So you want to import a car from Japan, but don’t have a guide, or know how to do it yourself. Well you are in luck because I’ll be teaching you on how to import a car from japan yourself in this guide.

It is a process, but at the end of it, you will have your own car, that is probably a lot more rare than anything on the road in your area.

Just remember to follow the steps in this DIY guide and you will be just fine.

importing car from japan

Steps to import a Car from Japan yourself

Step 1

Do your research, technically you could just use an importer but you can save quite a bit of money if you do it yourself. So lets start by learning how the auctions in Japan work.

Auctions last less than a minute, they sell tons of cars there its crazy.

All cars in an auction will have a spec sheet learn how to read these. These spec sheets are very detailed and are brutally honest. Each car is graded with a fine tooth comb. These grades represent the condition of the vehicles. The people who grade these are experts and the number and letter grade they give to the vehicle is well thought out. So you wont have to worry about any surprises with the condition of the vehicle.

Step 2

Figure out what kind of car you want before hand. Know what type of vehicle you want, the mileage you want, the color, the grade and how much you want to pay.

The auctions are layed out in terms of the make , name, and chassis code.

Step 3

Its time to pick your auction agent, there are a lot of options for this. Each agent is different, they have different ways of charging you, or what they charge for. Also if you don’t speak Japanese, pick one that has decent English communication.

For example, there are some that charges for rates for each car you bid on, an inspection fee, inland freight.

Some on the other hand do CIF bidding, which includes everything in the bid price. For example, some other agents will include buying the car, inland freight, inspection of the car, cleaning the car(no dirt can be on the cars, if the car is dirty they will send it back), insurance on the boat, stuffing fee, and pay the boat to ship it.

Benefit to this is, you don’t pay a bidding fee for each car, but you don’t see how much you end up paying for the car.

Note* All agents will require a deposit, this shows you are serious and shows intent.

Like mentioned earlier, learn how to read the spec sheet. The sheets are in Japanese, but you can learn how to decipher them pretty good.

Step 4

So you know what vehicle you want, and you have found an agent. Now its time to start bidding. Each auction is only a minute long, so it is important you tell your agent how much you are willing to pay before hand.

Remember to bid knowing what your auction fees will be.

So you have bid, and have won. You are now the owner of a new car. Time to pay your agent.

Step 5

So its paid for and ready to be shipped. I would recommend an agent who does container sharing, which means you car gets shipped with other customers cars. It is the cheapest and safest route.

Some agents take a RO/RO approach, which is roll on, roll off. Which means it gets shipped with random cars. Really bad for theft.

Whichever way you decide you have to get it to pass customs. Because its 15 years old you can bypasss the RIV process , but its still a good idea to get a customs clearing agency to do the work.

The things that need to be done for a 15-year old car are a little different than a RIV process car, thought some steps are similar.

You need to get a soil inspection. No foreign soil allowed into the country. They will send your car back for this. And you have to pay tax on it (for the first time), of course. And a border agency fellow has to come and look at it… make sure there’s no people in the trunk, or anything crazy like that.

You’ll dig through some paperwork, eventually ending in a ‘Form 1’, which is pretty much just Transport Canada saying that it’s allowed through the border… they check the ‘it’s 15 years old’ box, and it’s done!

You’ll end up with a stack of papers. These should include:

  • The completed Form 1 (heck yes it’s 15 years or older)
  • A deregistration document in Japanese
  • A translated deregistration document. That or you’ll need to get it translated.

Then… you’re ready to pick up your car. BUT, the story isn’t over!

Step 6

So. You’ve bought and paid for a car, cleared it though customs, now you want to pick it up. If you did all the work yourself, the car will be at the docks in a imported car common area. If you went through a bonded shipping agency, the car will be at their warehouse. Mine was the latter.

Before you even leave for the docks, you’ll need temporary car insurance. Pretty simple to get. Just need to vin/chassis code and proof that you own the car.

So, your car has been in shipping for about a month now. And you’ve never seen it in real life before. And if you’re like me, you’re about to drive it 2000km. You’d be an idiot to not check it out before you start driving it.

First off, these cars ship with the absolute minimum amount of fuel. Probably want to bring a jerry can of premium with you. Why premium? The gas is a bit old, and you don’t know what they filled it with. Be nice to your car, it’s the new kid in town.

Also, your battery might be dead, or lost its charged. Bring booster cables, or something to boost your car with.

Then, just some regular check…. here’s what I did for a checklist.

  • Fill up the tank.
  • Check the oil
  • Make sure there is coolant in the reservoir
  • Make sure they’re coolant in the radiator (remove coolant cap, make sure it’s full)
  • Try to start it… probably boost it.
  • Let the car run… any weird sounds?
  • Check brake fluid, move the car and make sure it stops (usually not an issue, but…)
  • Check power steering fluid
  • Make sure all lights work (especially brake lights). Again, not usually an issue, but you don’t know.
  • Check windshield wipers and washing fluid.

Step 7

So, you’ve bought a car, shipped it, picked it up, and now you need to get it home. A few ways to do this. There are car carriers, but they tend to hate JDMs. Too bad. The fact they ship with no gas and usually have dead batteries when they get here doesn’t help.

But, what most people do: have a great excuse for a road trip.

I only have one piece of advice for this part of the import process: In bold, and all caps. KEEP YOUR EYES ON THE OIL TEMPERATURE. I’ve heard of a few cars that have died 100km from their final destination. Due diligence would be to check your oil every time you fill up the tank, a good idea but a bit of overkill.

Time to get it insured and driving on your home roads.

You will need to get it inspected. Here is the paperwork you need to once you have it inspected.

  • Something that says how much you paid for the car, so you can be taxed on it (again)
  • Transfer of ownership documents with the address of the previous owner
  • Deregistration from Japan
  • Translated deregistration from Japan
  • Your Form 1 from Transport Canada (saying it’s been imported properly)
  • Your completed safety

And that’s really it. You’re plated and ready to go! Congratulations.

Now this all sounds like quite a lot… but it’s not. And it’s worth it.

In the end it’s simple… well, simple enough. Here’s the quick breakdown.

  1. Know what you want to buy, and how much you’re willing to pay.
  2. Find an importer you like.
  3. Buy a car
  4. Pay for the car
  5. Ship the car
  6. Wait
  7. Wait
  8. Wait
  9. Clear the car through customs (probably with help)
  10. Drive the car home (don’t forget temp insurance!)
  11. Safety your car
  12. Register your car

The end! The devil is really in the details. But for the best part, you deal with the problems as they come along.

I hope this guide has helped you and you have learned something on importing a used car from Japan yourself.