Once you buy a car, whether it’s your first one or you want to add to your collection, you’ve essentially entered a long-term committed relationship. So as you visit different dealerships and sellers and take out different rides for a test drive, don’t just focus on the asking price. You also want to consider what it will take you to keep it functioning optimally. When it comes to domestic and foreign car repair and maintenance, ensure you understand how they vary before making a final purchase decision.

What’s a Domestic Car vs. A Foreign Car

If you’re wondering what exactly makes a foreign car different from a domestic or American car you came to the right place. If a car is made by a manufacturer who has headquarters in the United States, you can call it domestic. Some of the most popular domestic vehicle manufacturers are Chevrolet, Buick, RAM, Jeep, Dodge, Ford, GMC, Cadillac and Chrysler. One thing you’ll love about American cars is they’re generally easier to maintain and repair and will keep your costs low. You also won’t have to deal with the hassle of finding a specialty shop when you need parts and services.

If a car is manufactured and assembled outside the United States, you can then call it a foreign. Their manufacturers primarily operate outside of America so you’ll sometimes hear people calling import cars. You may already know about their reputation for being built to last. Think of the likes of Volkswagen, Hyundai, Subaru, Nissan Toyota and Honda. They’re durable and you won’t spend a lot of money on maintenance.

However, once you start talking about luxury rides like Mercedes-Benz, Porsche, BMW, and Audi, you can expect to pay more to keep it running smoothly. The main reason is you’ll typically have a harder time sourcing and replacing parts. Besides that, you need to find a mechanic with expert knowledge which you can only get from specialty shops that offer internal and auto body repair services. Most of these shops will have you pay more for luxury car services but their owners will tell you they get their money’s worth in foreign car repair, performance, and comfort.

The Differences in Repairs

When you talk to different car owners, you’ll find that some swear by American cars while others can’t stop praising foreign rides such as German machines. You likely have your preferences as well. While everyone has their reasons, the main cause for this divide usually comes down to the domestic and foreign car repair needs and costs. Let’s highlight some of the differences so you can better understand what it’s like to own either of these vehicles.

1. Auto Repair for Foreign Vehicles Can Be More Expensive

If you’re buying a car from Europe, especially a luxury brand like Audi or Mercedes Benz, you’ll spend more than if you just buy one from home. Though not everyone will agree, it is the case most of the time. You may wonder why. The precision put into designing and engineering German vehicles is usually higher as you’ll come to agree. Brands like Audi and BMW also feature some of the highest quality parts, so the price tag has to match that.

You’ll pay more for things like engine repairs and maintenance of a BMW or Audi and their genuine OEM parts. While this doesn’t mean Japanese or American autos use low-quality parts and materials, they often aren’t of the highest quality available. It’s the reason you can get these vehicles for a little less money, but you’ll still get great service throughout your ownership journey. You don’t have to worry about that.

2. Auto Parts

Some car owners are loyal to American cars, while others prefer foreign ones. When they need to get auto parts for replacements or repairs, they buy foreign or domestic. Most reputable auto parts businesses and auto repair companies offer both, but have you ever wondered if there’s a difference and if you should choose one over the other?

You’ll realize there’s not much of a difference between foreign and domestic auto parts in today’s global market. Most companies outsource different areas of services. For this reason the auto parts you get at auto body shops often end up coming from a variety of places.

If you know anyone who owns a Ford car, ask them and they’ll tell you it’s among the top American vehicle brands. However Ford works with a plant in Mexico to build car parts for their F-series trucks. You’ll find it’s the same case on the other end of the spectrum.

While Honda is a popular Japanese car brand, most of the models you see in the U.S. are assembled in their Ohio facilities. So, the main difference in the foreign and domestic auto parts market comes down to the brand and name of the manufacturer. When looking for auto parts for your ride, what you want is high-quality parts for the build of your car.

3. Some Foreign Cars Require More Proactive Maintenance than Domestic Ones

Whether you’re a car enthusiast or not, you probably already know how great of a reputation European cars have. Think Mercedes Benz, Audi, Jaguar etc. Their advanced engineering, sturdy and solid build, and high-end interior and exterior finishes come together to create a luxurious vehicle that lasts.

However, if you own one of these vehicles and you don’t keep up with regularly scheduled service check-ups, which include wheel alignments, your luxury European ride may not give you as much service as you expect. Besides that, you’ll spend most of your ownership journey looking for a repair shop that does foreign car repair. You can get good service with proper proactive maintenance, possibly reaching 150,000 miles. So, what does proactive maintenance mean in this case?

Even if you’re loyal to all things America, you have to agree that European vehicles have unique parts and superior engineering and technological standards than your favorite American ones. You need to approach their maintenance with a preventative mindset. For the body, which you should always strive to keep looking pristine, this means investing in paint protection films.

One of the most notable differences of these two cars is in the transmission. You may not have really thought about it, but if you do your research, you’ll find that most European automakers choose standard shifts over automated ones. If you buy a European car in the United States, you’ll likely need to master how to drive a manual transmission. Are you ready for that?

With such a transmission, you need to ensure regular clutch maintenance from a professional mechanic. When you walk into a general auto repair shop, the mechanic you talk to may claim they can handle such repairs and give you a better deal than what you’ll have to pay at the specialist shop around the corner. However, you have to remember they don’t have much experience with the complexities of your European gearbox system. You and your car are just better off just going to the specialist.

Another thing you have to love about these cars is the elaborate steering and suspension systems you get to enjoy when you’re driving them. European car manufacturers don’t joke when it comes to these systems. Part of their inspiration comes from the fact they want to give drivers greater control around corners in the crowded and narrow Europe streets. You’ve probably heard people talk about how European cars hug the road.

4. Foreign Cars Often Require Specially Trained Mechanics

One of the reasons you typically pay more for foreign car repair is you need a specialist. Most of the mechanics youll find at European auto repair shops are manufacturer-trained. While you can take your BMW to a generalist mechanic who works on all types of vehicles and will ask you for less money you’d rather go to a BMW-specific mechanic and pay more. It may actually be cheaper in the long run because you can be sure they won’t cause any further damage.

5. Repairing Foreign Cars Requires Special Tools

For your car to keep operating at high levels, you must ensure you have a European car specialist who has undergone manufacturer training and has all the tools you may need to perform all foreign car repair and servicing. Chances are your local general repair shop doesn’t have access to the right tools. Using the wrong tools when performing any type of work including brake repair services, can result in unnecessary damage to your car.

While foreign and domestic autos may vary significantly in their initial purchase, maintenance and repair costs, your experience won’t be the same as that of your fellow driver. Depending on your specific vehicle, your driving habits and style may be more demanding necessitating more frequent domestic or foreign car repair. You can use trends as a guide, but the overall costs you’ll incur over a lifetime come down to how well you take care of the car.

Other Car Ownership Costs to Consider

While you should seriously consider the domestic and foreign car repair costs when deciding which type of vehicle to buy, there are other things that’ll be taking money out of your pocket you should account for. As we said at the beginning of the article, owning a car is a long-term commitment. Think of it like you’re about to get married. The better you prepare for it, the easier the journey will be. Here are other costs you can expect to cover during your ownership journey.

1. Fuel Costs

You’ll find that most foreign vehicles, particularly sports and luxury ones run on premium fuel. While you can find some that run on unleaded, others need diesel fuel. Whether you fill up with regular unleaded, need premium gas for your high-performance ride or drive a diesel truck, what you pay at the pump will significantly affect your budget. Keep your eye on the fluctuating prices so you can plan for long drives accordingly. You should also consider alternative fuel options like electric or hybrid cars to save on gasoline.

2. Car Insurance

Besides domestic and foreign car repair costs, auto insurance rates vary widely between these different types of vehicles. Your policy prices will depend on several things. These include your age and driving history, as well as the type of vehicle you own.

You’ll typically pay more to insure luxury and sports automobiles since they tend to have higher repair or replacement costs in the case of an accident. Besides you’re more likely to get into an accident and need auto collision repairs as well as help from local towing services with these vehicles because of their high performance and fast speeds. So before you buy a sports car or a luxury vehicle, consider how much you’ll end up paying for insurance, as it’ll make up a significant portion of your car ownership expenses.

The world as we know it is changing fast. You blink and you find things are no longer the same. Most old truths you knew about the manufacturing of products are turning into misconceptions, and as you can see, the auto industry is no exception. These changes are rekindling the long-running debate over the relative worth of American versus foregn cars.

Before, things were much simpler. You knew that foreign car repair was more expensive because you had to ship replacement parts from different parts of the world. American automobiles had a bad reputation for being less reliable and you spent much more to maintain them. Today, you can have a really tough time understanding the car production industry.

You’ll often hear of foreign companies setting up plants right here in our homeland. On the other hand, some of your favorite traditional domestic automakers are outsourcing parts of their operations overseas. The line between what makes a foreign car different from an American one is more blurry than ever before.

Each automobile you come across will be unique. You may find that performing foreign car repair on certain makes may cost you just as much as some domestic brands. It’s now up to you as a prospective car owner to do your research before making any purchase so you have the full picture of what it’ll cost you now and in the long term.