Not buying a car

When I came to St.Gallen years ago, I sold my car in the UK but only because it had right-hand side steering. I fully intended to buy a new one in Switzerland once I got settled. Living within the city limits meant that I didn’t need a car urgently as the bus and train network is excellent. But for certain things like day trips to the mountains or shopping for bulky items mean that you need to have a car.

The answer is Mobility for most of these occasions.  Mobility is a car share system that works remarkably well. I have been using it for 6 years now and have never once had a problem with the cars or the hire system. Cars are scattered around the city with a large selection at the train station. Once you have signed up (at the main post office) the whole system is remarkably easy to use, particularly as the whole booking system works smoothly off their smart phone app. I calculated that for the number of times I actually need a car, it is cheaper just to hire than to buy in Switzerland. The cost of upkeep, parking, taxes, winter/summer tyre changes is just so much higher.

In addition, they have the website all in English and their help desk have always been able to help in English as well. In addition, they will let you sign up for the first year with a foreign driving licence but after that you need to switch to a Swiss licence.

There is one downside though. The Mobility system works by charging per hour and per kilometer. This is perfect for day trips but once you go much beyond 24 hrs, it is no longer cost effective and you need to look at regular car hire. For example, I needed a car recently for 9 days and 1000 km which would have cost just over 1000 CHF with Mobility. Europcar charge around 900 CHF for the same period and vehicle but the service is shoddy and it takes ages to get the paperwork done and get hold of the vehicle. Hertz is all the way over by Bruggen which is fine if you live there, but also doesn’t give a great choice of vehicles or service.

The trick is with Mobility again though. On the Mobility site there is ‘Hire Car’ option. If choose this you will see that there is a discount booking rate for both Hertz and Avis (Avis being marginally more expensive. Now, Avis doesn’t exist in St.Gallen – they use a local garage (Zil Garage) as a partner. Amazingly Zil don’t even advertise that they work with Avis. So I followed the links and booked a car for 9 days at only CHF 580, turned up and got a really quick friendly service, and all done in English. In addition, the car they gave was a brand new Peugeot 308, far better than I would have got at Hertz or Europcar for a fraction of the price!

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2 thoughts on “Not buying a car

  1. top advice as ever! I only recently sorted out my Swiss driving licence. My wife and I had a panic because I had lost my UK licence photo card and her UK licence was about to expire and we had both been in St Gallen for more than a year. Happily, the one year rule for transfer isn’t a rigorous one and even my German colleague who has been here 5 years had no problem transferring to a Swiss licence. Mine was a bit more complicated because of the lost photocard which has the information about what class of vehicle I can drive, however, I phoned DVLA and for £5 they sent me an officlal letter with my licence details which St Gallen Canton accepted with no problem and a shiny new licence arrived through the post 3 days later.

    So far my wife has only her Swiss licence for driving in the UK(!) and I have only used mine for getting back into Switzerland after losing my passport in Zurich Airport and getting deported from Kenya. Happily, my passport was found and I was able to get back on the plane make the 8 hour trip for the third time in 36 hours and get into Kenya.

    In short we have yet to venture onto Swiss roads yet, but very happy not to have to take a driving test!

    • Hi Sean,

      You are right, the one year rule is far from rigorous! In fact, I get the impression that they area just relieved if people let them know they are driving here. Mobility are doing them a favour though. After one year driving with them, they send a renewal request which is only accepted with a new Swiss licence. Mobility can’t find out when you arrived in the country, but they do ensure that they follow the one year rule.

      I have met lots of people who have driven for years on a foreign licence and only change when another institution insist on a Swiss licence.

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