Classic and Vintage Cars Trading in Germany

German and International Sales Lawyers

Classic and Vintage Cars Trading in Germany

German and International Sales Lawyers

Classic cars, vintage cars and oldtimers enjoy great popularity in Germany. They can offer an excellent and unique driving experience and are also a solid investment. In addition, they represent motor vehicle-related cultural assets and often collectors’ items. However, when buying and selling a classic car, some special features should be considered. We strongly advise against rash promises to buy. In addition, value should be placed on a well-prepared written sales contract to avoid later disputes. In the following, we offer you an overview of the legal background and special features that need to be considered when buying and selling classic cars, vintage cars and oldtimers in Germany.

Schlun & Elseven Rechtsanwälte is a full-service law firm in Germany that advises our clients across all areas of German law. Please, do not hesitate to contact us directly for expert legal advice.

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Requirements for the Classification as a Classic Car

According to § 2 No. 22 FVZ, classic cars are vehicles that were first put into circulation at least 30 years ago. In addition, a classic car corresponds as far as possible to the original condition, is well preserved and serves as the care of the motor vehicle cultural asset.

If a vehicle is classified as classic or vintage, a historical registration number, the so-called H-plate, can be issued. This grants a tax advantage and free driving in environmental zones. To be classified as a classic car or an oldtimer, a certificate from an officially recognized expert, inspector or test engineer is required per § 23 StVZO.

The costs for the appraisal and issuing of the assessment are approx. 100-200 Euros, depending on the specific test scope and the vehicle test centre. Among other things, the appraisal can serve as proof of the vehicle’s condition at the time of purchase.

The Value of a Written Purchase Contract

A written sales contract is urgently recommended. This serves to preserve evidence, in particular, to clarify warranty issues. In addition, the conclusion of a well-thought-out, the written sales contract can protect against hasty purchases. For both the buyer and the seller of a classic car, it can be advisable to have the purchase contract drafted or at least checked by an experienced lawyer. Good legal advice can protect against later lengthy and costly disputes.

In addition to the essential information on the parties to the contract, the object of purchase and the purchase price, the purchase contract should contain a detailed description of the vehicle’s preservation state. In this way, it is precisely recorded what the seller must provide. This is because, as a rule, it is not possible to determine the usual condition of a classic car or oldtimer as a benchmark.

Instead, each vehicle is an individual piece with its own special features. Therefore, any agreements about the condition should be written down as characteristics guaranteed by the seller. This includes promises from the advertisement as well as from sales conversations. Attaching a list of the defects found as an appendix to the sales contract can be helpful. Often it is also advisable to have a valuation report prepared by an expert to record the vehicle’s condition in detail. A corresponding reference to this should be noted in the purchase agreement.

Caution is advised concerning general terms and conditions (T&Cs). These are pre-formulated contractual conditions for many contracts, which are not negotiated individually. For the effective inclusion of T&Cs, special legal regulations must be observed.

The Warranty for Defects

Not infrequently, the warranty for defects after the purchase of a classic car, vintage car or oldtimer is a point of dispute. The seller is generally liable for defects in the vehicle that were already present at the time of delivery. If necessary, however, the warranty can also be excluded.

In the case of a sale among dealers, among private persons as well as a private person to a dealer, the warranty can be limited or even completely excluded. However, a complete exclusion of warranty in the context of selling consumer goods (dealer to the private buyer) is ineffective.

Decisive for the warranty is that the defect was already present at the time of delivery of the oldtimer. If possible, the time of occurrence must therefore be determined. However, it is not uncommon for this to be difficult to determine.

In the case of a consumer goods purchase, the burden of proof lies with the seller within the first six months after handover. It is therefore assumed that the defect already existed at the delivery time unless the seller can prove otherwise (see § 477 BGB). According to the Federal Court of Justice (BGH), it is sufficient if the buyer can prove that the goods were in a defective condition within the first six months (BGH, judgment of 12.10.2016, Az. VII ZR 103/15). However, the buyer does not have to explain the cause of this condition. After the first six months expires, the burden of proof is on the buyer.

Warranty Expiry

The limitation period for material defects is per § 438 paragraph 1 BGB in principle, two years with the delivery of the vehicle. This period may be deviated from by contract. In the case of consumer goods sales contracts, a reduction is generally not possible.

However, in the case of used goods such as classic cars, the period can be reduced to at least one year (§ 476 para. 2 BGB). After the expiry of the period, the statute of limitations shall apply, and there shall no longer be any warranty claim against the seller. It is, therefore, essential to determine and comply with the applicable limitation period in good time.

Assessment of a Defect

Problems within the scope of the warranty occur above all if the agreed condition of the vehicle was not precisely recorded in the purchase contract. Then it can be challenging to assess a defect’s existence and assert claims in this regard. Whether a defect exists depends primarily on the party agreements on the classic car’s condition.

If, for example, the seller has guaranteed a wholly restored vehicle, the buyer may expect it to show no rust damage. If this is the case, however, there is a defect. Likewise, a contract for a classic car with a considerable need for revision can be concluded.

In this case, rust damage could correspond to the agreed condition of the car, and therefore, there would be no defect. Not only information about the vehicle in the contract of sale is relevant, but also public statements of the seller, especially in advertising, e.g. in internet and sales advertisements, unless this statement was corrected at the time of conclusion of the contract.

Grades 1 to 5 are usually given to define a classic car’s overall condition. Note 1 describes a flawless condition without signs of use. Grade 5, on the other hand, describes a faulty and non-roadworthy condition with extensive restoration requirements. The condition grade is legally binding. The state described in the grade is warranted. Deviations from this state of preservation are therefore considered to be defects. Caution is therefore required concerning the distribution of condition grades. It may be more beneficial to describe the concrete condition of the classic car.

If a positive appraisal of the vehicle according to § 23 StVZO (Oldtimer appraisal) was assured, then according to the BGH, this also constitutes an agreement on condition. Accordingly, the vehicle must be in a state that justifies the positive appraisal as a classic car. (BGH, judgement of 13.03.2013, Az. VIII ZR 172/12)