To start I don’t think many would argue with the overall quality of most of the cars that are imported from Asia and Europe. Ford may have invented the assembly line, but the Toyota was the birthplace of Kaizen which revolutionized the quality control of vehicle manufacturing. For those who don’t know, Kaizen refers to continuous improvement of any process. In this case it speaks to the manufacturing line of Toyotas and focuses on ripping out inefficiencies and quickly adapting to any problems that come up.
Over time, the Kaizen methodology expanded across the globe to both Europe and the US, but Toyota remained at the forefront of automotive quality for decades. Though the Germans aren’t as known for manufacturing methodology revolutions, they have a longstanding reputation in performance and precision. Long a developer of higher-end cars with impressive performance and luxury, they make incredible driving machines. Albeit occasionally with a bit too much complexity, which we will discuss below.
Some of the topics we will cover are below. Feel free to skip around!
- What are the popular foreign brands?
- Is foreign car repair expensive
- Foreign car parts are sometime difficult to get
- Repairs typically require a specialty foreign car mechanic
- High end foreign cars don’t get great trade-in value
- Are foreign cars worth it?
What are the popular foreign brands?
Let’s break foreign cars down into two main sections. The first is European vehicles and the other Asian vehicles. Not only are the two groups very far apart, but they also produce very different types of car from each other.
What are Popular European Brands?
Europe has produced a wide variety of car brands over the years and many of them have been incredible from a performance, styling, and reliability front. The big 3 are probably some of the most well known brands that you have certainly heard of and seen around. These are:
Beyond these there are additional higher end marques that focus on ultra performance. These exotics aren’t seen as often but certainly turn heads when they drive by.
- Ferrari (Italy)
- Lamborghini (Italy)
- Bugatti (France)
- Aston Martin (UK)
- Rolls Royce (UK)
- Bentley (UK)
- Lotus (UK)
- Maserati (Italy)
- Porsche (Germany)
There are certainly more foreign brands - like fiat - that are European but the ones listed above are arguably the most popular and well known.
What are Popular Asian Car Brands?
Similar to the Europeans, the Asian manufacturers have a few standouts that sell a huge number of cars across America. Pretty much everyone in the US will have heard of their major producers.
- Toyota (Japanese)
- Honda (Japanese)
- Mazda (Japanese)
- Mitsubishi (Japanese)
- Lexus (Toyota high end brand)
- Nissan (Japanese)
- Infiniti (Nissan high-end brand)
- Kia (South Korea)
- Hyundai (South Korea)
Is foreign car repair expensive?
Beyond the basics of looks and performance, many people looking to buy a car want to have a good idea of how much they might end up spending to keep up their car with repairs and service. Below is a breakdown of what you can expect for different foreign car repair costs based on the region.
Foreign car repair - European Vehicles
These vehicles are known for precision, power, craftsmanship and pricey repairs. They are truly incredible machines but the level to which they are customized and tuned can make some basic repairs relatively costly. According to TheDrive, the total maintenance costs of the average Audi over a 10-year span is $12,400. A BMW jumps all the way to $17,800, with Mercedes trailing that slightly.
Foreign car repair - Asian imported cars
Compared to the above, mainstream asian brands like toyota and Honda average $5,500 and $7,200 over a 10-year period respectively.That’s less than half to cost to maintain any of the european vehicles. This is in addition to the savings you will likely get on the purchase price of the cars. As an average, the Asian vehicles are high volume and low cost options.
Clearly, if you’re looking for a foreign vehicle that’s cheap to own, you’re better off looking across the Pacific vs. the Atlantic.
Are foreign car parts difficult to find?
Generally, no this is not a problem. As mentioned above, the asian manufacturers are geared towards building vast volumes of cars and therefore have many standardized parts on hand for any of the lineup. Taking your Mazda or Honda to the shop should not be an issue if you accidentally run over the sidewalk and ruin your side skirt - something I definitely did to my Mazda 3 at age 18. I quickly had a few different options and ended up just buying the part and installing it myself.
On the German side, though, this can get a little hairier. The standard models like the A4, C-class, or 3-series are all pretty high volume still and should have most of the parts you’ll need on hand quickly. The shop will likely have to order them still but probably just from a distributor nearby. As you go up in the models this may change. The M4 C63 AMG, and RS4 will likely start to have additional performance parts that may take a while to get as well as cost you an arm and a leg. Such is the price of performance.
Do some research on the actual cost of ownership for your performance vehicle before committing!
You often need to go to a foreign car mechanic to ensure quality.
This is something I’m a big proponent of. I wrote about it specifically for BMW servicing, but it plays a big part in how well and quickly your car is serviced. Essentially the question many people ask is do they need to take their vehicle somewhere like Eurocar Werk pictured above? As much as I love the guys down the street with their ‘5-minute oil change’, I’m not overly keen on letting them take my $65,000 German performance machine without any experience. Note that this may end up costing you, but could help on resale. Back when I owned my 911 I ended up paying $800 for an oil and filter change. Gasp. Yes, I know it’s crazy and I could’ve done it elsewhere way cheaper. That being said, the dealership knows the cars well so I’m not worried about them forgetting something and causing problems with the rest of the $100,000 vehicle.
Also, when dealing with high end cars the possible purchasers down the line may care about how you’ve maintained the vehicle. Having all records from a reputable spot may get you a lot more in sales. Note that if you plan on just trading in your car at some point, a dealer won’t car at all where it was serviced.
Any vehicle that is stock or volume can pretty much go to any shop around. Your Hondas, Mazdas, etc can all get serviced wherever you find to be pleasant or cheap. Buyers of these foreign vehicles care that the maintenance was done, not where it was done.
High end foreign cars don’t get great trade-in value
An unfortunate issue that tends to happen for the luxury imports is that they get penalized when it comes to trade in time. The American dealer market is highly optimized for the mid-to-low range vehicles. That means that you’re in luck with a Honda Accord, which sells quickly off the lot for solid resale. Dealers want cars that move quickly because they have to finance every car sitting on their lot. The longer it sits, the less they make no matter the sales price.
Think about the idea of a dealer taking on a trade-in for a $65,000 M5 or 911. They have to take out a loan to hold that vehicle from you and unless it’s bare stock or they have a buyer in mind, it’s going to sit for a while before someone takes it. To ensure they still make money, they discount their expected finance cost against the vehicle before offering you a trade-in value. Essentially they make the seller pay their incurred cost of holding it. That’s not a great option for you as a seller given that you could just be driving it around still if you wanted to continue financing it.
That’s why many sellers of high end foreign vehicles opt to sell their cars privately. In the private market you can get much more for your car and continue driving it until the day it sells. A major concern here has been scammers and the effort involved to sell, but Topmarq handles all of those concerns while still providing top dollar. If you’re looking to sell your luxury car, check out the sell on Topmarq page and see how you can make the most of your vehicle.
Are foreign cars worth it?
Beauty is in the eye of the beholder. Asian foreign cars are definitely a great option for low cost and reliable daily drivers. A civic or a Mazda 3 will get you from point A to point B smoothly and allow commutes to fade into the background. If this is your style, they are definitely worth it.
If you’re someone who enjoys cars and the experience of driving, the above may lull you to sleep. Instead you are likely inclined to spend more coin to get something that can rock your socks off. I certainly live in this arena. The question becomes how much coin you are willing to part with and what your style is. Just be careful when deciding how much car you think you can afford. Without factoring in upkeep and maintenance (+ insurance) you could end up in a big hole.