Transportation Essentials: To Buy a Car, or Not to Buy a Car?
When I first moved to Basel I was terrified to drive here. Thankfully, you can get around perfectly well on public transportation. But after two years of a long commute to my childrens’ school, tendonitis from schlepping all my groceries by cart and then a global pandemic, I gave in and faced my fears - it was time to get a car.
Like many cities, Basel offers a variety of options for anyone looking for four wheels. After doing some research and talking with my fellow expats here is what I learned.
Purchasing & Leasing
For anyone planning to drive a lot and who wants maximum flexibility in car choice, purchasing or leasing is a good way to go. There are several options available in Basel and the standard pros and cons between them hold up here. Some things to remember are:
Cash is still king and can help you negotiate a price or a lease deal.
Financing or securing a lease can be a little tricky for some expats depending on your permit type and credit.
For leases, you will want to pay close attention to end of lease terms.
Online marketplaces, such as Comparis or Car For You , can be a helpful first stop for seeing what’s out there for both new and used cars. For those interested in just leasing, Gowago offers leasing options with an all-inclusive package (insurance, taxes, service, etc.).
You can also go directly to dealerships if you know what kind of car you want. Some dealers have both new and used stock, while others may only carry one or the other, so it’s worth checking before you visit. Dealers can also be helpful with the necessary paperwork, such as registration and providing a list of preferred insurers.
Sale by owner
Another option is to purchase a used car directly from an owner. On Facebook, Basel Buy & Sell and the more general Facebook Marketplace are common spots to find local stock. Just remember that you will be responsible for pre-purchase vetting of the car, completing all the required paperwork and finding insurance.
Car subscription companies are on the rise in Switzerland with companies like Carvolution, Upto.ch and Clyde. Subscriptions include the car, registration, service, insurance and motor vignette. Subscriptions range in price based on the length of the subscription.
This option can be attractive for anyone who is here short-term and does not want to sign up for a long-term lease or sell their car when they move move. The down side is that there is a more limited selection of cars compared to the sale/lease market.
Mobility offers car sharing throughout Basel with a few different options:
Mobility Return: reserve a car in advance and pick up and return a car to the same location.
Mobility Go: locate the nearest car via an app and return it within certain zones.
Mobility One Way: pick up the car at one station and return it to another.
Click and Drive: use Mobility without a subscription.
Car sharing can be convenient if you need to drive infrequently and if there are car stations/zones nearby. However, it can be difficult sometimes to find a car that is available near you at the time you need it (especially if you can only drive automatics).
Here are a few other helpful tips I picked up along the way as I made my own decision:
Some employers offer discounts on car purchase, leases, subscriptions or sharing. Make sure to check to see if your employer offers any of these options.
Look at all the costs
There is much debate about which is the most affordable option. It’s important to consider all the costs beyond the car price including taxes and fees, insurance and service. And don’t forget to calculate your own time! Figuring out how to register a vehicle, find a service garage and purchase both sets of tires takes time and you may decide that inclusive options are money well spent.
Ultimately, it comes down to what factors are most important to you. Do you intend to drive a lot and want maximum choice? A lease or purchase may be best. Do you intend to drive regularly and want maximum flexibility? A car subscription may be better. Do you only want a car once in awhile? Then car sharing may be your best bet.
Hope that helps in your decision making process. As for me, I decided to go with a car subscription service, which was the best fit for my situation right now. That said, I could be persuaded to change my mind. Perhaps you have some additional considerations or tips to share with me and others? Please post a comment below.