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Is Importing a Car from Germany Cheaper Than Buying One in the US?

Published by Tamar Hela.

What's in this article?
  1. Cost of Importing a Car from Germany to the USA
  2. Cost of Buying a Car in the US
  3. Considerations for Importing a Car from Germany
  4. Considerations for Buying a Car in the US
  5. Comparison of Specific Car Models
  6. Other Factors to Consider
  7. Key Takeaways
Is Importing a Car from Germany Cheaper Than Buying One in the US?

The decision to import a car from overseas or purchase a vehicle within the United States involves considering numerous factors beyond the initial purchase price.

When looking at importing a car from Germany specifically, there are additional costs, regulations, and logistics to consider compared to a domestic buy.

This post will compare the various expenses of importing a vehicle from Germany versus buying in the US market. It will examine specifics related to import duties, shipping, taxes, compliance, purchase options, and warranties.

importing-cars-14.jpg


Cost of Importing a Car from Germany to the USA

One of the primary additional expenses of importing a car from Germany is import duties and applicable taxes. The United States imposes a 2.5% duty on imported passenger vehicles.

On top of this, a 25% "gas guzzler" tax may apply to less fuel-efficient models. Depending on the location, state and local taxes will also need to be paid, ranging from 4-9%.

The shipping and transportation costs to get the vehicle from Germany to its US destination port must be factored in. For larger vehicles, expect to pay between $1,000-$3,000 for ocean freight.

Additional charges are incurred for customs clearance, oversized vehicle fees, and final delivery. The entire import process usually takes 4-6 weeks once all required documentation is submitted.

Strict federal regulations must be met as well. Vehicles imported to the US permanently must meet current EPA and DOT safety and emissions standards to be individually certified by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration and the Environmental Protection Agency. Compliance can involve installing additional parts and technology, adding further importation costs.

Cost of Buying a Car in the US

The purchase price and taxes when buying a vehicle in the United States depend on factors like the model, make trim level, optional features, and location—new cars, on average, range between $20,000 to $40,000 for a small to midsize sedan. Luxury brands and specialty vehicles naturally cost more.

Sales tax is applied on top of the base MSRP and varies by state, usually falling in the 4-9% bracket. Additional fees may include dealer documentation charges, license/registration, and a state inspection cost.

Financing options are widely available with 3-6-year terms at competitive interest rates for qualified buyers. Certified pre-owned models offer a certified quality guarantee at a discount over new ones. Used private sale prices are negotiable.

Considerations for Importing a Car from Germany

Certain protocols and documents are required when bringing a vehicle into the US through legal importation. A US EPA and DOT conformance certification is needed for a permanent import alongside an NHTSA Vehicle Identification Number inspection. The vehicle must also meet Federal Motor Vehicle Safety, Bumper, and Theft Prevention standards.

All applicable import duties, taxes, and freight charges must be paid upfront. Months are necessary for the vehicle to clear customs, undergo inspections and conversions if needed, and finally be registered in the target state. Experienced import professionals are recommended to handle the complex bureaucracy for smooth compliance.

Considerations for Buying a Car in the US

Domestic car shopping offers more options for both new and used inventory across all price points. Vehicles can often be test-driven, negotiated on-site, and driven off the lot the same day with financing and registration in order.

Extended powertrain warranties and roadside assistance plans are included in new models for peace of mind.

Certified pre-owned vehicles provide a compromise with higher quality assurance than private parties used but lower prices than new ones. Independent repair shops are ubiquitous for affordable local servicing outside of warranty. Leasing is another viable alternative to purchase for shorter-term needs, with lower monthly payments factored into MSRP.

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Comparison of Specific Car Models

For example, consider importing a 2020 Volkswagen Golf from Germany versus buying the same in the US. The Golf's base MSRP in Germany is €21,000 or approximately $24,000 at current exchange rates. Additional importation costs would be:

  • 2.5% import duty: $600
  • 25% gas guzzler tax: $0 (meets fuel standards)
  • Ocean freight: $1,500
  • Customs/delivery: $1,000
  • State taxes (7%): $1,680

Total estimated import cost: $28,780

The lowest MSRP for a new 2020 Golf in the US is $24,190 before taxes and fees. With state taxes added, the total price would be around $25,800 - a savings of $2,980 by purchasing domestically versus importing.

Factoring in uncertainty and the time commitment further favors buying locally in this example.

Other Factors to Consider

Fluctuating exchange rates impact the overall costs when bringing currency into calculations. Favorable rates could tip the balance towards importing, but frequent changes introduce unpredictability.

Availability is another issue - desired vehicle specifications or color configurations are not guaranteed internationally, versus multiple dealer stock options domestically.

Resell value must be accounted for as well. Imported cars hold a higher "imported vehicle" stigma in the US marketplace, likely hindering their ability to command top private party prices versus same-make domestic transactions.

Routine maintenance services pose a question mark without domestic brand networks versus widespread coverage within home markets. Opinions on both sides exist regarding long-term parts and support.

importing-cars-15.jpg

Key Takeaways

Importing a vehicle from Germany to the United States, while potentially allowing access to particular models not available domestically is, in the vast majority of standard situations, more expensive in terms of money and time commitment than purchasing within the home market.

Only by significant original price discounts upwards of 15-20% or exceptional circumstances like collector status and emotional value can importing overcome its financial disadvantages against a new or used purchase in the USA.

Unless drivers have their hearts set on rare German specification exclusives or are relocating from Europe with an existing vehicle, the recommendation would generally be to exploit the readily available new, used, and CPO options offered through American dealerships and independent sellers to achieve the best overall value.

However, an import may justify its premium under the right conditions for enthusiasts passionate about certain marques or those with exceptional order capabilities.

As always, careful budgeting and a detailed importation versus domestic cost comparison are advised case-by-case.

Are you thinking of importing your dream car from Germany? Contact A1 Auto Transport for a free quote on international shipping.

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Tamar Hela is one of our featured writers at A-1 Auto Transport, researching everything from AI auto shipments out of China to what paperwork is required to move long distance. We can safely say she's become well versed in all things shipping and logistics while making the information easy to digest and understandable. 

Tamar has been a copywriter for over 16 years and was trained in the 7-Figure Copywriting Accelerator course through American Writers & Artists, Inc. (AWAI). She's also an incredibly seasoned copyeditor, having previously been the Chief Editor and Publishing Director for Cosby Media Productions, based in Atlanta, Georgia. 

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