Routes to buying a car imported from Japan

I’ve already covered why you’d want to buy a car imported from Japan.  In this post I’ll deal with the how.

There are a few different methods.  I’ll describe them below, along with the advantages and disadvantages of each as I see them.  Some of the advantages and disadvantages are common to several buying methods.  I’ve split them up according the location of the car.routes to an imported japanese car hd

Car is already in the UK

Buy a car that was imported some time ago and has a current UK registered keeper

This could either be a private purchase or through a second hand car dealer.


  • Easy.
  • Familiar process.
  • Quick.
  • Cheaper than being the first UK registered keeper.
  • You get to see the car ‘in the flesh’ before committing to buying.


  • Depending on how long it has been in the UK, the car probably won’t be in as good condition as a similar car just arrived from Japan.
  • You may well not be able to choose the exact specification you want: there may be an element of compromise.

Buy a fresh import from a UK car dealer

There are many UK car dealers selling vehicles they’ve imported from Japan.


  • Easy.
  • You usually get to see the car ‘in the flesh’ before committing to buying.*
  • You don’t have to wait for the car to arrive from Japan.*
  • The dealer bears some responsibility for the condition and roadworthiness of the car.


  • The dealer may not yet have registered the car, so you’ll need to wait for this to happen before you can drive away.
  • You’ll pay more than you would have done using an import agent or buying direct from an exporter in Japan.
  • You may not get to know as many details about the car.  For example, you may not get to see the auction sheet and export certificate to reassure you the odometer reading is genuine, the car isn’t an accident repair etc.
  • You’ll have to choose from what is available in their stock rather than being able to choose a car to your exact specification.

*Note some dealers have cars advertised for sale that are still in Japan and will only commit to the extra costs involved in bringing the car over to the UK when they know they have an interested buyer.  In which case these advantages may not apply.

Car is in Japan

Import from Japan and arrange everything yourself

Many car export companies advertise their services on the internet.  You pay their fee, they buy a car to your specifications and put it on a boat to the UK for you.


  • You get to choose a car to your exact specification.
  • (Potentially) the cheapest route to being the first registered keeper on a car imported from Japan.
  • You (should) get to know a lot about the car from the export certificate, auction results sheet etc.


  • Time consuming.  There will be a lot to learn.
  • Can be risky if you don’t know and trust an export agent in Japan.
  • There is a long wait for your car!

Import from Japan using a Japanese car export website

I’ll start this section with a disclaimer:  whilst I’m aware of these websites and the service they offer, I have never bought a car through them.  I was put off by the reviews I read online.  There are several websites that allow used car dealers in Japan to advertise their cars for export.  The cars are advertised at their FOB price.  The listings give some information about specification and have pictures of the car.  The pictures vary substantially in number and quality.  Sometimes there is also a comment on the condition of the car, occasionally accompanied by the auction sheet.


  • The car is ready to go on the next available boat, so no need to wait for a suitable car to come up for auction.
  • You get to see feedback from other customers who have purchased from the dealer.


  • You usually don’t get to see the auction sheet and therefore it may be more difficult to judge the condition of the car.
  • You are relying on the pictures and description from the dealer, whose main motivation is to sell the car.
  • You probably won’t get to find out how much the dealer paid for the car at auction, so the price you pay could include a substantial profit for them.

Import from Japan using a UK import agent

This involves investing in the services of a specialist agent in the UK to source a car to your exact specifications.


  • You get to choose a car to your exact specification.
  • You get to buy a fresh import for much less than the UK dealer price.
  • A lot of the work is done for you.
  • A lot of the risks are minimised as the agent should be working with buyers and exporters that they have tested and trust to source great cars.


  • There is a long wait for your car!
  • The agent doesn’t bear the same responsibility for roadworthiness and condition as a car dealer would.  You have to take more of this responsibility in exchange for the (substantially) lower price of your car.

 Which one is right for you?

Your choice of these options will depend on a number of things.  I think the main factors will be:

  • Your attitude to risk.  How would you feel if you bought a car direct from Japan that looked lovely in the pictures but had an expensive-sounding engine noise?  An independent inspection in Japan could have avoided this.
  • Time available.  Do you have time to learn about the buying and importing process in detail?
  • Patience.  Can you wait 2 months for a boat to arrive from Japan?
  • Budget.  Are you happy to pay a higher price for a car in exchange for increased peace of mind?

If I can help you with your decision or import a car on your behalf, please get in touch.

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