Flexible driving with interchangeable license plates

Interchangeable license plate

Flexible driving with interchangeable license plates

Interchangeable license plates are a convenient way for motorists to use the same license plate for two different vehicles. This allows them to save on taxes and insurance premiums. In this article, we'll show you when it's worth having an interchangeable license plate and what other options are available to stay flexible and cost-effective.

Interchangeable license plates: What you need to know

Interchangeable license plates, also known as interchangeable registration plates or interchangeable number plates, allow you to use one license plate for two different vehicles. This is especially convenient if you have two vehicles that are not used at the same time. However, there are some rules for these special license plates:

  • Same owner and same canton: Both vehicles must belong to you and be registered in the same canton.
  • Same category: Interchangeable license plates can only be used for vehicles of the same category. For example, for two cars or two motorcycles. A combination of car and motorcycle is not possible.
  • Compulsory insurance: Any vehicle registered with an interchangeable license plate must have valid liability insurance.

For additional information, check with your road traffic authority for cantonal regulations.

When is having interchangeable license plates worthwhile?

If you own two vehicles that are not used at the same time, an interchangeable license plate can be useful. Using a single license plate for both cars can save you money on insurance and registration. Here are some situations where interchangeable license plates may be worthwhile:

  • Seasonal vehicles: If, in addition to your everyday vehicle, you own a car that you only use during certain seasons, such as a motor home, convertible or classic car.
  • Two-seater vs. family car: If you own a smaller vehicle that you use alone and have another vehicle for the family.
  • Recreational vs. work car: If you have a car for your leisure activities and a separate vehicle for commuting to work.

Good to know: The vehicle without a license plate must not be driven on public roads. If you cause damage on public roads in a vehicle without a license plate, the damage will not be covered by the insurance. Full insurance coverage only applies to the vehicle with a license plate. For the vehicle without a license plate, the insurance only applies if the damage did not occur on a public road.

This is how much you can save: An example calculation

To better illustrate the cost savings, let's take the example of Livia, who lives in Zurich and owns a BMW X5. She plans to purchase a Fiat 500 as a second car. Now she wants to find out if it's cheaper to use a separate license plate for each car or use one interchangeable plate for both. To do this, she compares the insurance costs of both options. For both the BMW and the Fiat, she pays insurance premiums for third party liability and fully comprehensive insurance. With two separate license plates, the total cost is CHF 3,950.

Comparison of insurance costs

  Cost with two license plates Costs with an interchangeable plate 
BMW X5 CHF 2,800 CHF 1,690
Fiat 500 CHF 1,150
CHF 693
Total CHF 3,950
CHF 2,383

The reason for this is that the BMW and the Fiat share the insurance year if an interchangeable plate is used. The Fiat means that the more expensive BMW is no longer in use all year round. This reduces the risk – and Livia benefits. 

However, Livia not only saves on insurance, but also on taxes. In the canton of Zurich, only the vehicle with the higher rate of road tax is taxed. In this case, only the BMW. This saves Livia around CHF 160 per year.

Good to know: For mid-range vehicles in the canton of Zurich, the savings potential for road tax is between CHF 120 and CHF 350 per year.

Alternatives to the interchangeable license plate

Although interchangeable license plates are convenient and cost-effective, they are not right for every situation. Below are two other options for staying flexible and cost-effective with your second vehicle.

Car insurance for low-mileage drivers
Do you plan to use your second car only occasionally? Then Zurich MyWay insurance could be just right for you. With MyWay, you benefit from the protection of traditional car insurance, but aside from a low basic fee, you only pay for the miles you actually drive.

Depositing your license plates
Are you planning not to use your car for a longer period of time? In this case, you can deposit your license plates at the road traffic authority or at the post office. The road traffic authority will then inform your insurance company of the deposit. While the license plates are deposited, there are no insurance premiums or road tax to pay. Nevertheless, some insurance coverage remains in place throughout the duration of the deposit. If you would like to start using your car again, as a Zurich customer you can easily use our license plate re-licensing form.

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