Step by Step Guide to Buy Japanese Used Cars

In Africa you have the choice of buying Japanese used cars locally or directly from Japan, but which is best and how does it work? Cars are exported speculatively from Japan to many countries. This works for some buyers, but others would prefer to buy directly from Japan. This article will help you to fully understand how the Japanese car market works, how to get the best prices and information so you can know how to buy your car safely and successfully.

There are four major marketplaces for buying Japanese cars; auction, wholesale, domestic retail and from exporters.  Let’s start with buying locally.

Local Car Dealers

Buying a Japanese car locally has the advantage of being able to see it for yourself. Many people take a mechanic with them to get a thorough inspection of the car done. This is a quick way to buy but limits you to choosing from the cars you see. If you can’t see the model you’re looking for or the specifications  you want then you might be tempted to talk to Japanese car importers.

Japanese Car Auctions

To get the best prices you need to buy from Japanese auctions.  They are solely for registered buyers and dealers within Japan. They will bid on a car on your behalf and you simply hope that no one will want to bid hard against you. The condition grade and the inspection report are created independently of the dealers. This is provided by the auction house who doesn’t own the car. (The cars are owned by third parties who are selling cars.) The condition report is a vital set of independent eyes on the vehicle and details any damage or issues with the car. It’s helpful to know that you can usually get another independent inspection done prior to bidding on a car.

Wholesale Platforms

The second level of buying is through wholesale platforms. There are a number available in Japan and they are not accessible directly but you can access these via companies such as MHH International. Our agent gives us access to all the cars and information available so we have complete visibility of all the cars on the system. These cars are either lined up to go to auction. As they wait for the auction, they appear on the wholesale systems for dealers to buy them in advance. Or they can be retail dealer cars which are being offered by the Japanese dealers who have had the car instock for too long and want to replace it with fresh stock. Often they will then offer the car at their ‘rock bottom price’. Wholesale pricing is static and not negotiable. A slight negative is that the cars which are owned by the dealers are not physically at the auction house and so they are not independently inspected. So the condition reports that are available are normally carried out by the dealers themselves. And of course, the dealer might perhaps take a rose-tinted view of the car to encourage a sale.

Japanese Retail Sales

There are two levels of retail sales available; the Japanese domestic market and the car exporters. The Japanese domestic market refers to the Japanese dealers selling cars within their car yards in Japan. Some of them are available on websites such as and You can view the cars in the local yards and online but you should note that it is far less common to have access to the condition report. So this can cause significant issues. The pricing is higher for these cars  because they are being retailed, so you will be paying retail prices rather than wholesale prices. But the cars are therefore prepared to a retail standard. Be aware however that car retailers come in all shapes and sizes and not all retailers prepare their cars to the same level as others.

The final level of marketplace are the exporters; companies such as SBT, IBC, Beforward. These companies often buy the stock in huge numbers to sell. The important point is that the cars belong to them and so the information about the car is held by them and isn’t readily disclosed. We have been asked on many occasions to buy cars for clients from these companies and we are often happy to do so. As dealer, we understand the questions we need to ask and our customers are not really aware to ask. This puts levels of protection in place for our customers as we do the due diligence on the cars checking essential points such as: Does it have 2 keys? What is the level of tread on each tyre? Does it have a spare tyre? And of course the condition report. Very rarely is this information shared and so quite often people are deciding on a car after viewing a handful of photos, the price and the mileage. We would recommend being much more vigilant before spending such a large amount of money on your next car.

Getting the right information.

Once you have bought your car from and exporter within Japan, the seller will send the car to the port to be de-registered within Japan. This generates an export certificate written in Japanese and you will receive the translated version of this within the shipping documentation. In Japan, vehicles are inspected at 3years, 5 years and 7 years and the mileage is always recorded at these points. This makes the export certificate the best way to verify that the true mileage and will help you check that the mileage has increased consistently with the age of the car. Deregistering can take a few weeks. Once complete, the car is shipped to your preferred port.

Having spoken about the key marketplaces to buy a Japanese used car the important thing is to make sure that the price doesn’t become the only factor that you use to buy the car or not. There is so much more to consider for a successful purchase. Any car that hasn’t been maintained properly or arrives with a cracked windscreen ($1,000 to replace on a big car) and will fail the QISJ inspection which will cost you more to fix as soon as it arrives. If you find a seller is not ‘able’ to share an independent inspection report and the export certificate when the car has been exported to verify the true mileage, then you might want to be a little concerned about the car you are being persuaded to buy. It is of paramount importance that you get all the information from the seller so you can make a fully informed decision about your next car. Then you can relax in the confidence that you have made a good choice and you can enjoy your new car without any surprises.