(Bloomberg) -- Last month Bentley unveiled the 2017 Continental Supersports, the brand’s fastest, most powerful production car ever.
The chiseled stunner will go on sale in the United States later this year, for $293,300, not including taxes and fees. If you want a better deal, you could buy it closer to its home base of Crewe, England. At a dealership in London, the Continental Supersports will cost £212,500 ($265,000), roughly $28,000 less.
Of course, you’ll have to get it back to the U.S., or wherever home is—and that’s the rub. In the luxury world, a better deal on the front end of a purchase can kill you in taxes and import fees on the back.
Taxes and Fees
To get a handle on what some of the best cars in the world might cost, we gathered pricing data from dealers and from manufacturers in key global cities—at least attempted to. Take these prices with a grain of salt: In the high-end world of “price upon request” goods, virtually every car costs a different sum from the next because almost buyer has a unique combination of upgrades, customizations, and special requests. Car manufacturers are also cagey as to just how and why the pricing works among markets.
Most luxury automakers have stable base pricing around the world, but tax regimes can mean a premium of up to 100 percent in such markets as South America and China. But contact, say, the head of sales from a Lamborghini dealership in Tokyo or Milan, and you’ll get a vague response about "many factors"; in order to get the best deal, you'll be asked: “Why don’t you come down to the dealership so we can talk about what is best for you?” Aside from what we know about the U.S. and Canada, official pricing requests to company publicists and other Lambo dealerships worldwide were greeted with silence or a non-response, minus one kind dealer in Paris.
Frank Wiesmann, a spokesman for Porsche, was more forthcoming. “We strive to achieve an ideal price-performance ratio in all regions, and we regularly monitor markets and competitors,” he said. “The price differences in the various markets result from different import duties, tax rates, and market-related standard specifications for the product substance.” (Translation: Some markets get certain things standard, while others don’t, and that affects the base manufacturer's suggested retail price.)
Price disparities are due to factors as complex as trade agreements and to details as simple as the fact that U.S. sticker prices are quoted without sales tax, while countries such as South Africa include that cost in the initial MSRP. This goes part way to explaining why a Lamborghini Huracán costs $199,800 in New York vs. $219,079 in Paris. The same McLaren 570GT costs $198,950 in New York, $193,023 in London, and more than double that ($414,500) in Hong Kong thanks to heavy import duties and luxury vehicle taxes.
For bigger outliers such as a Rolls-Royce Ghost in India—which fetches a 212 percent increase over the price in its U.K. home market—the challenge of importing over a very long distance, under what can be less than ideal infrastructures and with increased governmental tariffs, add to the price premium. The same applies, to a lesser extent, to the Range Rover Diesel. While it costs well under $90,000 in New York, one in Tokyo costs nearly $40,000 more.
This doesn’t even take into consideration the car brokers and after-sales deals that happen in supercar circles, which can both pad the price and reduce it. The brands often won’t comment on those things—for good reason.
“We cannot support gray market cars—going to buy a car where it is less expensive and importing it into another country market, due to warranty reasons,” one spokesman from Audi told me. “Each market has its own emissions requirements, service intervals, and safety requirements.”
Representatives from McLaren echoed that sentiment: Outside North America, the warranty loses effect once the car has changed hands outside official dealers.
What About Vintage?
Vintage supercars, with high emissions and less-than-contemporary safety gear, present their own litany of challenges.
Some governments grandfather them in under special import-tax rules while others charge extra because they’d otherwise be street-illegal. The new-old $170,000 1970-era Range Rovers that Land Rover just announced will probably fall under a historic vehicle rule and be allowed into the U.S., even though they won’t meet modern emission and safety standards; it’ll be easier just to buy one in the U.S. and keep it there.
Shipping a vintage auto costs thousands of dollars, whether or not you put it on a boat or in a plane.
“If you’re buying a $20,000 car and want to ship it abroad, it’s probably not worth putting it in a plane—but if it’s a Ferrari GTO, that’s a different story,” said Jonathan Klinger, a spokesman for insurance company Hagerty, which deals in high-value and collectable cars and has a specialist on hand to help buyers transport high-priced cars around the world.
Regardless of the model year, though, if you do buy abroad, plan to devote some real time to getting your supercar home. It’ll take some work. Contact the dealer directly. Be prepared to spend a lot of time on the phone, and then plan on visiting the dealership in person. Bring a translator, if necessary. And save up: When it comes to supercars in far-flung locales, thrills like this don’t come cheap.
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