Japanese import car sourcing in detail

This is a guide to the process of importing a car from Japan using Andrew’s Japanese Cars as your sourcing agent.

Before reading further, you might find this blog post useful as it gives a general idea of the costs involved.

There is a lot to cover, so I’ve broken it down into five sections. Please ask if something isn’t clear.

Which car do you want? How much do you want to spend?

You may already know the answer to both of these questions, but it doesn’t matter if you don’t. I’m happy to provide free advice and price illustrations to help you decide.

The search for a car begins

Once you’ve decided you’d like to go ahead and hire Andrew’s Japanese Cars to source a car from Japan on your behalf, you’ll be asked to agree terms and conditions, pay the Andrew’s Japanese Cars sourcing fee and the Japanese export agent’s fee.

These fees are refundable up to the point that your bid is successful. Why not after this point? Once a car is purchased, if you were to decide not to go ahead and pay for the car, the agent in Japan will need to enter the car back into another auction to recover their costs. Your fee paid to them will cover the costs of doing this.

Receive details of potentially suitable cars

You’ll receive details of potentially suitable cars by email. This will include a translation of the auction inspection sheet.

Location, inspection and scarcity

There are lots of auction houses in Japan, with about 50,000 to 90,000 cars listed for sale at any one time.  I’m not in a position to offer a trusted inspection of every potential car at every potential auction before bidding.

There may be the option to have the car inspected before auction, but please bear in mind that this will always be a very limited inspection, and will not be available at all auctions.  Many of the cars cannot be moved/driven at all and if they can, this is generally only a few metres.

All vehicles purchased through me and my chosen agents in Japan are inspected thoroughly and driven at the point after purchase but before deregistration and shipping.  This means that if something of concern is found on the vehicle on test drive, there is always the option to sell the vehicle at auction and move on to another.  This may incur additional fees.  My agents try very hard to avoid this, but as mentioned above, the pre-auction inspection will always have its limitations because the vehicles cannot be test driven properly.  This is one of the risks inherent in buying cars from auction in Japan and is one of the reasons why it is cheaper to buy cars in this way than to buy from a dealer who has imported the car and has it for sale on his or her forecourt.


Decision to bid

You like what you see and decide you want a bid to be placed on your behalf. Let me know your maximum bid (you’ll be offered some guidance on this, depending on the condition of the car). The bid is placed. Wait to find out whether you were successful!

Car purchased

The car has been bought on your behalf. You will now be asked to pay the selling price in yen to the export agent in Japan.

The car is collected by the agent in Japan, inspected and photographed.  You will received a detailed set of pictures or a video of the car.

Sea transport is booked, the car is de-registered for export.  It is transported to the port where it is inspected for radiation.

You now have to wait for the car to arrive.

Car arrives at a UK port

After about 8 weeks at sea, your car will arrive at a UK port (most commonly Southampton, Bristol or Newcastle).

Customs clearance

I recommend this is done by an expert and I can put you in touch with someone suitable if required. I include their fees in all my price illustrations.


I’ve put this at the end, but I advise you check your insurance situation before committing to buy the car. This is slightly more involved than for a UK car, as a lot of the insurers aren’t on price comparison sites. However there are plenty of insurers who will cover Japanese imports.

Conversion work

Depending on the age of the car and your preference, it is likely that some conversion work will be needed.  As a minimum, cars over 10 years old to be used on the roads in the UK will need a rear fog light fitting.  This will need to be done by you or your local garage.  I can offer guidance and recommend products to use if required.


An IVA or MOT test are required before the car can be registered. As above, you can sort this out yourself or it can be done after the conversion work, before you collect the car.


Once all the paperwork is in place, I’ll guide you through applying to the DVLA to register your new car.  Once the registration number has been assigned, you can either fit the plates to the car yourself, or have this done at any number of motor factors.