. Why? When the owner decides to sell the vehicle, they usually deregister it. This way, the current owner does not bear the costs related to insurance or inspections. What is the procedure for buying such a car?

If the vehicle is unregistered or checked out, it should have two types of documents: “large brief” and “small brief“. There should be a stamp with the word “abmeldung“, which means the vehicle is deregistered.

For such a vehicle, if it has a valid technical inspection, you can buy the plates. You can get yellow plates (with insurance for up to 5 days) or red plates (for a period of at least 14 days). If the car you are interested in does not have a valid inspection, you can buy only the yellow plates – short-term ones.

For a vehicle that has a valid technical examination, it is best to buy the so-called yellow plates. It will be much more affordable if you plan to return by car on wheels to Poland and register it within a few following days.


Is it possible to go to Poland by car with the yellow plates?


German car in the fog, evoking a sense of mystery and ambiance, capturing the allure of imported German automobiles.

Car brought in on yellow plates – back on wheels (photo: Julian Hochgesang/Unsplash)


Yes, if it has a valid technical examination and you want to register it quickly in Poland (e.g. you buy a car for yourself). The short-term plates (Kurzzeitkennzeichen) are commonly called 5-day plates in Poland. Their validity period may be shorter, e.g. 3- or even 1-day.

However, they are usually valid for 5 days from the date of their issue. The differences in the cost of insurance for used cars are so small and amount to, for example, a few Euros that it simply does not pay to shorten this period.

Theoretically, yellow license plates are only used to move within Germany. They are there to carry out a test drive to the nearest vehicle inspection station. However, there is no problem with their recognition in other European Union countries. AustriaItaly and Denmark have agreements with Germany to mutually honor such plates.



It is worth remembering that in Poland, cars with the yellow plates can be easily driven, but not longer than the expiry date of the plates. The insurance is valid only until the end of the day stamped on the plates.


Compulsory inspection of a German car before returning to Poland on wheels

"Pre-departure car inspection for a German car before leaving abroad, highlighting the importance of ensuring the vehicle's readiness for international travel.

Inspection of a car from Germany before leaving for Poland (photo: Kate Ibragimova/Unsplash)


In order for a car to come to Poland, it must have up-to-date technical tests. A vehicle without such tests may receive yellow plates, but they only entitle you to drive to a nearby service station located in the same or neighboring county for inspection or technical tests.

If the car passes them there, you can return to the country by driving it. If not, and there are serious failures that threaten traffic safety (Gefährliche Mängel), then you can no longer drive such a car. Ignoring the provision may result in detention of the registration certificate, or at least a fine for the lack of inspection.



If you find minor defects that can be removed (“Geringe Mängel” or “Erhebliche Mängel”), you should go to the workshop to get them fixed.


After removing the faults and returning to the diagnostic station, you receive a valid technical inspection and you can return to Poland by car.


Buying a car: plates and no registration in Germany?

Yellow plates can be given to a person with a Polish ID or passport, but a second person with a German, confirmed registration is necessary when registering. There are local exceptions to this rule, e.g. yellow plates with a Polish ID can be obtained in Dresden. If you are buying a car from this city or the surrounding area, you do not need another person’s German registration.

Yellow plates in Germany are made in special points resembling kiosks – often near large commissions or communication offices. The plates are then legalized in the office where the provisional car registration book is obtained.


Plates for a German car – required documents

In order to receive valid short-term plates, a natural person should submit to the Road Transport Department (Kfz-Zulassungsstelle/Strassenverkehrsamt) the following documents:

  • eVB-Nummer, i.e. electronic confirmation of vehicle insurance – the contract can be concluded online. You do not need to know in advance what car you want to insure this way, the policy can be purchased earlier with a validity period of e.g. half a year. At the office, it is enough to provide the contract number.
  • Power of attorney if you apply for short-term plates on someone’s behalf (usually a notarial certification is not necessary).
  • A German ID card (with registration data) or a Polish ID card, or a passport along with a certificate of registration obtained previously from the relevant municipal office. Such a certificate may be produced by another person, e.g. an intermediary selling a car.

A German car: buying a car registered in Germany


Infographic illustrating the import of German cars. The image shows various procedures and important things to remember while importing car from Germany. Courtesy of autoDNA.

Import of cars from Germany — most common practices and procedures.


In Germany, you can come across advertisements from private individuals. In this case, you may encounter a very unusual situation that the car is still permanently registered on the day of its sale. Then, there are two after-purchase options.


Importing a registered car

The first option is to receive a complete set of documents from the seller along with the current registration. This will allow you to return home with “the seller’s plates”. This is how car buying and selling transactions are carried out in Poland.

A vehicle registered in Germany cannot be registered in Poland. The vehicle must be deregistered earlier in Germany, which can be difficult. For this reason, cars registered permanently in Germany are not often brought to Poland, although it is possible. You can also use the services of an intermediary.


Deregistration and temporary registration

The second option is to go with the seller to the communication department, where you deregister the car and then temporarily register it upon yourself.


Deregistering a German car – step by step procedure

Documents filled out for the deregistration of a German car, illustrating the process of unregistering the vehicle from official records.


In Germany, individual municipal offices organize the work of vehicle registration offices on their own. Procedures and the amount of fees may vary from one state to another, even significantly.

The following documents must be produced in the Office for deregistration:

  • vehicle registration certificate (“small” and “large brief”),
  • optionally – a certificate of technical examination, if you want to return with red or yellow plates,
  • purchase and sale agreement (if the transaction is concluded with a natural person),
  • a German ID card (with registration details) or a Polish ID card, or a passport with a registration certificate.


Costs of importing a German car – how much?

The costs of importing a German car may vary depending on the state. Prices depend, among others, on the size of the city and competition between companies that sell insurance and extrude plates. The so-called kiosks around communication departments usually offer packages (insurance + plates). In Berlin, where, for example, Jüterboger Straße is located, you can buy such a package for as little as EUR 50 (+ EUR 13 at the office for registering a car and issuing a temporary registration book). The more kiosks like this around the department, the better the prices.

In smaller towns, the price for the package can even be a lot more than 125-130 EUR. The price can also go up if you decide to break the package and buy insurance online (because it is cheaper), and the plates, which need to be stamped on the spot, must be bought at a kiosk anyway. Then, for example, instead of 25 EUR for the plates (in the package), you will have to pay 45 EUR for the plates alone.


Types of German temporary plates


Temporary car plates issued for an imported German car, indicating the vehicle's transitional registration status in the destination country.

Cars imported from Germany have different license plates (Photo: StockSnap/Pixabay)


People interested in buying German cars can come across three types of plates.

These are two types of export plates (single-use, assigned to a specific car):

  • yellow plates (Kurzzeitkennzeichen) short-term (1, 3, 5 days) – white background, black letters, yellow bar on the right,
  • red plates (Zollkennzeichen) for a longer period (15, 30 days or even a year) – white background, black letters, red bar with expiration date on the right

and a separate plate for test drives (reusable on different vehicles):

  • Rote Kennzeichen (Handlerkennzeichen) – white background, red letters and blue stripe on the left.


It is good to know

In Poland, you can come across cars on the roads with the “yellow boards” which have expired. This is potentially a very dangerous situation because such a car is not insured and should not be driven. Therefore, before buying a German car, it is necessary to check the legality of the plates and their date, if you want to drive with them in your car.


Yellow plates when buying a German car – prices

When having your “yellow plates” made, the following costs (indicative amounts) must be taken into account:

  • plates – 16, 22, 36 and even 45 EUR.
  • insurance for 5 days – 75 EUR, and via the Internet – 35 EUR.
  • fee at the office – 13 EUR.
  • technical examination (optional) – from 56 EUR, additionally from 14 to 26 EUR if it is necessary to fix defects
  • green card – 5 EUR.

Total: 70-110 EUR or 126-192 EUR if a technical inspection is required.


Beware of the “German contract”

Plates are not the only element worth paying attention to when buying a German car. Very often, cars deregistered from Germany are sold in Poland without legal purchase and sale agreements, with the use of the so-called “German method”.


Read more about it in the “Information Asymmetry and the Market of Lemons” publication.

In such an agreement, the seller’s data is written down from the “large brief”. For such a procedure, the buyer is subject to fiscal and criminal consequences, including the withdrawal of the vehicle registration. Its sole purpose is to reduce the tax paid by the seller operating in the grey market.


Check the vehicle history of a German car with autoDNA!


It is good to know

At, the market-leading VIN decoding tool, you can free VIN lookup on a given vehicle. All you need for this is the VIN number. In the reports, on used cars, you can find information that will allow you to check whether the seller is telling the truth or not. In the report, you can find data on various topics. One of them is the vehicle history or stolen vehicle bases. You can do a VIN check for free 24/7 throughout the year.




They are not – although the offers of traders in Poland could indicate this. Most often, however, the lower price hides the “eventful” past of the car or makeshift masked faults.

It all depends on the specific case. There are different models available, cheaper and more expensive ones. When looking for price deals, there is no reason to go to Germany. However, when looking for a well-maintained car in good condition – then definitely yes.

Also read how to import:


How to import a car from Germany: the procedures
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How to import a car from Germany: the procedures
In 2022 alone, more than 415 000 cars imported to Poland, came from Germany. Cars from Germany continue to hold a special place in the hearts of Polish drivers, with their popularity showing no signs of waning.
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