Where to find a used car in Germany

by Christina Geyer on February 10, 2008 · 14 comments

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I am in no way an expert on purchasing a car, so all I’m doing is giving you some tips on locating used cars that are for sale. First, if you require an automatic, your pickings will be much slimmer, and with larger cars, generally limited to the luxury models. This was my experience when we were looking for a station wagon. Most Germans drive cars with manual transmissions. It’s that whole Fahrvergnügen-joy of driving thing. I wasn’t able to learn to drive stick, but maybe you can, so try, then try another time just to be sure.

  1. Check your local newspaper’s website. There is generally a section called “Auto” or “Gebrauchtwagen” that is searchable. Here’s Mittelbayrisches Zeitung’s site as an example. Also try the second-hand paper for your area. You’ll find the biggest bargains in these, since most private sellers will only advertise here.
  2. Try one of the major Internet auto search engines: AutoScout24.de (Europe-wide) and Auto.de, Mobile.de, or Pkw.de (Germany-wide). There are a few private individuals selling their cars on these sites, but it’s mostly dealers.
  3. Check car manufacturer websites. They often list the used cars available at their dealerships. You’re looking for “Gebrauchtwagen” or “Gebrauchtwagenbörse.” Here’s Renault’s site as an example. You’ll want to search all the different car makers that are in your area, since these are cars that have been traded in and will be of all different makes, models, and years.
  4. Last, and possibly least, is to make the trek to all the dealerships in your area and check out what they have on their lots. They don’t always list everything on the websites, and sometimes you’ll luck out and find a car that was just brought in. Also, you can tell them your criteria and have them call you if something comes in that fits it. Make sure you check the opening hours of the dealerships. Many close at 6pm on weekdays and are only open in the mornings on Saturdays.

In the end, it’s a very time consuming process. CarMax type used car lots haven’t really caught on here, although I’ve heard rumor that there are a few popping up in the former East and in the very north. So if you live in those areas, you might want to check the Gelbe Seiten (German Yellow Pages) for Gebrauchtwagen in your area.

Anyone else have a tip I’ve missed?


  • Luca

    Thanks Christina, I was wondering how to go about buying a used car. Your post helps a lot.

    saluti

  • http://martinamr.blogspot.com/ Martina Roßmann

    When we sold our car last summer we listed it on mobile.de

    Also in our area (Hessen) lots of cars are advertised in Das Inserat/Sperrmüll, 2 newspapers filled almost exclusively with small ads; the ad runs for free.

  • http://martinisfortwo.com Diane Mandy

    I think you about covered it! We ended up buying used from a local dealership and probabaly paid too much. Oh well! Live and learn, right?

  • Tammy

    We bought from a local dealer as well, and I think we gt a good deal. I had to learn how to drive a stick, but one vacation in the Austrian Alps helped educate me quickly! We actually looked at several dealerships before buying and were surprised to find that all of the kinds of car that we wanted (of the same year and with similar mileage) had the same price. Apparently, there is a price fixing kind of thing on cars like there are on books here. It is slightly more expensive than what you can find privately, but it comes with a warranty.

    One advantage we found with the VW dealership here is with the on site garage. We get our winter tires put on and our lights changed. They have been really great and have even not charged us for some services. We can store our tires there between changes as well.

  • http://docreport.blogspot.com Doc Meyer (exapt again)

    And don’t forget Craigslist : )

  • Christina G

    @Luca: I think there is also a contact on the base that helps with getting used cars, but I have no further information on that.

    @martina: oh yeah, good tip, forgot about those.

    @Diane: You pay a little (or a lot) more at the local dealerships, but you also usually get a warranty and sometimes other perks (like Tammy says), so there is some value to the extra cost.

    @tammy: I didn’t know about the flexible pricing schedule, but that makes sense. Germans are into fixing prices. When we were trading in our car though, we got different estimates for its value from all the different dealerships.

    @Doc Meyer: Thanks for commenting, Doc! From what I’ve heard, Craigslist hasn’t really caught on with Germans (it got big after I left the US too, so I’ve never looked at it), but if someone is looking for an automatic, getting it from an American expat advertising on Craigslist would be an option worth checking out.

  • Joey

    Dear Christina,
    I am a Canadian seeking to import a German diesel car to Canada. Law stipulates that it must be at least 15 years old or older. So, I’ve been looking at 1990 – 1993 BMW 325tds sedans and wagons.

    I wonder if you know any dealers in Germany who speak English that may be willing to sell and export such a vehicle?

    Any advice will be appreciated.

    Thanks,

    Joey
    Edmonton, Alberta

  • http://outoftheoffice2008.com Maria

    Wondering if you know about the process of buying a car in Germany if you are an American resident? Going to be in Europe for 4 months this summer and want to buy a car then sell it before I leave. Is it possible to do this and register it and get some insurance for the 4 months? Seems like it’s not possible in Czech Rep, so am wondering about Germany?
    Thanks much!
    Maria

  • http://www.amiexpat.com Christina G

    @joey: Sorry, I really don’t know anything about exporting cars out of Germany. You might try looking for used car dealers in towns with US bases. They probably have some experience with that.

    @maria: Have you thought about leasing? That might be easier. I’m not sure about insurance, but the car dealers will often register the car for you (for a fee).

  • Mike

    I am a Canadian living in Spain. A lot of Spaniards buy used cars in Germany because they seem to be a lot cheaper there. I have trolled some of the websites you recommend and have been very impressed with the low prices being asked for relatively new, high-mileage cars. The explanation that some of my German colleagues gave me is that, in Germany, many jobs include cars on a 3 year lease and people put a LOT of miles on their cars there. As a result, there are a LOT of 3 year old high-mileage cars for sale which no one wants (because they all have new leases).

    The biggest problem with these sites is the bait and switching going on; I have also heard that many car dealerships will advertise a ridiculously good deal, but when you get there, it has “just been sold” and there is a similar one “only slightly more expensive”.

    Good luck.

  • Tom

    Hi, great info- just a little to add if i can. I live on the brstish net of expats here and have found in recent year the level of english speaking germans has grown massivly so dont be afriad to ring that private seller and ask if the speak english- chances are they do, or at least they have a friend who can. :)
    Also the posts about similar makes/ models is very true- especially bmw’s or mercs. The state offers a discount on them from new in germany so they are often very competitively priced here.

    Also anyone who could help me with the reverse issue? I want to import a new Dodge Challenger into Germany and was wondering best way to do it. It seems the uk garages want a extortionate fee for the handling of shipping ect (some up to 50% of the cars value). Has anyone imported from the states and know if its feasable to do it privatly. Any advice appriciated and again great informative site.

  • http://www.amiexpat.com Christina G

    Thanks for the tips, Tom. I agree. If you don’t speak German, try calling anyway. If they don’t speak English well enough, I’m sure if they want to sell the car bad enough, they can find someone to translate.

    I’m guessing it’s possible to import your car privately, but I don’t know anything about it. Maybe one of my readers can help you though. Thanks again for the comment!

  • Ola

    Thanks 4 ur site. I did not know searching 4 a used car can be this difficult in germany unlike as in usa.quite happy with comments and insight of what to expect and do.

  • Kuzzy

    Hey guys! A word of advice for those of you seeking to get someone to buy a car for you. You need to be careful especially when dealing with people on the net. I saw someone saying he can transact with the sellers directly.. BE WARNED!!!

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