Buying a car rather than renting one?

A tiny rental car looks like it will cost us a minimum of US$ 1,000 (plus the cost of parking) for a 3 week trip to Europe in April 2013 (more if the visit extends to 4 weeks). As an alternative, we're giving some thought to purchasing a new car in Europe, drive it for the 3-4 weeks then have it shipped by the manufacturer to the US to a local dealer. We're considering looking at modest model of the Volvo or BMW or Audi. We'll be in Sweden and Denmark (if it is a Volvo), Germany, Czech Republic, Hungary and Austria then returning to where we picked up the vehicle. What kind of red tape may we encounter with insurance or other type vehicle documents when traveling between countries. And one other far fetched question; it is very unlikely but possible that we would consider purchasing a gently used car in Germany (from a US citizen living in Germany) and have it sent to the US (with the proviso that it is manufactured to US requirements so it will go through customs okay). If so, what might we expect in the way of grievous red tape with registering ownership, licensing, insurance and crossing national borders? We are thinking of a brief exploration of investigating such a scenario on a car wanted post in the cyber Kaiserslautern Military Community.

Posted by David
56 posts

I did this a number of years ago - bought a new Renault in Paris - drove it for 3 weeks and turned it in in Frankfurt airport. It worked great and I saved a lot of m oney. It is called "TT" or tout tax. Strongly recommend it. You just sign a note for the full amount of the car. Seems scary I know but worked great for me.

Posted by Connie
Everett, WA
927 posts

I sent a PM to someone I have had contact with on the helpline who has bought a car in Germany and had it shipped back. His name is Gary and hopefully he will be able to give you some assistance. We communicated back and forth in 2008 when we were both planning driving vacations in Germany and Austria. Hopefully, he will be in touch here on the helpline I have not purchased (only leased and rented).

Posted by Randy
Minneapolis, MN, USA
1525 posts

Since I don't know your itinerary or previous experience in Europe, this may not be relevant for you, but; If your visit includes any significant time in cities - and in particular, in consecutive cities - you might be best served not having a car. It is generally agreed, even among those who prefer driving, that it makes no sense to have a car in any major city. Usually an itinerary that includes a mix of urban and rural can be tweaked to lump the rural parts mostly together to minimize the time needing a car. Use trains between cities. This might solve the issue for you before it even begins. In my experience reading others' comments on a variety of paperwork issues in Europe, it seems things are generally more complex, tedious, and expensive to arrange, making me think a $1000 rental fee look reasonable by comparison to buying, registering and then shipping a car. We have three times rented small 5-passenger cars in Europe for a three-week period and all three times the rental was around $750. Of course the price goes up for mid-size cars and/or extra insurance.

Posted by Douglas
Oak Park, Illinois
3296 posts

$1000 for 3 weeks of travel by car, not including gas, tolls and parking, still sounds like a good deal. Does that include insurance? I'd think you will pay as much for the paperwork and shipping of a new car. I know people that have done it, but they wanted the car too, not just a few weeks transportation. I forget exactly how they made their arrangements, but as I recall they worked through a dealership locally that partnered with the European end of things. Like buying a car domestically, they went through all the paperwork as part of the purchase. Then they just picked it up at a designated dealer in Europe and dropped it off at a designated place (not the same as pickup). If you buy a used car, I'm not sure how it would meet US standards. But even if it did, you'd be on your own to deal with all the required paperwork and shipping arrangements.

Posted by Rosalyn
1489 posts

I know that my brother bought a Volvo by ordering it from the U.S. and picking it up in Germany. It was then shipped back to the U.S. after his time in Europe. I think he may even have gotten plane tickets one-way as a deal sweetener. He was very pleased with the smoothness of the process. I should think you could find out from a dealer here all about the ins and outs.

Posted by Larry
Elkins Park, PA
976 posts

Volvo used to have an international sales program, I think it is still in effect, and the program was quite good - you got the car at below US costs, they shipped it when you are done, and I think they even paid for air travel. You picked it up at their factory. Order time took about 8 weeks, you paid for it here early on. Defunct Saab had a similar program which we had thought about doing. I believe MB and BMW have some kind of program. What you need to do is go to the main web page of each of these automakers and search out their international sales info.

Posted by Mark
Santa Barbara, CA, USA
172 posts

I did the Volvo overseas delivery and that was a blast. It included plane tickets, tour of the factory, hotel, taxi etc... Volvo seems to be the most generous and Porsche the least.
Bringing back a used car to the US may be a giant hassle with all the DOT compliance issues even if it is a US car. It may have been modified to Euro norms already.

Posted by Becca
Provo, UT
169 posts

My husband has a coworker who has leased BMWs through the factory and loves it. He goes over, spends a week or two driving it around on the autobahn, and then it is shipped to Long Beach. I'm not sure if he had to pick it up in Long Beach or if it was delivered to Utah for him. He said it's cheaper than leasing or buying one here, enough to justify the plane ticket over. Since it's a program, it sounds like Volvo has one too, I can't imagine the red tape is too obnoxious, but confess that I have no first hand experience and can't actually say. And I'm not sure he crossed any borders while he was there; he may have stuck in Germany.

Posted by stephen
Greeley, co, usa
439 posts

It has been over 30 years, but a friend along with two others went to germany, bought 3 volkswagons, immediately shipped 2 back, drove the third for 2 weeks, then shipped it back. Sold them all in the US and made enough to pay for the whole trip!

Posted by Mark
Santa Barbara, CA, USA
172 posts

If you do the Volvo, BMW, or Mercedes overseas delivery, they take care of everything. You order from the Overseas delivery designated salesperson at the dealership and then you just pick up your car 8-10 weeks after your trip at the dealership.
They present you with the overseas price list. You can negotiate a little bit but they don't have a strong incentive to do so. There is no paperwork involved on your side with customs etc... It is just like buying a car from the dealer's lot.

Posted by Lola
Seattle, WA
6224 posts

My son and his wife bought an Audi one year ago. Picked it up in Germany at the factory, toured Germany, Austria, Italy and France before dropping it in Paris where they caught a flight home. The car was shipped from France and arrived weeks later. All the details like insurance and licensing were handled by the Audi dealerin the US and it all went very smoothly. If you are in need of a new car anyway this might be a good way to go.

Posted by Andre L.
Tilburg, Netherlands
2379 posts

I think the $1000 pales in comparison to red tape involved in private shipping a car from Europe to US!

Posted by Michael
Des Moines, IA
2193 posts

I'm assuming you absolutely need a new or used car back home anyway? If not, why in the world would you buy one in Europe just because $1000 sounds like a lot for a rental? Isn't something like a used 328i going to set you back $30,000? And if you do need a new car, why not buy it here, help your local economy, and keep your vacation hassle free?

Posted by Andrea
Sacramento, CA
5691 posts

If you want to purchase a new car through a European Delivery Program (BMW, Volvo, etc) it is quite simple. You make your purchase through your local dealer. You pick your car up at the factory and you can then drive around Europe. Insurance for a period of time is included. You then drop the car at a predetermined place and it is shipped to your local dealer at no extra cost. You've already paid for the shipping when you purchase the car, just as you would pay the shipping if you purchased a car at your local dealer and drove off the lot with it. Some European Delivery Programs will include airfare. Another option is to lease a car. I did this through Auto Europe.

Posted by melissa
822 posts

Buy the car only if you were going to anyway, as $1000 sounds like a bargain for rental. We bought a BMW in Dec. 2010 and picked it up in Munich. It's quite fun to get your car there- youtube has videos. BMW covers insurance for a couple ( 3?) weeks as I recall. Not sure I would feel great about taking a brandnew car inteastern Europe, we were warned by car rental companies about some Western European countries. The car buying process is easy: some paperwork here, some there.You tell your local dealer about when you;d like to pick the car up and they give you an estimated time, then that gets finetuned. We saved about 7% over buying it here ( Volvo did not have the same savings when I looked into that). There are only certain bities where you can drop your car off, some of which have an extra charge ( $700additional for Italy)Your car can take weeks to get to you, so you have to make provision for regular transportation at home till then. Also you cannot leave anything in the trunk of value ( no souvenirs, excess luggage,first aid kit). One thing you want to do is find good securehotel parking for your new car as you drive. Another consideration is how many miles you will drive on your trip as you are in a breakin period and may need to locate a dealer if service is required. If you pick your car up in winter, you must get snow tires.
Lots more information on,or feel free to PM me. Lots more info about getting new cars for European delivery is on each manufacturer's web site.Audi and BMW both have drop off points at the Munich airport, very convenient.

Posted by Irv
Beverly Hills, MI
486 posts

If you want to buy a car in Europe and bring it back do, it through a manufacturer's overseas purchase program. Otherwise you are going to have simply tons of grief figuring out how to purchase/register the car as a non-EU resident, how to insure it, how to ship it and best of all how to prove to the EPA and the Department of Transportation that it is a US spec. vehicle for emissions and crash safety requirements. If you go through a non manufacturer operation you stand a fair chance of being lied to and if the car arrives here is can cost thousands to bring it up to spec., if it can be done at all. In many cases the body structure differences for crash are substantial. Just for chuckles consider the VW Passat where the European vehicle has a 3 inch difference in wheelbase from the US version. The simple solution as suggested in a couple of posting above is to do a lease through Renault or Peugeot. You will get a brand new car that is insure to the hilt and it will be what you signed up for, not what the rental agency has available when you show up at the counter.

Posted by Gary
New Hampshire
182 posts

Hi Jon Sorry for the late reply. I've been MIA from the helpline for a while but was contacted by my friend Connie who I met on the helpline regarding your question. If its not too late, I'll throw my 2 cents in. It looks like you've gotten alot of good reply's already bringing up some very good and important points. What I would offer is based on my own experience. I would suggest that if you need a new car, and are looking for a vacation, this is the best way to do it! By far the best trip I've ever taken. I fit both criteria and in 2009 and did a European Delivery of a BMW and vacationed in Germany, the Czech Republic, Austria and Switzerland. I definitely will do this again when I'm ready for a new one (In fact we almost went back a few weeks ago to pick up another new car as my lease was up on the '09, but couldn't make the deal this time). As others mentioned, there are options when it comes to picking up a new car in Europe. I can give you many specifics about the BMW process if you are interested but basically they give you some great incentives to do this. Many of your costs are paid for regarding the vehicle, plus you get a discount on the overall cost of the car. For the first couple of weeks they'll cover the car insurance (you can pay for longer if you want to stay on past that), they cover the shipping the car to the US, 2 for 1 airfare, and much more. Let me know if I can help. gary