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Purchasing a vehicle in Germany

Hi,
I was wondering if any fellow travelers have ever purchased a vehicle in Germany or elsewhere in Europe and had it shipped to the United States? VW has a new camper van called the California which is not available in the U.S. I was just wondering if this is possible and if so, if anyone has done it and can advise. Thank you!--Gail

Posted by
663 posts

I am pretty sure this is possible. However, to the best of my knowledge, safety and emissions regulations are quite different in the U.S. and in Germany. I am not saying that one is stricter than the other, they are just very different. Friends of ours had a U.S. car imported to Germany and had to have quite a bit of work done on it to make it pass the TÜV vehicle inspection. I am pretty sure the same holds true vice versa. So aside from the shipping costs, customs, and all that, you will have to take into account whatever work is required to make it pass U.S. regulations.

Posted by
8889 posts

I suggest you contact VW for advice. They almost certainly have experience of people purchasing vehicles for immediate export.
US and EU vehicle construction regulations are different and mutually incompatible. If they exported this model to the US, then they would have a US-compliant version available. But you say they don't, so you will have to handle the US regulations yourself.
For example, can you get a speedometer in MPH (instead of Km/Hr)?

A second problem is maintenance. If there is no US model, VW agents in the US will have no training on this vehicle, may not be able to service it, and may not be able to get spare parts.

Posted by
3 posts

Thank you everyone for your advice on shipping a vehicle from Europe to the U.S. Many more concerns than just getting it here! Will contact VW and make a plea to bring a U.S. version. Thanks again for responding.

Posted by
5581 posts

I picked up a VW convertible bug in 1969 (!) bought through a California dealer so it was manufactured with California-qualifying emission equipment. Drove from the factory in Osnabrück, Germany through Netherlands, Belgium, France. Shipped back from Paris using VW-authorized shipper.

Posted by
2525 posts

@ gail.barraco: please report the results of your efforts. Thanks.

Posted by
1569 posts

In the 70's I had a friend that with 2 others bought 3 VW Rabbits in Germany. They shipped 2 to the US immediately and drove the third for a couple of weeks before shipping it. They made enough to pay for their trip.

I think most of the manufacturers have programs to pick up a car in Europe before shipping to the US. I would contact VW

Posted by
2525 posts

If the California model could be easily imported, there would many zipping around my village, like the now very popular Mercedes Benz work vans and related very spendy motor homes.

Posted by
2795 posts

Only a few car manufacturers have an export/import program for individuals. It has to be for models which are only made in Europe and specifically already mass exported to the US. For Volvo it is called Tourist and Diplomatic Sales and it's a wonderful, benefits rich program we took advantage of several years ago and still exists. VW no longer has such a program as confirmed by their website. Mercedes and BMW have programs for some models. Saab and Peugeot used to have programs but I don't know about those cars now.

For our Volvo model it was more than just the catalytic converter that needed to be acceptable for our state, it was a matter of little things too like lights, radio, etc.

Posted by
5034 posts

Just to add to what Mona said, while emissions requirements are one thing, there are a hundred (maybe only slightly exaggerating) other things that must be different for cars sold in the US to meet safety and other standards. These could be the angle of the headlights, color of reflectors/lenses, size and placement of license plate holders, presence of a device in the trunk so that if you were locked in there, you could get out, it can get mind-boggling. Basically you pretty much have to import a car that is made for the US market and work with either a dealer here, or a specialized dealer in Europe to make it work.

If Volkswagon does not make the vehicle for the US market in Europe, then you are just for the most part out of luck. Someone mentioned that VW ended their program, this is true, but mainly because they no longer build cars in Europe for the US market, they are all built in the US or Mexico for the North American market. They may build the model in Europe, but not to meet US Standards.

There is one way around all the safety, EPA, and other requirements though, wait until you can buy a 25 year old model, then it classifies as a collector car. and import is much easier.

Posted by
3 posts

Good Morning All,
Thank you all for your responses to getting a VW California Camper Van! It appears that this much valued vehicle is out of our reach as Americans right now but fans like myself will continue to amp up the pressure for a U.S. model. Thank you all for your input. It has been very enlightening. Have a wonderful holiday season!--Gail

Posted by
2795 posts

Gail I hope VW will market that van here in the future. The year we bought our Volvo and picked it up in Sweden I kept admiring the smaller Volvos we were seeing over there. It took a few years but eventually Volvo did start selling a smaller car in the US.

Posted by
12200 posts

In the early 1970s friends of my folks were in Munich, they bought a brand new BMW 2002, had it shipped to San Francisco where they were living....no problems, very satisfactory. The buyer said it was all in all cheaper than buying the car in SF. That was back then.

Posted by
4742 posts

I purchased a Merc in 1985 through the Canadian PX (based on military status) for a great deal and had it shipped to the USA. The car was new and meet all the US emission and safety requirements.

If you buy a used car, make sure the car meets the emission and safety standards. Converting a vehicle can cost thousands.

Posted by
546 posts

There are now and have always been as far back as I can remember exceptions to the normal US vehicle safety and emissiona regulations for a "one time" import of a European vehicle for personal use. And it does not need to be done via a dealer. You can do the paperwork yourself or have one of the vehicle transport companies do it for you.

Posted by
2795 posts

Aarthurperry can you provide a source or link to back this up?