Owners of a largely authentic vintage car can register their vehicle as an automotive cultural treasure with an H license plate. This saves ongoing tax costs in particular: Annual vehicle tax is payable at a flat rate of €191 (with a seasonal H license plate, it is €192 calculated over twelve months), regardless of cubic capacity and fuel consumption. The H license plate was introduced in 1997 for historic vehicles that are at least 30 years old and are in good, original or contemporary restored condition. The license plate is similar to a normal EU license plate, but ends with the letter "H" (for historical). Such an oldi is considered a mobile cultural asset. In order to receive the number plate, however, an expert opinion must be submitted in accordance with § 23 StVZO, which confirms that the vehicle is unadulterated and largely original or only contemporary is tuned.
Can tuned classic cars get the H license plate?
If the tuning was performed on the vehicle at least 30 years ago and reflects the tuning style of that time, the vehicle can be considered "automotive heritage" even if it is not in its original condition. Therefore, tuned vehicles are considered a special case.
Is classic car tuning allowed?
If you want to tune a vehicle with an H license plate, there are a few rules to follow. Contemporary tuning measures are permitted within these rules. This includes changes to the vehicle made within the first ten years after initial registration or the date of manufacture have taken place or could have taken place and are therefore contemporary. It is also permitted to make technical changes that have already been declared as permissible or feasible within the vehicle series.
It is also permissible to make changes to the vehicle that are not contemporary, provided they can be shown to have been made at least 30 years ago. This means that even today, classic parts can still be used to tune the vehicle. However, it is important to note that the changes must always be made within the framework of the applicable laws and regulations in order to continue to be able to keep the H-plate.
Evidence of contemporary changes?
Anyone who has kept documents such as original brochures, operating instructions, manufacturer approvals or historical reports has an advantage in proving the originality of the changes. If you have questions about permitted rim sizes, a copy of an old vehicle registration document with the relevant notes can be helpful. If such documentation is not available, archives or press publications such as driving reports mentioning or depicting details can serve as evidence. The examiner's conviction can also be supported by the vehicle registration document (today: registration certificate part II) of another vehicle of the same type.
Criteria for the H license plate
Not every classic car can meet the requirements of the H-certificate: used old vehicles that have just reached the age limit are not permitted, since the H-certificate documents the original condition of the vehicle. This also refutes the myth that a classic car with an H license plate can be used as a cheap everyday vehicle. It is usually required that the condition of the vehicle is good and that the main components are either in their original condition or at least have been replaced with contemporary parts.
Since 2007, such a report can be prepared by any trained test engineer from the major test organizations such as TÜV, DEKRA, GTÜ and others. As part of the assessment, a test is carried out that corresponds to the scope of a main inspection. In addition, the appraisal includes an assessment of the state of preservation and the originality of the most important components of the vehicle. Are important: Structure/body, brake system, electrical system, vehicle interior, frame/chassis, wheels/tyres, steering, engine/drive, care and condition.
Federal Audit Office and the H mark
The Federal Court of Auditors has criticized the H-mark and worried many. In its most recent report, the institution called on the Federal Ministry of Finance to prevent possible misuse of the H license plate. The arguments: Many classic car owners with an H license plate benefited from tax breaks, but still used their vehicle in everyday life. The practice mentioned would contradict the goals of the legislator, since the main goal is to protect the automotive cultural heritage. In addition, this practice could be misused, which counteracts climate policy goals. However, the Treasury has contradicted the report, saying the assumptions on which it is based are unproven. The proven low annual mileage of vintage cars results in only an insignificant environmental impact.
H license plates always make sense?
Some decide against the H license plate for tax reasons. If the annual vehicle tax is less than 191 €, the H-registration is namely not advantageous. Regular registration is cheaper for small cars with petrol engines up to 800 cm³, such as a Fiat 500. This remains the same even if the H season license plate is changed, since vehicles with a small cubic capacity and regular season license plates are also more cost-effective when calculated pro rata.
However, for vehicles with a displacement of up to 1,3 liters that previously had a seasonal license plate for seven months, switching to the H seasonal license plate could be worthwhile. In this case, the proportionate tax amount would be less than €191. The tax can also be lower for oldis that came onto the market at the end of the 80s, since the built-in G-Kat reduces pollutant emissions and therefore the tax. In the case of diesel vehicles, an H license plate is usually advantageous due to the higher vehicle tax, which is usually over €191 even for smaller engines. For an Opel Astra naturally aspirated diesel engine with a displacement of 1,6 liters without emission control, taxes would be around €437 per year. The H license plate is worth it here!
tax for seasonal H mark
The H license plate can also be applied for and assigned for part of the year. This eliminates the need to pay the flat-rate vehicle tax of €191 per year for classic cars. Alternatively, there is the option of registering the classic car for a period of two to eleven months, with the vehicle tax being calculated pro rata on the basis of €192. If the classic car is registered for six months from April to September, the tax for this season is €96. This change allows historic vehicle owners to save money by only declaring it for the summer months. This applies at least if the vehicle tax for the oldi with a regular license plate is more than €191 per year. If the tax is lower, a normal seasonal license plate remains cheaper than an H seasonal license plate.
Terms for the H report
Experts complain that the term "original version" is used several times in the "Guideline for the assessment of vintage cars according to § 23 StVZO" from 2011, but is not explained in more detail. In fact, “Original design“ on a component in its first, original form. Strictly speaking, this excludes replicas, even if they are true to the original. However, they are explicitly mentioned in some places in the Directive. Depending on the examiner's discretion, the report can be negative if, for example, the engine is historically correct but not the one originally installed.
The section that describes how to deal with exhaust systems is also misleading. So far, replicas made of stainless steel that are true to the original were allowed, but the word "also" is missing in the new directive. On closer reading, there should be no H-approval if a simple replacement muffler made of sheet steel was installed. But that was certainly not the intention. In general, retrofitting of emission control systems is permitted for environmental reasons. However, the admissibility of retrofitting must be proven. Then nothing stands in the way of a retrofit catalytic converter!
How much does the expert opinion for the H license plate cost?
You can apply for an H license plate for a vehicle that is at least 30 years old and in good condition. The cost of one is usually around €200 and includes all aspects. This includes the report itself, which can cost around €100 depending on the type of vehicle, and a general inspection, which costs around €90. Another €30 is charged for registration, although additional costs may arise for a custom number plate.
It is important to note that the vehicle must be insured to be eligible for H registration. Some insurance companies offer special tariffs for classic cars, which are often cheaper than normal insurance. Overall, the cost of an H license plate is manageable, and the benefits that such a license plate brings, such as tax breaks and the opportunity to attend classic car meetings, can be worth it.
Number of characters from the seasonal H license plate!
The seasonal H license plate consists of the letter "H" and two numbers that indicate the season period. In contrast, a one-line H license plate without seasonal reference may have a maximum of seven letters and numbers before the "H", such as "AU-TW 456H" or "SZB-T 111H". With a seasonal H license plate, however, a maximum of six characters are permitted before the "H". Therefore, owners of vehicles with license plates that already consist of two distinguishing letters and two numbers and come from places with three letters (such as "SZB", "ERZ", "ANA") cannot use the new regulation. They would have to switch to a six-character license plate.
Season license plate useful for whom?
A seasonal license plate is an advantageous option for those who do not want to use their vehicle all year round, but only during the summer months, for example. In the case of vintage cars in particular, it is advisable to leave them in the garage in winter due to frost and road salt. The registration period can be between two and eleven months, with the vehicle tax being calculated pro rata. The period of validity of the number plate (e.g. "03/10", i.e. from March 1st to October 31st) is noted on the right edge of the number plate. The vehicle is only permitted within this period.
Is the red 07 license plate an alternative to the H license plate?
The Red one 07 license plate enables alternating use on several vehicles of a certain type (e.g. car or motorcycle), all of which are at least 30 years old. Since 2006, these vehicles must also meet the same conditions as for an H license plate, which means they must be in good, original condition, which can be verified by an expert opinion. In contrast to the H license plate, however, no regular general inspection is required, but its use is severely restricted: only "test and test drives as well as trips for the purpose of repair and maintenance" and trips to classic car events are permitted. A logbook must be kept as proof of this. The 07 number plate is not a regular registration but offers the advantage of being able to be assigned to several vehicles while only having to pay taxes of €191 once a year.
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