What documents do you need when buying a car?

The vehicle itself is not everything that is handed over when buying a used car – even the documents must be in order. When buying a used car, these 5 vehicle documents must not be missing: vehicle registration document, vehicle registration document, inspection report of the last main inspection, inspection checkbook and sales contract. In the guide, you will learn why these documents are important and what other documents play a role in buying a car.

Whether at the used car dealer or when buying from private to private, every car purchase is also connected with the delivery of various documents. All used car experts from ADAC to Dekra and TÜV advise not only to look at the vehicle thoroughly, but also to inspect all vehicle documents in peace : in the documents you will find plenty of information that provides information about the condition of the vehicle – and may provide evidence of defects or problems that the seller would rather keep quiet.

Every used car purchase is a challenge. Some people very boldly try to sell a rickety box as a dashing car. So that you as a buyer consider all important points and forget nothing, here you will find our checklist for the used car purchase. The documents you need to remember are listed in the “Vehicle papers” section.

These five vehicle papers must not be missing at any used car purchase

Some documents can not be avoided when buying a used car: Registration certificate Part I and Part II are indispensable, older vehicles may still be a vehicle registration document and letter. Also, the test report of the last main inspection is important if the car is older than 3 years. Information about the condition of the vehicle is also the inspection checkbook . It documents whether the seller has complied with the recommended maintenance intervals. With a (written) sales contract the car purchase is legally closed.

Registration certificate Part I / vehicle registration

This document proves that the associated vehicle is approved for use on public roads . It is always in the car. The registration certificate Part I replaced since October 2005, the vehicle license used until then. Older cars, which have since been neither sold nor rescheduled, can still be operated with this – but at the re-registration after the car purchase he is confiscated and replaced by the new document. If the car has been deregistered by the previous owner before the sale, he / she must be able to produce a cancellation certificate .

Registration certificate Part II / vehicle registration

This document is not the deed of ownership of the vehicle. But it does show who the owner is and thus has power over the car . The registration certificate Part II is also issued since October 2005, before the vehicle registration was used. In the certificate of approval Part II, only two holders are listed by name – the current holder and the Vorhalter. In the vehicle letter it was the last 6 presenters. Instead, only the total number of persons whose hands passed the vehicle before is entered in the registration certificate Part II.

Test report of the last main investigation

A valid HU badge on the rear license plate is important – but it’s not enough on its own. One of the documents that you must absolutely claim when buying a used car is the test report from the last main inspection. Although it does not have to be carried in the car as proof of performance, there is a duty to keep it until the next due HU.

It contains important information about the condition of the vehicle at the time of the test, but also requirements : For example, it may be noted that the badge was issued only because the owner has undertaken to remedy the deficiencies listed as soon as possible. If such comments are found in the HU report, you should check on the car to see if these repairs have actually been made.

If the last main inspection is almost 2 years back, this could be a sign that the seller wants to avoid upcoming – and possibly expensive – repairs by selling. It is also possible, of course, that the seller had no time or simply forgot this. But who has nothing to hide, usually prefers such a duty appointment – in order to maintain the sales value of his car.

Inspection checkbook

This checkbook contains all minor and major inspections and additional work recommended by the manufacturer at specific intervals. These include, for example, the change of engine oil, brake fluid or toothed belt . If the inspection and maintenance intervals were observed, this indicates a well-kept car. The inspection checkbook should be completed in full : As a rule, the services performed are ticked, the signature of the responsible car mechanic and the stamp of the workshop are also included.

Purchase contract

Contract is a contract, whether it was concluded verbally or in writing. In order to avoid later disputes and – in the worst case – to go to court, both parties should conclude a written purchase contract for the used car purchase . In case of a verbal agreement witnesses should definitely be present, otherwise you have bad cards, if you want to prove covert or concealed defects.

A written purchase contract, however, clearly states all the information: Buyers and sellers identify themselves via address, telephone number and identity card or passport number ; the vehicle is clearly identified by the vehicle identification number (FIN) (colloquially also known as the chassis number). In addition there is the number of the registration certificate Part II or the vehicle registration.

If accessories such as a second set of tires and a bicycle or roof rack or other additional equipment – a new radio, for example – sold, all should also be listed in the contract and described in detail. The exact purchase price and the signatures of seller and buyer complete the purchase contract.

Overview: What belongs in the purchase contract

  • Name, address, telephone number, personal or passport number of buyer and seller
  • Vehicle identification number
  • Number of the registration certificate Part II / vehicle registration
  • Accessories and additional equipment
  • purchase price
  • signatures

From the manual to the report: When buying a car, these documents also play a role

If you want to buy a used car, the documents listed above play the main role. Under certain circumstances, additional documents are added, which must be checked when buying a used car or at least passed on. On the one hand, this concerns the operating instructions , which should actually be in every glove box. Far more important are the electronic insurance number , if the car is still registered, all documents relating to an accident and the subsequent repair of the vehicle , as well as all permits , if the car was tuned or rebuilt.

operation manual

Millions printed, rarely read: The manual is not necessarily the most important documents for many drivers. For newer cars, the thick book should usually be in the glove box , along with the inspection booklet. But sometimes it is missing , especially in older used cars, the instructions were often lost over the years. Especially when it comes to the operation of multimedia systems or navigation devices, you should be able to read in case of doubt. Therefore you as a buyer should always ask for the manual . In newer models, a paper version is often accompanied by a version on DVD or integrated into the infotainment module. Let’s explain the use first.


The best way to get acquainted with the dream car is and remains the test drive. But she also has her pitfalls. Prepare yourself optimally with our test run checklist and see at a glance what to look out for before, during and after the test drive.

If the car is still allowed

If the dream car with the purchase still admitted to the previous owner, there is inevitably also a motor vehicle liability insurance . This passes to the buyer upon conclusion of the purchase agreement. But for both parties there are still some obligations: The seller must inform his insurance company about the sale immediately, the buyer must re-register the car as soon as possible. If he causes an accident before the transfer, the existing motor vehicle liability insurance must pay for the damage to other vehicles. Although the seller and the buyer are jointly and severally liable , the insurance usually keeps the seller in the determination of the corresponding premium.

Test drive agreement

Who causes damage during a test drive, must pay for this. Also possible upgrades in liability and comprehensive insurance are at the expense of the prospective buyer. But he does not have to pay for existing damage. It is therefore advisable to conclude a test drive agreement prior to commencement, in which existing damage is noted.

Therefore, it is best that sellers and buyers make the re-registration together with the Admissions Office . If the seller wants to be on the safe side and no longer be held responsible after the sale, he must log off the car. To be able to transfer the car as a buyer, you need a temporary license plate . To get that, you have to have a corresponding motor insurance. From the insurance company you get an electronic insurance confirmation number (eVB number) , which you have to show at the registration office. After the transfer, the correct re-registration takes place.

If the car had an accident

Of course, “accident freedom” is one of the most important arguments when buying a used car. It is reflected in a higher price. But who had an accident and wants to sell the car, must inform the buyer about it. “Bought as seen” and thus steal the responsibility – that does not work. An accident is a clear material defect , so a judgment of the Federal Court of Justice in 2007. But already in the question of what an accident, divorced the ghosts. Even minor damage to the bodywork, such as the replacement of a bumper, can lead to a car no longer being considered “accident-free”.

But as a “crash car”, the vehicle does not apply, and not every visit to a garage reduces the value of a vehicle to the repair costs. But if the seller conceals an accident, even threaten the reversal of the purchase agreement . That brings no advantages, but only a lot of trouble. Therefore, the seller should definitely play with open cards if the car was involved in an accident. The damage report of the insurance company and photos of the accident show prospective buyers which lots were affected at all, workshop calculations prove that the car was professionally repaired and is therefore safe to travel again. Buyers in doubt may have the vehicle inspected by an expert.

If conversions were made on the car

Wide tires, per-chip engine, sporty steering wheel – not a few car owners styled their vehicle to make it look nicer, more powerful or stand out from the mass production. Important: The tuning has to be done correctly , otherwise the general operating permit (ABE) of the vehicle will expire . Flushing can quickly occur when installing the various accessories such as spoiler, sports exhaust and sound system, for example, if the parts used are not approved for the vehicle type or if the vehicle was lowered by the home maker itself. But also a trailer hitch must be registered.

Therefore, you should absolutely make sure that all relevant conversions are also in the registration certificate Part I (vehicle registration) are registered . For all tuning elements, only approved components should be used. Many light metal rims, sills, LED headlights or tinted windows have a general type approval (ABG) . This regulates in which vehicle models the elements may be installed at all. For custom-made items or parts imported from abroad, this general approval often does not exist. Then a corresponding partial report of a testing organization must be available.

Conclusion: When buying used cars necessarily all documents in peace check

With the right preparation and the necessary rest succeeds the used car purchase. If you check the documents of the vehicle, do not be rushed . Check exactly both parts of the registration certificate: Is the vehicle identification number correct? Are all structural changes registered, so that the roadworthiness is given? If the seller is not identical to the last vehicle owner, be sure to show the seller’s sales authorization and identity card.

All other documents should also be thoroughly and carefully examined: Does the condition of the vehicle coincide with the test report of the last main inspection? What does the damage report say about the specified accident? Once everything has been arranged to your satisfaction, nothing stands in the way of signing the purchase agreement. Then keys and code cards for the vehicle must be handed over. The full purchase price is usually paid only when the new owner after the car purchase the most important document – the registration certificate Part II – holds in his hands.

Kenneth Carnes