Tour Europe in your new car?

If you&re planning to buy some first-class wheels and you like traveling abroad, these companies may have a deal for you.


Tour Europe in your new car?

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If you're planning to buy some first-class wheels and you like traveling abroad, these companies may have a deal for you.

By Susan Harrington Preston

BMW, Mercedes-Benz, Porsche, Saab, Volvo. Five car manufacturers, five ways to tour Europe behind the wheel of your own new car.

Programs that let Americans pick up their new cars in Europe have been around at least since 1965, and for one main reason: Buying cars can be cheaper abroad than it is in the United States. In fact, sometimes it's so much cheaper that the savings can offset the entire cost of a vacation in Europe. The manufacturer may even pay for airfare and hotel stays.

Repeat: The cars are sometimes cheaper. BMW, Saab, and Volvo offer either a set European-delivery price or a recommended discount off the US sticker price. But Mercedes quit offering its 10 percent discount last year; now, you pay US list price. With Porsche, you pay up to $4,075 extra for European delivery.

Still, sale price isn't everything. "If you figure out how much you save by driving your own car in Europe instead of renting one, you can afford to buy two," jokes family practitioner John Egerton of Friendswood, TX. In 2000, Egerton and his wife picked up a Saab convertible in Sweden. "We drove it all the way to northern Italy, then through France to the UK," he says. "That was fun."

Here's how European delivery works: You order the car in advance—some manufacturers recommend as much as five months' lead time (see table below). If you're buying a Mercedes, Saab, or Volvo, you can place the order online, if you'd like (although you'll still have to go through a local dealer at some point). All the manufacturers typically ask you to pay a $1,000 to $2,000 deposit, and the balance 30 days before delivery.

You then pick up the car and use it on your vacation. When your trip ends, you return the car to the manufacturer, and it's shipped to a stateside dealer of your choice, usually arriving four to eight weeks later. You'll pay more fees at that point: registration and title; gas-guzzler and luxury tax, if applicable; and other miscellaneous and dealer's fees—not to mention sales tax, if your state requires it. Porsche charges extra for transportation within the United States—$765 if you want the car delivered to a nearby dealer; $150 if you pick it up in Charleston, SC.

All five companies' programs handle hassles you might not think of. Those can include European registration and driver's insurance, and adapting the car to US specifications. Some even offer emergency road service while you're in Europe. You'll have to give the company power of attorney so it can get your car through customs without you, though.

As complex as the process is, it generally works without a hitch. "Everything went smoothly," says Egerton. "I really didn't expect it to."

The author is a former Senior Editor of Medical Economics.

How the programs compare

 Recommended lead time on ordersDiscountAirfare included?
BMW3 monthsUp to 7%No
Mercedes-Benz4-5 months; 3-week rush orders are possibleNoneNo
PorscheUsually at least 12 weeks; varies depending on options, dealershipNone; you pay $1,150- $4,075 extraNo
SaabCan be ordered even after you get to Europe5%Yes, two round-trip coach tickets
Volvo10-12 weeks8%Yes, an $800 travel voucher
 Hotel included?Insurance included?Pickup cities
BMWNoYes, for one monthMunich
Mercedes-BenzYes, two nightsYes, for entire staySindelfingen,Germany
PorscheNoYes, for two weeksStuttgart, Germany
SaabYes, one night for pickupNo. One month costs $283-$307Trollhattan, Sweden; 11 other cities for $285 to $695 more
VolvoYes, one night for pickupNo. One month costs $315-$650Gothenburg, Sweden
 Drop-off cities included in costAdded cost for alternative drop-off cities
BMW18 cities, 9 of them in GermanyVaries
Mercedes-Benz15 cities, 7of them in GermanyVaries
PorscheStuttgart, Germany$250-$485
SaabGothenburg, Sweden; Antwerp, Belgium Bremerhaven Germany$60-$970
VolvoGothenburg, Sweden$375-$1,135

Audi, Jaguar, Land Rover, and Volkswagen have no special programs for European delivery.

Sue Preston. Tour Europe in your new car?.

Medical Economics