Are European Car Delivery Programs Worth the Effort?

European Delivery Program Comparison (infographic)

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Is a European Delivery Program a Good Deal?

I’ve always been intrigued by European Car Delivery Programs.  It’s a compelling offer: sign up for a vacation to Europe, get treated like a VIP, and come home with a discount on a very big souvenir, your new luxury car.  Experts like Jon Spira tell captivating stories where you can pick up your brand new BMW in Germany and race it on the Autobahn for less than you would’ve paid picking it up at your local dealership.

But are these programs worth it?  Over the past few years, manufacturers have tightened their belts and removed many of the extra perks that used to be included.  So I decided to see how European Delivery Program’s stack up against a car price you could negotiate for pick-up in the U.S.

Let’s take a look at how each manufacturers’ European deals compare to local prices.  But first…

How does a European Car Delivery Program Work?

The idea is you buy a luxury car from Audi, BMW, Mercedes, Porsche, or Volvo (Saab retired their program) and pick it up at the factory in Europe.  You’ll typically get a discount on the price of the car plus a travel deal.  After you visit the factory, you can cruise around Europe for a couple weeks and drop off your car at a pre-approved location (these vary by manufacturer, but most have about 12 drop-off locations in different cities).

All programs include a factory tour and meal, international car insurance and registration for 2 weeks (about a $200 value).  When you’re done they’ll ship the car back to the U.S. for you free of charge, but keep in mind this is not the same as the destination fee (typically $895).  Mercedes is the only one to waive the destination fee as well.

Here’s how the process works:

  1. You order a European luxury car from a U.S. dealer
  2. Once the pick-up date is confirmed, you book your travel
  3. Pick-up your car a few weeks later at the factory in Europe
  4. Spend a night near the manufacturer in Germany (or Sweden for Volvo) and get a factory tour plus a meal or two
  5. Travel the country-side in your new wheels for as long as you want (insurance lasts 2 weeks, but can be extended)
  6. Drop off your car at an approved European drop-off location
  7. Accept delivery in the U.S. within 6-8 weeks (if you live on the East coast) or 8-10 weeks (if you live on the West Coast)

BMW also includes a nice perk where you can pick up your car in the U.S. at the BMW Performance Driving school in South Carolina and learn how to race on their track like a pro.

Program Details by Manufacturer

MakePrice DiscountPick-up LocationAirfareHotel
Audi5% off MSRPIngolstadt, GermanyNot includedOne night
BMW7% off MSRPMunich, GermanyTwo-for-one round trip voucherNot included
Mercedes7% off MSRP & destination fee waived ($875)Sindelfingen (near Stuttgart), GermanyNot includedOne night
PorscheNo discountStuttgart or Leipzig, GermanyNot includedSpecial rates
Volvo3-10% off MSRPFree @ Gothenburg, Sweden ($1k-1.4 @ 12 other European cities)Round trip tickets for two includedOne night

Manufacturer Program Comparison

So how do the European deals compare to pricing in the States?  In the table below I started out by selecting 5 models around the $50,000 range. I figured that if you’re buying a $500,000 Maybach, you probably don’t care too much about cost, but if you’re looking at cars with one less zero, you might still want to do a little comparison shopping.

After I selected a few models, I went to TrueCar to find out what they suggest is a good target price in the States if you were to haggle with local dealers without picking up overseas.  Then I compared that to the European Delivery deals with and without travel perks.  Savings are calculated based on estimates of $700/roundtrip flight and $150/night at a hotel.  Perks like meals, factory tours, are international insurance are not included in these numbers.

ModelMSRPTruecar Potential % SavingsTrueCar Target PriceEuropean Delivery % SavingsEuropean Delivery PriceEuropean Travel SavingsEuropean Delivery Price + Travel Savings
2012 Audi TTS Convertible$50,875 2.86%$49,420 5.00%$48,331 $150$48,181
2012 BMW Z4 Convertible$47,395 4.54%$45,245 7.08%$44,040 $700$43,340
2012 Mercedes E-Class Sedan$50,675 4.29%$48,499 8.73%$46,253 $150$46,103
2012 Porsche Boxster Convertible$51,435 2.43%$50,187 0.00%$51,435 $-$51,435
2012 Volvo S60 T6 AWD R-Design$43,825 6.38%$41,031 4.94%$41,660 $1,550 $40,110
*I do not guarantee the accuracy of the prices or promotional details quoted above.

My Analysis:

  • If you factor in the travel savings, all but Porsche are a better deal to pick-up overseas.
  • If you’re comparing strictly based on car price, it’s a pretty even split.  Audi, BMW, and Mercedes have a lower price with European Delivery and Porsche and Volvo have a lower price with local pick-up.
  • The winner for best bargain if you consider both car price and European travel is Volvo.  They are the only European manufacturer to still offer a full travel package.  Most programs used to offer two round trip tickets and hotel accommodations, but now only Volvo offers both.

Other Considerations

  • Be sure to make sure the total price of the car (with discount + vacation) is less than what you can negotiate for each separately.  If it’s cheaper to buy the car locally and rent a nice car overseas, save yourself the extra paperwork.
  • Most programs cover European fees and freight, but check for an extra charge for delivery from the U.S. drop-off to your home city
  • Most programs cover international vehicle insurance and registration for 15 days (about a $200 value). If you plan on staying longer coordinate extra insurance with your local dealer before you go. U.S. and Canadian insurance coverage is not valid in Europe.  If you don’t have insurance during your trip, your car could be confiscated when you cross an international border.
  • Most programs have 10-20 international drop-off locations, but coordinate in advance where you will be leaving your car when your vacation is over.
  • Do not plan to leave any personal belongings in your car as they might not make it back to the States and are not insured (even though the car is).
  • Some programs offer the ability to buy a non-U.S. specification vehicle.  That means you may be able customize your car with some options that are only available in Europe.

Readers, would you consider flying to Europe to pick up your next car?

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