Car Loans in Germany: Everything you need to know in 2024

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Tobias Sjöström

Germany is renowned for its high-quality automobiles, and having your own can significantly simplify commuting, whether you’re planning to explore the picturesque Black Forest or make your daily commute more comfortable. But how exactly does one go about securing a car loan in a foreign land? This is where we come in.

In this guide, we will walk you through the process of understanding, applying for, and securing a car loan in Germany. We’ll shed light on the unique characteristics of the German car loan landscape, decode common terminologies, and provide you with tips to select the best car loan that suits your needs.


  • Car loans in Germany have unique features, making understanding the process vital.
  • Understanding essential terminologies can help in effectively navigating the car loan process.
  • Meeting eligibility criteria is fundamental to securing a car loan in Germany.
  • Different types of car loans cater to varied financial situations and car types.
  • Choosing the right car loan requires considering various factors such as budget, credit score, and loan terms.
  • Certain financial advice can be pivotal when considering a car loan, like budgeting and understanding total ownership costs.

Understanding Car Loans in Germany

A car loan, or “Autokredit” in German, is a loan used to purchase a car, repaid with interest over a certain period, usually via monthly installments. In Germany, car loans may differ from other countries, with its flexible and customer-friendly options. Various institutions, like banks, credit unions, and car dealerships, offer loans, each with unique terms and conditions.

German car loans typically fall into two categories: traditional car loans and dealership financing. With traditional loans, you secure funding from a bank or credit union to buy a car from any seller. Dealership financing is where the loan comes directly from the car dealer, who often partners with a financial institution.

Choosing between these options depends on personal financial circumstances, credit score, and preferences. One notable advantage of German car loans is their often lower interest rates due to strong provider competition, making them a feasible choice for financing car purchases.

Your credit score (or “Schufa” score in Germany) significantly influences your eligibility and the offered interest rates for a car loan.

Eligibility for a Car Loan in Germany

Eligibility for a Car Loan in Germany

Securing a car loan in Germany requires you to meet certain eligibility criteria. Generally, these conditions are in place to ensure that lenders mitigate risks and borrowers can comfortably meet their repayment obligations. As a foreigner, there might be some additional requirements or challenges, but rest assured, we’ll provide you with potential solutions too.

Firstly, let’s discuss the standard criteria for getting a car loan.

  1. Age: Borrowers must be at least 18 years old, as this is the legal age to enter into a contract in Germany.   
  2. Residency: You must have a valid address in Germany. Some lenders might require you to have lived at your current address for a minimum period.   
  3. Income: Steady, regular income is a must. Your income level may influence the maximum loan amount you can get.   
  4. Employment: Full-time, part-time, or self-employment is typically required. Some lenders might require you to have been with the same employer or in the same line of work for a certain period.
  5. Credit Score (Schufa Score): A good Schufa score is vital. This score represents your creditworthiness based on your past financial behaviour.

For expats, the main challenge usually lies with the Schufa score. Since Schufa collects financial data from German banks and service providers, if you’re new to the country, you may not have a Schufa score. Without a Schufa score, getting a loan can be more difficult, but it’s not impossible.

Here’s what you can do to enhance your eligibility:

  • Maintain a Healthy Financial Record: Once you open a German bank account, ensure all bills and credit card payments are made on time. This will help to build a positive credit record.
  • Guarantor: Having a guarantor with a good Schufa score and stable income can make it easier to secure a car loan. The guarantor essentially promises to repay the loan if you default.
  • Higher Down Payment: If possible, consider making a higher down payment for the car. This reduces the lender’s risk, as the loan amount decreases.
  • Explore Different Lenders: Don’t restrict yourself to one lender. Different lenders have different criteria and some might have more lenient conditions for foreigners.

The key is to display financial stability and reliability. Once you establish yourself as a trustworthy borrower, getting a car loan will become a lot simpler.

Types of Car Loans in Germany

Once you’ve determined that you meet the eligibility criteria, the next step is understanding the different types of car loans available in Germany. This will help you identify which option aligns best with your financial situation and needs. 

Broadly speaking, there are three main types of car loans that borrowers can opt for in Germany:

Traditional Bank Loans (Autokredit)

This is the most straightforward type of car loan. Banks or credit unions provide a loan for you to purchase a vehicle. The main advantages of traditional bank loans are their competitive interest rates and the freedom to buy a car from any dealership or private seller. Repayment is usually in the form of monthly installments over a specified loan term. Once the loan is fully repaid, you own the car outright.

Dealership Financing (Händlerfinanzierung)

In this case, the loan is provided directly by the car dealership. They usually collaborate with a bank or financial service provider to offer this service. One of the advantages of dealership financing is the convenience; you can arrange your car’s financing right where you’re buying it. Dealerships may also offer promotional interest rates or incentives, but it’s important to thoroughly review any offer and compare it with other available options. 


Technically not a loan, but still a popular option for driving a car in Germany, is leasing. In a lease arrangement, you make monthly payments to use the car for a specified period, after which you return the car to the leasing company. Leasing often allows you to drive a newer or more expensive car for a lower monthly payment than if you were buying it. However, at the end of the lease term, you won’t own the car. This option is ideal for those who prefer to change cars every few years and don’t want to worry about the resale value.

Each of these options has its own set of pros and cons, and what’s best for you will depend on various factors such as your financial situation, how long you plan to keep the car, and your credit score. Take the time to understand each option, assess your needs, and evaluate what each financing path means for your personal financial situation.

Related: Learn more about all the different types of loans in Germany

Step-by-step Process of Securing a Car Loan

Securing a Car Loan in Germany

Understanding how to navigate the process of securing a car loan in Germany can make the journey more manageable. So, let’s break down the steps you’ll likely follow:

  1. Initial Research: Your journey begins with research. Familiarize yourself with the various types of loans available, the current interest rates, and the terms and conditions of various lenders. 
  2. Budgeting: Before you apply for a loan, assess your financial situation and determine how much you can afford to borrow and repay comfortably each month. 
  3. Choosing a Car: You might already have a car in mind, but if not, now’s the time to decide what kind of car you’re looking for. The price of the car will heavily influence the size of the loan you’ll need.
  4. Loan Pre-Approval: Depending on the lender, you might have the option to get pre-approved for a loan. Pre-approval can give you a clearer idea of what size of loan you can get and what interest rate you qualify for, helping to further inform your budget.
  5. Application Submission: Once you’ve decided on a lender and a loan, the next step is to submit your application. You’ll need to provide details about yourself and your financial situation. Documentation typically required includes proof of income, identity, address, and possibly more, depending on the lender.
  6. Loan Approval: If your application is successful, the lender will offer you a loan. The offer should clearly state the loan amount, interest rate, loan term, monthly payment, and total cost of the loan.
  7. Purchase and Registration: After the loan is secured, you can proceed to purchase your car. Remember, in Germany, it’s necessary to have car insurance before registering the vehicle under your name.
  8. Repayment: Once the car is in your possession, you’ll begin making regular repayments as per the loan agreement. Ensure timely repayments to maintain a healthy Schufa score.
  9. Ownership: After repaying the loan in full, you’ll own the car outright, with no obligations to the lender.

Getting a car loan is a journey with multiple steps, and it requires some effort and patience. It’s important to remember that every lender’s process can differ slightly, so this guide is a generalized overview. Always make sure you fully understand your lender’s specific process and requirements.

Choosing the Right Car Loan

Navigating the myriad of car loan options in Germany can be a daunting task. However, finding the right one can make a significant difference to your financial wellbeing over the term of the loan. Here’s how to choose a car loan that fits your needs:

  1. Determine Your Budget: Understanding your budget is the first step in the car loan process. Remember to consider not only the car’s price but also other costs such as insurance, fuel, and maintenance. Use this information to determine the monthly loan payment you can comfortably afford.
  2. Know Your Credit Score: Your credit score significantly influences the interest rate and terms you’ll be offered. If your Schufa score isn’t ideal, you might want to take steps to improve it before applying for a loan.
  3. Compare Loan Options: Don’t settle for the first loan offer you receive. Compare offers from different lenders to ensure you’re getting the best deal. Look at the interest rates, loan terms, and any associated fees.
  4. Consider Loan Terms: While a longer loan term can make for smaller monthly payments, it also means paying more interest over the life of the loan. Choose a term that provides an affordable monthly payment but also minimizes the total cost of the loan.
  5. Understand the Fine Print: It’s crucial to thoroughly understand your loan’s terms and conditions. Look for details about prepayment penalties, late fees, and the process and repercussions of defaulting on the loan.
  6. Plan for Down Payment: Most car loans will require a down payment. A larger down payment can reduce the size of the loan you need, leading to lower monthly payments and less paid in interest over the loan term.
  7. Seek Pre-approval: Pre-approval gives you a better idea of what you can afford and places you in a stronger position when negotiating the car price.

Choosing the right car loan in Germany might require a bit of time and research, but it’s an effort that can save you money and prevent financial stress in the long run.

Related: All you need to know about student loans in Germany

Financial Advice when Considering a Car Loan

Taking on a car loan is a significant financial decision that should be approached with careful thought and consideration. Here are some pieces of financial advice that can guide you when considering a car loan in Germany:

  1. Only Borrow What You Can Repay: While it might be tempting to take out a larger loan for a more expensive car, it’s crucial to borrow only what you can comfortably repay. Defaulting on a loan can have severe consequences for your credit score and future borrowing capacity.
  2. Consider Total Ownership Costs: Remember that owning a car involves more than just the purchase price. Be sure to factor in insurance, fuel, maintenance, and other ongoing costs when determining your budget.
  3. Compare Interest Rates, Not Just Monthly Payments: While a low monthly payment might seem attractive, it’s the interest rate that determines how much you’ll pay over the life of the loan. A lower interest rate can save you significant amounts of money in the long run.
  4. Avoid Long Loan Terms If Possible: Longer loan terms lower your monthly payment but increase the total amount of interest you’ll pay. Aim for the shortest term you can comfortably afford to minimize your total loan cost.
  5. Build and Maintain Good Credit: A good credit score will qualify you for better loan terms and lower interest rates. Always make loan repayments on time and try to keep your overall debt levels low to maintain a healthy credit score.
  6. Save for a Down Payment: The larger the down payment you can make, the smaller your loan will need to be. A larger down payment can also improve your chances of loan approval and secure you a lower interest rate.
  7. Consider Loan Insurance: While not mandatory, loan insurance can provide peace of mind by covering your loan repayments if you become unable to pay due to illness, job loss, or other unforeseen circumstances.

Essential Terminologies

While embarking on the journey of securing a car loan in Germany, you’ll likely encounter some terminology that may seem confusing at first. We’ve compiled a list of important terms you need to understand. Having a good grasp of these terms will make the entire process smoother and more understandable.

  • Autokredit: This is the German term for a car loan. 
  • Effektiver Jahreszins: Translated as ‘effective annual interest rate’, it gives you the total cost of the loan per year, taking into account both the interest rate and any associated fees.
  • Kreditantrag: This means ‘loan application’. This is the document you will fill out when applying for your car loan.
  • Kreditgeber: This refers to ‘lender’ or ‘creditor’, the institution providing the loan.
  • Kreditnehmer: This is the ‘borrower’ or ‘debtor’, the individual taking out the loan.
  • Bonität: This refers to your ‘creditworthiness’. Your lender will evaluate this to determine the risk involved in granting you a loan.
  • Schufa: The ‘General Credit Protection Agency’, it’s Germany’s primary credit bureau. They maintain a database of individuals’ credit histories and provide credit scores, which significantly impact loan eligibility and interest rates.
  • Anzahlung: This translates to ‘down payment’. It’s the initial, upfront payment you make towards your car purchase.
  • Laufzeit: The ‘term’ or ‘duration’ of your loan. It indicates the period over which you’ll repay your loan.
  • Restschuld: This is the ‘remaining debt’, the amount you still owe on your loan at any given point.
  • Zinsen: This simply refers to the ‘interest’ that you pay on the loan.

Understanding these terms is a small, yet significant step towards securing your car loan in Germany. While it might take a bit of effort, being able to navigate the lingo will make the process far less intimidating and ensure you’re well-informed throughout the journey.

Additional Resources

To further assist you in your car loan journey in Germany, we’ve compiled a list of useful resources. These include websites, online tools, and platforms that provide a wealth of information and services to help make your car financing process smoother:

  1. Schufa: Schufa is Germany’s main credit bureau. Familiarize yourself with their services and learn how to access and understand your Schufa score.
  2. Bundesbank: The Federal Bank of Germany provides official statistics, including average car loan interest rates, which can be a helpful reference.
  3. BAFIN: The Federal Financial Supervisory Authority offers a wealth of information about German financial regulations and can be a good place to learn more about your rights as a borrower.


Can you get a car loan in Germany?

Yes, you can get a car loan in Germany. Both residents and non-residents are eligible to apply. However, you will need to meet certain criteria such as having a good credit score (known as ‘Schufa’ in Germany) and demonstrating your ability to repay the loan.

Is it better to lease or finance a car in Germany?

Whether it’s better to lease or finance a car in Germany depends on your individual circumstances. Financing might be a good option if you intend to keep the car for a long time and don’t mind the commitment of a loan. Leasing, on the other hand, can be a great choice if you prefer driving a new car every few years and don’t want to worry about the resale value. Consider factors like duration of stay, monthly budget, and personal preference before making a decision.

Can I lease a car in Germany as a foreigner?

Yes, foreigners can lease a car in Germany. However, the terms may be a bit more stringent. You may be asked to provide proof of a stable income, a valid residence permit, and possibly a German bank account. The rules may vary depending on the leasing company.

Can I drive a car in Germany with US license?

Yes, you can drive in Germany with a US driver’s license, but only for a limited period. US citizens staying in Germany for less than 6 months can use their US driver’s license. After that, or if you establish residency, you will need to obtain a German driving license. Some states have full reciprocity with Germany, meaning you can easily exchange your US license for a German one, while others will require you to take a written or practical exam. Check the latest regulations from the German Federal Motor Transport Authority for specific details.

ABOUT Tobias Sjöström

Meet Tobias, our trusted Lead Financial Guide at Tobias hails from the beautiful city of Frankfurt and brings an unparalleled wealth of financial knowledge and expertise to our platform.

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