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How to buy a car in Austria for foreigners

Peculiarities of buying a car in Austria by foreigners - driving license requirements, registration, peculiarities of buying and choosing.
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Author : Evgeny Pilnikov,
Luxury Immobilen CEO
10 min
PUBLISHED 14.02.2022
Austria offers a well-developed public transport system, however, having your own car provides you with the opportunity to get to the places you need in the comfort of your own vehicle in a much shorter period of time.
If you have moved to Vienna or any Austrian federal state, it is most likely that sooner or later you will seriously think about buying a car to go to work, run errands, or use it to go on weekend adventure trips, as well as taking the children to kindergartens or school. This article will help you to understand the whole process of purchasing a car in Austria starting from choosing the right vehicle to the transaction process, obtaining insurance and other legal nuances.

Where Can You Purchase a Car in Austria?

The process of buying a car in Austria is similar to the same act in other countries. You will need to sign a sales contract, register your car, obtain insurance and get a European certificate of conformity for a vehicle that can be obtained from the car dealers or importers. If you are purchasing a used car, it’s highly recommended that you have an independent inspection carried out on the vehicle.

First of all, you should make your choice and decide if you wish to go for a new or used car, choose a car brand, year of manufacture, etc. One of the criteria that should be taken into consideration is the emission of carbon dioxide; as of 2016, the Austrian have imposed a tax on CO₂ emissions. It’s highly advisable for foreigners to learn more about other aspects of the Austrian tax system.
In general, the most popular European car brands in Austria include Volkswagen, Skoda and Renault. Those who want to start searching for a car, both used and new, can do so on special websites, including the popular www.autoscout24.at.

If you have decided to obtain a used car, you might face a choice of buying it through a car dealership or from a private seller. Usually, prices in car dealerships are higher but you will receive a warranty card. When establishing or negotiating a cost, car dealerships include the risk of any potential repairs in the car price. All car dealerships in Austria (not only official dealers) must provide buyers with at least a 1-year guarantee (Gewährleistung) for every car they sell. If there are any repairs or parts that need replacing, the dealership will cover any of the faults from the initial date that you purchased the car. Generally, in the first 6 months after the transaction, the seller is responsible for proving the presence or absence of any repairs or damages at the time of sale, and then the burden falls on the buyer.
IMPORTANT! Some car dealerships sell cars on a commission basis, working as an intermediary for the seller of the car. In this case, a sales contract is made between private individuals. As a result, no warranty will be provided. If you see in the advertisement terms Vermittlungsverkauf or Im Kundenauftrag, the car is sold on a commission.
Private sellers offer cars at lower prices, but keep in mind that the seller isn’t responsible for the quality of the car. Therefore, inspect the vehicle with attention. Usually, one can find cars in good condition and at a bargain price in the suburbs, far from big cities because here they operate on easier terms.
Before obtaining a car, it’s recommended that you use the services of independent experts who will professionally estimate the technical condition of the car. It can be done in any car service but it’s better to go to the main automobile associations ÖAMTC or ARBÖ. This type of vehicle check is called Ankaufstest or Kauftest. Sometimes sellers do it in advance and show a protocol with a list of all the malfunctions of the vehicle to the buyer.
Before the transaction, don’t forget to check that all the required car documents are provided:

  • Valid vehicle inspection (§ 57a KFG Überprüfung – Pickerl)
  • Vehicle passport (Typenschein)
  • Vehicle registration certificate (Zulassungsbescheinigung)
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Driving Licenses in Austria

If you are planning to purchase a car in Austria, it’s highly recommended that you solve any issues concerning obtaining a driver’s license before concluding a deal, otherwise, you won’t have the right to drive. As for driving age restrictions, in Austria from the age of 18 one can drive a car weighing up to 3.5 tons.

European Economic Area or European Union driving licenses are recognized in Austria. They can be converted at any time whenever a driver wishes. If someone moves to Austria and is the holder of a driver’s license of class C (C1) or D (D1) that has been received in any other EEA state, he/she can use it until the date declared by the state of issuance but no longer than 5 years if the license hasn’t been converted.

For British citizens who have an EU Member State license, there is no need to exchange it. If they have only a British license, and are 3rd country nationals, they should exchange it within six months of obtaining the Austrian residence permit.
US driver’s license holders, should understand that their license isn’t enough to drive in the country. They will need an international driver’s permit that can be obtained in the USA from AAA or an official translation of the US license that can be obtained in ÖAMTC or ARBÖ.

Such a license will be acceptable in the first six months after which you will need to obtain an Austrian one.


During the new driving license registration, a driver has a temporary license valid for 4 weeks that can be used in Austria only. If you are living in Austria for more than 6 months with a residence permit and haven’t applied for a driver’s license replacement, it is very likely that you will need to start the process from scratch.

There are three main steps when replacing a driver’s license:

  1. Prepare documents including the application, 2 copies of your driver's license and its translation into English and German which can be done in any country. This will then additionally need to be certified by an Austrian notary. Results of a medical examination made in the last 18 months, 2 passport copies, a copy of your residence permit (Aufenhaltstittel), a copy of your registration of residence (Meldezettel), and a photo. This package of documents should be submitted to the national department or district police headquarters. Vienna residents can apply to the Motor Vehicle Department, residents of Krems and Waidhofen (Lower Austria) can do this through the Municipal Authority, and residents of the city of Rust can go to the Federal Police Headquarters Burgenland.
  2. Pass a practical driving test.
  3. Pay the necessary fees.
If you are planning to get a new driver’s license, you will need to enroll in one of the Austrian driving schools. You have the right to choose any school regardless of where you’re staying in Austria. Doing this will allow you to save time, as all the formal procedures such as contacting the relevant authorities will be conducted by the driving school. Upon graduation, the school will issue a driving license for 15 years.

Transaction Details

The transaction of buying a car is completed after the sales contract (Kaufvertrag) is signed. Before signing, check the name in the contract and the car ownership documents and ask the seller to show his/her documents to prove their identity.
It’s worth noting that usually, the buyer doesn’t transfer all money immediately but pays a deposit (Anzahlung), signs the contract and only after all obligations noted in the contract are fulfilled, the rest of the money is given to the seller.

According to the law, the seller must give the new owner all the previous documents regarding the automobile maintenance and the repairs (purchase orders, receipts, etc) but in the majority of cases, this requirement is often not respected.

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Registration and Maintenance of the Vehicle

It is strictly forbidden to drive in Austria without registering your car, you can’t even leave the garage without it. According to the law, the new owner must register a vehicle within a month after its purchase, in some cases, this period can be extended to a maximum of 2 months.

Your vehicle should always be kept in a roadworthy condition. Four years after its first registration and every 2 years after that, the car is required to pass the tests for roadworthiness.
While in the USA you register a car in your state’s Department of Motor Vehicles, and in Germany at the car registration office, in Austria, you do it through insurance companies that have special registration points. This can be explained by the fact that driving in Austria without insurance is prohibited and for registration, one should have an insurance contract.
The minimum requirement is liability insurance (Haftpfichtversicherung) that in the event of an accident, it will cover losses made by you to other people or city property. However, it won’t compensate for your own losses in case you or your car has suffered in the accident. For that, you need to obtain a voluntary insurance policy. You can understand more about the Austrian insurance system in this article.

The price of compulsory car insurance depends on the model and the condition of your car. The average cost for insurance is normally from EUR 200 to EUR 700 per year. There is also a state road tax, the amount of which depends on the engine power and costs from EUR 150 to EUR 500.

The Process of Car Registration in Austria

You can easily find registration points at insurance companies as they are usually marked with yellow signs and the inscription Zulassungsstelle (admissions office). Registration must be made at the point that is located in the area of your residence (registration).
The registration process is simple. After contacting the insurance company, the agent will tell you the point where you need to go and register your car, as well as helping you to collect all the documents. Then together you will go to the registration point where the agent will make an insurance contract. The committee will then accept your documents and create a car registration which will cost you about EUR 190.

The basic documents that should be submitted to the committee according to Article 41 of the Motor Vehicles Act include

  • ID with a photo
  • Car insurance contract
  • Authorisation for the operation
If you are registering a used car, you need to show an additional sales contract, invoice, or another confirmation of the transaction and inspection report.
IMPORTANT! One of the key requirements for a car owner wishing to register their car is the presence of Hauptwohnsitz status (permanent residence). This can be in the form of his/her own property or a rented unit. If you have recently arrived in Austria and are in search of a property, your application for car registration will be rejected.

What Documents Are Given After the Car Registration?

After the committee checks your documents and approves them, the car owner is given the following:

  • Plate with a car number
  • Pass for MOT test
  • Two copies of the registration certificate that contains information about the owner and car technical data.
  • Vehicle approval certificate that gives the right to drive this car in Austria
Instead of having a second paper copy of a registration certificate, the car owner can now get a compact and convenient plastic card containing a chip which costs EUR 22 and can be obtained in 2 weeks after the registration. After the card is ready, it will be sent to you by post.

License plates in Austria are alphanumeric. There are 1-2 letters denoting the city where the car is registered, the heraldic emblem of the federal state and a sequence of 3-6 letters and numbers. Letter Q is never used on Austrian license plates.

The car number in Austria is connected with the place of residence of the owner. If the owner of the car moves from one city to another even if they are in the same federal state, they must register a car again. The only exception to this rule is Vienna, so even if you move between its districts, there is no need to change the car number.
IMPORTANT! Apart from car registration and obtaining insurance, you need to have a parking space. This depends on the city and the number of cars there. The approximate price for paid parking is from EUR 220 to EUR 250 for 2 years. For example, you can learn more about the streets of Vienna and their status here.
If you are planning to move from one Austrian city to another, our real estate agents from Luxury Immobilien GmbH are ready to help you. We will assist you in finding the right property to obtain or rent in Austria based on your needs and requirements.
Our real estate agents will provide you with an extensive portfolio of potential real estate property in Vienna starting from modern apartments to exclusive historic estates, as well as developments in Salzburg, Tyrol, Graz and other federal regions of the country. Moreover, we are ready to provide you with professional legal support in respect of many legal aspects including business law, real estate law and immigration law.
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Evgeny Pilnikov.
CEO.
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