Why are American vehicles so unreliable

Do you want to get a US car? Read this before creating a topic!

Hello seeker,

Are you young, dynamic and looking for your first US car and your head is full of questions? Then you are exactly right here! You're not that young anymore, maybe not that dynamic anymore, but are you still thinking of buying an American car because you've always dreamed of it? Then you have come to the right place!

This thread is intended to serve as a guide for beginners and to deal with the most important and typical beginner questions. One thing in advance: The text is extensive, but this is absolutely necessary because most beginner questions cannot be answered across the board. Nothing is easy in life;) Don't worry, if you take the few minutes it's worth it! So don't switch to pull-through after the 3rd paragraph! I try to keep the whole thing a bit entertaining so that you don't fall asleep while reading;)

Are US cars suitable for everyday use?

Some of you may be shaking your head by now, but this question actually comes up over and over again. If you belong to the head-shaking faction, then you can at least skip this part. For all others:

Of course, US cars are suitable for everyday use!

In the USA there are no different physical laws than ours. The engines breathe the same air as ours, you basically fill up with the same fuel and, like our tires, your tires are made of rubber, steel / nylon, fillers, various plasticizers and other stuff that you don't want to know about it is.

Likewise, in the USA, sun, wind, rain and snow, or simply “weather” have been called. Also in the USA there are only people who depend on working cars. Whether a US car fits into your everyday life is more a question of your personal requirements than the question of whether the cars can get through a normal everyday car routine. If you are interested in a Mustang convertible but need a Suburban, that doesn't mean that the Mustang is not suitable for everyday use. It may just not fit into your life;)

What does my insurance charge for my US car?

One of the most frequently asked questions and one that takes the most time to answer! One thing in advance: It is absolutely NOTHING to create a thread and happily ask what "the others" are paying for their cars in the hope that you can get away with it as cheaply / expensive as the rest. You have that even as a beginner first only one thing: nothing at all!

Why? I explain now! :)

For most of them, the subject of car insurance is already dealt with by calling any insurance company. So many countless factors depend on the contribution calculation that it is impossible to make a general statement. Here are just a few of the most important parameters that the insurance company uses to calculate your premium:

Age of the vehicle owner

Age is particularly important if the main driver is under 25. If this is the case it will be more expensive.

Length of driving license

How long does the policyholder have his driver's license? Like the age of the vehicle owner, this also has an impact on the premium.

Place of residence of the keeper

The topic of regional class plays a role here, but we'll come back to that later.

Holder = policyholder?

If the policyholder deviates from the holder, most insurance companies charge an extra surcharge.

Other drivers planned?

The more drivers, the higher the risk for insurance companies. Ergo: Insurance becomes more expensive the more people move the car.

Drivers under 25?

That brings us back to the age of the main driver. All drivers under 25 fall into a special risk group, which drives the premium up again.

Annual mileage

The more you drive, the higher the risk of an accident. Actually logical! For this reason, youngtimer insurances limit the annual mileage to 5000-10,000km per year.

Self-occupied residential property

How was the vehicle financed?

Leasing, credit or cash? This also has an impact on the risk assessment.

Vehicle age

For a few years now, the age of the vehicle has also played a role in the calculation of the premium. The older the car, the more expensive it becomes.

Vehicle type (important because of the type classes)

Roughly, one can say the bigger, more expensive and more powerful the car, the higher the classification of the type classes.

SF classes of the driver

The more accident-free years you have in your account as a driver, the higher the SF class and the lower the contribution.

Scope of insurance (liability? Partially comprehensive? Fully comprehensive?)

The more extensive the insurance coverage you want, the more expensive it will be. Actually logical! Here everyone really has to decide for themselves how much risk they want to take themselves. Here, too, there is no limit ala "from amount XXXX the comprehensive insurance is worthwhile". If it doesn't hurt financially if you have to pay for the € 100,000 car yourself in the event of an accident, you can only take liability. If the loss of a € 8,000 car already represents a financial risk for the policyholder, fully comprehensive insurance is worthwhile to be covered.

That was by far not all the points, but you can already see that so many individual factors are included in the calculation that this question cannot be answered across the board. Just because Harald XY pays € 300 a year for his Mustang doesn't mean that you only pay € 300 per year. have to pay. It is enough that your regional class is significantly higher so that you can deduct significantly more insurance premium. The difference between Berlin and Buxtehude as a place of residence can be huge and already mean that you pay double what you would have to pay in place 2 in place 1!

In addition, nobody (except Harald) knows whether Harald XY has not just insured his car or whether it just has a very high SF class. I hope this makes it clear that the question is actually nonsense, at least when it comes to finding out what you can undock yourself. You have to answer this question for yourself, because (you can't mention this enough) as a beginner you don't benefit from other people throwing house numbers into the room. The chance that you catch someone who ends up paying exactly the same amount as you is about as high as the chance that a scantily clad Scarlett Johannson (the women among us now imagine a scantily clad Chris Hemsworth) is lining up at this very moment your doorbell rings to propose to you.

There are exactly 2 approaches to solving the problem:

The simple one:

You call your friendly insurance broker / the hotline of the insurer of least confidence and simply ask what they would charge you for vehicle XY. Usually you have a satisfactory answer less than half an hour later.

The heaviness:

You start to deal with the topic yourself. This includes rummaging through your insurance documents to see which SF classes you have, provided, of course, that you have already insured a car in your name. Then you check whether your car has a type classification at all. With the type classes you can usually see in advance whether all the fun will be cheap or expensive. Everything up to type class 20 varies between free to moderate. Everything about it usually fluctuates between expensive and "Tomorrow Peter Zwegat will ring instead of Scarlett Johannson".

The type classes can be viewed under the following link:

https: //www.dieversicherer.de/.../typklassenabfrage? ...

If there is no type class, the only thing that helps in the end is to call the insurance company. You can quickly see whether a vehicle has type classes from the type number in the vehicle registration document. If this number is zeroed, the car has no type classes. In that case it really makes sense to call the insurance company, they will then make an individual offer based on the data of the vehicle or the insurers will then press the cars into the type class grid in their own way. Of course, you can also conclude the contract blindly, but this is often very expensive with a US car, which often leads to a moderate heart attack when opening the letter of the insurance company.

Incidentally, the change in the type class is one of the most common reasons why motorists complain about the increased insurance costs. So it doesn't necessarily help to change insurance just because of increased type classes, as the next insurance company uses the same type classes for classification;)

Thanks to the Internet, the regional class can now also be easily queried:

https://www.dieversicherer.de/.../regionalklassen-abfrage

So you already have 2 powerful tools at hand to give you a first small overview of the maintenance costs.

Tax?

You'd think the topic would be pretty easy to answer, but there are a few small things to keep in mind. It used to be pretty easy. Euro norm, fuel type and cubic capacity were completely sufficient. Since the CO² emissions have also been included in the calculation since 2009, things get a little more complicated. Since most US cars were never officially sold in Germany, there are no standardized data sheets from the manufacturer. With luck, someone has already made the effort for you and you can get the data sheet from the TÜV.

A CO² emission should then also be noted there. If things go very badly, the emissions certificate sticks to you and that can be very expensive (5-digit amount). If your object of desire is built after 2009 and it already has papers then it should also have a CO² value. Your friendly seller will surely help you with that.

If you have everything you can easily calculate the tax under the following link:

https: //...undesfinanzministerium.de/.../KfzRechner.html

Consumption?

There is no general answer to that either, as this depends entirely on your driving style. If you need reliable standard values, take a look at the following link:

https://fueleconomy.gov/

There you get a realistic standard value for all vehicles on the US market. These are also doing quite well in Germany, at least better than all NEDC and WLTP values. The speed limits in the USA are basically not that different from those in Germany, which is why there is a certain degree of comparability. Also in the USA there are highways where one can drive 130 or 140 km / h and not everywhere on German autobahns is full throttle for free citizens. If you belong to the "full throttle is where the gas pedal touches the core of the earth" group, standard values ​​do not bring you anything anyway because no manufacturer standardizes its vehicles in this way.

workshops

This point should not be neglected either. Even old hands often run into problems here, as there aren't that many workshops that deal with the subject of US cars. For this reason we have already started to gather some experience here. The link is here:

https://www.motor-talk.de/faq/us-cars-q118.html#Q1631782

If you would like / can contribute something, then always bring the recommendations!

Otherwise you can do various things yourself, especially on older cars. Especially in the USA there is a large selection of self-help books with the Chilton & Haynes books. Similar books are known from the German area under titles such as "Now I help myself". A recommendation for do-it-yourself screwdrivers is always the manufacturer's service manuals. Good sources for this are eBay USA and, depending on the model, Rockauto, where you can now get new editions of the original workshop manuals, albeit at a hefty price.

Spare Parts?

The first port of call for spare parts is definitely Rockauto. Rockauto is a large online shop for US car parts (but they also have European parts in their range) which also ships reliably and quickly to Germany. The first choice for many US car drivers! You can reach Rockauto at www.rockauto.com. Alternatives are shops like Summit Racing and, for a few years now, the US site of Amazon. For performance parts, it is best to contact the performance department of the respective corporations or shops like JEGS directly. There are also many smaller shops that specialize in a certain vehicle or a certain brand. Google helps a lot to find these shops as long as you know what you are looking for;)

First of all, it should be mentioned that certain spare parts are a problem with EVERY old car. This usually includes sheet metal, decorative and interior parts of all kinds. You're only lucky if you happen to drive a first-generation Mustang or another car with a huge fan base.

You can find a little guide on the subject of rock cars here:

https://www.motor-talk.de/faq/us-cars-q118.html#Q5320420

At this point it should be mentioned that not everything goes to Europe without any problems. Things like certain chemicals (refrigerants for air conditioning, for example), for example, are intercepted by customs if things go wrong or not even exported to Europe. There are also just senders who do not send to Europe. In that case it is worth taking a look at packet forwarding services. Google will help with that;)

Costs for spare parts?

That depends entirely on the company or the manufacturer. Spare parts from premium manufacturers also cost more here than those from cheap brands. The more expensive the brand and the more special the part, the more expensive the price in the end.

There is a rough hierarchy in terms of costs. GM parts are usually cheap as long as you stick to brands like Chevrolet. Common parts are also cheap for the more expensive brands such as Buick or Cadillac. As I said, special parts then sometimes cost significantly more. The Ford Group is a bit more expensive. The motto here is neither really cheap nor really expensive. Otherwise, most of what has already been said about GM can also be transferred here. A special case is Chrysler and its Mopar division. The spare parts supply at Mopar is unfortunately not on the level of GM and Ford and in addition, the parts are usually much more expensive. Anyone who has a feel for the parts search and is particularly frustration-resistant can strike here or stick to a model for which there is a very large aftermarket due to its high popularity. This includes, for example, the Mopar e-bodies from the early 1970s.

In the USA there is an almost confusing selection of prices and qualities due to the huge aftermarket. At Rockauto, for example, this can be seen quickly from the price. Common sense should tell you that a shock absorber for the equivalent of 5 € is no good or is potentially life-threatening. The same should be obvious with brake discs for 20 €. In that case, I actually advise you to use well-known brands or original equipment parts. It is your life that might depend on it, after all. At GM, you don't go wrong with parts from ACDelco. These are mostly just re-labeled aftermarket parts, but there you can usually be sure that someone from GM has dealt with the quality beforehand. GM does not give its licenses lightly. At Ford you are well advised with Motorcraft, this is the spare parts division of Ford. At Chrysler or today FCA the spare parts division is called Mopar (Motor Parts). So now you know why the Chrysler Group is also called Mopar;)

How does the import work?

You could fill your own thread with the topic of import alone. Whether an import is worthwhile always depends on the model and the selection in Europe. If you are looking for a particularly rare model or a model that is simply not available in Europe in a usable condition, an import can be financially worthwhile. However, one should not underestimate the effort. I am only going into the individual steps very roughly here, so a few steps / details are deliberately missing.

First of all, of course, there is the purchase in the USA. If you can't fly over there yourself, it would be wise to hire a sensible scout, which, however, can cost a 4-digit amount at this point. At this point, I advise against the scouts who do this for a low three-digit amount. They usually do something like that in chord and then don't really take the time to deal with the car. The worst case is that you import an overpriced wreck. Has everything already happened;)

Once the purchase is over, the car has to go to the nearest port. Depending on where the car is in the USA, there is now land transport that not only takes some time but can also cost a lot of money. Los Angeles and New York would be popular export ports. The closer to one of the two cities, the cheaper the domestic transport becomes. Then the shipment is due. There are a few things to consider here too. There are some shipping methods that differ in particular in terms of insurance coverage and the type of transport. The same applies here: You get what you pay for! If you save here, you can expect that the car will have expensive damage on arrival (which will of course not be reimbursed) or even entire parts are simply missing. If you want to hear a few horror stories, turn to an importer with experience or a US car workshop with import experience, you will hear the most amazing stories!

After the car is in Europe, things like port fees etc. are added on top of that. Then the car still has to be cleared and taxed. Here, too, there are differences depending on the country. For example, Holland makes the whole thing cheaper or even duty-free, depending on the age of the vehicle. To do this, the car has to somehow return to your home or to the nearest workshop for the purpose of retrofitting. I strongly advise against overpassing on your own vehicle as long as you do not have absolute confidence in the good condition of the vehicle. It is not uncommon for such transfer journeys to end on the trailer of a tow truck. A classic car without a traceable maintenance history is unfortunately always a surprise when it comes to defects. The cars are seldom as well maintained as they are claimed. I was also able to make the experience when a brand new ball joint broke away when a friend was being transferred at 120 km / h ......

If possible, always have your new acquisition appraised by a specialist workshop if possible. That's why you won't be able to avoid retrofitting and TÜV anyway. When the car is finally there, the last hurdle follows, the retrofitting! Again, what has to be done depends on the age of the vehicle. To go into this now would go beyond the scope, the best thing to do is to talk to your examiner on site. He can already tell you what everything is necessary. If you can do the retrofitting yourself, you can get away with about 500 € for the §21 acceptance. Of course, provided there is already a data sheet for the car. That brings us back to the topic of emissions and lighting reports;) All of this will then be significantly more expensive. If you leave the conversion to a workshop, you can expect conversion costs of 1000-4000 €, depending on the effort. When you have all that behind you then you can finally register the car.

From experience I can say that such an import can easily cost 4000-5000 € in the best case if you save in the right places and spend a little more in the right places. The big variables are things like the mode of transport, shipping insurance, and retrofitting.

If there is a version of your dream car for the European market, take this one. What you supposedly save with self-import can be quickly put back on with the retrofitting and repairs that might have been guaranteed for the model for Europe;)

That was just a very rough outline of what awaits you. If you don't feel like it, it is best to contact a company with experience in importing US cars. There are now a few of them. Here, too, Google helps again.

Antique car

Now we have touched on the subject of US cars in general. Now, of course, we know that especially older US cars in Europe have a large fan base and that they also have their own peculiarities that you have to pay attention to!

The biggest mistake that all old-timer aspirants make is that they apply the same standards to an old US car or to old-timers in general as to current vehicles. First of all: Forget it!

These cars come from a completely different time in which the technology as well as the political and social framework were completely different from today. Fuel was comparatively cheap back then, so it wasn't so bad when the car used over 20 liters. But one also has to say that the Americans were already active in the area of ​​exhaust gas cleaning and consumption in the 60s, which, in addition to the oil crisis, also explains the stricter exhaust gas laws in the USA. While we're on the subject:

Catalysts were compulsory for ALL manufacturers in the USA from 1975, probably one of the reasons why many European manufacturers withdrew from the US market at that time. Stricter crash test regulations played their part, as many European manufacturers do not want to make the effort. The famous 5 mph impact bumpers, which had to survive an impact at 5 mph unscathed, also come from this era. This is how the famous US models from Mercedes and Porsche came about with special bumpers and emission control systems;)

Despite all these points, the technology is of course already outdated. Everything that takes over 10 liters is now considered a fuel guzzler, at that time a car that took just over 10 liters was more likely to be classified as economical. A simple catalytic converter is no longer enough to be perceived as clean, so it must also be taken into account in the tax if there is no H mark;) Let's go a little further into the technology.

Chassis have made an incredible leap in the new millennium, and of course such an old chassis cannot quite keep up with the technical standard somewhere between 1940 and 1980. In fairness it should be said that even old undercarriage designs can run quite decently if you a. well waited and b. drives normally with the car and does not mean to win any races with a 2 ton country yacht on wheelbarrow tires.

There are also a few things to consider when it comes to the motors. As a result, environmental protection wasn't the all-important issue in automobile manufacturing until the 1970s, the cars had no catalytic converter and also ran on leaded fuel. For the sake of the environment, leaded fuel is no longer available, so you have to pay attention to a few things. There are certain additives for oldtimers which are intended to compensate for the lead content of the older types of fuel. This is done primarily to protect the valve train, so it is not entirely unimportant! It should also be noted that most old US cars are not made for full throttle orgies. That has nothing to do with the fact that the Americans cannot build cars, but that the market in the USA was completely different.

Who needs a car that continuously drives 300 km / h when you can drive a maximum of 88 km / h? Just! Total bullshit! So why should you adapt engines, transmissions, differentials, chassis, brakes and tires to such loads? It should also be remembered that the Big Three were and still are major corporations. There are clear guidelines for development in terms of the end product and budget. If you want to build a perfectly normal everyday car for the US market then you also build the cars for the requirements that the market has to offer. The cars were developed and built accordingly back then. The engines suffer from small amounts of oil. Many 8-cylinders up to the 90s pack 5 liters at best. Far too little for such an engine if it is to survive at full throttle. Then there are also special topics such as oil wells that are too small in certain engines that work in everyday life, but mean quick engine death with permanent solid material. Same with the gearboxes. In order to withstand this constant pace, they need good cooling. Since it was not necessary, as I said, an additional cooler was saved, instead the cooling was often integrated into the main cooler and only on a very small scale. Works wonderfully up to 120-140 km / h, everything above that gets tight again. It is not for nothing that export models have often been adapted to the needs of the respective export country.

It's the same issue with the brakes. In the 50s and 60s, disc brakes were not very common and, if available, mostly available for an extra charge and then mostly only at the VA. That such a car, even without ABS, does not brake at the level of a new car should be clear to everyone.

And now a very general point that is often overlooked in classic cars. Maintenance! Imagine the following scenario: You have found your dream American, the car is 50 years old and has not been completely restored. Even if the sheet metal has survived in good condition, you ALWAYS have to expect something to break in a 50-year-old car, and I can only emphasize it. Just don't make the mistake of transferring a car directly from the port on its own if you don't know 200% about the technical condition of the vehicle. It is not uncommon for such trips to end within 100km of the port in the middle of the hard shoulder. Imagine the brake hoses are porous because they are ancient. Now you step hard into the iron and the line is down. Especially if you only have a single-circuit braking system, you quickly run into potentially fatal problems!

Getting in and driving for 10 years without any hassle only works with cars that have either been strictly maintained or completely restored. Since something like this is usually not in the budget of the classic import buyer, caution should always be exercised here. So it is better to have the car brought to you by a freight forwarder and checked in a competent workshop. Some buyers have already had a nasty surprise after importing them.

Not that important for the purchase, but a topic that should still be addressed:

Stop comparing your oldie with the neighbour's "boring golf". There are often several decades of technical progress in between. Even if you have a Hemi or something else from the era with a real bang, the boring Golf will drive circles around you depending on the engine. In terms of handling anyway! Take your cars as they are and live with the technical peculiarities. Also makes life more relaxed;)

The subject of spare parts is also a little different with oldies. Basically the same applies here as described above, but one must always keep in mind that the cars have not been built for years or even decades. If you are lucky, there are at least the most common spare parts to at least keep the car running. Trim or bleach parts can be forgotten in the vast majority of cars, in any case with rare models or niche brands! Keep this in mind when making your choice. If the car has a completely destroyed interior and your choice is not exactly a 65 Mustang, it could very well be that you will never get a corresponding part. The same applies to sheet metal parts, if something is wrong you either have them made or try to import something.

If you have made it this far and you still have questions (for example of a technical nature about a certain model), feel free to create a new thread.