A used car price in Germany can be an attractive prospect. Prices in Germany are often lower than on comparable models in the US, sometimes upwards of 7% lower. But when other aspects are factored in, does it really turn out to be a cheaper alternative when the car has arrived in your driveway?
For many years, German manufacturers have offered various types of "European delivery" promotions. These programs are a great option for those who might be planning an extensive vacation and would like to forgo the train. Plus, discounted airfare is often included in the package as a further incentive. Some people have reported saving as much as the cost of their round-trip flights. Rental cars can get expensive after a few weeks, therefore many people decide to just put that money into a car that they can keep, and enjoy their vacation in a car that they love and can then drive back home in the states. The manufacturers handle the bulk of the transaction on behalf of the buyer, and often work with your home dealership to arrange delivery. When all is said and done, though, you haven't really saved on the price of a car, but you have perhaps cut down on your vacation expense.
The Used Car Buying Reality in Germany
Importing a used car from Germany is a bit different, whether you will buy it in person, or over the phone. You are no longer under the umbrella and reputation of a new car dealership. It will be your responsibility to arrange freight in Germany, but there are many companies out there that specialize in this, and a simple web search should yield good results. Also, keep in mind that you will need to arrange for the car to be checked out by a mechanic, especially if it is owned by an individual. The dealer or selling individual in Germany could set this up for you. Keep in mind also that the language barrier may be a problem for your transaction. It would not hurt to brush up on some basic German sentences. In short, you will need to go through much of the same basic used car-buying steps that you would if you were doing it here, and while these steps may not cost more in terms of money spent, taking care of all these logistics could become a time-consuming affair.
Factors that Affect Initial Savings
A major factor that could impact any savings from your German-imported car is the meeting of U.S. specifications. Imported cars must meet the requirements of the U.S. Department of Transportation and the Environmental Protection Agency. Many foreign models don't and will require modification, most likely in terms of bumper replacement and exhaust system upgrading. These items, in conjunction with import duties and taxes, could erase that initial 7% savings very quickly.
Your particular state will have different procedures for how to go about this process, especially regarding state taxes. You can get more information from the following sources: Environmental Protection Agency, Department of Transportation Office of Vehicle Safety Compliance NHTSA and U.S. Customs Service.