For first time buyer Importing a used car

11 steps you must know in order to import used cars from Japan!

Last updated:

We will give tips and explain in detail how both newcomers and experienced individuals can safely import used cars from Japan.

1.When choosing a car, you must also select the exporter

-When selecting a car, it is absolutely vital to select which exporter to purchase from.

-While there are many companies selling used cars online, we have compiled the most well known companies below:

-While the more well known companies often provide a sense of security, we cannot say for certain that their vehicles are fair in price or are in decent quality.

-What we have to understand is that for both well known and not so well known companies, they source their cars from the same auction.

2.All exporters of used cars are supplied from auctions

-Most Japanese exporters purchase their merchandise from domestic auctions in Japan.

-Auctions take place both online and in 70 different locations in Japan on a weekly basis. There are many participants that include many used car exporters from Japan.

-From the largest auction venue in Japan, USS Tokyo, roughly 10,000 to 15,000 units are sold on a daily basis, with a unit being bidded on every 10 seconds.

-With this number of vehicles being sold, many cars of the same variety will be exhibited. Given the same conditions for the same style of car, the final selling price will be roughly the same. This price is what we call the standard bidding price.

-For example, the 2005 RAV4 (ZCA26W) in fairly good condition with a mileage of 100,000 km and good AT petrol will have roughly the same bidding amount.

Doubts regarding why this vehicle can be sold for so cheap

Japanese exporters, alongside other companies, are purchasing directly from auctions.

To put it simply, in order to successfully bid cars in auctions, the buyer must bid with the highest price to guarantee the sale. Since no supplier buys for higher than the auction market price, the purchase price for the exporter is inevitably decided by the auction market itself.

You can search for the type of car (car brand, model, year, color, distance, fuel, and so on) from multiple used car exporter pages online.

These sites have roughly the same prices listed for these vehicles; this is because it is natural for these companies to buy based on the auction price.
As there are fluctuations in auction prices or cost cuts from companies, there are cases where sales can be made for relatively cheap. Be advised, however, when comparing with standard market prices, as these rare occasions are isolated cases from standard market prices.

Reasons why cars can be sold for less than the standard market price:

  1. If a car has been on the market for 3 months or longer (will be marked in red for a clearance sale)
  2. If a car is in bad condition, it can be sold for less than the auction price
  3. If a customer was from the start fished into a scam and the car will not be delivered despite payment

In the case of clearance sales, there is a chance that the clearance stock that has been in storage for a long time is suffering from bad condition.
Basically, if a car has been substantially lowered in price, we have to think as to why this is the case.

We will first discuss knowing the market price of the car you want to buy and how to avoid getting scammed by fraudulent exporters.

“You get what you pay for” is a common expression expressed in many countries including Japan, and it is without a doubt an undeniable truth.

3.Understanding the import fees for used cars

The following important content will be under the prices listed on import sites

FOB price Base vehicle price
Freight Shipping to your destination.
Depending on your intended shipping port and vehicle size, the price is according to the car size, but sometimes the price is fixed. Almost all ports calculate their prices based on car size.
Stands for Cost (car price) and Freight.
This is the total sum of both the FOB and Freight combined. Purchasing via the C&F price is the most cost effective way to import. Marine insurance is not included.
CIF price Short for Cost (car price), Insurance, and Freight, the CIF is basically a C&F with Marine Insurance included.
Marine Insurance Compensation in regards to absolute loss in the case of the ship sinking in an accident while in ocean transit. Regarding the insurance, in most cases it cannot cover other than the total loss from the accident.
Pre-export Inspection An inspection decided upon the destination country. Before departing from within Japan, the vehicle must be inspected. In the case of exporters, they refer to these tests as JEVIC, JAAI, and QISJ.
Inland transportation fee Transportation costs that covers shipping from the port to a landlocked country. Import tariffs are not included in this fee.
Additional fee Each company has its own special service fees.

4.What is included in the payment you give to your exporter?

The following charges are included in the payment to your exporter:


  1. The cost of the car
  2. The transportation costs from the port to your designated location (if it is not FOB condition)
  3. Marine insurance until the port (in the case for CIF)
  4. Pre-export inspection costs (optional)
Not included

  1. Customs clearance fee at the port (It is often included when utilizing most transportation services for landlocked countries)
  2. Import tariffs, consumption tax, and other local taxes
  3. Vehicle registration fees

If this is your first time importing a car, these 'not included' fees will become necessary later on, so it is advised to keep this in mind when making your purchase. For example, it would be a huge problem if you cannot pay the necessary tariffs by the time your car reaches the port.

5.Why are the freight costs different for each company when they ship to the same port?

If you look at a car of the same size on a different exporter's website and compare the freight, marine insurance and pre-export inspection fees, you will notice that the prices are different.

Of course, the freight costs and insurance fees that each company pays to shipping and insurance companies differ slightly based on each company's conditions.
However, the real reason why the costs differ is because the overall profit from the overall freight cost for each company is different.

Exporter selling price breakdown

First, let's take a look at what exporter costs look like as seen below:

Vehicle cost the value of the vehicle itself
Export expense Land transportation fees from the auction site to the port, storage yard fees, costs for the Japanese clearing agent, fees for stocking within Japan, and finally shipping fees.
Freight fees Freight costs to the shipping company for shipping to the desired location

The selling price is the sum of these costs plus the exporters' profits.

Cost (vehicle price+export fees+ freight costs) + profit = Final selling price

The selling price for overseas users

Let's now take a look at what selling prices look like for overseas users as seen below:

FOB price: The cost for the vehicle + export fees + profit
Freight: Freight cost + profit

The point now is that, among the exporter companies, there are many that do not include the profit and export fees directly into the FOB price, but rather into the freight cost.
There are times when companies intentionally do this in order to make their advertised FOB price appear to be considerably low.

For example:

FOB price: The cost for the vehicle - adjusted amount advertised (*)
Freight: Freight cost + profit + the adjusted amount advertised (*the same price)

Regarding the cost of the car for the same style and model of the car, please refer to the example shown below.

For example:
When the vehicle cost is $1,200,
export expense is $500,
freight cost is $1,000,
and the profit price is $300

Company A FOB price: $2,000
(vehicle cost+export cost+profit)
Freight: $1,000
Company B FOB price: $1,200 Freight: $1,800
(freight cost+export cost+profit)
Company C FOB price: $1,000
(vehicle cost-adjusted amount)
Freight: $2,000
(freight cost+export cost+profit+adjusted amount)

As you can see, even if the sum total, in this case $3,000, is exactly the same, the FOB price can be listed for nearly half the competing price. Be cautious of these exporters that try to gain inquiries in this manner.

When inquiring after taking a glance at such a cheap FOB price, you will notice that the overall price of other cars does not differ when comparing with the sum total.

Absolutely make sure to compare the costs of the sum total for the freight cost (in some situations, the Pre-export Inspection) going to the same target destination.

6.Checking import regulations and tariffs

Confirming import tariffs

Compared to the prices of the cars being sold where you live, you might feel that the prices being used by Japanese exporters is extremely cheap.
That is because in most cases, the listed price does not include the import tariffs.

Import tariffs are unique to each country, and can even cost nearly 100% of the CIF price. So in order to really understand how much a vehicle will really cost you, you must carefully look over your country's import tariffs.

Make sure to confirm with the Revenue Authority webpage

Confirming import regulations

Next, it is necessary to confirm import regulations. Import regulations looks mainly like the information listed below:

  1. It is prohibited to import right handle vehicles
  2. An importable used car's year (example: in Kenya, imported cars must be within 7 years old)
  3. Used cars are prohibited from entering the country (example: both China and South Africa have prohibited the importation of used cars from Japan)

Even if you examine a car that cannot be imported due to regulations, it may be a waste of time for you, so please carefully look over your country's import regulations.

7.Making sure of the vehicle's condition

Before making the purchase, take a look at the pictures to confirm the vehicle's condition

Points to be careful when confirming pictures

Check if there are any bad parts of the car Suspiciously left out photos (i.e. when the photos only show the right side of the car) When there are pictures left out or appears to be rather suspicious, it is possible that there is actually some fault with the car that is not being properly disclosed.

We have heard of one incident where a customer bought a car that did included all but the photos of the drive seat door trim. Much to their surprise, the door trim was absolutely worn out. If there is any worry on your side, please make sure to confirm with the exporter.

Regarding the engine, the picture may not properly display any faults.
You must be especially cautious of vehicles that are extremely cheap when compared to the market price.

There are times, although rare, where used cars that are shipped from Japan having no problems initially, but developing a problem while in transit overseas.

While there are companies that do not provide any correspondence once an incident like this occurs, there are companies that offer guarantor services for the faults after the car has arrived.

8.Points to be careful of when remitting money overseas

Before buying the car you want, make sure to confirm the market price, import tariffs, and local regulations.

Here is the basic information needed when making advanced payments:

  1. The issuance of a Proforma Invoice
  2. Telegraphic transfer
  3. Sending the bank receipt (TT Copy)
  4. The arrival of remittance funds in Japan and contract conclusions

If the conditions have been agreed upon, request upon the exporting company an issuance of a Proforma Invoice.
Prior to purchasing, make sure to confirm the contents of the Proforma Invoice.


Carefully confirm the details regarding the bank account information written in the Proforma Invoice.

The account name is:

  1. Usually, this is the name of the company managing the website.
  2. In the case of the websites for exporters such as CardealPage or tradecarview, the administrating company account holder for the website is CardealPage and tradecarview respectively.

However in the case of the account name being completely different on the Proforma Invoice, there is a possibility that this is case is fraudulent, so please confirm with the exporter prior to purchasing.

When the Proforma Invoice has been issued, please go to the bank to conduct the wire transfer.

When the transfer has finished, you will receive a receipt, a TT copy, from the bank, so you must then promptly send the TT copy to the exporting company.
For most exporters, once they have received the TT copy, they will then reserve the car for you.

The time it takes to send the money to Japan

The amount of time it takes for payments made from abroad intended for Japan depends on the country. It usually takes a couple of days (roughly 2-5 days).

In the case that more than 5 days have passed and there has been no word from the exporting company, please contact the bank.

Once the payment has arrived in Japan, the exporting company will issue a notice indicating the completion of the contract.

9.The car will NOT be shipped immediately

The exporter will begin the shipping process once they have received the payment. Please keep in mind that this does not necessarily mean that they will begin the process immediately.

Until the car ships, it takes about at least 1 week. Here are is a basic overlay of what the process looks like:

  1. Confirming the conditions of the vehicle (there are many companies that do not confirm)
  2. Transferring the vehicle to the pre-export inspection location to conduct the inspection (when required)
  3. Bringing the vehicle into the clearing agent's yard
  4. Booking the shipping vessel
  5. Performing the customs clearance procedure
  6. Performing the calibration inspection (in the case the shipping company has deemed this to be required)
  7. Loading onto the vessel

Regarding the final destination, it is common for the assignment of vessels for shipping to be roughly 1 to 3 vessels a month. However if the process takes place according to what is listed above, it is common that the process may take only 2-3 after the contract has been confirmed.

Regarding the confirmation for the booking of the vessel, the confirmations can be made until the very last minute, so there is no need to worry if you do not hear from the company regarding the vessel name.

In the case that the vehicle has not been shipped after one month has passed since the payment has been made, there is a possibility that a problem has occurred, so please contact the exporter.

10.Clearing preparation

When the vehicle has arrived at the designated port, it must go through the necessary customs clearance procedure.
Be sure to find and check with a clearance agent before purchasing in order to discuss the clearance fees.


After departing, about 4-5 business days, the shipping company will send a B/L, a Bill of Lading, to the exporter.

The exporter will then send the document via services such as DHL to the buyer.
(The process will take place via a surrendering of the document according to the designated country)

*The surrender process is basically to assure the receiving of your car without sending the B/L. As the shipping process might be relatively shorter than expected, sending the B/L may not arrive in time to match the shipment.

12.Preparation at the arrival port

About 1 week prior to the arrival of the vessel, the clearing agent at the intended port must prepare the necessary port clearance procedures.

When the necessary documents have been received from the exporter, whether it be a B/L or export certificate, submit the documents as soon as possible to the clearing agent.

Points to be cautious of when receiving the vehicle

When receiving the vehicle, check the oil levels. If it is low on oil, replenish the oil and then start the engine.

Once it has been started, leave it idling for 10 minutes and then let it start running. While on the vessel, the oil may be extracted as a means to prevent the risk of fires, so if you run the car as it is, the engine will burn.

Until now, we have discussed the points to keep in mind for when importing used cars from Japan.

When importing a car from Japan, you can find that you can purchase a decent quality vehicle for cheap when comparing to your local prices.

We highly recommend you to try and challenge yourself even if you have never imported a car!
Find a car from CardealPage now.

-For first time buyer, Importing a used car

Copyright© CardealPage , 2024 All Rights Reserved.