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Are German Cars Good? (Food for Thought When Buying German)

Are German Cars Good?

Are German cars good?

It depends on who you ask.

If you ask a lessee of, say a BMW X6, he or she will likely say yes.

If you ask someone who buys that same car hoping for a user experience like a Toyota Camry.

They’ll likely give you an unequivocal, nope.

Either way, there’s something undeniably impressive about German cars.

The reputation for German cars being the best is earned through their success in motorsports. Take Audi for instance.

In 1981, they had three victories in the World Rally Championship. And most recently in 2022, they were the winner of the 24 Hours in Zolder.

Germany is synonymous with quality, efficiency and innovation along with having world-leading car brands.

With that in mind, take a ride with us as we determine if German cars are good.

1. German Automotive Engineering

A man holding a patent.

One of the things that makes German cars so good is that Germany leads the world in auto industry patents. In 2021, Germany filed over 58,000 automobile patents.

That makes the auto industry the most innovative sector in Germany, accounting for a third of the country’s expenditures on research and development to the tune of 28.3 billion EUR.

To say that the Germans love their cars is an understatement.

2. German Car Culture

The Nürburgring.

In terms of car culture, can you name another country that has an autobahn? Or the Nürburgring motorsport complex?

Even as much as we Americans love our cars, there’s no place designated for us to drive them flat out that isn’t a racecourse or drag strip.

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And they’re certainly no Nürburgring.

With over 8,000 miles of a no speed limit highway to test a car’s potential, Germany is a country that encourages cars to be built for speed.

But not just speed.  

German cars are built with European roads in mind.

And any car in Europe needs to be able to handle the often narrow, winding roads which is why German cars are praised for their good handling.

3. Car Design History

Karl Benz's 1885 Benz, the first practical car.

Germany’s reputation for automotive engineering is unparalleled.

And this heritage for precision engineering goes back over a hundred years. Lest we forget, Germany has been manufacturing automobiles since the late 1800s.

Although Mercedes Benz wasn’t a company until 1926, Karl Benz patented the first internal combustion engine in 1879.

And by 1885, he was credited with designing the first practical automobile.

4. Are German Cars Always Reliable?

Are BMW's that bad or do the owners just expect more from their car than the ones that own Toyotas?

Uh-oh. If you thought this article was going to be a lovefest wherein we wax lyrically about how incredible German cars are, we’re sorry to disappoint.

As much as we love German cars, we have to take a balanced approach to our analysis to make a fair assessment of the cars offered from this region.

As far as cars from Europe go.

Mechanically, the Germans are leaps and bounds better than most U.K., Italian, French and Russian offerings.

But most reliability issues with German brands have to do with the electronics. 20% of the issues with BMWs are related the electrical system.

These can include things like:

  • Ignition issues
  • Alternator problems
  • Damaged cables
  • Fuse failure
  • Damaged alternator belt
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But these issues are also common with most cars. So, is it that German cars like BMWs are manically unreliable?

Or is it that because of the price tag, owners expect more from their German car than one made in Japan or the United States?

5. Are German Cars Better Made?

Audi implemented steps to clean up the quality of their cars, resulting in JD Power singling out the brand for making the most notable strides in vehicle reliability.

They certainly drive well. Seriously, if you haven’t driven a German car before.

Indulge yourself in the experience, it’ll change your perspective about a lot related to cars.

That said, for several years from 2014 to 2015, the Volkswagen Group had the fifth most recalls of any manufacturer.

At the same time JD Power Initial Quality Study listed Volkswagen and Audi as the bottom ten brands.

Since 2015, Audi and VW implemented steps to improve the quality of their vehicles.

And in 2019, JD Power singled out Audi for making the most notable strides in vehicle reliability.

What this tells us is that though German brands may get called out from time to time about the quality of their products, they are careful about maintaining brand image which is reflected in the quality of German cars.