Half a century ago, choosing between a foreign or a domestic car might have meant considering more than just aesthetics and drivability. Foreign car parts were often harder to replace—requiring long waits and transoceanic shipping. In some parts of the country, it may have even been a challenge to find a mechanic who had the expertise and proper tools to repair the vehicle.
Today, though, the distinction between foreign and domestic cars is much less. While aesthetics and drivability still factor into any buyer’s decision, model-based reliability is a better indicator of repair costs down the line.
The differences between foreign and domestic cars
In the past, many people assumed that foreign cars cost more to repair because their parts were harder to come by. Fixing European or Asian cars also required specialized tools or expertise.
Today, cars are international products. Your Honda CR-V might be made in Ohio. Your Subaru Outback might be from Indiana. Georgetown, KY has been churning out Camrys since 1988. Even the latest in peak luxury—the Mercedes-Maybach GLS 600—is produced in Alabama.
American brands are similarly far-flung. Many sell models built in Mexico or assembled in U.S. factories from partly foreign-produced parts. The American Automobile Labeling Act requires makers to share the percentage of parts made in the United States. For 2020 models, the 5th and 6th spots on the American-made index were claimed by Honda Odyssey and Honda Ridgeline—an example of just how globalized the industry is today.
Foreign brands typically do still have more proprietary parts, or parts that require special orders from the manufacturer. And if parts are only available from overseas, shipping costs can, of course, add to expenses. Tools pose a problem for shops that don’t regularly work on foreign cars. However, if you have a skilled mechanic who is certified to work on your foreign car, the shop has already made the investment in necessary supplies.
Look for reliability
For folks in the market for a new or pre-owned car, it’s less important to think in broad terms like foreign or domestic—the cost differences just aren’t significant anymore. Instead, carefully consider the specific make and model’s reliability. Every car is different, but for people just getting started, Consumer Reports tracks the average repair costs of many vehicles over 3, 5 and 10 years.
When choosing a vehicle, research how reliable the specific model typically is, then take a look at model-year variations (if you’re buying pre-owned). Consider how long you’ll likely drive the vehicle—it’s usually only at the 10-year mark when repair costs begin to dramatically climb. Whatever make and model you choose, be sure you find a mechanic who understands your car type.
Contact us today for a free estimate
At Bavarian Body Works, our trained technicians work on many types of cars. We’re proud to maintain certifications from Subaru, Honda, Dodge, Infiniti, Alfa Romeo and more. We’ll evaluate the repair and replacement options with you, always with a focus on your safety. Contact us today for more information.