How to: Japanese import mileage check

“How do I know this low mileage is genuine?”

Picture of the odometer on a car imported from Japan: the subject of a Japanese import mileage check
The odometer reading looks good, but is it genuine?

This subject comes up frequently in discussions about Japanese import cars.

Many used cars in Japan have extremely low mileage.  In the vast majority of cases, this is genuine.  Public transport is generally excellent and road tolls can be expensive.  As a result many Japanese vehicles don’t get used as much as we might expect, based on our own vehicle usage.  There are lots of cars available with genuinely low odometer readings.  Sadly there are some who want to turn their high mileage vehicle into something it isn’t by winding back the odometer.

How can we check the mileage of a car being imported from Japan?

How do we know it hasn’t been ‘adjusted’ to make the car seem better than it actually is?

This article is going to cover the various approaches to a Japanese import mileage check.  There are a number of options.  Their availability to you depends on how you are buying your imported Japanese car.


Japanese import mileage check for worn pedal rubbersAn inspection of the car before purchase will help identify whether any gross odometer adjustment has occurred.

In the case of buying direct from auction via an agent, this could be done before purchase from the auction.  I can think of one or two cars I’ve asked an export agent to inspect, where the response has been that the odometer reading is inconsistent with the wear in the car.  It doesn’t happen very often, but it certainly has happened.

If you’re buying the car from a trader who has already imported it, hopefully it goes without saying that you should have a good look at the car before buying.

If you’re buying the car from a dealer based in Japan, the inspection becomes more difficult.  This is where a 3rd party check (see below) might be useful.

The aim of the inspection (relating to mileage) is to identify any wear that is inconsistent with the mileage.  Typically this will be in the following areas:

  • Driver’s seat cushion, especially on the door side.
  • Steering wheel (if the car has a steering wheel cover, look under it).
  • Pedal rubbers.

There may be signs in the engine bay too, but if the car has been well maintained they might be less prominent.

In case you’re in any doubt as to what high mileage wear looks like, the picture on the right is the brake pedal on my old Hiace, with about 160,000 miles on the clock (just under 260,000 km).

Ask to see the documentation

This applies to most of the purchase routes mentioned here.  I advise you to try to see as much documentation relating to the car as possible.  In particular, I recommend you focus on the following:

Export certificate / Deregistration certificate

The export certificate is one way to perform a Japanese import mileage checkBefore a car can be exported, it needs to be deregistered in Japan.  When this happens, a deregistration or export certificate is produced.  This certificate lists odometer readings at various points during the car’s life, along with the date of the reading.  If the most recent odometer reading on the export certificate is more than the current reading on the car, you know you’ve got a problem!

On the flipside, if you see the export certificate and the last recorded odometer reading is lower than the current reading on the car, you can gain some reassurance that the reading hasn’t been adjusted.

Clearly it is possible that the reading has been adjusted down to a number just above the most recent reading on the certificate, which is why seeing the auction sheet as well is a good idea.

Auction sheet

Checking the auction sheet is one way to perform a Japanese import mileage checkThe auction sheet shows the car’s odometer reading on the date of the auction.

Auction sheets also show whether the odometer reading showing is different from the actual number of kilometres travelled by the car.  Most commonly seen on older, modified vehicles where there has been an odometer/speedometer change at some point in the car’s life.

Service records

Your car may come with the service history from the previous owner.  I think most unscrupulous people trying to sell a clocked car would remove the service record altogether to hide the evidence but if they haven’t, there may be a clue here.  Check for service stickers in the engine bay as well as the paper records.

3rd party mileage verification services and certificates

There are 2 main organisations on my radar that offer a mileage verification service / certificate.  These are JEVIC and BIMTA.

Are they necessary?  If you’ve seen the export certificate and auction sheet, and believe them both to be genuine, my personal opinion is that these additional checks are unnecessary.  However I appreciate it all depends on your attitude to risk and the sums of money involved.

If you haven’t been able to see either the export certificate or auction sheet for a vehicle you’re thinking of buying, or if you suspect either of them aren’t genuine, one of these 3rd party checks could be a very worthwhile investment.


This stands for Japanese Export Vehicle Inspection Centre (Center).  They provide an independent odometer verification service for a fee, which can include an in-person inspection of the car for signs of tampering.  This can be done before the car leaves Japan and you would usually have some redress with the auction house if the odometer reading on the auction sheet is found to be incorrect.


This stands for British Independent Motor Trade Association.  BIMTA offer a mileage check and full vehicle history check for a fee.


There will always be a certain level of risk in buying a used car.  However, if you:

  • Follow some / all of the Japanese import mileage check steps described above.
  • Trust your gut instinct and walk away from any car where something doesn’t quite add up.

I think you’ll be well-placed to minimise your chance of buying a car that has been clocked / had some odometer adjustment.


  1. Many thanks for the advice. I will print page and use it to make enquiries, before travelling to view vehicles.

  2. Hi Andrew,
    Can odometer verification be gained without a physical vehicle inspection i.e. is it a paper tracking exercise that can be performed once the vehicle is in the UK?
    I’m also confused over VINs, Chassis numbers, and Frame numbers, which seem to be needed in order to obtain a certificate. VINS are 17 characters, but I can’t seen anything like that on the JDM vehicles.
    BTW, I spotted on the JEVIC website that cars should be inspected for radiation post Fukishima, which raises the prospect of a very attractive bargain car if you’re willing to take the minuscule extra risk from any contamination!
    Best wishes,

    • Hi John

      Yes the odometer verification can be done without a physical inspection of the vehicle. However you need to be sure that the chassis number you’re checking is the correct one for the vehicle. For example, if the check was being done entirely from pictures of the vehicle, you’d need to be sure that the pictures were of the correct vehicle, and that you hadn’t been given a spurious chassis number to check.

      Doing the check once the vehicle is in the UK is fine if you’re buying it from a UK dealer, but if you’re buying direct from Japan, I’d advise doing the check before you pay, especially if you’re not buying from auction. This is because it would be very difficult to do anything about a clocked vehicle after you’d purchased it and had it shipped to the UK.

      Regarding radiation, yes all cars are checked at the ports in Japan prior to shipping.


  3. This is a very good useful clue, your article is very detailed, clear and useful.
    Thank you.

  4. Hi Andrew
    I have been told that the aluminium wheels on Japanese vehicles are of a different grade to those used in the UK and will not last very long
    on UK salted roads and therefore would need changing.
    Do you know if this is fact or fiction ?

    • Sounds like more fiction than fact, but a bit of both! It really depends on the type of wheel. If we’re talking about a polished/anodised aluminium finish, this wouldn’t fare too well on salted roads without regular attention. This is the case wherever the wheels are from.

      The standard silver painted and lacquered wheels will be just fine. As with any wheel of this type, if the paint gets chipped, salt will get underneath and damage the finish.

      There is a vogue for wheels with a part diamond cut finish at the moment. This is a more fragile finish and is very susceptible to damage from salt, no matter where the wheel has come from.

      In summary:
      -aluminium wheels won’t do well in the salt no matter where they came from. The same goes for diamond cut finishes if they aren’t cleaned and waxed regularly.
      -standard painted and lacquered alloys will be fine. They all deteriorate eventually: kerbing and stone chips definitely accelerate this process.

      You definitely don’t need to change the alloys on vehicles imported from Japan. You might want to do so, to keep some really fancy wheels as nice as possible, but you don’t have to. Polished aluminium wheels should be cleaned regularly and given a protective coating, especially in the winter months.

  5. Awesome article! This is really helpful in terms of knowing the actual car mileages

  6. I saw 5 estima hybrid and non of them offered a service history or auction/export sheet.
    Shall I ask for them, for service they said it cost extra hence they didn’t get it ..

    • Hi Muhammad

      It’s quite possible that the vehicles didn’t have any service history. Are they proposing it would cost extra to get the service history from Japan, or are they talking about servicing the vehicle for you before sale?

      I am a little more concerned that the sellers wouldn’t show you the auction sheet.

      The export certificate has to be sent to the DVLA to register the vehicle and they don’t send it back. When I’m selling vehicles I take a copy of it before I send it off, so I can show it to prospective buyers.

      If the dealer bought the car from auction, they will have a copy of the auction sheet unless they are particularly disorganised. If they won’t show it to you, that could be because they bought the car from stock from a dealer in Japan (i.e. not from auction) or it could be because there is something on the auction sheet they don’t want you to see.

      You can get your own independent checks done on Japanese import vehicles. If you’ve found a car you really want but are uncertain about its history, this might be worth considering.


      • Hi Andrew
        Your article is extremely useful. Should we be asking to see both the export certificate and the auction shert (if aplicable)? The independent compny I am planning to purchase an import from has the car in the Uk but it is not yet registered with the DVLA. It is 12 years old so does that mean they will not have to do the IVA (?)

        • Hi and thanks for your comment.

          Yes in my opinion you should ask to see copies of the auction sheet and export certificate. I show both of these to prospective buyers when I’m selling cars. The export certificate may be an electronic copy or a photocopy of the original, as the original has to be sent to the DVLA for registration purposes and they don’t give it back. I’d definitely ask to see the original Japanese version rather than a translation, as the translations are easy to fabricate.

          A 12 year old car won’t need an IVA test.


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