When you want to import cars to Poland, Germany is one of the most popular sources. In quarter 1 of 2021 alone, of 227,500 cars imported to Poland, more than 133,000 came from Germany. Cars from Germany are still very popular in Poland.
Some buyers decide to go to Germany and bring their new car on their own. So what does the procedure look like when you want to de-register the vehicle in Germany, transport it to Poland and register it here? And do you even have to personally de-register the vehicle in Germany in order to drive it here?
If you have already chosen a particular car, then you can go to Germany by train, or fly there, or have someone drive you. Then you can buy the car and drive it back to Poland. This text will explain to you all the procedures that apply when you buy a car in Germany and want to register it in Poland.
The offers: how and where to look?
The Internet offers an abundance of “experts” who sell second-hand cars from abroad. Unfortunately, these may be grey market cheats (read more in the autoDNA publication: “Second hand car purchase roulette is over”). In the majority of cases, the vehicles they sell are damaged or otherwise faulty, and a lot of effort is put in hiding these faults from the buyer. Alternatively, you can go to a German dealer but it will be difficult for you to negotiate a good price or get a discount.
Contacting the middlemen: the good practices
- pay close attention to the description and photos: are they clear? do they show a lot of details?
- If you find a very good deal, it is best to first contact the seller, discuss the sale and negotiate a test drive that will allow you to check how the engine, brakes and gearbox perform.
- remember that an owner who has nothing to hide will not make a fuss about a test drive
- calculate the cost of the logistics, including the excise tax (which is usually 3.1% or 18.6%), VAT (23%) and registering the vehicle in Poland (together with translation of the documents (a few hundred PLN).
- check the technical condition of the vehicle If you’re lacking the skill to do it yourself, ask a professional appraiser or a diagnostics station.
- if you’re buying the vehicle as a natural person, implied warranty applies. This means that up to a month since the purchase, discovering faults may entitle you to a partial refund of return of the vehicle.
Import cars: what does it look like?
You can bring the car to Poland on a trailer or have a specialised company do it for you. Mind you, this is quite expensive and you need to account for certain limitations. The best option is to drive the newly purchased car back to Poland on your own.
Checking the agreement and documents
Whatever you agreed on while discussing the sales with the seller has to be written down in the agreement. Only then can you be sure it’s legally binding. In most cases, the agreement is made in German (so it’ll need translation) or in Polish and German. The seller should also inform you of the legal status of the car, i.e. whether it’s not a loan, and hand over the following set of documents:
- Fahrzeubrief – proof of ownership
- Fahrzeugschein – registration book
- HU-Hauptuntersuchung – proof of the technical inspection
- AU-Abgasuntersuchung – exhaust analysis
- service booklet
- vehicle card (if it has been issued)
- (if the vehicle was previously imported), the proof of purchase abroad, as well as proof of payment of all the applicable taxes
Before you sign the agreement, pay attention to every detail in it. If one of the parties is an enterprise and not a natural person, the implied warranty will not apply. Similarly, you will lose the implied warranty if the agreement says that all the faults are known to you. After the agreement is signed and you receive the keys and documents, you can start the required procedures in Germany.
Purchasing a vehicle that is already de-registered in Germany
The majority of offers present vehicles that have already been de-registered in Germany. Why? The owner usually de-registers the car the moment they decide to sell it. This guarantees that they will not have to continue paying for insurance and inspections. How do you buy a car like this?
If the vehicle is not registered or de-registered, then it should have two documents: “a big brief” and “a small brief“. You should see the “abmeldung” stamp, which means: de-registered vehicle. If the car like this has a valid technical examination, you can buy the plates. You can choose the following export plates: yellow plates (with up to 5 days of insurance) or red plates (with at least 14 days). If the car doesn’t have a valid technical examination, then you can only buy the yellow, short-term plates.
Remember this: even if the vehicle does have a valid technical examination, the yellow plates will still be a better deal for you. If you’re planning to drive the car back to Poland yourself and register it no longer than a few days after, this option will simply be cheaper. In the end of this text, you will see a detailed comparison of all the costs.
Can you drive a car with yellow plates back to Poland?
Yes you can, so long as the car has a valid technical examination and you are able to quickly register it in Poland (for example, when you’re buying the car for yourself). The short-term plates (Ger. “Kurzzeitkennzeichen”) are popularly called “5-day plates” in Poland. Despite that, they can be valid for a shorter time: 3 days, or even just 1. In the majority of cases, they are valid for 5 days since issuing. The difference in insurance price is so low (it’s usually a few EUR) that there is no point going for less than 5 days anyway.
Theoretically, you can only drive the yellow plates in Germany. They are there to allow you to do a test drive to the nearest diagnostics station if the vehicle has no valid technical examination. However, all the other EU countries accept them anyway. Austria, Italy and Denmark have signed contracts with Germany to confirm these plates will be honoured. A number of non-EU countries honour these plates as well: these include Switzerland, Bosnia, Macedonia, Belarus, and even Iran.
You can drive them in Poland but only until their expiry date. The insurance only applies until then.
The technical examination of the vehicle required before you drive it from Germany to Poland
In order to drive the car back to Poland, you need to make sure it has a valid technical examination. If there’s no valid examination, you can obtain the yellow plates. They will only allow you to drive to the nearest diagnostics station (based in the same or neighbouring area) in order to complete the compulsory technical inspection. If the vehicle passes the examination, you can drive it back to Poland. If it doesn’t, and the station discovers serious faults that make driving dangerous (the so-called “Gefährliche Mängel”), then the vehicle can not be driven any further. You may still decide to drive this car but if you’re caught, you may lose the registration card. If you’re lucky, you will “only” get a ticket for driving without a valid technical examination.
If the station discovers minor faults that can be removed (“Geringe Mängel” or “Erhebliche Mängel”), then you need to go to a mechanic and have them removed. The plates remain valid, you can still drive short distance. When the faults are removed, you need to go back to the diagnostics station to get the proof of valid technical examination, and then you can drive the car back to Poland.
What if you’re not registered in Germany?
The yellow plates can then be obtained by a person with the Polish passport or national ID but another person who is registered in Germany must be present. There are exceptions to this rule. For example, Dresden issues yellow plates so long as you have a Polish ID. If you’re buying a car from Dresden or somewhere close by, you won’t need to be registered in Germany.
The yellow plates are issued in designated places in Germany that look a bit like kiosks. They can often be found near any bigger dealership or transportation offices. They are then legalised in the office where the temporary registration book is issued. There used to be a procedure where a pink registration book was issued and you had to fill it in yourself. You could buy the plates before you bought the car. This doesn’t apply anymore and you no longer have this option.
The documents required to get valid short-term plates for a car from Germany
- the “eVB-Nummer”, or the electronic confirmation of vehicle insurance (you can arrange this on-line). You can buy this insurance early as you don’t need to determine what car will be insured. The insurance can be bought for example for 6 months. The office will only ask for the number of insurance policy contract; the clerk will use it to get your data via the policy that they have in the system.
- Proxy, if you’re applying for the short-term plates on behalf of someone else (in the majority of cases, the official forms or notary validation are not required).
- A German address registration (which confirms the address), a Polish ID, or a passport accompanied by the confirmation of registration that you can obtain from your applicable local office. This confirmation can be presented by another person such as the middleman who is selling the vehicle. In some cases a Polish ID will suffice but the clerk may also ask you to present your driving license. The reason is that while the Polish driving licenses still have the address, the new Polish IDs don’t.
Vehicle from Germany: how to buy a car registered in Germany
Popular car selling websites in Germany (Mobile.de, or Autoscout.de) feature offers placed by private sellers (“Privatanbieter”), too. These are people who decide to sell their car on their own, that is, without a middleman or a dealer. In situations like this, you may come across a situation that is very uncommon in Germany: at the time of the sale, the vehicle is still permanently registered. In situations like this, there are two options:
- the seller will provide you with a complete set of documents together with the valid registration and you will be able to drive home with “their” plates (like you would in Poland)
- the seller will accompany you to the transportation office where you will first de-register the car, and then you will temporarily register it in your own name. In the first case, you will be obliged to unregister the German registration later on, which may be very difficult since both the car and yourself will be in Poland. A vehicle registered in Germany w cannot be registered in Poland. De-registration in Germany is required first. Theoretically speaking, the Polish law does allow to proceed without de-registration but in real life, hardly any transportation office will agree on that. Only some of them will agree to collect the German plates from you in order to send them back to Germany. If the office refuses to do this, you need to reach out to the German consulate, which is both costly and time consuming. This is why vehicles that are permanently registered in Germany are hardly ever imported to Poland, even though it is possible to do so. You can also have a middleman arrange this.
You can do the de-registration yourself but you need to do it right after purchasing the car in Germany.
De-registration of a car from Germany, step by step
In Germany, the city and town halls handle the work of the vehicle registration offices on their own. The procedures and fees may vary significantly between the states.
A registered vehicle has the so-called “big brief” (which is the equivalent of the Polish vehicle card) and “small brief” (which is the actual registration book). In order to de-register the vehicle, you will need to present the following documents:
- registration book, part 1 and part 2, or the “small” and “big brief”.
- optionally, proof of technical examination (which is a stamp in the registration book, always valid until the end of the stated month, as well as a paper from the station, such as DEKRA or TUV). This applies if you want to drive back with the red or yellow plates.
- If you bought the car from a natural person, then at de-registration, you will also be asked to present the purchase-sale agreement signed in the given land.
- A German ID card (which confirms the address), a Polish ID, or a passport accompanied by the confirmation of registration that you can obtain from your applicable local office. (This confirmation can be presented by another person such as the middleman who is selling the vehicle.) In some cases a Polish ID will suffice but the clerk may also ask you to present your driving license as the Polish ID issued after 2019 no longer has address data.
Importing a car from Germany: practical info
Insurance is not the only thing you can arrange remotely. In some German cities you can also apply for temporary plates on-line (https://zulassungsstelle.de / https://www.strassenverkehrsamt.de/kfz-zulassungsstelle)
It’s best to google the name of the city + Zullasungstelle to find out the opening days and hours. If you’re buying a car on Saturday or in the afternoon, you can de-register it in an office in another land whose office is open.
If you get a ticket, the German police will send it to that German address. Dealerships in the bigger cities can arrange a German address for you (it’s a paid service). You can also have a middleman do it all for you. In some states such as Saxony or Bavaria, you don’t need to register yourself at a German address but for example in Berlin you do. If your registration in Germany is not required, then all the office will ask for is your Polish ID.
Import cars from Germany: the fees
The costs may vary between the states where you buy the vehicle.
They tend to depend on the size of the city and competition between the companies who sell insurance and issue the plates. The kiosks usually offer packages (insurance + plates). In Berlin, anywhere at Jüterboger Straße, you can buy a package like this for as little as 50 EUR (+ 13 EUR at the office for registering the vehicle and getting a temporary registration book). The more kiosks there are around the office, the better the prices. The owners will personally try to convince you to use their service if they see you going in or out of the office. In smaller cities that may only have one kiosk like this (which means no competition), the same kind of package may cost even more than some 125 to 130 EUR. The price may also go up if you decide to split the package, buy the insurance on-line (because it’s cheaper there) and only get the plates at the kiosk. In this case, the plates that would cost you 25 EUR as part of the package may cost you 45 EUR if you buy them without the insurance.
The cost of obtaining the “yellow plates”
When you want to obtain the yellow plates, you need to consider certain expenses. You’ll need to pay for the plates, insurance and administration. See the approximate costs below:
- Plates: 16, 22, 36, or even 45 EUR.
- 5-day insurance: 75 EUR (if purchased together with the plates), or 35 EUR (on-line).
- Administrative costs: 13 EUR, payable in the office.
- Technical examination (optional): starting from 56 EUR, plus 14 – 26 EUR in case faults discovered at the initial examination need to be removed.
- Green card: 5 EUR.
Total: 70 to 110 EUR, or 126 to 192 EUR if the technical examination is required.
Types of the temporary German plates
Both in Poland and Germany you can come across vehicles with a few different types of registration plates. If you want to buy a car from Germany, there are three types of plates that apply.
Two of them are there to export the car (they’re not reusable and issued for the particular car only):
- The “yellow plates”, or “Kurzzeitkennzeichen” (short-term plates for 1, 3 or 5 days) have a white background, black letters and a yellow stripe on the right (this is where the name comes from). These plates are the most commonly used for importing a car to Poland.
- The “red plates”, or “Zollkennzeichen” (Ausfuhrkennzeichen, 15, 30 days, or up to a year) have a white background, black letters and a red stripe with expiry date on the right. These plates are used when you need more than 5 days of insurance, or to take the car outside the EU.
The third kind of plates is used for test drives (it can be reused for different vehicles)
- The Rote Kennzeichen (“Handlerkennzeichen”) are test drive plates which can be put on different vehicles but they are assigned to one given salon/dealer/seller. They have a white background, red letters and a blue stripe on the left.
PLEASE NOTE: In Poland, you can come across a vehicle whose yellow plates have already expired. This is potentially very dangerous: the vehicle has no insurance so it should not be driven. Some more “creative” drivers can even put on collector’s plates to save some money. You can’t register a vehicle in Poland with these. This is why whenever you want to buy a car from Germany, you should check the validity of its plates and their expiry dates; otherwise you may find out they’re not fit for driving.
Watch out for the cheats
The plates are not the only element you need to pay attention to when buying a car from Germany. Quite commonly, vehicles de-registered in Germany are sold in Poland without a legally binding purchase and sales agreement. Read more on this in our publication “No longer a lottery, or how to buy a second-hand car” In an agreement like this, the seller’s data is copied from the “big brief” (which is the vehicle card, where the last user is listed). The buyer is risking penalty issued by both the tax office and the police; the registration can even be cancelled. The only purpose of a transaction of this kind is to lower the tax paid by the grey market seller.
How to import a car from Germany? Will autoDNA help?
autoDNA is a leading provider of vehicle history reports for second-hand cars from Europe and the US. Before you buy a car, it’s advisable to check its VIN number with autoDNA; our databases have billions of entries. This will help you protect yourself from a costly and time consuming trip. All you need to do is enter a 17-character VIN number at the autoDNA website and check the vehicle historyto protect yourself from buying a lemon.