If you’re preparing to move abroad and trying to decide whether to bring your car with me, let me help: Don’t do it.
I recently listened to Planet Money’s episode “Why Cars From Europe and the US Just Can’t Get Along” and thought back to our car experiences with our last two moves. When we moved from the US to Germany, we were lucky enough to have a generous moving allowance — one that allowed us to consider bringing one of our cars with us. We weighed our options, and my husband’s love for his recently purchased car tipped the scales. We brought the car.
It was a real pain to import a car into Germany. The kinds of regulation issues mentioned in that Planet Money episode also make it really tough for car owners to bring a US car to Europe. The worst part is that no one could give us a straight answer about what we’d have to do to meet European regulations after the move. We did a lot of research ahead of time, but in the end we kind of had to cross our fingers and hope it would go well.
The kinds of things we had to change on the car were infuriating. We had to completely swap out the car’s headlights because of the colors of the lights. We had to install a little fog light. I’ve forgotten what else we had to change, but each one felt like a tiny, insignificant difference — all of which added up to a huge bill in the end. We’re thankful that the actual move was covered by my husband’s job, but given the hassle and the cost of the changes to the car it would have been much easier to just buy a used car after arriving in Germany.
When we moved to the UK, the decision was pretty much made for us. We took a road trip to Wales before the move, and it was not fun to have the driver on the “wrong” side of the car. We didn’t even try to bring the car with us. It was sad to say goodbye to our old car, but I was happy to avoid that particular headache this time around. The only headache was trying to agree on what exactly to buy over here. 😉