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Old 09-13-2018, 12:02 PM   #1
DefendersNW
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Default Why are good condition cheap Defenders so hard to find in the USA?

We get asked several times a week why all the inexpensive Defenders in the USA are in such poor condition, when there are so many great trucks available in Europe for such low prices. Often we have replied with a variation of the below information depending on the source question. I am hoping that this post will help clarify the costs associated with importation into the USA for individuals looking into their first Defender purchase.

There are several factors that impact Defender pricing in the USA when compared to EU countries:

Firstly there are a small amount of good condition Defenders eligible for import relative to the overall available supply.

As an example, there are ~500 Defenders available for sale in a particular market at any given time, of which 50% of them are advertised nationally or internationally, the remainder are available only for local sale in various countries or unlisted altogether. Of those trucks we will assume for this discussion that 20% are eligible for import to the USA (Meeting the CPB definition of age appropriate with unmodified engine type & original chassis).

So from our example of 500 available trucks in the market, there are 50 advertised trucks, and 50 unlisted trucks for sale that COULD be imported.

Further let us divide this pool of trucks by general condition -
  • 10% are garage kept, low miles, and time capsules of 1983-1993 Defenders
  • 30% are daily driver type trucks being sold-on for whatever reason
  • 60% are trucks that have been sitting for some time due to failed MOT, have serious mechanical issues, etc?
  • The last 10% are total rubbish - parts cars, wrecks, off-road buggies, abandoned projects, etc...

This leaves a count of export eligible trucks as:
  • 10 great trucks
  • 30 trucks that need age appropriate maintenance
  • 60 trucks with rusted out chassis, serious body rot, or worn out/broken engines
  • 10 trucks that are little more than a chassis, engine, and a vin

So while there may be 500 trucks available at any time in the EU - there are only 15 readily available that fit the objective of most buyers, as half are listed for sale only locally across the continent.

Storage, delivery, handling, import duties, canal fees, ocean freight, and customs filing will incur expenses paid to CPB, brokerages, and the destination port of several thousand dollars for shipping to the Western USA*.
(*lower steamship costs an no canal fees to the East Coast)

Unless a buyer has the time and means to do the legwork themselves, finding a truck, verifying condition, negotiating pricing, paying exchange rates, transferring currency, taking possession and transporting the truck to the port of departure, one should expect to pay a business for the large amount of time and capitol it costs them to manage that process.

Importers who bring trucks into the US for sale after import assume the risks of customs delays, storage charges, cleaning, and compliance costs, with no risk to the US buyer; and wether business or individual all intend to find a financial reward for the risk.

Additionally there are price pressures for the ~20 most desirable trucks both foreign (USA) and domestic as the early trucks continue to grow more desirable in the UK and other markets due to collectability, status, registration benefits, and when used for international travel the reduced value on a carnet.

Lastly there are restoration shops in the EU and USA who seek vehicles for high value projects and have budgets to buy trucks that both reduce the overall supply and increase pricing as a result. Demand drives cost after all the risk is taken and the work is done.

If the speculative purchase and import process adds $15kUSD to a $15kUSD truck - how then do we see Defenders for sale in the US at $20kUSD? The answer is simple, in that the source truck was not one of the top 10% trucks, but is usually a bottom 60% truck with the most glaring of problems sorted out (sometimes) and other issues remaining.

As a result the available inventory for sale in the USA is a subset of imported items, many are purchased and imported for individuals. Sometimes the truck received was misrepresented but a seller and subsequently listed for sale. Sometimes the truck is misrepresented by an importer trying to "flip" for a quick profit. Fortunately there are a few domestic sellers who are very clear about what they are selling - apologies and all are presented fairly and openly. But the dream of a low budget - no flaws - Defender for $10KUSD is just that, a dream.

So where does that leave the interested but overwhelmed future Defender keeper who wants a truck but the budget is limited?
Consider three options:
  • The first is the easiest to say and hardest to do - increase the budget - buy something refurbished by a reputable shop, contract help to find a collectable condition truck
  • The second is to adopt a project - expect the worst and plan to restore/rebuild as most of the cost of restoration is labor
  • Last is to assume the risk yourself and import. We source and import trucks into the Northwest through Tacoma for customers in the Western US only - contact us if you want to talk about costs and options. If you are in the Midwest and East coast, we heartily recommend using an experienced Defender importer - Doug (UncleDoug on NAS-ROW) to help you import your own Defender.



Please note that numbers used above are for discussion purposes only, are not current market estimates, and are severely rounded for ease of presentation of the concepts.

Photo added for positive karma all of which are trucks imported into the USA...

Last edited by DefendersNW; 09-13-2018 at 12:19 PM. Reason: Adding image for positive karma
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Old 09-13-2018, 01:05 PM   #2
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I need a business card version of this to keep a stack of in my truck. So many people ask...


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Old 09-13-2018, 02:01 PM   #3
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Great post. I was planning on documenting my experience when mine gets here as to what to expect for buy one of the trucks that will fall into the 2nd category (Hopefully)

The timing, costs, and areas to avoid.
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Old 09-14-2018, 08:11 AM   #4
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Excellent post. On top of that, I've reached a point in my life, I don't want to mess with massive repairs. Ok sure, a rover always needs something. But let it be like, a hub seal or grease the driveshafts, or a wiring short, or water ingress. Something I can knock out in an afternoon.

No rusted out bulkheads, chassis, knocking engines, destroyed transmissions. I'm done with that crap.

I'm seeing solid import trucks in drive away conditions in the $30k range for D90s (what I'm looking at) and really, it seems worth it. Considering you'll spend $15k to replace an engine and transmission, at least $5k on paint, then whatevs on interior and other misc crap. Its actually a bargin vs. fixing a crappy one.
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Old 09-14-2018, 10:18 AM   #5
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I've said it before, but a ticket and plan a 2-3 week vacation with the purpose of finding a vehicle. It'll probably run you $6k in plane ticket, lodging, and transportation, but save you a solid $15k.

I personally recommend USAA car insurance as they have policies that cover European countries so you can buy then drive and export yourself.
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Old 09-14-2018, 10:47 AM   #6
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Sticky quality post
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Land Rovers make adventures out of routine travel...
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Old 09-14-2018, 12:59 PM   #7
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Excellent post - Thanks


I think another interesting case study would be to look at the additional investments made once they arrive. Many arrive and eventually go through LHD conversions, drivetrain swaps, interior upgrades, brake upgrades, AC installs, door replacements, resprays, etc. It would be interesting, IMO, to get a sense of how much additional investment is made to bring a ROW to typical US specs. BTW, I don't know if "investment" is the right term to use because hopefully we aren't doing all this solely for an ROI. Most I hope are enjoying the hunting, gathering and sense of accomplishment along the way.
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Old 09-18-2018, 01:42 PM   #8
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Default Good luck finding your unicorn

"30 trucks that need age appropriate maintenance"
Mine was this kind of truck when I purchased it from the Importer.
The problem is age for a real work truck varies greatly and many in the USA don't have the time or the skills to perform the kind of maintenance required to make these trucks a daily driver let alone a show quality truck.
The cost to transport in Europe and ship and import to USA and then transport to various locations inside of the USA all add to the overall cost.
In my example a 1991 Defender 110 3 door with 200 Tdi that needed LOTS of overdue maintenance and care and it still wasn't a looker since the seller in Europe repainted it and did less than quality body work before it was sold to the importer. I put well over $4K in it to make it a daily driver and after a year I sold it for about the same amount i paid the original importer. That doesn't include taxes, insurance, and normal wear and tear items like tires and brakes. I enjoyed the truck for the year I owned it but it can often take someone lots more dollars and time than planned for something that is over 25 years old. Today too many people expect a well maintained vehicle lovely cared for by some old grandma stored inside in a headed garage and that my friends is a UNICORN. Good luck finding the unicorn in the 10-15 trucks described above because those aren't real either.
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Old 09-18-2018, 05:58 PM   #9
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Here are a few thoughts from a British ex-pat living in NA.
1. Never buy a truck from anywhere near the coast, the salt air gets into everything.
2. Farmers are the worst at maintaining there LR's and they live in cow & sheep crap, again rots the chassis.
3. In winter the roads turn into salt lakes and most owners don't wash there vehicles often enough.
I'd suggest searching in Europe Spain etc for good LHD examples as the weather is kind to them and the food & wine are much better if your heading over for a few weeks !

Happy Hunting !
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Old 09-18-2018, 06:14 PM   #10
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Quote:
Originally Posted by rovercolorado View Post
"30 trucks that need age appropriate maintenance"
Mine was this kind of truck when I purchased it from the Importer.
The problem is age for a real work truck varies greatly and many in the USA don't have the time or the skills to perform the kind of maintenance required to make these trucks a daily driver let alone a show quality truck.
The cost to transport in Europe and ship and import to USA and then transport to various locations inside of the USA all add to the overall cost.
In my example a 1991 Defender 110 3 door with 200 Tdi that needed LOTS of overdue maintenance and care and it still wasn't a looker since the seller in Europe repainted it and did less than quality body work before it was sold to the importer. I put well over $4K in it to make it a daily driver and after a year I sold it for about the same amount i paid the original importer. That doesn't include taxes, insurance, and normal wear and tear items like tires and brakes. I enjoyed the truck for the year I owned it but it can often take someone lots more dollars and time than planned for something that is over 25 years old. Today too many people expect a well maintained vehicle lovely cared for by some old grandma stored inside in a headed garage and that my friends is a UNICORN. Good luck finding the unicorn in the 10-15 trucks described above because those aren't real either.
My old man always said, buy shit get shit. If you are looking for a deal then you are probably getting swindled. If you spend a little more on the truck initially you will probably save money in the long run.
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