Straight to the Source

Buying your car in Europe

For some new car buyers, traveling 6,000 miles to get your wheels might not make a lot of sense. But for adventurous drivers who want to turn their test drive into a vacation, picking up a Mercedes, BMW, Volvo, Porsche, or Saab in Europe is one smart idea. In fact, four of those car makers have instituted programs to lure American buyers overseas by knocking five to ten percent off the sticker price (Porsche doesn't discount); and all five offer perks like free or reduced airfare and hotel rooms, as well as factory and museum tours. Here's how it works: After a visit to your local dealer, who sets the process in motion, you pick up your car at one of the European factories, have anywhere from two weeks to a month to drive it, then leave it at one of the manufacturer's drop-off points (some companies charge extra if you don't drive it back to the same factory). About a month or two later, your car arrives at your local dealer. Even more attractive than the savings (which increases if you consider that the cost of renting a BMW 5-series in Europe for a month is $5,700) is the comfort and security of touring a foreign continent in your own car. "You really feel like you belong in the landscape," says Wisconsin resident Scott Wippermann, who with his wife and kids picked up his BMW 325xi in Munich a few summers ago, drove it 3,500 miles to Finland, and dropped it off in Hamburg. And need we even mention that supreme fantasy of many a thrill-seeking American driver? The autobahn. But first, everything you need to know before putting the pedal to the metal.

BMW
Cars Available All except the X5, Z4, M3, and M5
Pick-Up City Munich, Germany
Drop-Off Points 23
Airfare Deals Two-for-one coach tickets on Lufthansa
Hotel Deals None
Best Offering No extra charge for drop-off

MERCEDES
Cars Available All except S-Class, ML, SL, and AMG
Pick-Up City Sindelfingen, Germany
Drop-Off Points 14
Airfare Deals None
Hotel Deals One free night
Best Offering Short delivery time to U.S.—as little as 4 weeks

PORSCHE
Cars Available All models
Pick-Up City Stuttgart or Leipzig, Germany (depending on model)
Drop-Off Points 78
Airfare Deals None
Hotel Deals None
Best Offering All those drop-off points

SAAB
Cars Available All models
Pick-Up City Trollhättan, Sweden
Drop-Off Points 29
Airfare Deals None
Hotel Deals One free night
Best Offering $1,000 cash travel voucher

VOLVO
Cars Available All models
Pick-Up City Gothenburg, Sweden
Drop-Off Points 14
Airfare Deals Two free coach tickets on SAS
Hotel Deals One free night
Best Offering Most discounted car price—upwards of 8%