Exporting BMWs to Germany [Archive] - Bimmerfest - BMW Forums

: Exporting BMWs to Germany

05-10-2008, 03:38 PM

I am originally from Germany and moved to the US a little over 10 years ago. Now I am thinking about moving back to Europe within the next 2 years or so. In order to minimize the impact of the weak USD ($) I might buy a new car now so I can take it to Europe once we move. During my last visit to Germany (4 weeks ago) I stopped at one of the bigger BMW dealerships in Munich (Spaett) to check on the effort of converting a current US 3 series so it meets German requirements. The technician who seemed to be fairly knowledgeable stated that NONE the current BMW models - except the Z4 and the X3 - can be converted by any BMW shop to euro specs due to major differences in the cars' electronics. He said there are some independent shops that would perform the changes but they apparently charge up to 7,000 Euro (almost $11,000). I tried to get this confirmed by my local BMW dealerships here in the US but no luck....

Does anyone on this board have any experience or knowledge on this topic?


05-11-2008, 12:27 AM
I think I might be just a bit naive on the whole topic but wouldn't the idea of shipping a car to Germany cancel out any sort of savings buying it in the US would create, especially if you had to convert it to Euro standards?

05-11-2008, 05:28 AM
why would you need to convert the car to euro specs? Just keep it the way it is and pay only for shipping to Germany.

05-11-2008, 06:41 AM
To BsmithNP:
Cars are generally much cheaper here in the US; I did not check on BMWs yet, but just as an example: an MB M320 CDI is around $50K nicely equipped here in the States, it starts at 48K Euro in Germany base price, which translates to around 55K - 60K Euro if you add the same options to match the US model.
55,000 * 1.5 = 82,500. Shipping is somewhere around $1,200, add another grand for all the documentation and paperwork in Germany and you still save about $30K. This is for a new car of course and since I am planning to drive it here for the rest of the 2 years before we leave, the advantage might not be as obvious but then I can still decide and sell the car here...
I talked to my local Porsche dealer, he said every other used Porsche he currently sells goes to Europe. I checked for my 911, the only thing I'll have to change there is the rear bumper due to the different license plate shapes and disconnect the additional running side lights. Approximately $1,500.

To RaysMD:
If it was that easy; the legal and technical requirements in Germany are much more stringent than they are here in the US. In order to get my title there, I'll have to have the car inspected and approved by the TUV.


05-11-2008, 09:55 PM
And some say you don't learn something new everyday! I was just trying to keep you on your toes ;-)

05-12-2008, 10:46 AM
If it was that easy; the legal and technical requirements in Germany are much more stringent than they are here in the US. In order to get my title there, I'll have to have the car inspected and approved by the TUV.I hope the office that does your technical inspection proves to be much more competent than ours. (I get the impression that decades of monopoly dulls the mind.) In the past, it was no huge deal homoligating a BMW for registration in Germany. Many of the changes you need to make can likely now be done in software which could either be a blessing or a curse. I can ask around if you still need an answer. As you might suppose, a fair number of people in this town (and our TUV office) have experience importing and registering U.S. market cars.

You can save quite a bit more money if you buy the car now and then bring it to Germany after, say, a year of use. That way, it can come in as part of your household goods and escape 10% customs and 19% VAT. The next best thing is to bring in a car that has seen at least 184 days since first use (and not one day less!) so that it qualifies as used. A good surveyor/Begutachter can then more than earn his fee by knocking down the (paper) value of your ride.

05-25-2008, 01:23 PM
Thanks JohnF,

I am actually not that afraid of the TUV but for now - as stated in my initial post - need to know whether the car can even be converted to German specs at all. As I said, according to Spaett in Munich this is not supported by BMW for most of the current models.

Does anyone have any information on this?


05-25-2009, 10:57 AM
A nice bump, as I have the same question. I might move to Switzerland and it is very enticing to bring my 335i or buying a new M3.

What I understood you need to own the car at least 6 months to move them as part of your household goods. In addition, supposedly it is not that difficult to convert to EU specs as the car was made in Europe. The only things I heard was the tachometer (which already shows both miles & km, change the text "brake" to the brake symbol, and adjusting the lights.

05-25-2009, 01:40 PM
It can be done; a fair amount of folks on another German-based forum have done it. The stuff that needs to be done depends on the vehicle.

Software can always be reloaded by a BMW Service Partner or a firm that specialises in conversions. One will need to buy parts; exactly what depends on the model. One side benefit is that US-spec vehicles have stricter emissions standards, so in some cases, may land the vehicle in a higher Euro-emissions catagory than otherwise. For example, a US-spec X3 is considered a Euro-4 emissions vehicle.

05-25-2009, 02:05 PM
Didn't know it was possible to avoid the import tax and VAT at all. That's one to keep in mind for the future.

As far as converting; the X3 can be done for sure, as a colleague did it when he retired. It will cost around 3K euro and includes a new light switch and programming for fog lights, new side markers for the front and some other small things. I can provide a contact if you want more info. Just PM me.

Other models I don't know about.

One thing to note is that BMW Assist is useless over here and CANNOT, at least on the X3, be converted to work with the German system. That tracks with your comments about the electronics being different. You will also miss out on the capability of surfing the internet from your car, if that matters to you. The warranty is only good for two years here and doesn't include the free maintenance. BMW approved German oil is 20 - 25 euro a liter if you have to buy it from the dealer. The warranty can be extended 12 months at a time, up to two times, for approx. 350 euro a year but must be done before the warranty expires.

Volvo's, on the other hand, are very easy to convert only costing around 100 euro. They also honor the the 4 year warranty and free maintenance here. I know a Volvo isn't a BMW but thought I'd mention the differences in respect to converting.

05-25-2009, 02:10 PM
Just saw Azn's post and that's a good point about the emissions which are going to change for 2014, I believe.

www.autobild.de had a couple of articles about importing vehicles within the past few months. You might find some useful info there.