British motorists can make big savings if they buy a new car abroad, according to a new European Commission survey.
In the study, prices for the same make and model of a car varied by as much as 30 per cent across the 25 member states, with the lowest pre-tax prices in Denmark, and highest in Germany.
Of the ten best-selling cars in the EU last year, British motorists could make the biggest saving on the price of a VW Golf. Prices in Finland were just over 30 per cent lower – a potential saving of about GBP 2,300.
Other bargains included 26.5 per cent off the price of an Alfa Romeo 147 bought in the Netherlands, while a Skoda Fabia was 29.3 per cent cheaper in Portugal and a Renault Megane in Greece was 23.3 per cent below the British price.
Which? car prices campaign
The study, carried last November, is the latest by the commission and was published yesterday. Car prices generally rose 0.6 per cent in the EU last year compared with a 0.5 per cent fall in the UK. Prices fell by nearly 11 per cent in Poland, and more than 7 per cent in Lithuania.
In the late 1990s, Which? launched a campaign to stop rip-off car prices after we revealed motorists in the UK were paying an average of GBP 2,000 more for new cars than the rest of the EU. Our car prices campaign tackled government, industry and the EU to stop the rip-off.
The car industry had a special exemption from competition rules which effectively allowed manufacturers to divide up the European market and charge people whatever they thought they could get away with – meaning UK car buyers were overcharged. Car makers were also breaking EU laws designed to prevent price-fixing by preventing people from buying cars more cheaply in other EU countries.
We successfully campaigned for an overhall of the rules, and this came into force in 2002. It has given consumers more freedom to chose where they buy their car, and where they get it serviced.
UK car prices ‘still much higher’
Which? Motoring Editor Richard Headland said: ‘Although we’ve seen UK prices fall since the late 1990s, car prices in the UK are still much higher than in some EU countries.
‘For some models you can still save a bundle by importing, although it does require more time and effort from buyers. The golden rule is to make sure you buy a car only with full UK specification – anything less and you’re likely to lose money when you come to sell the car on later.’
A European Commission spokesman said: ‘Consumers should not hesitate to buy abroad, where they will often find a better deal.
‘The commission remains vigilant to ensure that consumers enjoy the freedom to buy anywhere in the EU, and we have recently shown this determination by imposing fines on vehicle manufacturers limiting the private trade in cars across borders.’
There’s advice on importing a car on the DVLA website.