A long time ago, I heard my friend’s parents talking about a European car delivery of their BMW. As they described their road trip adventures and the excitement of receiving their beautiful new BMW in a foreign land, my ears immediately perked up. Before they had finished describing the lavish details, I already knew that this was an experience for me. I mentally added “BMW European Car Delivery” to my bucket list.
I absolutely loved my BMW European delivery car experience, and was planning on repeating it. Unfortunately, BMW has discontinued their European delivery option. However, as you will read below, most of the European car delivery programs are similar, and many still exist. So, depending on which car manufacturer you choose to buy from, European car delivery is available to you.
What is a European Car Delivery?
For me, a European car delivery is like winning the lottery! It’s a great excuse for you to take an extended road trip in Europe (Not that you need an excuse), while enjoying it in your very own brand new car.
Often the European delivery process saves you money, either in a discount off the MSRP of the vehicle, or in shipping fees. However, you do need to factor in your travel costs. Sometimes you do receive perks from the manufacturer, therefore ultimately, you may save money or break even. It really depends on your personal travel plans and the deal you work out when buying the car. Essentially a European delivery means that you pick up your new car directly from the manufacturer in Europe.
How does a European Delivery work?
The process may vary from manufacturer to manufacturer, but overall there are a few variables that are usually common. For example, when I did my BMW European car delivery, I had to buy my new car from an authorized United States BMW Dealer.
This goes for all European deliveries. This means I paid for the new car in the United States, just like if you were to buy any new car from a dealer. Therefore, you are still able to secure financing and often leasing. (Leasing may change the amount of time you can have the car in Europe). From there, the process may vary depending on the type of car you purchase.
What are the Steps between You and Your European Car Delivery?
Do You Want a Brand New Car and A Dream Trip?
- Decide that you want to purchase a new car and what type. This may sound like common sense, but in the end, some may decide that a slightly used car is just as good.
- Your second goal should be that you want to go to Europe. You want the VIP experience of picking up your new car there and going on a European road trip. There are some people that are looking to buy a car for a slightly discounted price and then turn around and sell it immediately when it arrives in the United States, but for our purposes, that is the exception, not the rule.
- Find a dealer from whom you would like to buy your car. Just like buying a car normally, you will want to locate the best price and service.
- Be sure the vehicle model that you want is available for European delivery. Not all models are available, even if your manufacturer offers a program.
- Negotiate the best deal that you can!
- Test drive the car prior to committing.
- Contract your new car with the dealer by filling out the necessary papers and giving them a down payment. Be sure you are clear with them that you want a European Delivery.
- Line up insurance and registration of your vehicle for when it arrives in the United States. Your dealer can usually help you with these items.
Work with Your Manufacturer
- Within 48 hours of committing, I received an email from BMW with a link, in order to “build” my new car. This part was really fun! I verified the car was correct and then chose the manufacturer features that I wanted included, as well as the exterior and interior colors. Note that accessories and certain items cannot be added at the manufacturer and must be completed at the dealer, once your car arrives in the United States.
- Once the date that your vehicle will be ready for you to pick up in Europe is confirmed, plan your travel.
- Purchase any additional European insurance you may need through your dealer or manufacturer program. BMW included 2 weeks insurance with their European delivery program. I extended it for the length of time I’d be traveling through them. Check with your manufacturer on what they include.
- Plan your European road trip
- Read up on the Rules of the Road in the areas you plan on driving in Europe. Have an understanding of driving laws, necessary vehicle equipment, tolls, and parking.
- On your assigned pick up date, meet your delivery specialist at the Manufacturer to finish paperwork and take delivery (receive) your new vehicle. When I picked up my BMW, I went to the Welt prior to my delivery date to partake in activities included with my purchase. I will discuss this further below.
- Travel through Europe driving your new vehicle for up to 5 months
- Before you return home, drop your vehicle off at an approved drop-off location. Your manufacturer will go over these with you.
What is the Timeline?
From my experience with BMW, I needed an approximate 3 month lead time prior to the date I wanted to pick it up in Europe. This varies between manufacturers, and depending on the options you choose, but you generally need to plan ahead. BMW asked me for a target set of dates that I’d like to be there and worked with us to find one that was acceptable.
The actual process of picking up your car usually only requires a few hours, but you may want to allow time for the special tours and perks that you are offered, as well as recovery time for jet lag.
Once you receive your car in Europe, You can keep it there for personal use for up to five months, but less (3 months) if you have chosen to lease rather than buy.
Once you drop your car off for shipping back to the United States, it takes approximately 6-8 weeks to receive it on the East Coast, and 8-10 weeks on the West Coast. If you utilize a drop-off site outside of Germany, it can take 1-2 weeks longer.
What Happens Once You Arrive in Europe?
Upon arrival in Germany, BMW had pre-arranged for a private car and driver to meet me at the train station and deliver me to my hotel. This was a nice perk from BMW. You ideally would not arrive on the same day as your scheduled car pick up because you could be delayed and miss it. Also, you do not want to be too tired to enjoy your experience or get behind the wheel.
Your manufacturer should be provide you an itinerary that will outline any appointments and events, as well as special perks. Then you can plan your adventure around receiving your new car. Once you have met your delivery obligations and have your brand new car, go have fun!
What is Included with Your European Delivery?
Each delivery program offers different perks. BMW provided a list of recommended accommodations, many which offered BMW customers a discount or upgrade. I personally found that the hotel program I belong to had better rates. Some programs pay for a night in hotel prior to your pick up. BMW European delivery did not. As mentioned above, they did provide some transport.
I like to use a hotel booking tool that has an application that lists all of your hotel stays in one place, so that you can see your trip laid out for you, especially when I am on a road trip and moving often.
BMW European Perks I Received
- Hotel Discount at select hotels
- Arrival Shuttle to Hotel
- Shuttle to BMW Welt
- Welt Factory Tour
- Museum Entrance
- Unlimited Entry to VIP Lounge (Had meals, drinks, VIP services, seating, views)
- Welt Car Experience Personalized for training on my BMW
- Special Gift at Welt Store
- An email containing my “Connected App” information, a gift card to spend in the BMW USA store, and a free year subscription to Sirius XM Radio
- Required European Safety Equipment (Vest and triangles)
- Cheat sheet for Driving in the EU
- 2 weeks EU insurance
- Departure Fee (but not destination fee)
- Full Tank of Gas
- VIP Presentation of my new BMW
- 5% off the MSRP plus 7% off all Manufacturer’s Options (on top of whatever you negotiate with your dealer)
As mentioned, each program varies in their MSRP discounts and perks. Some manufacturers offer more or less discount off the base, while some offer more perks such as fully paid hotels.
At BMW, a European delivery was a VIP experience. While not every perk imaginable was included, BMW did a great job of making me feel welcome and special. For me, this was an important part of my BMW buying experience and I am disappointed that BMW has chosen to cancel this program.
BMW does offer a United States experience for anyone who buys a new BMW within the United States that includes driving on a racetrack. I was able to take advantage of that experience as well, as I chose to have my car shipped to the BMW headquarters in South Carolina, rather than to my dealer. From there I drove it home.
Shipping Your New Car Home
I had a choice of 12 cities from which to choose. These locations required me to call approximately 72 hours in advance to schedule. In addition, there are various drop-off locations in Italy, but these required a specific pre-reservation and additional fee. Also, your insurance needed to remain valid for 3 days after drop-off.
For BMW in Germany, this experience was very interesting. I was provided information for a logistics company and told to contact them 48 to 72 hours prior to dropping off the vehicle. They gave me their address and after I washed and cleared out the car, I headed there. The address was an office building not far from the port. I met with a woman who had me fill out all the required paperwork. She then gave me another address and told me to go there.
The port warehouse was approximately 15 minutes from the logistics office. It was a large and somewhat confusing high security area. After clearing me and my paperwork, I was told to drive toward the back and enter one of the many warehouse structures.
It felt really surreal because there was not a soul around once I drove back. I hoped I entered the right building because I was driving through a giant warehouse, full of palettes and equipment and cars and forklifts. I eventually saw a man waving who told me to just leave the car and keys with him. He did do a check of the car to be sure there was no damage. I really wanted the German license plates which are removed before shipping. The man was kind enough to unscrew one and let me take it.
From there, I walked away and had them call a taxi to the front to take me to the city center. This part felt a little sad and strange. Not only was my European delivery adventure ending, but I no longer had my own BMW and found ourselves in the street. The only thing left were my memories and the license plate.
In the United States
When you receive your car back in the United States, have the dealer make any needed stateside adjustments. For example, my GPS chip was a European chip and needed to be changed out so that my maps and computer functioned in the states. We also had to reset some phone commands and radio functions. Also, any accessories or add ons that were not permitted due to shipping from Europe, can now be installed. You may want to arrange installment prior to picking up your car from the dealer.
Things to Know that You Wouldn’t Ask
- You will need a valid and original passport and driver’s license in order to pick up your new vehicle. I always carry an International driver’s permit as well. This can be picked up at AAA.
- If you are arriving in Europe during their Winter months (November 1 through March 31), rental cars (European deliveries included) are required to have winterized tires. These expensive tires can be rented, but you should arrange this with your manufacturer in advance.
- Europe requires you to have both a safety vest and triangles in your vehicle at all times while operational. BMW gave me a certificate to pick these items up in their gift shop for free.
- Prior to dropping your vehicle off for United States delivery, law required us to thoroughly wash the car and clean its interior. There were recommended car washes, provided when we asked, that specialized in car shipping requirements.
- There can be absolutely nothing additional in your car when you drop it off for shipping. This includes a car charger or anything in your glove box or trunk.
- With most programs, you can choose the location in the United States where your car is shipped. Therefore, it does not necessarily have to go to the dealer where you purchased it. For example, I shipped my BMW to their Spartanburg Plant and took advantage of the BMW Driving Experience there.
Is a European Delivery Worth It?
From my standpoint, ABSOLUTELY! I was going to purchase a new BMW and I was going to go to Europe on an extended vacation. Therefore, for me, I felt I did both things I was going to do, with some overall savings. There was a discount on my vehicle, plus I did not have to rent a car. The destination fee that I paid (approximately $895 USD) is usually tucked into the price of the vehicle when you buy it from the dealer in the United States anyway. For me, I feel I gained a VIP experience and some fun added perks.
If a European Delivery is not for you, you can still experience the Welt and the freedom of having your own set of wheels while exploring. Try renting a car so that you can be on your own schedule and visit some of the off the beaten path attractions easily.
My BMW Welt Experience
Entering the Welt was somewhat like entering a spaceship! It is situated in a park that adjoins Olympia Park, built for the 1972 World’s Fair. The architecture is modern and aerodynamic looking, and just so cool! Inside, I was greeted by a friendly BMW representative who ushered me to a checkin desk. I was provided tour information and directions and given a VIP band because I was purchasing a new car.
The VIP Lounge
My first stop was the lounge. I was given my passes for the various activities. It was great to have the opportunity to complete my paperwork for the car and get it out of the way. I was given a tour of the lounge and left to enjoy lunch and drinks. This VIP area had a beautiful and varied buffet of food and drinks. The lounge was on the top floor, furnished with comfortable leather seating and smart wooden bar areas, complete with a children’s playroom. It overlooked the showroom of the Welt and some of the activity below. It all felt very exclusive and was accessed by a private elevator.
The Welt is crowded and busy and full of energy. In some parts, it feels a little like being at a high end car show. The Welt is open to the public with paid admission as it holds a large museum with an amazing collection of BMWs through the years and related memorabilia. The museum has a great deal of history of the manufacturing process too. The museum is very interesting and takes a good part of the day to see. Inside the Welt, there is also a BMW merchandise store containing a large selection from various collections and several restaurant options.
All factory tours are timed and in a separate building. This part was absolutely fabulous. It was extremely interesting to see how the BMW is manufactured and all the people and parts, service and departments, that go into making this vehicle. It was also interesting learning about the BMW culture. This relates to the inside and how BMW colleagues work and interact amongst each other, as well as how associates communicate and serve their customers and guests. There was also information about the BMW commitment to the environment and community.
My BMW Reveal
Before my car was revealed, I was assigned a private BMW colleague who took us on an interactive digital tour of the specifications and workings of my new BMW.
Then, I awaited the arrival from the lounge, that offered a bird’s eye view of your new vehicle being pulled into the showroom. I waited in anticipation to see it for the very first time.
Next I was led down by my associate to see my car closeup and receive some further instructions. Lastly, I got to test drive my car around the track, inside the building that partially curves through the showroom floor. Ultimately, I exited the building and took my obligatory photos of my car in front of the Welt, prior to taking off on my road trip adventure.
Who Currently Offers European Delivery
At the time of writing, Mercedes, Porsche, and Volvo each offer a European delivery option. BMW and Audi canceled their programs and Volkswagen does not offer one. Of the three remaining programs, Volvo offers the largest discounts and most perks. Mercedes has some discount and perks. Porsche gives some perks, but no discount.
BMW still offers an experience within the United States. While I partook in both the European delivery and the Spartanburg Headquarter driving school, I found them to be two very different and unique experiences. Both were very nice, but in my opinion, one cannot and does not replace the other.
Would I Do a European BMW Car Delivery Again?
One word; YES! For me, one factor of choosing BMW was for the ability to have a European delivery. I was looking forward to doing it again soon. A love note to @BMW while I love my new BMW, the cancellation of the European delivery option may affect my upcoming next vehicle purchase because I definitely would like to do it again.