Car Import from the USA/Canada: BARGAIN OR MONEY PIT?

Car Import from the USA/Canada: BARGAIN OR MONEY PIT?

The USA still boasts the largest car market in the world. Even in the Corona year of 2020, nearly 14.6 million vehicles were sold here, following over 17 million cars in previous years. In Germany, there were just 2.9 million sales last year, down from 3.6 million in 2019. These figures show: compared to the USA, car sales in Germany only reach about a fifth of American sales figures.

Car import from the USA and Canada

The US market is unparalleled in terms of model diversity and range. From sought-after muscle cars, American cars, or classic cars to the latest model produced in America, everything is available. Many vehicles on offer are not intended for the European market or arrive here with a significant delay.

Those who want such a vehicle (quickly) must buy it in the United States. Even re-imports of European-made cars can be interesting, as US prices are often significantly lower than local ones.

US car purchase always a matter of calculation

Nevertheless, every car purchase in the USA is a matter of calculation. Of course, it's not just the purchase price that needs to be considered. Additional costs include transportation, transport insurance, fees, customs duties, import sales tax, and the necessary technical modifications in our country. Other challenges include the increased risk of "remote purchasing", administrative processing, and the regulations for registration. Last but not least, the question of whether a purchase is worthwhile also depends on the exchange rate.

Since early December, the dollar exchange rate has been stable at over 1.20 dollars for one euro. This is the highest value since 2018, meaning that the dollar is currently relatively cheap compared to the euro. This, of course, also applies to US car purchases in dollars. However, this is still quite a distance from the rates between 2007 and 2013 when one euro was worth between 1.30 dollars and 1.50 dollars. Interim conclusion: based on the exchange rate, this is certainly not the best possible, but also not the worst time for a US car purchase. Over the year, the euro has gained more than 10 percent against the dollar. Strong further euro appreciations against the dollar are currently not in sight. So, waiting for even better exchange rate times is not worth it!

Update: Since the current dollar exchange rate has a rather negative impact on a purchase and this post is a bit older but still popular, here's a small update on the current situation.
Various vehicles that are only available in limited quantities in Europe will continue to find their way across the big pond. This includes American classics in particular. But also typical vehicles like the Dodge Ram, Ford F-150, Dodge Challenger, Ford Mustang, and Chevrolet Corvette, to name just a few of the import classics. A self-import could save a lot of money. It's always a good idea to compare the local market with the markets in the USA and Canada to decide the most affordable way to get your dream car.

Customs, taxes & co. - what costs should I expect when importing a car?

Classic cars with discounted import dutiesThe rules for customs and taxes are clear. For classic car imports (vehicles older than 30 years and meeting other classic car criteria), no customs duties apply, and the import sales tax is (reduced) 7 percent. For "regular" vehicle imports from the USA, 10 percent customs duties and 19 percent import sales tax are due. For pickups, even 22 percent customs duties apply. In the past, importing via the Netherlands was worthwhile due to their import duty of only 6 percent. Since our neighbor raised the duty to 9 percent, this advantage has largely disappeared. The slight customs savings might be outweighed by other cost disadvantages.

Vehicle typeCustomsVAT
Includes pickups if the loading area exceeds 50% of the wheelbase.
Classic cars
Importing as a classic car requires the vehicle to be in its original condition.

Sales tax also applies when purchasing a domestic vehicle. The tricky part about import sales tax is that it's not only calculated based on the US purchase price, but also includes additional costs for transport, customs clearance, etc. On top of that, there are the costs for the technical modifications required for registration. They often amount to between 1,500 and 2,000 euros.

In total, for "regular" vehicles, people often roughly estimate a quarter to a third of the purchase price in euros for "additional costs" for transport, import, and conversion. Of course, it always depends on the specific case. With our sample calculator, the costs can be calculated relatively precisely in advance.

Navigating the challenges of US car import successfully

With an experienced import and transport partner by your side, the challenges of buying a US car can be easily navigated. Support with car purchase and contract conclusion, transport organization and execution up to delivery at the destination, handling of customs formalities and port processing, initiation of conversion - it's good when this comes from a reliable and proven hand, and you don't have to worry about it yourself. This also offers the security of not buying the proverbial "pig in a poke" despite the geographical distance.

With, part of the international freight forwarder SATS Group, you have this security! Here, they not only offer the most comprehensive German online marketplace for US vehicles but also competent support in purchasing and handling transport and import.

Of course, we offer our import service for vehicles for all cars you find in the USA or Canada. Request an offer!

How much is the purchase worth to me?

Finally, the question remains: Bargain or money pit? Those who have dealt with the costs of US car import before purchasing will not be surprised. Therefore, the term "trap" is misplaced. It's self-explanatory that the costs can offset some price advantages, especially for re-imports. Always compare carefully in such cases. For rarities or vehicles only available on the US market, the question is less relevant. The "opportunity" to buy is only available in the USA, and every fan of a vehicle will judge for themselves how much it's worth to them!

Is it worthwhile to import the VW Jetta?

Is it worthwhile to import the VW Jetta?

In Germany, the VW Jetta could never quite match the success of the other VW models. The situation on the North American market is quite different. Here the Jetta is still the most popular vehicle of European origin, and has earned itself a good reputation of a sporty sedan.

Since spring 2018, the Jetta VII, the latest VW Jetta has been on the market in North America. It was first presented at the North American International Auto Show in Detroit, MI in January 2018, and sales started in the middle of the year, built within the VW plant in Puebla, Mexico. VW did one better though and presented the Jetta GLI as a sporty version at the Chicago Auto Show in early 2019. This version has been sold in the USA for a good year now.

Compact car with attractive price-performance ratio - VW Jetta

The VW Jetta VII is unfortunately not offered within Europe, and if you must have it, you have to import it. Under certain conditions though, this can be quite worthwhile as the Jetta of the latest generation impresses with a favourable price-performance ratio. Similar to it's predecessor variants, the VW Jetta VII is a typical representative of the compact class. This is also reflected in the dimensions, with a length of 4.7 metres, 1.8 metres wide and 1.47 metres high, as the car fits in well with our road conditions.

A big plus is the generous amount of space in relation to the size of the car. With a wheelbase of 2.69 meters, there is no feeling of tightness inside and is sufficient in legroom. The trunk offers 400 litres of storage space, enough for the luggage of a family on holiday. Not to mention, the interior has a solid finish and meets common demands without being too extravagant. Those who are looking for sophisticated elegance will probably be less enthusiastic about the VW Jetta VII. But on the other hand, if you are looking for functionality, you are well served!

In the "normal version", the VW Jetta VII is powered by a 1.4 litre petrol engine with 110 kW (150 PS), with the maximum torque being 250 Nm. The vehicle is normally offered with a 6-speed manual transmission, but higher equipment versions have an 8-speed automatic transmission. In the "sporty" Jetta GLI, the two-litre petrol engine similar to the Golf VII GTI powers the car with 169 kW (230 PS). A 6-speed manual transmission is also provided as standard, as well as a 7-speed dual-clutch transmission available as an option.

Import most lucrative for recently used cars

The list price for the VW Jetta VII starts at 22,500 US dollars. At US dealerships, you can find offers up to 1,000 dollars below that. That is cheap for a vehicle in this class - compared to the German price level.Though the costs for the import are not included, such as transport to the next major port, shipping, customs clearance and import sales tax. You can get a total price around 30.000 Euro. There is another alternative though!

Importing used jettas can be worthwhile for those who have only a few kilometers to go. Here, a purchase is possible with a total budget of 23,000 euros - import costs included. A car of comparable size and equipment at this price - that's what you have to look forward to with us! Good to know when importing, is that you can rely on our expertise as a long-standing importer of US vehicles.

Photo: Volkswagen

Purchase and Import of classic cars from the USA. This must be observed!

Purchase and Import of classic cars from the USA. This must be observed!

The world of classic cars is both fascinating and diverse. Whether you're drawn to American cruisers or European classics, the market has something to offer for every taste. But how does one navigate this vast sea of options, especially when considering importing a classic car from overseas?

purchasing classic cars

Why purchasing Classic Cars from the USA or Canada?

Since the favorable exchange rate in 2008, many classic car enthusiasts have turned their gaze across the Atlantic. The USA and Canada are not just the birthplaces of many iconic American models, but they also house numerous European models that were sold there. These vehicles often fare better than their European counterparts, having been exposed to drier climates and thus less prone to rust. Moreover, many models that are rare in Europe can be more commonly found in North America, making them attractive import options.

Every Fourth Classic Car in Germany is Imported

historical and classical PorscheThe popularity of foreign classic cars in Germany is evident. Statistically, nearly three-quarters of classic cars in the country are of German origin, while the remaining quarter is imported from other countries. The UK, USA, Italy, and France are the primary suppliers. But why is this the case?

Various reasons account for this trend. The domestic market often cannot provide the desired models or the condition that buyers seek. Hence, many enthusiasts and collectors turn to the international market. The USA, being the world's largest car market, is a treasure trove for venerable rarities. But other countries have their gems too.

Tips for Buying Classic Cars:

  • Research and Caution: The importance of thorough research cannot be overstated. There are many platforms, like Classic-Trader, offering a plethora of classic cars. However, it's crucial to remain skeptical, especially when confronted with deals that seem too good to be true. Some sellers might be tempted to offer vehicles at a price significantly below market value. Here, caution is advised.
  • Vehicle Condition: Before purchasing a classic car, ensure you know as much as possible about its condition. A preliminary inspection by an expert can be invaluable. This not only provides a clear overview of the vehicle's state but also signals to the seller your genuine interest.
  • Availability of Spare Parts: Some classic cars, especially rare models, can be challenging to repair due to the unavailability of specific spare parts. It's essential to consider this in advance and ensure you have access to the necessary parts.
  • Shipping and Transport: Transporting a classic car, especially from overseas, requires special care. Various shipping methods are available, and it's crucial to choose the one that offers the best protection for your vehicle. While RoRo transport might be more affordable, container transport often provides better protection.
  • Vehicle History: A classic car with a traceable history can enhance its value. Original purchase documents, photos of repairs, and restorations can help trace the vehicle's lineage.

classic cars like Ford Mustang

Import Challenges and Advantages:

When purchasing a classic car from abroad, the challenge of importing the vehicle arises. Logistically, this is generally straightforward. There are ample ways to transport classic cars across borders safely and reliably. The administrative hurdles are more challenging. Importing a vehicle incurs customs duties and taxes. Classic cars often benefit from specific regulations that make importing them more affordable. It's crucial to familiarize oneself with these regulations and ensure the classic car meets the criteria.

Final Thoughts:

Buying a classic car is an exhilarating journey, filled with both joy and challenges. With the right preparation and research, you can ensure you make an informed decision and find a vehicle you'll cherish for many years to come. It's always wise to take your time, study the market, and seek expert advice before making such a significant investment.