Dare I begin at the end? If you plan on buying two automobiles, chose a city car and a mountain car. If you intend to be a one-vehicle family, buy an AWD car and a yearly bus pass. This is why….
Geneva’s parking is a jungle. If you find parking, the spaces can be tough to navigate. On one occasion I parked in Eaux-Vives 2000 and literally could not open my door to get out. Another time, after parking my first ever brand new car at the Migros, I came out to find a dent where the neighboring car slammed her door into mine. Small cars in the city make life easier, you can fit easily into parallel parking zones as well as some of the shorter spaces in the circular Rive parking.
New vs. Used
Cars are expensive in Switzerland. Some dealerships have a monopoly so negotiations are tough if not impossible. Seven years ago I walked away from trying to buy a Lexus Hybrid because the salesman refused to offer any sort of deal.
Used cars on the other hand can be bought at very interesting prices due to the sudden departure of some expats living here. Over the years we bought three used cars on a site called Scout24. You can look at cars throughout Switzerland or narrow your search to your postcode.
2 Wheel Drive vs. AWD
Let’s face it, snow is not an issue in Geneva. The past few years, we have had only one or two snow falls in the winter and if you have your winter tires, a compact 2-wheel drive car will do just fine.
If you plan on skiing most weekends, an AWD automobile makes a huge difference in the snow. Personally I am not a fan of big SUVs with their dismal gas mileage so I stuck to my roots and chose a true Alaskan car – the Subaru Outback.
Even my simple Subaru Outback costs me over CHF 8,000 a year. Granted I follow all the upkeep rules about oil changes, tire changes, and petit & grand service appointments. This also includes accident insurance, automobile taxes (which are based on your engine size and pollution output), highway vignette and TCS road insurance. It all adds up.
My husband, on the other hand, has an older city car on which he spends the bare minimum. Since it stays in the city & can be left at home in the snow, he doesn’t change the tires nor buy a vignette. His kilometers don’t add up so the garage services are few and far between.
One last interesting Swiss-specific law: two cars can share one license plate as long as you drive one car at a time. You save money by arranging special car insurance whereby you basically pay for the most expensive car and in some cantons, the second car pays only 40% of the automobile tax.
We are a group of international women living in Geneva, Switzerland. If you would like to join the AIWC, please visit our website at http://www.aiwcgeneva.org/