How to Buy and Export a Used Car from Japan


Japan has been a rich source of used cars for many years and each day thousands of people buy a used car direct from Japanese car auctions.

The benefits are many:

  • Good quality, reliable, economical and famous Japanese brands such as Toyota, Honda, Nissan and Mitsubishi.
  • Low milage. Most cars come with less than 100,000 kilometers on the clock
  • Good condition. Regular servicing and repairs due to strict Japanese Government safety checks.
  • Many options. Many owners choose several options, so your car will come feature packed.
  • Cheap! Cars can start at auction for 1 yen, although you’ll probably pay a little more than that!
  • And more…

In this article I’ll cover the following points to help you understand the Japanese used car market and make a more informed choice about buying a car for export to your country.

  • Japanese used car dealers
  • The buying and importing process

Japanese used car dealersThe process of buying and importing a used car has become much easier with the advent of the internet. There are thousands of dealers throughout Japan and around the world who have websites offering cars they have in stock, or offering a custom car search service where they take your specifications and search the auctions until they find a car to match your exact needs.

There is a wide variety of export car dealers. Some dealers are huge organisations dealing with large volumes of cars while others are single entrepreneurs who run their own businesses. Of course the larger a company the bigger the overheads and so probably you’ll end up paying slightly more in dealer fees, but you get more security from dealing with an established business. The choice between price and reliability is yours.

The Japanese Government recognised JUMVEA (Japanese Used Motor Vehicle Exporters Assosciation) maintains a member list of companies which “was created to address this problem [of poor quality cars and dealers], being composed of used car exporters of excellent credentials and high credibility” JUMVEA website.

Their aim is to give membership to those companies which show their reliability and service over time, so if you are particularly worried about trust then look for a company with this accreditation. You can check the list of members on the JUMVEA website, and accredited members will proudly display their membership on their website.

However not many companies have JUMVEA membership so before buying from a non member do the following checks:

  • See if the exporters bank details are listed on the website
  • Call the company at least once to ask about any questions you may have. Bona fide companies will have no problems with talking to you over the phone, although be patient with their English ability!
  • Ask for testimonials
  • Check the quality of response to your enquiries. If the dealer is obscuring or dodging an issue then move on

In general use your common sense and if something is suspicious or dosent feel right then don’t proceed and find another dealer.

The buying and importing process

Check your country’s law

Before importing check your country’s rules for importing used cars to make sure you are allowed to import the car you want. Most countries have liberal laws and are mostly concerned with emissions and safety standards.

However these can add extra to the cost of importing so make sure you research the compatibility of the model you want with laws in your own country. If you choose a car which is way outside the limits then you could be spending a large amount to make it conform.

Check with the dealer and your local department of motor vehicles if in doubt. You don’t want to be left on the docks with a bill for several thousand to make the car conform before you can take it home!

Sending the request

If the dealer has a stock of cars you can request on shown on their website in which case you will know the price and details of the car.

However if you are looking for something specific then you will have to send the dealer an email describing what you want. Most dealers have some sort of request form on their website.


If you are buying from stock then you will usually get a faster confirmation of purchase. If you request something else then the dealer will have to search for what you requested at an auction and send you details of prices and specifications. It is then up to you to confirm or ask for a different model etc.


Once you have decided on a car and price you will be required to pay for it. Methods and amounts vary by dealer.

Some dealers require you pay 100% upfront with by bank transfer (or telegraphic transfer T.T.) before the car is bought at auction or readied for shipping. Others require a less amount as a deposit and then a balance on completion of purchase at auction or when the car is ready for shipping.

You may feel nervous sending money to a foreign country and unknown company so you should be sure of the dealers trustworthiness before you enter into a contract or send any money. You can do this by checking to see if the dealer displays a company registration number and address on their website, then ask the Japanese embassy in your country for confirmation – although this may take a long time and cost you extra.

You can also check the bank account. Japanese banking laws are strict when it comes to monetary movements and bank accounts. All registered businesses are required to have their accounts under exactly the same name that they registered their company.

If you are buying a used car online from Japan and the name on the bank account is different from the name of the trading company, or if its an individual, then you should investigate more.


Delivery times will vary according to distance and number of ships to your country. Here is a rough guideline.

  • Russia and Hong Kong: three days
  • New Zealand and Australia: three weeks
  • Rest of world: between four to six weeks

There may be other times to include in the delivery period such as a deregisteration certificate for the Japanese owner which shows the car has been sold by him, and finding a space on a boat to your port. These extra processes can take up another four to six weeks.


Your car has arrived at your port and now you have to pick it up. Take the documentation which the dealer sent you to a shipping agent who will arrange the offloading of the car from the ship.

Depending on your country’s laws you may have to pay import tax, licence the car, get car safety tests done, and insure the car.

Now your car is legally imported and in your hands. Drive home carefully!

In conclusion buying and exporting a used Japanese car is fairly straightforward, and can save you a fair bit of money compared to buying a car in your own country. Choosing a reputable firm is probably the biggest priority to ensure a smooth transaction, and you should be aware of any extra costs your government may impose to make the car conform to safety and emission standards.

For more information please visit the Japanese used car exporter portal []. Includes detailed information, dealer directory and car reviews.

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Author: Uzumaki Naruto

Expert tips before traveling Japan, including reviews of Japanese food and restaurants to help you make your trip as enjoyable and rewarding as possible.

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