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Old 13.01.2012, 21:40
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Newcomers experience of personal vehicle importing

Hi all,

Just thought I'd share my experiences of getting the car I wanted, in Switzerland, for sensible money.

1. Bought a left-hand drive, 2004/2.2 diesel/privilege/auto Renault Espace in UK for cheap as chips. I could have gone to France, but the few hundred I would have saved, I would have had to spend physically getting there, and driving it back.

2. Insured for UK, third party only. Also ordered a Green card, and specified the full 90 days.

3. Had a full Renault inspection done, and any issues fixed under warranty. This included 2 new front discs. This is because the Swiss inspection was going to be tough. Think of the UK MOT done by the most anal guys on earth, that's where I was pitching it at. Now, I added my own brand of anal attention to it to compensate; cleaned the toolkit & jack, new wipers, fixed a rattle, engine steam cleaned, all fluids measured and topped up, peeled off any old non-original stickers, straightened a seat belt so it retracted at the correct speed, full valet + additional personal cleaning etc etc. I knew I was ready for the Swiss inspection after that (and the main drive over).

4. Drove the car to Switzerland, and imported it - and all my personal belongings - at the Basel border. I was, annoyingly, "encouraged" buy the border cops to buy a motorway vignette....in December. For 2011. Nice.

Documents for import?
- Original reg doc (must have chassis number)
- insurance
- ORIGINAL purchase receipt, *INCLUDING DATE*
- Proof of job
- Proof of swiss residency
- Driving licence (to be on the safe side, and you'll have it anyway) & passport
- 18.44

Documents you'll be given?
- 13.20

5. Did all the unpacking etc, and a week or two later, started the registration process. First thing to do - get a CoC. I got mine from Eurococ.eu for 204 euro's. Beware - can take up to 21 days, so don't leave to the last minute. I got mine in 14. You need this to complete the next steps.

6. Got an abgas test done. While there, got some winter tyres on, and got the guy to do a 'skim check' ahead of the main test. I had popped a bulb and 2 tyre pressure sensors died when the tyres were swapped, but car was still ok, having done 2,500 miles since the Renault inspection (not bad for an Espace...). Abgas garage *may* need all your documents (inc the Coc). This cost me 80 CHF.

7. Arranged insurance. I totally forgot I'd arranged some in the UK (through Generali), but I can recommend Zurich; saint7uk is the guy to speak to on here - he speaks english, and proved extremely helpful, and can help you get setup.

Beware: this is a little more complicated that arranging it in the UK! As long as they can inform the relevant Strassenverkehrsamt, you're ok. The insurance company needed the xxx.xxx.xxx matriculation number from my 13.20 form to activate this. You are not insured until the plates are in your hands, so ensure you're still covered by other insurance until then!

8. Once I had the insurance confirmation, I began registration. I took all my documents to the Strassenverkehrsamt and asked to arrange to register my car in CH. They informed me they would contact me with an appointment, once they had processed the paperwork. They quoted 4-6 weeks (Zug). The documents I took (all original btw, which is why I did it personally) were:

- 13.20
- 18.44
- The completed car registration form (download from the Strassenverkehrsamt)
- The green card from the UK
- The original registration document
- The Coc
- The abgas
- a *copy* of my proof of residency (my B permit)
- my driving licences and passport (not required)

9. They phoned up 2 days later, asking if I'd come in that afternoon. This was handy, because Directline back home were kicking up a stink that my car reg was not a UK plate, and they'd have to withdraw my UK insurance + green card. No pressure then...I drove down - I took in a car wash, a hoover of the interior, did a quick all round inspection (re-check tyre pressures etc) first. Mainly to get the car warmed up. Naturally, the Espace took the opportunity to start developing a strange fault with the gearbox...

10. Waited nervously while the guy went over my car. From what I saw, it's very much like a UK MOT, but they pay special attention to lights, brakes, and 'play' in the steering (using a special machine). They also perform a pre-set test drive on the premises. I was genuinely nervous...trying to get a 7 year old Espace through the Swiss test. Was I nuts?

11. Somehow, it passed; I almost fainted in surprise. Only a 'minor', requiring my lights be dipped slightly more than the UK setup. I did not need to return to the place, and I was free to go and get my plates! Another document has now been added to my pile. Trundled next door, and paid. 170 CHF.

12. Trotted over to the next desk, and asked for a set of plates, handing over my enormous pile of documents. Girl cheerfully trotted through the whole lot, and run into a snag - "I can't issue you new plates, until you prove me with your old ones". This was an unforeseen problem - I had no screwdriver or tool to remove them! Luckily, the oldest tool in the box was still available - brute force. I don't recommend it, but I did manage to yank of my old plates, with only a few curse words and amazingly, no damage to the car.

Handed over my old plates, got some new ones, signed a form, gained *another* document or two (the important one being the actual reg doc), and that was me!

Phone the insurance to confirm it was activated, and that was me!

13. Stopped in on the garage on the way home, slipped him 40 CHF, and 1/2 later, my car was equipped with Swiss plates, and swiss insurance! And to top it off, I even bought a motorway vignette for 2012. At least with this one, I'll 12 months worth, not 12 days....

Including all the costs - including the actual drive over - I recon I saved around 1,800-2,000 CHF over buying locally, and got a better specced vehicle in the process. And with that I gained an extra 2,800 litres of space for belongings on the trip over - and it was needed too!

Last edited by silverburn; 13.01.2012 at 21:54.
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  #2  
Old 13.01.2012, 22:08
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Re: Newcomers experience of personal vehicle importing

I should also probably point out my car was actually french - it was never registered as a british car. It didn't make the import any more difficult though.
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Old 14.01.2012, 19:07
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Re: Newcomers experience of personal vehicle importing

Very interesting, invaluable. Thanks.

One thing I would add, is that cleaning underneath and engine bay is important, and I would not have driven the car for so long after a steam clean. Clean & new brake fluid is a good idea. They check for traced of fluid leaks with a UV light.

Having taken my cars for MOTs myself here and in the UK, I find that standards are higher than the UK, but that the inspection is fair. The main difference is that oil leaks here are simply not tolerated at all.
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Old 15.01.2012, 22:14
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Re: Newcomers experience of personal vehicle importing

We're the uk insurance company ok insuring it with French plates? I presume it was already imported to the uk?
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Old 15.01.2012, 22:26
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Re: Newcomers experience of personal vehicle importing

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We're the uk insurance company ok insuring it with French plates? I presume it was already imported to the uk?
It had been imported (by the dealer), just not registered for uk plates.
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Old 15.01.2012, 22:29
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Re: Newcomers experience of personal vehicle importing

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Very interesting, invaluable. Thanks.

One thing I would add, is that cleaning underneath and engine bay is important, and I would not have driven the car for so long after a steam clean. Clean & new brake fluid is a good idea. They check for traced of fluid leaks with a UV light.

Having taken my cars for MOTs myself here and in the UK, I find that standards are higher than the UK, but that the inspection is fair. The main difference is that oil leaks here are simply not tolerated at all.
Agree - point not mentioned/forgotten was the car was given an underside clean just before the inspection. Agree on all points though - car really should be spotless inside and out. Then again, I wouldn't be aspirationally Swiss if that wasn't the norm anyway
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Old 16.01.2012, 17:07
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Re: Newcomers experience of personal vehicle importing

I would be interested to know where you go for an underside clean in Switzerland. All the pressure wash places here have signs saying that chassis washing is forbidden. The drive through wash with underbody option did very little. I think it just washes the wheels and outer cills.
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Old 16.01.2012, 17:33
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Re: Newcomers experience of personal vehicle importing

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4. Drove the car to Switzerland, and imported it - and all my personal belongings - at the Basel border. I was, annoyingly, "encouraged" buy the border cops to buy a motorway vignette....in December. For 2011. Nice.
Thank you for your story and welcome to Switzerland, where you get ripped of aka Switzerlanded even at the border. The 2012 vignette is valid since December 1, 2011.
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Old 12.02.2012, 23:15
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Re: Newcomers experience of personal vehicle importing

That was a great read, really helpful. I'm thinking about doing the same and have been looking at 7-seat left-hand drives in the UK ahead of a move over in a month or two.
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Old 12.02.2012, 23:23
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Re: Newcomers experience of personal vehicle importing

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I would be interested to know where you go for an underside clean in Switzerland. All the pressure wash places here have signs saying that chassis washing is forbidden. The drive through wash with underbody option did very little. I think it just washes the wheels and outer cills.
These people do at Zurich airport. But probably not cheap.

http://www.autobahnhof.ch/index.php?id=169
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Old 12.02.2012, 23:29
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Re: Newcomers experience of personal vehicle importing

That was very helpful, thank you.

A note on a difficulty with the testing. If an accessory is defective it has to be repaired or removed. A friend had the Espace with vertically adjustable headlamps, the movement controller was defective, but both the lamps on dipped or on main beams were correct. In Bern he had to remove the vertical control in order to pass the test.
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Old 15.10.2012, 14:55
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Re: Newcomers experience of personal vehicle importing

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Hi all,

You are not insured until the plates are in your hands, so ensure you're still covered by other insurance until then!
Blimey is that really the case? When I bought my Buell into the country last year, Zurich Connect said I was fine to ride the bike on UK plates until the appointment came through....Which I did....Lots

I have to go through this again with importing my car and really struggling for anyone to cover me Swiss side....as it's quite old (1985) but just undergone a complete ground up restoration. Zurich want to do an inspection to see it if was worth insuring.

Zug strassenverkehrsamt are very helpful though. I popped in last week and the technical guys talked me through the process, gave me some info (what to bring etc) and told me all about the safety inspection. I showed them some pics and they implied there wouldn't be to much of a problem. Nice guys.
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