Whether you’re looking for a larger selection to choose from, trying to save money on a comparable vehicle or perhaps realizing a life-long dream of owning an American car, buying and importing a car from the USA can be a worthy investment of your time and money.
There are a few advantages to buying a American used car. Depending on the model you’re looking for, it’s possible to save a lot of money on the purchase price. Additionally, because of the massive size of the American market, there are more cars to choose from. On top of this, it’s also possible to find makes and models that may not normally be available in your own country.
This part of the U.S. Import Guide will help identify important things to look for in advance of your purchase, as well as helpful hints on where to look when you’re buying an American car:
Where to look when buying an American car
There are many possible routes to follow when you want to buy and import a car from the USA. One great option is to work through a company specializing in importing vehicles. In most cases, they handle all the details for you. Buying this way can potentially save you a lot of time, money, and stress.
If you’d like to buy the car yourself, the internet can be an incredibly helpful resource. There are several vehicle search engines that can help.
CARFAX.com is a great place to start your American used car search. Every listing includes the vehicle history reported to CARFAX, like accidents, mileage, and number of owners, all to help you shop with more assurance
Cars.com offers an extensive listing of vehicles by type, location, year, and more. Additionally, you can read reviews of the cars before you buy. When you want to import a car from the USA, this can help make choosing what to buy much easier.
Finally, if you’re planning to buy the car in person, CARFAX has compiled a list of tips to help used car buyers find the best places to buy.
Important things to keep in mind before you buy an American car
One significant thing to note is that while there are thousands of professional companies and private sellers looking to do business with you, there are also many who will take your money in a scam. If buying online from a site like eBay or craigslist, be sure to check the feedback for negative reviews and use Google to confirm addresses.
Some red flags for scammers include:
- Sellers requesting Western Union money transfers
- Offers to ship a car as part of the price
- Stories that the seller is out of town, abroad, or that they are selling the item for a friend
When possible, use the phone. Talking to a real person already eliminates the largest probability that you’re being scammed. Remember that if it seems too good to be true, it probably is.
The need to make modifications
American cars are generally manufactured following US-specific requirements, which means when they are exported to some European countries, they may need expensive modifications to meet local regulations. One example is the necessity to have the headlight range adjusted when importing a car into Germany. It’s advisable to check with your local authority about any potential country-specific modifications you may need to make.
If you’re looking to import a car from the USA that is still under warranty, it’s rare for manufacturers to offer one that is transferable worldwide. Therefore it’s beneficial to check with the manufacturer about its warranty commitments. Whether your potential purchase has a warranty or not, it’s imperative that you have the car properly inspected before buying. This will avoid any costly surprises down the road.
Show me the CARFAX
One extremely helpful tool at your disposal is the CARFAX Vehicle History Report. CARFAX knows every American used car and can help ensure the vehicle doesn’t have anything undesirable, hiding in its history (e.g. flood damage or a salvage title). You can search on our website for the CARFAX Vehicle History Report for any American used car. All you need to get started is the Vehicle Identification Number (VIN).
Making the payment
The purchase tax (sales tax) is set by each individual state and varies from 0 to 9 percent. In general, the tax must not be paid when the vehicle is exported immediately. If you buy the car while in the United States, you may have to pay the tax and can claim it back after shipment.
Use a secure payment method
Paying a large sum of money to buy and import a car from the USA can be risky. You’re often times dealing with an unknown international seller and not everybody has the luxury to travel to the United States in order to finalize the transaction. Avoid getting scammed by choosing a safe and secure method of payment. Again, this means avoiding anonymous payment methods like Western Union or PayPal for large overseas transactions.
While cash is always helpful if you’re looking for a rebate, traveler's checks and credit cards can be safer. It’s also possible wire transfer money from a bank in Europe to an American bank.
Possibly the most secure method of payment is using an escrow service. Whenever dealing with an unknown seller, it’s highly recommended to utilize this fully secure system. The escrow service will only pay the seller once the car is physically being picked up for transport. By choosing this method, you have no need to worry about whether or not the seller actually delivers your car after you transfer the money.
It can be both economically sensible as well as a fulfillment of a life-long dream to import a car from the USA. Checking the vehicle’s history in advance can save you a lot of problems down the road. Be sure to ask for the CARFAX before you buy. It’s also important to inform yourself of all local regulations regarding importing vehicles into your country. Be sure to carefully examine prices, taxes and import duty, shipping costs, etc.
To import a car from the USA can be a daunting task. But by following this U.S. import guide, it should help to ease the confusion. For more information on how to import a car from the USA, continue reading Part 2: Shipping cars to Europe.