Buying Classic Cars: What do car buyers need to know?


 Who doesn't dream of driving a classic American vintage car? In the United States and Canada, there is a wide range of attractive models that you can import to Germany or any other EU country together with However, when buying a vintage car, you should be aware of some important things. We will clarify and help you avoid mistakes.

Ford Fairline

Finding a vintage car can be challenging when car buyers desire a specific vehicle with high rarity value or simply want to fulfill a dream. Often, it is worth looking abroad to buy the desired vintage car. Here, you can find interesting vehicles like the Mercedes SL R129, which should still be considered a young classic. However, there are some things to consider when importing, especially if the car is purchased outside the EU, such as in the USA.

Don't forget the important paperwork!

To be allowed to import the vintage car to Germany and to avoid any problems during registration later on, you should not miss the required documents and papers. These include not only the purchase contract but also all vehicle documents that should be available as proof of ownership from the seller when purchasing. Although a title (comparable to the German registration certificate Part 2) is not necessary for older vehicles in some states, it should be clarified in advance whether the available documents are sufficient for both export and later registration in Germany, Austria, or any other EU country.

For vehicle registration, you will need the original vehicle registration document, the purchase contract, and a full inspection according to § 21 StVZO. The latter is necessary because imported vehicles from third countries generally do not have a general operating permit in Germany.

In addition, a customs receipt, i.e., an import duty notice or a customs clearance certificate, must be submitted to prove that the import duties have been paid.

Customs declaration is necessary

If a vehicle is imported from a non-EU country, which is the case when the vintage car is purchased in the USA or Canada, registration with customs is essential. Customs clearance can be done directly at the border crossing into the EU.

From a customs perspective, imported goods only need to be cleared once in the EU. A German import duty notice is admissible in every EU country as proof and for registration.

Commercial importers who are not resident in the EU country where the vintage car crosses the border into the EU also have the option of fiscal customs clearance. This allows for import without any import duties under presentation of a valid VAT ID number. Proof of the vehicle's transfer to the final receiving country is necessary and should be available to the customs authorities upon request.

However, any importer is free to use a T1 transit document to transport the vehicle to any other country for customs clearance.

Classics from the USA and Canada with discounted import duties

As a "collectible" with discounted import duties

Germany is one of the most attractive countries when it comes to import duties for vintage cars. For vehicles at least 30 years old, customs duties are waived, and a reduced import tax rate of only 7% applies.

The so-called "Customs Tariff 9705" is anchored in Chapter 97 of the EU's Combined Nomenclature. It states that a vintage car must be at least 30 years old and in its original, unaltered condition to be considered a collectible. Furthermore, the respective vehicle model must no longer be in production, which is almost always the case with a minimum age of 30 years. Exceptions apply, for example, to racing cars with a special history.

IMPORTANT: There is no guarantee that the reduced tax rate will actually apply, as the final decision lies with the responsible main customs office. Kit cars with a chassis from e.g. 1965, including the corresponding title, are no longer recognized as vintage cars.

For young classics that have not yet reached the full 30 years, the import duty is 10% of the vehicle value plus the applicable shipping costs. In addition, car buyers must pay the import sales tax, which is usually 19%.

Oddity from Switzerland: If the vintage car is in poor or restoration-worthy condition, the customs clearance will use the vehicle's value after restoration as the basis for assessment, not the purchase price.

If there is no current value, there is even the possibility that customs will initiate a value inquiry at a later date to determine the customs fees retrospectively.

Containers in the harbor

Additional costs: Don't calculate too tightly

When buying a vintage car and having it shipped from abroad to Germany, you should expect additional costs. Apart from age-related problems that may cause additional expenses during the TÜV inspection, vintage cars are generally a cost-intensive hobby.

Speaking of costs: In addition to the applicable customs duties, car buyers should not forget the other expenses. Not only transport costs make the vintage car purchase more expensive when importing, but there may also be costs for the disposal of non-importable refrigerants (R12) or a possible CPA (X-ray of the import container) or a conventional customs inspection. It is advisable to inquire about possible fees in advance. is happy to help.

Buying a vintage car: What should you consider?

When buying a vintage car, especially abroad, you should know the relevant basics. This prevents unnecessary trouble, especially since buying a vintage car often involves an increased risk. It is important to know that the law of the country where the purchase contract was concluded always applies. If hidden defects appear later, it is usually difficult to hold the seller liable.

It is therefore advisable to ask in advance if the vintage car may be examined by an independent expert. If the seller refuses this request, caution is advised. Ideally, payment should be made through an escrow service when interested parties buy a vintage car. This offers the greatest possible security. A down payment of up to $1,000 is not uncommon. This ensures the seller that there is actual interest in the car and no intermediary sale occurs. Nevertheless, car buyers should pay attention to appropriate protection.

Conclusion: Buying vintage cars in the USA/Canada!

Buying a vintage car in North America (USA/Canada) may seem complicated and time-consuming. However, with some experience and expert support, it is worth buying a vintage car abroad. will accompany you and make importing vehicles from the USA and Canada especially easy. From vehicle checks, purchase processing, and escrow services to shipping to Germany, we will take care of all necessary tasks for you.