Trouble-free paperwork – what drivers need to know
What do you require from the Road Traffic Office?
- I wish to contact the Road Traffic Office
- I need to report a change of vehicle or a change of ownership
- I want to register a car
- I was summoned for a technical inspection
- I require transferable number plates
- My vehicle registration certificate has been lost or stolen
- I want to invalidate a vehicle registration certificate
- I require a day permit and temporary number plates
- I am looking for plates with a special number
- I want to take out car insurance
I wish to contact the Road Traffic Office – Do I have to go there in person?
No need for stress due to opening hours: in many cantons, such as Zurich, you can simply send the documents by post, for example when registering a car or applying for a driving licence. If you are not required to send the original document, you can sometimes also scan it in and send it by e-mail.
List of addresses and contact information of all Road Traffic Offices (not available in English)
The date of a technical inspection can be requested or changed online.
I need to report a change of vehicle or a change of ownership – What should I watch out for?If you are planning to change vehicles, i.e. replace your current vehicle with another one, the Road Traffic Office requires the following documents:
- Registration form
- Electronic proof of insurance, which is supplied by your insurance company. You do not have insurance yet? Make an online comparison now and save several hundred francs.
- Both original vehicle registration certificates
Your new, officially inspected car may temporarily be used in traffic with your old number plates starting from the date of dispatch by post. For this, you need a temporary authorisation for use in traffic, which is valid until delivery of the new vehicle registration certificate, but no longer than 30 days, and must be kept in the vehicle at all times.
On the form, you certify as the owner of the car that you have already taken out motor vehicle liability insurance and submitted all the necessary documents to the Road Traffic Office. You will need to have these documents stamped by your garage or car insurance company beforehand.
If you change vehicles, you can cancel your current policy and switch to a new insurance. This pays off as you can save several hundred francs. Note: You have to change your insurance before registering a new car because you need to request the proof of insurance for the Road Traffic Office from your new insurance company, not the old one.
I want to register a car – What documents do I need?
In order to obtain a vehicle registration certificate and number plates, you have to hand in the following:
- Registration form: this can be downloaded from the website of your cantonal office.
- Electronic proof of insurance, which proves that you have bought motor vehicle liability insurance: your insurance company will electronically submit this to the Road Traffic Office. The proof of insurance must be valid as of the date of registration. Note: you have 30 days to do this.
- If it is a new car: the inspection report form 13.20 A (Prüfungsbericht / rapport d'expertise), which you can get from your car dealer.
- If it is a used car: original vehicle registration certificate.
- Certificate of residence if you have moved to another canton.
- Foreigners need to present their residence permit when taking out their first Swiss number plate.
- For companies, an excerpt from the Commercial Register is required.
Don’t forget: first buy insurance for your car – then go to the Road Traffic Office. You do not have insurance yet? Make an online comparison of car insurance now and save money!
I was summoned for a technical inspection – How often do I have to go there?
The authorities regularly inspect the road (or water) safety of cars, motorcycles, buses, trucks and ships. Owners therefore have to present their vehicle for inspection (MFK in German) upon request.
- The first inspection must be made four years after the vehicle's first registration.
- The second inspection is due three years later.
- After that, your car has to be inspected every two years.
These intervals continue to apply after a change of ownership.
When importing cars, this official technical inspection must be carried out prior to registration, irrespective of whether it is a new car that has just been bought or an older vehicle brought along by immigrants.
I wish to apply for transferable number plates – How does it work?
If you wish to apply for transferable number plates for several vehicles, you should explicitly point out that you are applying for transferable number plates when ordering the electronic proof of insurance as this needs to be stated in there.
You further need:
- Registration form
- Original vehicle registration certificate for the vehicle you wish to register or the inspection report 13.20 A (Prüfungsbericht / rapport d'expertise)
Note: transferable number plates are only available for vehicles of the same category; for example for two motorcycles, two cars or two commercial vehicles. In the case of vintage cars, it is often even possible to register more than two vehicles under the same number.
My vehicle registration certificate has been lost or stolen – What do I have to do?
As the owner of the car, you first need to fill in a notice of loss form. This can be downloaded from the website of the Road Traffic Office in charge. You can then either personally collect a replacement certificate upon presentation of an identity card or the office will send it to you directly by mail.
In case of theft, please file a police report!
I want to invalidate a vehicle registration certificate – How does it work?
Here also applies: the certificate can either be handed in at the counter or sent by mail. If you send it by mail, you should include a note saying «annullieren» (invalidate). The authority will return the invalidated document to the owner. If no new vehicle is registered within 14 days, the old number plates must be handed over either at the Road Traffic Office or at a post-office counter.
I require a day permit and temporary number plates – What do I need for this?
For transfer trips you need a day permit and temporary number plates. These are valid for up to 96 hours.
- Application form
- Vehicle registration certificate or inspection report (Prüfungsbericht / rapport d'expertise)
- ID, passport or residence permit
- If it is a company car: Extract from the Trade Register
- Cash, Maestro card, Postcard or credit card
Persons from different cantons usually need to make a safety deposit. In Lucerne, for example, a deposit of 500 francs is required. Cars with temporary number plates only have liability insurance. This means that damage under casco insurance is not covered.
Upon expiry of the validity period, you need to return the plates and permit to the Road Traffic Office.
I am looking for plates with a special number – Where can I get this?
If you wish to get a specific number plate, you can generally do this at the counter of the Road Traffic Office only. It is usually not possible to make a reservation by phone or on the Internet. The extra fee must be paid in cash or by card.
The smaller the plate number, the deeper owners have to dig into their pockets. In the canton of Lucerne, for example, the fees are clearly graded. If you wish for plates with a number between 1 and 99, you must pay 9000 francs.
In many other cantons such as Zurich, St. Gallen or Aargau, popular numbers are sold by auction, sometimes at online auctions.
I want to take out car insurance – By when do I have to do this?
In order for the process to run smoothly, owners should keep in mind that they need to have motor vehicle insurance before going to the authorities. Your insurance company will electronically send the proof of insurance to the Road Traffic Office, so you will not have to take care of that.
We therefore advise you to compare car insurance early. You can save money by making a free online comparison. Your personal quotes will be sent to you by e-mail right away.