Importing a car into Germany from the U.S.

Info, advice, experiences on bringing cars over

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Tim Hortons Man
I was wondering if anyone has ever imported a car from the US or bought a US spec car. I was talking with some friends that are moving to the Frankfurt area and they are thinking of bringing there US (Saab) car over here. I told them I wouldn't recommend it as you not only have the hassle of importing it but trying to get it repaired here will be a nightmare even if its European car.

Secondly US spec'd cars aren't built for the high speeds and it will wear out quicker.

Even Americans that are here with the US forces tend to buy German spec autos and then sell them when they leave.
We had a US spec Toyota and we never had any problems with getting it serviced or parts for it. If it is a European style vehicle It should be OK. It went fast too, there was no 55 mph limiter on it!! We did about 60,000 miles on it in 3 years before we sold it. I think the biggest problem would be as you said the hassle of importing it. The shipping costs alone run at about $800. I do know someone who was bringing their US spec Mercedes here and the warranty which in the US was for 5 years became a 3 year warranty by default because they would be driving it overseas, so they might want to check that out.
Tim Hortons Man
Thanks, I told them it wasn't worth it, they wanted to bring it over as it is paid for and runs well. I've heard both good and bad story's about bringing cars over.
more to the point why would you want to do this?...ok a trans am, cadie...but a Saab?
Many Americans here with the US forces (or contractors of the US forces or NATO) will buy a US spec (German) car here in Germany and get the VAT waived. Since the military will ship a vehicle (or more then one, depending on rank) "for free" as part of moving a person back to the US, the cost of the car is typically less.

Any of the US forces in Europe (or NATO forces on US bases, or German military who guards the US bases) have access to the facilities at the base, including all auto repair - and gasoline vouchers (so no, they don't need to worry about bringing a non-efficient auto to Europe).

So unless your friends are military, I would agree with your recommendation - leave the car at home, or sell it and get a car here, or check with the dealer on the cost of converting to German specs (if they are so inclined).

ALL "US spec" cars have a speed limiter (to 124 mph I think) which could make driving on the Autobahn less than enjoyable; assuming the car can get to 200k/h. (By the way, it's a myth that US cars have a catalytic converter and European cars don't, Europe required catalytic converters since 1986 - however, US regs typically put the catalytic converter closer to the engine so it heats up faster and meets emissions req's which typically leads to loss of horsepower)
Most of the military dudes I know down here have their US cars b/c the military pays to ship it over. What a lot of people do is buy a "US spec" car in Germany that is built for the US market. The military guys get it at a significant discount (supposedly) than buying new in the US, pay no tax, and get to drive it around Europe while stationed here.

I'm certainly no expert but probably the only real difference b/t your friend's Saab and a euro-Saab is that the US car has a more powerful motor and is therefore ready-made for the Autobahn. If anything, they might want to put on tires with a higher speed rating. Otherwise, getting it repaired should be no problem. Saab is certainly a European company owned by GM which probably has a number of cross-platform parts.

If they aren't with the US forces I doubt it makes sense to ship their car over however unless it is brand spanking new. The cost of shipping plus potential costs to make it "German ready" may not be worth it.

On EDIT...pretty much what TCH said...
Another thing to consider is whether the car they bring over, or buying new, comes with a European Certificate of Conformity. If not it will need to get a Uberinstimungsbeschinigung (rough spelling - a Gutachten for a vehicle) before it can be German registered. This is not the same as the standard TUV test & has to be carried out at the head TUV for the area/region. If the vehicle is not close to EU standards the cost of the test & any necessary modifications will be expensive.

If it is an older US car there may be an exemption (the UK exempts cars over 10yrs old, for example)
Ok, let's turn this around.

My dad really, really really wants a Golf with a diesel engine. Since he lives in California, he cannot buy one of these new. Very strange law - you can only buy a USED vehicle with a diesel engine. I think that the car has to have something like 7,500 miles down. As you might imagine, there is a hot market for used diesel vehicles in the neighboring states to California, and many car dealers snap them up and then sell them for a huge profit in California. My dad really wants one, but doesn't want to pay same-as-new for a used vehicle with 50,000+ to a dealer.

I think that it might be somehow cheaper to buy a slightly used (Jahreswagen) in Germany and ship it over, but of course I don't really know. Apart from sending me to Google, does anyone have personal experience with this or know the facts?
While I am far from an expert, I would forget the idea. Importing European-spec cars to the US can be a very expensive undertaking b/c the car has to be EPA emission approved and NHTSA crash-tested. Obviously VW imports most of its models to the US but no doubt those models have been modified for US standards. It is my understanding the Euro diesels are different from the US diesels due to the type of diesel fuel sold as well.

There are companies who will bring your car up to US specs but it is apparently pretty costly. The US laws suck b/c Euro emission/safety standards are pretty similar. Thus, the US prevents you from importing some pretty interesting cars from Europe or wherever.

Why not have your dad check ebay and buy a late model car from somewhere else in the US?
The type of diesel fuel...yeah, you could definitely have something there.

About emissions, I would find that pretty strange since Europe generally has tougher emission standards than the US, right?
EU conformity is indeed the big issue. I have owned a few American vehicles, both in the Uk and Germany. Cars registered in EU countries must conform to EU regulations - cars registered before these restrictions came into effect are exempt but new registrations are not.

Manufacturers like GM and Ford make different variants of their models for the European market. The differences include:-

Speedometer & odometer in Kmh - most modern cars can switch between Kmh and Mph - sometimes it is requires dealer programming;

Combined Stop and Turn lights - have to be changed - not too expensive;

Lights must have EU approval (CE logo) - this is not an expensive conversion - just fit some German made lights e.g. Hella (I found my local TUV didn't like Cibie, resumably because they are French and not German);

Headlight dipping adjstment - this is usually not too expensive to retrofit;

Tyres must also have EU approval (CE logo) - this can start getting expensive;

Window glass must have EU approval (CE logo) - all windows, not just the windscreen - if you have to change all the windows, it simply is not worth it.

Although Saab is nominally a European manufacturer, they are now owned by GM and I believe cars for the North American market are manufactured in the USA. What your friends could do is ask Saab (HQ, not a dealer) if their particular car would be EU compliant. If it is not, then it is not worth bringing it here.

On the other hand, I understand vehices registered to US forces personnel have a special exemption from EU compliance regulations.
I just did this (brought my car over from the US) and it was easy peasy lemon squeezy! As long as you do it within a year of moving here, you save a crapload of taxes. Shipping from Los Angeles, insurance for a 10K worth car, and shipping from the port in Bremen to Munich was 1,500 euros. It's right now getting the initial TUV reporting done (as it's the first Infiniti in Germany) and we expect a few minor 'adjustments' to bring it up to German standards.. but all in all cheaper than buying a car here. (I should say a 'comparible' car here... as mine is a 4 door sedan, with all leather, kickass stereo and sunroof...) If you are curious how it all works out in the end, pm me in a few weeks!
What taxes do you save, exactly?

I didn't have to pay an unreasonable amount of taxes when buying my car in Germany...what I mean is that the cost of shipping, adjustments etc sound like they are comparable to taxes you would pay in Germany normally. If your car was only worth 10k, it can't be a new Infiniti, and for 10k you could certainly buy an older German luxury car with the features you describe.
Ths costs of converting a US spec. car to German TUV standards would be cost prohibitive. Add to this the cost to get it here and the cost for more gas as US cars are not as fuel efficient. The people who do have US spec cars here, have them for a reason. They are either US Military/Govt. who have access to the super cheap gas vouchers/service or Germans with lots of $$ to maintain the car.

Your best bet is to leave the US Spec car in the US or sell it. It's not worth the hassle.

On a side note, DaimlerChrysler will begin importing Smart cars to the US very soon. As of now they have to
do it via Canada, but this will change soon. So the US will be getting fuel efficient cheap cars really soon.
If you want one Now, you gotta go thru a company in California called ZAP.

But Americans being who they are love their Huge SUV's, so Smart will roll out the Smart FourMore SUV.
You save quite a bit if you import the car within the first year of moving here because then it counts as partof your household.
otherwise you would have to pay
10% customs on the worth of the car plus shipping plus insurance
16% VAT on top of the sum of all that.

When you got the car here you have to get it ready to meet EU standards - any old car dealership is happy to help you. of course it might be easier when you go to your brand - I could recommend this guy for the Nissan and or infiniti.
Everything is easier when the specific model is or was registered in Germany before - the Kraftfahrbundesamt is helping there. If yes it is quite easy to get the specs and therefore the registration.
Oh another thing about household: if it is household goods, then the TUV is not going to be that difficult (Exhaust fumes etc) it is basically easier to get the sticker.
more information can be found here
TUV on Importing cars
and here
ADAC Fahrzeug Import
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