We tested for you: importing a car from Switzerland.

"Oh my God!" This is the reaction of most of you whenever we suggest a Swiss vehicle. In many ways, this reaction is unfounded and based on old beliefs. Indeed, the import procedures have become very simple and almost entirely digitalized. In order to prove this to you, and given the limited amount of reliable information on the web, one of the Benzin team members has done a Swiss import (Thomas, Sales Manager). par TeamBenzin

Why go to Switzerland for a car?

In 3 words: Price - Quality - Proximity.

On average, the price of used cars is lower in Switzerland. This can be explained in particular by the demand of the domestic market, which is also low, as the Swiss are not as fond of second-hand cars as we (French) are. A low demand and also more offers naturally pull the prices down.

Quality: yes, the Swiss have a reputation for maintaining their vehicles well, simply because they have the means to do so. Indeed, the higher purchasing power allows owners not to skimp on maintenance, which is generally done in the manufacturer's network.

Finally, Switzerland is not so far away, and very well served from major French cities. (Only 3 hours by train from Paris to Geneva).

Bargains are common in Switzerland, so why miss out? What is the procedure for importing a vehicle?

What is the procedure for importing a vehicle?


Let's start with the key word of this adventure: organization.

If not, or if you are too lazy to organize a dozen papers in a binder, forget it! So think about scanning all the documents you are going to get.

To ensure that your transaction goes smoothly, keep in constant contact with your seller. Most Swiss people speak French or English, so this should not be complicated. If at first sight your contact seems suspicious, there is no need to advise you to drop the matter.

Temporary plates and insurance

Before going to pick up your vehicle, and if you wish to return by road, bring provisional plates. These are valid for 4 months and allow you to drive legally in France and abroad. The necessary documents to obtain them are the following:

  • CG Switzerland
  • Proof of address
  • Identity document
  • Certificate of transfer (do the same before you get the car back)

After obtaining your "CPI WW" (Certificat Provisoire d'Immatriculation WW) by digital way, go to a car center or to some shopkeepers to get your 2 plates.

You are then able to insure your vehicle. Get quotes online or call your regular insurance company. Of course, start the contract on the day you plan to pick up your new vehicle.

Avantage gasoline : You have acquired a vehicle through us, congratulations! You have just avoided long negotiations, and especially, the vehicle is reserved for you. The time for you to organize everything without the possibility that the vehicle is sold in the meantime.

Benzin can put you in contact with trusted service providers for their realization. Or, they are easily done in one click on various specialized sites or at a certified professional.

Opt for a Transport

If you wish to avoid the logistics of repatriation by road, Benzin can of course arrange door-to-door transport within an average of 10 days and for an average price of between €900 and €1000.

The vehicle must be cleared through customs when it crosses the Swiss / French borders. More details below.

Leaving Switzerland: customs

The D-day. After checking the vehicle, it is time to do the transfer papers with the seller. Together you must exchange the following documents:

  • Sales contract (French certificate of transfer and invoice if Pro seller)
  • Swiss traffic permit (Carte Grise)

Then, go to the customs! The border customs offices are the following:

Ferney Voltaire


Phone number: 09 70 27 31 83

E-Mail : [email protected]

Opening hours: Monday to Friday from 7:30am to 12:00pm and from 1:30pm to 5:00pm

St Julien Bardonnex office


Phone number: 09 70 27 32 19

E-Mail : [email protected]

Opening hours: Monday to Friday from 7:30am to 12:00pm and from 1:00pm to 5:30pm

Vallard Thonex


Phone number: 09 70 27 31 44

E-Mail : [email protected]

Opening hours: Monday to Friday from 7:15 am to 11:45 am and from 1:30 pm to 5 pm

Make sure you arrive no later than 30 minutes before closing time to complete the formalities. Processing times vary greatly from day to day, but generally allow 30 minutes to 1 hour on site.

The procedure in detail:

First, on the Swiss side, go to a forwarding agent. They are professionals authorized to make the export papers, it costs about 100€. More precisely, they will give you the "export list", it is an A4 sheet with the products you are going to export.

Then, you will have to go to the Swiss customs to stamp your "export list". The car must be present, and don't forget the freeway sticker (normally already present on the windscreen of the vehicle, but check with the seller). You will be asked for an invoice if you bought from a professional or an official quotation (details below) if you bought from a private person and finally the Swiss circulation permit.

In all cases, you must provide a document proving the value of the vehicle because the Swiss customs officers have to base themselves on this document to determine the amount of the taxes.

Secondly, once your export document is in hand and stamped, you will be directed to the French customs. You will be asked for the following documents:

  • Swiss driving license (Swiss Carte Grise)
  • Export document freshly stamped at Swiss customs
  • Identity document
  • Recent proof of address
  • Document proving the value of the vehicle (Invoices and / or official rating)

Of course, you must have a way to pay the VAT and the import tax (cash or credit card).

At the end, the French customs will give you the famous certificate of clearance 846A, easy!

How is the amount of taxes to be paid determined?

It is determined :

- or by the value indicated on the purchase invoice (in the case of professional purchases). The customs officers have the right to refuse the value indicated on the purchase invoice if they believe it is not true.
- or by the value indicated on an official quotation printed on a sheet of paper (we recommend the Argus quotation, the best known). You can first go to the Argus website and print your rating for less than ten euros.

In both cases, don't hesitate to get the argus price to justify the value of your vehicle!

La TVA is 20% for vehicles under 30 years old and the import tax of 10%, on the basis of the declared value.

An example:

If your quote indicates a value of 10.000 €, then you will have to pay 3.000 € in taxes. Calculation details : (10.000*0,1)+(10.000*0,2) = 3.000 €.

Important point - Exemption from import tax fees:

If your vehicle is from the European Union, and its declared value on the official quotation you provide is less than 6,000 €, remember to indicate on a separate sheet, the contract of sale or the printed sheet of the Argus the following:

"The exporter of the products covered by these documents declares that, unless otherwise clearly indicated, these products are of EC preferential origin." Sign and date.

Finally, if your vehicle has a declared value of more than 6.000 €, then you will have to ask the Swiss Customs to provide you with a certificate of preferential origin "EUR1".

This can allow you to be exempt from the 10% import tax fee!

Obtaining the final vehicle registration document

You will need to register it:

  • Get a COC (European Certificate of Conformity) from the vehicle manufacturer. This document can be obtained either directly from the manufacturer via a service that is often dedicated to this purpose, or via generalist websites that can provide it to you. This document will cost you on average between 150€ and 300€.
  • Perform a technical control French. It happens quite often that Swiss border residents provide a French CT for the sale. Remember to ask the seller!
  • Provide the certificate of assignment if you purchased the vehicle from an individual or a purchase invoice if you purchased the vehicle from a professional.
  • Provide the certificat customs clearance 846AThis certificate can be in the name of the seller, if it has been agreed that the seller will pay the import fees. This certificate can be in the name of the seller, if it has been agreed beforehand that the seller has to pay the import costs.

You will then just have to do the procedure from the ANTS website, under the heading "Make another request" then "Register a vehicle in France for the first time".

What is the cost of the procedure?

Well, it all depends on the amount of taxes.

Count on a total of 30% of the DECLARED price of a vehicle less than 30 years old, we draw your attention to the fact that the quotation provided by an official body may be significantly lower than the advertised price. The Argus price is known by the customs officers and will be accepted.

Also, keep in mind that it is possible to be exempt from 10% taxThis brings the total tax liability to 20%. More details in the section "Important point - Import tax exemption" above.

Cars older than 30 years: VAT 5.5

Good news for lovers of Youngtimers and vintage cars, the VAT for vehicles over 30 years old is reduced to 5.5% of the declared amount, and the import tax disappears.

Indeed, these vehicles are considered as "art" objects, the corresponding VAT is therefore applicable.

Finally, the procedure for registering a classic car in France is also simpler and less expensive than the traditional way. You will find the procedure in detail in this article : Click here

Why buy on Benzin?

Probably the simplest question in this topic.

In addition to accessing an ultra-detailed ad (photos / videos / text), Benzin allows you to discuss in the comment area with the seller, if ever something still seems unclear.

The sale lasts 10 days, which gives you plenty of time to study the vehicle and to think carefully about your potential purchase. For 10 days, the car is on Benzin and moreover. You are sure not to miss it, provided you are the highest bidder!

Finally, if you are returning a vehicle, you do not pay the seller directly. You pay the funds into a secure escrow account belonging to youand get the seller's contact information once the funds have been received. The vehicle is reserved for youYou have one month to do so. You have one month to do so.

This will allow you to manage the details of your import with complete peace of mind, namely: insurance, temporary plates and organization with the seller. Rather reassuring not to take care of the payment, no?

Pitfalls to avoid

And yes, as everywhere, there are many traps to avoid on the second-hand market.

In general, Swiss vehicles are very well maintained and in the manufacturer's network. Therefore, think about avoiding vehicles with no history.

Switzerland being a mountainous country, it experiences harsh winters. Snow means salt. And salt means corrosion. So, don't forget to ask for pictures of the car's undercarriage, you will get a precise idea of the car's use. Obviously, these photos will already be available on a Benzin ad.

On the other hand, absolutely avoid vehicles that do not meet European standards, unless you are a connoisseur. These may be models that have not been sold in the EU or vehicles that were first registered outside Europe (e.g. North America or Arab Emirates).

Their registration process is much more complex, you will have to go through the homologation process, also called "Réception à Titre Isolé" or RTI, delivered by the DREAL.

Therefore, aim for models that have been marketed in the EU, and whose first registration was made in Switzerland, or a border country. You will then be sure to avoid the homologation box since a simple certificate of conformity (COC) available everywhere will suffice (see the section "Obtaining the definitive registration card" for registration in France).

You can use a VIN decoder to find out the origin of a vehicle. But some clues can betray its exotic origins, for example :

  • Language of the documentation
  • Orange turn signal recalls for North American vehicles
  • Plate format
  • Language on glass surfaces (Arabic on mirrors for vehicles from the Emirates)

Special case: The Alpina

You will find a lot of Alpina ads in Switzerland, at attractive prices. However, even if they have been marketed in the EU, Alpina or BMW do not issue a full COC. So you are good for a visit to the DREAL !

Tip to remember:

Before your purchase, make sure that the manufacturer of the car you want to buy can issue you a COC complet.

To Conclude:

Do yourself a favor! Don't listen to the joyriders or pseudo specialists who are convinced that an imported car is necessarily of poor quality. Open your search to foreign markets, like Switzerland. This will surely allow you to find THE rare pearl at the right price.

And for those who think the process is complicated, just show them this Guide!