Imports and Domestics: What’s the Difference?

When most people search for a new car, seldom do they think: “domestic or import?” More often than not, their thoughts revolve around the brand instead.

“Oh I would really love a BMW”

“That new Mercedes Benz would make my life so much better”

(Honestly, we’re guilty of both these thoughts as well)

Though many people know of domestic vehicles (Ford, Chrysler) and import vehicles (Mercedes, Volkswagen), few actually know the difference between the two. Feel like this is you? If so, we’re here to help you out. If not, stick around! Hopefully, we’ll be able to show you something new!

Side-by-Side View


Imports: Import cars are created by non-American manufacturers and are typically shipped from overseas. Some brands even have facilities built in the U.S., Mexico, or Canada for easier distribution. Two of the most popular countries for imports come from Japan (Suzuki, Honda, Mazda) and Germany (Mercedes, BMW, Volkswagen).

Domestic: Domestic cars are created by American manufacturers and are typically distributed in the states. Like imports, these brands will have facilities outside of the U.S. to make distribution easier. Some popular domestic car brands include: Ford, Jeep, Chrysler, and RAM.


As of 2016, the average age for cars on the road is a little over 12 years old. That is a HUGE jump from just over a decade ago when the average age was a little under 9 years old. With that knowledge, it’s become so important for car owners to purchase a car for the overall life of the vehicle (accessories and repair costs included) instead of just the initial pricing.

Imports:Typically, imports have been known to have a higher quality than their domestic brethren, but initial car costs are a little more expensive and repair costs can vary based on brand. Brands like Honda and Toyota have high longevity, reliability, and affordable repair costs. Their parts are easier to find and replace in the U.S., but still not as easy as a domestic. Luxury car brands like BMW and Mercedes are typically well built and last long, but the parts are a lot harder to locate and replace which translates to a higher repair cost.

Domestic:Domestic cars come in at a much lower initial cost. A lot of the parts that are needed to repair a domestic car can be found in the states which helps with the repair costs and just overall convenience for the owner and the repair shop. Though this is great for car buyers on a budget, there are some drawbacks. Domestic cars are infamous for their quality compared to their import counterparts. Car owners will be visiting their repair shops a lot sooner and even more frequently. Along with that, domestic car owners may be looking for a new car a lot sooner than import car owners as the manufacturing doesn’t quite match up to the quality and craftsmanship of many of the import brand cars.

Fuel Efficiency

Not too much to compare here. Historically, domestic cars have had a hard time meeting the fuel efficiency that imported cars achieve. This has been, in part, due to the higher standards set in the foreign automotive market. Though American manufacturers have worked hard to catch up to their foreign counterparts, imports still greatly exceed domestics in this department.

What Should You Purchase?

At the end of the day the car buyer must do what’s best for them. Those looking for higher quality cars and aren’t afraid to pay a little extra for initial and repair costs should go with imported brand cars. For those that want an affordable vehicle that’ll come with the amenities most car owners look for and are unafraid of frequent repair shop visits should roll with the domestic car brands.

Written by The Import Doctors

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