I saw Europe in my brand new car

October 6, 2006

The author got a break on his new Mercedes-Benz-plus he got to drive it around Europe before shipping it home.

About a year and a half ago, with my car lease set to expire in a few months, I decided to take advantage of one of the foreign car manufacturer's programs for purchasing a new vehicle overseas. What better way to get the wheels I wanted, plus take my wife and three kids for a 12-day adventure though Europe.

I decided on a 2006 Mercedes-Benz E350 sedan, which we had to pick up at the factory, in a town near Stuttgart, Germany. I ordered the car over the Internet three months before we planned to fly to Europe, at a 7 percent discount off its sticker price. Then I took a copy of the order to a local dealership near my home, which would act as the liaison between me and the factory, and paid a deposit of $2,000.

But that wasn't all: I was also given free, no-deductible auto insurance for 15 days, and Mercedes-Benz waived the costs of shipping the car home and getting it through US customs. What a deal!

Everything comes off without a hitch

We flew smoothly to Frankfurt on Lufthansa and spent two days exploring the city, eating bratwursts and drinking German beer. The hour-or-so train ride from Frankfurt to Stuttgart was a pleasure in itself, as beautiful countryside passed by our window. Arriving at the train station, we presented the taxi voucher, fearing no one would recognize it; instead, drivers grinned and happily raced to serve us. The winning driver drove us to the Steigenberger Graf Zeppelin hotel, where we had a room large enough to include a stationary bicycle, a treadmill, a massage chair, and a desk.

We slept in late the next morning and used another voucher to take a taxi to the factory. At the Delivery Center, we were welcomed by our first names and led to a beautiful restaurant where we used the last voucher to eat an incredible five-course meal. After we finished, I asked for the check, since the voucher was supposed to be for two people. The waitress replied, "Oh no, you still have some money left on your voucher. Would you like to take a bottle of wine for your trip?" We were beside ourselves.

After the meal, we were taken to our car. A pleasant salesperson who spoke perfect English went over all of the details, then gave us the keys and said the car had a full tank of gas. There were about 100 cars being delivered to customers like us that day.

A great trip, and a surprise back home

To get the feel of the car, we drove around Stuttgart for a while, then we headed toward Paris. After spending a few days there, we ventured on to Brussels and Amsterdam before heading back to Frankfurt. We enjoyed great cities and perfect weather. However, if I had to do it over again, I wouldn't have taken the car-or any car, for that matter-into large cities like Paris and Amsterdam. I'd recommend long-term parking and using public transportation.

At the end of our trip, we dropped off the car at a designated shipping office outside of Frankfurt. Twenty minutes later, we were in a taxi headed for the airport. Everything went smoothly and was thoroughly enjoyable-not an everyday occurrence when traveling with three kids.