Foreign VS. American cars: What to know before you buy

These four key differences between American and foreign vehicles will help you decide what kind of car you should buy

There are a number of key aspects that should be closely researched when trying to decide between an American and foreign vehicle, including quality, price, style, and fuel efficiency. In the past, American vehicles tended to fall behind foreign cars, especially Japanese and German, in all four categories. However, advancement of car technology and innovation has allowed American manufacturers to catch up in the market race.

If you’re someone who tries to make patriotic consumer choices, it’s important to recognize that global industrialization has allowed American manufacturers to move operations outside of the United States and vice versa. For example, Ford builds vehicles in Canada and Mexico, while Toyota has operations in the U.S. Remember that an American name doesn’t strictly mean an All-American origin.

Difference between American and Foreign Cars

  1. Quality

    American vehicles of the past were low priced with a quality and fuel efficiency to match, which is quite embarrassing considering our history of market domination with Ford’s Model T. While America was slowly losing its claim to fame within the auto industry, foreign manufacturers were gaining popularity for their craftsmanship, driving performance, and reliability. Think about how many times you’ve heard someone say they’ve owned their Toyota for ten years and never had to put any work into it. In an age where unlimited amounts of information can be found online, from car reviews, test drive videos, market value prices etc., it’s amazing that word of mouth is still heavily impacting how consumers shop for cars.

    In recent years, consumer reports have been rewarding newer American models , like Ford and Buick, with best in class. Despite American manufacturers efforts to up their game, foreign cars often have higher quality ratings across all manufacturers and models. Putting recommendations and ratings aside, everyone has a different idea of “quality.” Each manufacturer, domestic or foreign, has its own strengths and weaknesses. In the end it really depends on what exactly a consumer is looking for in a new car.

  2. Price

    Larger corporations, whether domestic or foreign, are able to make their cars more affordable through incentives and rebates. Thanks to the increasingly rapid tech innovation of the twenty-first century, car manufacturers are able to offer consumers more features for their money. However, many claim that American vehicles are slightly more affordable than their foreign counterparts.

    Besides the close MSRP (Manufacturer’s Suggested Retail Price) of the two, consumers must consider the higher cost of repairs for foreign vehicles, especially Volkswagen and BMW. America vehicle repairs are often cheaper and less time consuming because their parts are readily available.

  3. Style

    The idea of aesthetic is really a matter of opinion. Generally foreign vehicles are known for their exotic lines, while mainstream America models often focus more on function than form. However, American has found their own aesthetic in the classic muscle car, like the Mustang and Camaro. The decision between a foreign and domestic car really depends on how you want to look while driving.

  4. Fuel Efficiency

    America has always been behind Europe when it comes to eco-friendliness and fuel efficiency, so it’s no surprise that our cars haven’t caught up with ones being made across the ocean. Other regions have higher standards of efficiency that not only benefit the environment, but also get more mileage per gallon. While American manufacturers are coming out with their own hybrids, they’ve yet to beat Toyota’s Prius.

  5. At the end of the day the origin of the vehicle isn’t important thanks to increased efforts by American manufacturers. What really matters is if the vehicle meets your needs and price point. Have you thought about your specific needs for a car? And whether you want it new or used? Financed or leased? Or how your choice will affect your insurance rates? You can get a quote for insurance coverage on a new vehicle before you buy with a quote comparison site like Insurify. Whether domestic or foreign, do your research on both the manufacturer and model for a happy purchase experience.

    Updated November 14, 2017

    Micaela Allen is a Boston-based writer and editor. Over the years, she has written over 100 original pieces for Insurify, focusing on trends in the insurance industry and financial advice for young and uninsured drivers. Micaela is an alumna of Northeastern University, where she majored in English.