Car Buying

Buying a Car: How Does European Delivery Work?

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author photo by Doug DeMuro July 2015

If you're interested in buying a car from a high-end brand, you may have seen some European automakers touting European delivery or tourist delivery programs that allow you to enjoy your car on a European vacation. So exactly how do these programs work? We have the answer -- along with some benefits and drawbacks of participating in a European delivery program.

Here's How It Works

Unlike buying a car directly off the showroom floor, European delivery requires some patience. First, you'll have to visit your local dealership to order a car exactly to your liking. This is a rare treat that most car buyers don't get. Next, you'll have to wait, because a newly ordered car isn't built right away -- instead, it's constructed several weeks or months in the future. In other words, you can't do European delivery with a car that's sitting on the showroom floor.

Once the car is completed, you'll fly to Europe to pick it up. Different automakers schedule this in different ways. For some brands, you'll get discounted airline tickets. Others give you a break on hotels, a free meal in the area or even a free factory tour. But regardless of how you get to Europe, arriving there means picking up your car from the factory and heading to the destination of your choice.

Once you get on the road, you can head basically anywhere -- though many automakers offer insurance that restricts your travel to Western Europe. But if you want to cruise the autobahn, check out Barcelona, enjoy the French Riviera or see Lake Como, you can do it all in your new car. When you're finished with your trip, most automakers will allow you to drop off the car in one of several major European cities -- though some may require that you return it to the factory.

Next, you fly home while the manufacturer takes the car back and ships it to your dealer in the United States. This process can take several weeks, so when you return, don't expect to have the car right away. But once your car arrives, you can drive it off the lot and feel nostalgic about how you spent the first few hundred miles in your new vehicle cruising around Europe.

The Benefits

There are several benefits of European delivery. One is, oddly, discounted pricing. While not all manufacturers do it, some give you a discount when you're buying a car through the program. Discounted airfare and hotels are also another potential benefit, though, once again, you won't necessarily get those with every automaker.

Another European delivery benefit: You can order the car exactly how you want. In most car-buying cases, shoppers just choose a car that's sitting on the dealership's lot, but if you do European delivery, you'll be able to order the car to your exact specifications. And as an added bonus, you won't have to spend extra money to rent a car on your next vacation, since you'll be driving your own.

The Drawbacks

Of course, there are a few drawbacks to European delivery. One is time, because this isn't a process that takes a few days. Between ordering a car, flying to Europe, flying home and waiting for the car to be shipped back, most European deliveries take months -- so you won't want to consider the program if you need a car right away.

Another drawback is that you can't take advantage of tourist delivery for British or Japanese cars. Japanese automakers don't offer the program, and British car companies don't do it because your steering wheel would be on the wrong side of the road as you explore the U.K.

Still, if you're already planning a European vacation and you're thinking about buying a car, combining the two might be a nice way to enjoy your trip and experience the comfort and convenience of seeing Europe in your own vehicle.

This image is a stock photo and is not an exact representation of any vehicle offered for sale. Advertised vehicles of this model may have styling, trim levels, colors and optional equipment that differ from the stock photo.
Buying a Car: How Does European Delivery Work? - Autotrader