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Are European Car Delivery Programs Worth the Effort?

European Car Delivery Infographic

European car delivery program details below were updated June 11th 2019 to reflect the latest European Delivery programs and 2019 models.

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 BMW, Mercedes, Porsche, or Volvo (Audi and Saab both retired their programs) 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.

Does Audi offer European Delivery?

The Audi European car delivery program was discontinued at the end of 2018.

Program Details by Manufacturer

Manufacturer WebsiteMy ReviewsPrice DiscountPick-up LocationAirfareHotel
BMWBMW European Delivery Analysis5% off MSRPMunich, GermanyNot includedNot included
MercedesMercedes European Delivery Analysis7% off MSRP & destination fee waived ($925)Sindelfingen (near Stuttgart), GermanyDelta voucher of $200One night
PorschePorsche European Delivery AnalysisNo discountStuttgart or Leipzig, GermanyNot includedOne night
VolvoVolvo European Delivery Analysis2-10% off MSRPFree @ Gothenburg, Sweden, 9 other pick-up locations (transfer charge, $392-$1447)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 Edmunds 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.

ModelMSRPEdmunds True Market ValueDestination FeeTotal Expected U.S. PriceEuropean Delivery % SavingsEuropean Delivery PriceEuropean Travel SavingsEuropean Delivery Price + Travel Savings
2019 BMW 530i Sedan$53,400 $50,678 $995$51,673 5.00%$50,730 $ -$50,730
2019 Mercedes GLC Coupe$47,300 $44,573 $995$45,568 7.09%$43,945 $350$43,595
2019 Porsche Macan SUV$49,900 $47,936 $1,250 $49,186 0.00%$49,900 $150$49,750
2020 Volvo XC90 SUV$48,350 $47,625 $995$48,620 9.00%$43,999 $1,550 $42,449
*I do not guarantee the accuracy of the prices or promotional details quoted above.

My Analysis:

  • All manufacturer programs except for Porsche are a better deal to pick-up overseas.
  • Most travel perks have been scaled back and those perks’ dollar value is nominal with the exception of Volvo’s travel package.  Although it should be noted that the value of the travel experience is exceptional for all programs.
  • The winner for best bargain 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).
  • Ensure vehicle is cleaned before handing over for transport. If the car is dirty, the shipping company may refuse to load the vehicle or the EPA will steam clean the car at your expense.
  • 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.

Would you consider flying to Europe to pick up your next car?
European Delivery Program Comparison (infographic)

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Negotiating Car Dealer Add-On’s & Accessories

Dealer Add On Infographic

So you’ve learned how to negotiate a new car and think that guarantees you a good deal.  Well think again!  Did you know a majority of a car dealer’s profit comes from add-ons in the Finance Office?

Dealerships want you to think the hard part is over and that it’s time to let your guard down.  But as you’re getting ready to sign for your new car, the Finance Manager will smoothly convince you that you need expensive add-ons and accessories.

What are Dealer Added Options?

A dealer added option is any accessory that a car dealer installs on a vehicle after they receive it from the manufacturer.   Examples include items such as floor mats, cargo covers, roof racks, VIN etching, and pin striping.   The prices of these items are not listed on the car’s MSRP sticker, but instead a dealer will typically add a second “addendum” window sticker.

Dealers add these items because they have high profit margins and most people don’t try to negotiate them!

Average Car Dealer Profit for Add-on’s (Infographic)

The image below shows how much the Finance Department really makes off everything they sell you.  Note: these high numbers aren’t even the total price you pay, they only represent dealer profit!

Dealer Add On Infographic

But not to worry, you don’t really need most of these items.  Here’s a breakdown of what these items really cost the dealer and what you can do to save yourself money.  When in doubt, google a specific option and see if it’s recommended or available outside the dealership at a lower price.

Common Dealer Add-ons & Accessories

ItemCost to DealerRetail PriceDealer ProfitSuggested Action
Fabric protection (scotch guarding)$5$300$295Not necessary. If you want it, buy Scotch Gard for 9 bucks and apply yourself.
Paint protection$10$325$315Not necessary. If you want it, buy sealant or wax for 15 bucks and apply it yourself.
Undercoating$200$700$500Don't get it, most new cars come with warranties against rust and corrosion.
Rustproofing$50$800$750Don't get it, most new cars come with warranties against rust and corrosion.
Pin striping$30$300$270Not necessary. If you want it, look for an independent shop to do it after you buy.
Car alarm$300$800$500Consider this, but it will be marked up significantly at the dealership. Go to an independent dealer and save money.
VIN etching$75$200$125Not necessary. If you want it, buy a window etching kit and do it yourself for 20 bucks.
Lojack$325$800$475Consider this, but get prices from an independent installer first.
Extended warranty$800 $1,800 $1,000 Not necessary, but can come in handy. Don't buy at the dealership without shopping around first. Read how to evaluate an extended warranty.
Gap insurance$200$500$300Not necessary, but get competitive quotes outside the dealership if you are going to buy it. Read more about gap insurance.
Financing$0n/aa lot!Dealers typically add 2-2.5% in APR to loans they provide. Find your own financing before heading to dealer. Ask if they can beat it.

Negotiating Dealer Add-Ons

Many of the add-ons you will be offered are unnecessary or can be purchased outside the dealership at a significantly lower price.  There are two main tips for negotiating add-ons:

  1. You probably don’t need it, so don’t buy it.
    If an item is not factory installed as part of an options package the dealer may be able to remove it from the deal.  Consider whether you really need it, or if can you buy it elsewhere.  In the majority of cases, if the item is optional then say NO.
  2. Negotiate the whole car deal, not individual items
    Follow the advice on my website and get car prices from several dealers.  Make sure each dealer gives you a total price that includes all options and add-ons.  You should be able to find similarly equipped vehicles and then you can ask dealers to give you their best overall price (including add-ons) to win your business.

Car Buying Tips for Single Mothers

Car Buying Tips for Single Mothers

If you are a single mother, you have a lot to balance: your work schedule, your children’s school and extracurriculars, and putting food on the table each night to name a few. You can’t afford to waste time or money aimlessly searching for a car. With these car buying tips for single mothers, you can search confidently to get the best deal for you.

car buying tips for single mothers

When is the Best Time to Buy a Car?

best time to buy a car

Should you buy during a specific month, day, or even time of day? There are a couple key considerations to consider when determining when to buy your car.  Look at the infographic below to see how timing can affect car prices. And if you really want to know how and when you can get the best deal, read my Ultimate New Car Buying Guide.

  Click the infographic below to enlarge.

best time to buy a car

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Best Time of Year to Buy a Car

You can find the best prices on seasonal vehicles off-season.  Convertibles and sports cars can be cheaper in the fall and early winter because of less demand. The weather also plays an impact.  SUV’s might be discounted in the summer when gas prices are up and people aren’t as concerned about finding four wheel drive cars to navigate wintery roads.

If you’re looking for a home on the road, the best time to buy an RV in colder climates is when the snowbirds have headed south for the Winter.  Demand drops off and sellers know they are going to have to go through the hassle of winterizing and storing the RV for the off season.   Conversely, in parts of the South, the best time to buy an RV is in late Spring after buyers migrate back north and there is less local demand.

The fall months are also good for sales at the end of a model year.  Different manufacturers end model years at different times, but many change years in September or October.  Dealers want to get rid of old models to make room for new ones. And you can get especially good deals if the body style is changing.  Just be careful to weigh the discount on an end of model-year car.  As soon as you enter a new year, that car’s resale value will take a hit because it’s labeled as a whole year older.

Best Month to Buy a Car

December is a great month to buy a car because dealerships are desperate to lure shoppers on the lot while most people are preparing for the holidays and spending all their extra cash on gifts.  It’s also the best time of year to buy a car because dealerships are trying to hit their annual sales quotas and related bonuses.  Dealerships have both month-end and year-end targets, so December means big discounts.  And if you don’t want to stay home on the holidays, Christmas Eve and New Year’s Eve are typically two of the best days of the year to find deals.

Best Day to Buy a Car

Even if you forget everything else, remember this statement:  The best time to buy a car is the last couple days of the month.  Manufacturers set monthly targets for car dealerships.  If car salesmen and dealerships meet their monthly sales goals they can earn bonuses.  So if you time your car purchase towards the end of the month you could end up buying from a car salesman who is close to hitting his quota and earning a bonus payment.  This bonus may be much bigger than the loss he takes on a single sale and as a result he may be willing to provide a bigger discount to you in order to earn that bonus.

And interestingly enough, the second best time to buy a car is the first couple days of the month.  Because the end of the month trick is widely known, salesmen are usually pretty busy with buyers that have waited.  As a result, the first couple days of the month mean fewer buyers and idle salesmen may be willing to deal.  Salesmen may also want to get a jump on their monthly sales quotas so they’re not under as much pressure at the end of the month.

Best Time to Buy a Car

Don’t go out of your way for this one, but some dealerships offer salesmen a small bonus ($100 or so) for selling the first car of the day on a Saturday or holiday to encourage sales. So if you are one of the first buyers of the day you may notice a small benefit.

What’s the Best Way to Buy a Car?

That’s easy, don’t go to the dealership at all!  Get car prices from multiple local dealers and ask them to compete with each other over email.  I explain how in my Ultimate New Car Buying Guide.

What if You Need a Car Now?

As much as you might like to time your car purchase to get the best deal, it’s not always possible.  Sometimes an accident or unexpected repair may make waiting difficult.  In these cases, you can still get car prices online and make car dealers compete.  And check out Edmunds car incentives and rebates to see which manufacturers are currently running promotions.

European Delivery Programs

Here’s a final added tidbit.  If you are considering buying a high-end luxury car, why not take a trip to Europe?  While timing a luxury car purchase may not net you savings on the car itself, you can save on your vacation spending.  Manufacturers like Audi, BMW, Mercedes, Porsche, and Volvo all offer vacation packages that allow you to pick up your car in Europe and tour the country side.   As for the best time of year, Spring is a great time to visit Europe while the weather is comfortable but the high-priced summer tourist season as not begun yet.

Trade-it, Junk-it, or Give it to Charity?

car-trade-in-flowchart

What are you going to do with that old car when you buy a new one? 
There are more options and considerations than you might think.  You’ll probably get the most money if you can sell it to a private party, but a trade-in could actually net you more because of the tax implications.  Donating to charity might give you a warm fuzzy, but you might just need someone to haul it off your front lawn so you can see your neighbor’s trailer again.

Below is a flow-chart to help you figure out how to get rid of your old car.  Before you get started, go to Edmunds and find out both the trade-in value and the private party sale value.  You may also want to get an online appraisal from a used car dealer or Autotrader.com. The online appraisal number will likely be lower than the Edmunds trade-in number, but it will give you an idea of exactly how much you would get if you had to sell today.  Participating car dealers are required to honor Autotrader online appraisals provided you are factual about the condition of your car.

A Flowchart to Determine How to Get Rid of Your Old Car

How to decide whether to trade-in your car or donate to charity
There are a few generalizations in the above chart, but hopefully it helps with your decision making process.  If you’re feeling really generous and want to give a $5,000 car to charity, by all means go ahead!  Just be sure to understand the tax law before you try to write-off any large numbers.  There are also hundreds of charities that will accept these donations and some are better than others, so do your research.  Lastly, if you decide to trade-in, make sure you read these steps to get the most amount of money for your trade-in.

Here are a few more resources to help:

How to negotiate with moving companies

moving company truck

Anyone that’s been through a big move knows it’s a painful process.  Finding a reputable mover at a reasonable price can be a challenge.  Add to that the stress of packing, trusting strangers with everything you own, and setting up life in a new place can give anyone a headache.  But hopefully, these tips that will make the process a little more bearable (and affordable). 

Before you select a mover, remember that moving services are negotiable, but you only want to consider the highest quality moving companies.  Unlike some other industries, you don’t necessarily want to find the cheapest company out there.  Start by asking friends for referrals and lookup each company with the Better Business Bureau.  Narrow your search to 3 or 4 reputable movers and then make them compete against each other. 

You may have read how to buy a car by creating a competitive bidding situation.  But did you know the same negotiating technique can be used in a variety of other situations? 

  • Haggling for lawn care treatments
  • Picking a moving company
  • Selecting contractors for home improvements
  • Getting the best interest rate for a mortgage (or re-finance)

We’ll explore more of these topics in future posts.

Get Moving Estimates

Start out by calling movers and getting estimates.  Make sure you ask each company to quote the same things.  Each estimate should cover the same inventory and contractual items.  You want to compare apples to apples. 

Some companies will provide an estimate over the phone and others will walk through your house inventorying every item. Estimators will estimate the weight of each item individually and use that to calculate the weight of your entire house.   

When getting an estimate, be sure to address these items to avoid surprise charges later: Continue reading

How to negotiate lawn care services

lawn_care_treatmentThis week I had my lawn aerated and re-seeded.  For most people this can be very expensive ($250-500).  But I negotiated a great deal last spring ($42), so I thought this would be a good time to look at haggling for lawn care services!

Lawn care companies all provide a similar suite of services and are ruthlessly competitive with each other.  You’ll be shocked at how easy it is to negotiate because they all want to undercut their competitors.

You may have read how to buy a car by creating a competitive bidding situation.  But did you know the same negotiating technique can be used in a variety of other situations? 

  • Haggling for lawn care treatments
  • Picking a moving company
  • Selecting contractors for home improvements
  • Getting the best interest rate for a mortgage (or re-finance)

We’ll explore each of these topics in future posts.

Lawn care companies don’t typically cut your lawn, but instead provide regular applications of fertilizer, weed control, insect repellent, etc. Usually between 5-10 treatments per year.  It’s very easy to notice the difference between a thick, green, healthy lawn that’s been treated and one that’s only been mowed.

You could certainly go to Home Depot and buy these types of treatments and apply them yourself.  However, in recent years I’ve found it’s actually cheaper to have a lawn service come and do the work for you if you negotiate properly. Continue reading

How to run a Bidding War (Infographic)

bidding war

If you’re in the market for a new car and want to get the best possible deal, you should make car dealers compete with each other.  Today I’m going to lay out the steps to do that visually.  For more details on these steps click Start Here above and read how to Start a Bidding War.

In the example below, you’ll get prices on a new car from 4 car dealers.  You’ll then email each car dealer to make them compete against each other to systematically reduce your price.

Flowchart – How to systematically negotiate a low car price

How to negotiate a new car
Now you may be thinking, hey, that’s a lot of work….I had to send at least 4 emails.  Well, in this example, we managed to get the price down $4800 from our most expensive offer.  That’s a savings of $1200 per email!  I don’t know about you, but even if I only managed to save half of this example, I’d be sending emails all day long at that rate.  Also, take advantage of these email samples that I’ve put together that tell you exactly what to say to car dealers.

The great thing about this negotiation strategy is that it’s not a secret! Even when you make car dealers aware that you are getting competitive bids, they will still work with you because they want to sell cars.