Why are imported Japanese cars better?

Short answer

Higher quality, better design, more reliable, fun and different.

Long, more considered answer

Higher standards in design and manufacture

I’m of the opinion that Japanese cars in general are designed and manufactured to a higher standard than cars from anywhere else in the world.  When I say design I’m generally referring to functional design rather than ‘wow that is a gorgeous car’ design.  Have a look at any reliability or warranty claim index and the top of the list will be dominated by Japanese cars.  So why not buy a UK model car from a Japanese manufacturer?  Well, I also think the Japanese car manufacturers keep their best cars and manufacturing standards for their domestic market.

Non-Japanese car manufacturers are aware of the high standards required:  I know for a fact that cars manufactured outside Japan but destined for sale there are subjected to more stringent quality control checks than identical cars for sale elsewhere.

Careful ownership

We’ve established that the cars are made to a higher standard with carefully considered and well-executed design features.  The next feature making cars imported from Japan an attractive proposition are their owners.  In the majority of cases:
  • Distances travelled are low.  It is common to see 10 year old cars that have only travelled 5000 miles per year.
  • Cars are cared for, serviced on time and driven sympathetically.  As an example it is quite possible to find 10 year old cars without a single graze on their alloy wheels.
  • People are much more careful and respectful in car parks, so dents and paint chips on doors are much less common.

Roads and driving

There are a few features about the roads and driving conditions in Japan that mean cars there have easier lives.

  • One of my friends described the roads there as being ‘like a billiard table’ so there is less wear and tear on suspension and drivetrain components.
  • Speed limits are lower, with the maximum limit on dual carriageways and expressways being 100 km/h (about 62 mph).
  • Salt is not used on the roads in the Southern and central parts of the country, so less damage from corrosion.  The following pictures are of the underneath of a 10 year old Toyota Noah imported from Japan.  If you’ve ever looked underneath a UK car of equivalent age you’ll notice how clean and rust-free this car is.

Toyota Noah front suspension and underneathToyota Noah rear suspension

Fun and Different

It can be quite enjoyable driving something different and rare.  Some people stare with a “What the **** is that?” look.  Others become intrigued and ask you about your car.


Clearly Japan is not some car utopia where accidents and ne’er-do-wells don’t exist and vehicles are wrapped in cotton wool every night.  However in general cars there have an easier life in the hands of respectful owners and therefore represent excellent second hand purchases: often much more so than cars of equivalent age available on the UK home market.  Why not try one for yourself?  Ask me for a recommendation.

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