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Here’s how to buy a used car in Denmark

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Here’s how to buy a used car in Denmark
Photo: Iris/Scanpix
17:29 CEST+02:00
If you’re considering buying a used car in Denmark, here’s a few things you might do well to know before you sign any papers.

Because of the complex tax system, combined with extensive legislation from the European Union, Denmark is an expensive place to own a vehicle.

One of the primary reasons for the high price tags on vehicles in Denmark is the Vehicle Registration Tax (registreringsafgift, RA). Over recent years the RA has been lowered somewhat, but it remains a huge outlay in the acquisition of a vehicle. 

The current RA means that you will pay 105 percent registration tax on the first 106,600 kroner (14,200 euros) of the vehicles value. Vehicles bought for more than the 106,600 kroner limit will be taxed at 150 percent of the vehicle value.

There’s also a complicated deduction system in place, which favours safety equipment and fuel efficiency. So, purchasing a safe and environmental vehicle will result in more deductibles, thereby lowering the RA.

Besides the RA tax there’s also the so-called green owner tax (grøn ejerafgift), which is an environmental tax determined by the vehicle’s environmental friendliness. 

The rate is biannual and is set by the United Nations Economic Commission for Europe. The less fuel-efficient the vehicle is, the more you will pay in green owner tax.

READ ALSO: Explained: Denmark's crazy car registration tax

Understanding the inspection system and roadworthiness reports

It is mandatory for all vehicles four or more years old to undergo a regular inspection test at an authorised inspection center. These centers are privatised, but under supervision of the Danish Transport Authority – much like the UK’s annual MOT tests.

The purpose of the test is to ensure that the vehicle remains legal, safe and roadworthy. Brand new vehicles are exempt from tests the first four years, after which they are to be tested every second year. The test often reveals things that need fixing, and can be a costly affair.

Once the inspection center passes the car, they’ll submit a roadworthiness report (synsrapport). Although these are only available in Danish, they do contain a lot of important information quite useful to prospective buyers. 

If you have a specific vehicle in mind you can go to a website like TjekBil, where you can enter a license plate or vehicle identification number to gain access to former roadworthiness reports.

Unpaid debt and odometer fraud

If you’re looking to buy a used car from a private individual, as opposed to a dealership, then there could be a possibility of the vehicle having unpaid debt (restgæld), which in a transaction would be transferred to the new owner. It is therefore important to make sure that the seller makes good on the outstanding debt beforehand. 

Roughly 10 percent of used cars for sale have unpaid debt, so while the odds are low, there are some horror stories that make it worth being careful in this area.

READ ALSO: Danes buying cars like never before

You will also need to make sure that the odometer hasn’t been tampered with. A seller can commit odometer fraud (kilometer fusk or kilometer snyd) by falsely increasing the market value of a car through rolling the odometer backwards, thereby making it look as though the car has been driven less than it really has. A recent investigation of 187.000 Danish cars revealed odometer fraud in 6.7 percent of used cars on sale. Even though this percentage is lower than in other European countries, it is still worth checking, since it can easily cost you a five-figured loss of value.

Using old reports to guarantee a safe and fair deal

Old roadworthiness reports provide you with statistics on the vehicle, such as its first date of registration.
You can also check the listed fuel efficiency (abbreviated as km/l) against the figure supplied by the manufacturer. You should expect this to be a bit less efficient than factory figures suggest.

Before you go and test drive cars, it is advisable to first make use of free online car portals like BilHandel to give yourself a sense of the market price, as well as to get acquainted with the Danish specification terminology. 

The following shortlist can be used to steer clear of the most common pitfalls in a used car transaction:

  • Does the vehicle have any unpaid debt?
  • Is there any sign of odometer fraud?
  • How recent was the vehicle tested at an inspection center and when is the next test due?
  • How fuel-efficient is the car and how much will the biannual green owners tax amount to?
  • Vehicle safety according to the Euro NCAP test score?

Andreas Bjørn Madsen holds a Master's degree in Information Science and Cultural Communication from the University of Copenhagen, specialising in culture, media and digitality.  

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