China was the largest overseas market for America's used vehicles last year. But in the first quarter, the most recent period for which data are available, China gave up that title to the United Arab Emirates, according to the U.S. Commerce Department.
Those are just two on a long list of nations that take used vehicles from the U.S. Each has its own quirks. For example, African buyers prefer lower-tech trucks that are easier to repair, while Mideast buyers shun dark colors because of the punishing sun.
Or take this coals-to-Newcastle example from Naji Haddad, senior director of global trade at Global Trader, a unit of Cox Automotive: "We export more BMWs to Germany than anywhere."
That is due in part to differences between the base models sold in the U.S. and Germany. A base 3 series, say, sold in Germany typically comes with a manual transmission, cloth seats and no Bluetooth. In the U.S., the base version typically boasts an automatic transmission, leather seats and other goodies.
So in Germany, fewer BMWs are sold with the same features as the U.S. base model. That scarcity there means a used car with those features generally costs 18 percent more in Germany than in the U.S., Haddad says.
Of course, used BMWs shipped to Germany rarely stay there, he adds. They move along to Ukraine, Poland and other eastern European markets. Likewise, used vehicles exported to the UAE end up elsewhere in the Mideast.