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How to import a JDM vehicle

If you want to import a JDM vehicle to Canada, you can follow this step-by-step guide.

In short:

1

Deposit

To get started, you would provide us with a $1,000 deposit by PayPal, e-Transfer, credit card or other available payment methods.

2

Finding options

We check the auctions and dealers daily and send you options.

You can also browse the auctions yourself, check out some selected auction picks, and contact us about any good finds.

3

Vehicle details

Information about the vehicle is passed along to you, including a translation of the auction sheet or any additional details we can get from Japan.

4

We bid or offer

For a dealer or private unit, we will submit your offer. For auction units, you choose what your maximum ‘cleared customs price‘ to Vancouver, BC, and we bid up to that maximum.

5

Re-inspection

This includes an in-person visit to verify and elaborate on the auction sheet and can include more pictures, or details on modifications or features.

If a hidden issue arises, we can cancel the bid.

6

Payment and shipping

If an auction is won for less than your max bid, you keep the savings!

We invoice you, to be paid typically within 10 days.

Sit back, relax, and wait about 5-6 weeks for it to arrive in Vancouver.

7

Customs clearance

We file the paperwork needed to clear customs.

Once landed, the vehicle can take up to 5 days to clear.

8

Pick up or delivery

Once your JDM vehicle has cleared customs, it is ready to pick up at the port.

Alternatively, we can arrange for you to pay for the vehicle to be shipped overland to a destination of choice.

Detailed Information

1

Deposit

Hundreds of people request more information about cars at the auction, and while we would like to help everyone, our time is limited. Sending us a deposit indicates you’re ready to start the search for your next JDM car. You can pay the deposit via PayPal, e-Transfer, credit card, certified cheque, cash at a TD branch nearest you, bank wire or even cryptocurrency!

2

Finding options

For our clients we set up daily searches to find the specific car you want from the thousands that are listed at the Japanese car auctions. These listings are sent to your email twice daily and include auction and dealer listings.

Some find browsing the auctions to be almost therapeutic! You can browse the auctions yourself, look for any number of vehicles and let us know of anything you find that you’d like more information on. You can search by make, model, year, mileage, engine capacity, chassis id, condition, auction house, colour and transmission type.

The auction systems can do many other things, like provide sales statistics, and detailed specifications on the various models of cars sold in Japan.

3

Vehicle details

Cars are sent to auction by private persons looking to sell their vehicle, or by businesses who have taken in the vehicle on trade and wish to sell it, for example.

When a vehicle is sent to auction it is thoroughly inspected and recorded on the auction sheet. Historically the sheet gives an accurate picture of the car’s condition to help decide which cars to bid on and which to avoid. This includes indications of scratches, dents, waved paint, rust, replaced or repaired panels, any indications of oil leaks, obvious electrical problems or engine noise.

It does not include troubleshooting of any problems that are found, but everything that is known is passed along to you.

4

We bid or offer

The Japanese auction system requires people to be vetted beforehand. This means that only we can bid on a vehicle for you.

To keep quotes consistent, we will always talk in terms of ‘cleared customs price‘. We can give you an estimated price range for what the vehicle might go for, and you indicate how much total Canadian dollars you would like to spend to get the car to Vancouver, BC, ready to pick up.

This price includes the cost of the car, our fee, inland transportation, export fees, ocean shipping and insurance, import fees, port fees, GST and Duty. You would still need to pay PST and any cost required to inspect the vehicle in your province. Shipping across Canada can be arranged, but this cost is not included in the cleared customs price.

5

Re-inspection

If you wish to bid on the unit, if there is time left we will have the unit re-inspected. If the auction house provides an additional picture service we will have them take more pictures of it, and can specify areas to photograph. It might also reveal details on modifications or specific features the vehicle has that isn’t normally recorded on the auction sheet (heated seats, for example).

At this point we contact you to discuss what is found. We can cancel the bid if the second inspection reveals anything we do not like. Otherwise we can proceed with the bid or even increase it if you feel the vehicle is worthy.

6

Payment and shipping

The main Japanese auctions are like a sealed-bid auction, not like eBay. The time remaining is until the auction starts, not ends. At this point all the dealers submit their maximum bid, and whichever is highest wins it for a few hundred more than the second-placed bid (provided they met any hidden reserves). The whole auction is over in about 30 seconds.

If we win the auction for less than the maximum bid, you keep the savings!

We will then invoice you, to be paid typically within 10 days.

This is the point where you can sit back, relax, and wait about 6 weeks (on average) for it to arrive in Vancouver. The vehicle can be sent to a shop before sending it to port to have the oil changed, coolant flushed, and have other areas addressed, if wanted.

7

Customs clearance

Once the vehicle is landed at the port, it is inspected by Canada Customs and usually clears within 5 business days. We file all the paperwork needed. Once it clears, we send all the original paperwork to you, and is everything you need to register your car, minus a provincial inspection.

8

Pick up or delivery

Once your JDM vehicle has cleared customs, it is ready to pick up at the port.

COVID Update: The port has restricted access to recognized vehicle transporters. You can still pick up the car in Vancouver, but it needs to be first towed out of the port for a fee by a recognized transporter.

Alternatively, we can arrange for you to pay for the vehicle to be shipped overland to a destination of choice.

Frequently Asked Questions

Cars must be at least 15 years old to the month of manufacture for most of Canada. Quebec and PEI have enacted their own rules, requiring JDM vehicles to be at least 25 years old to the month of manufacture to be operated on public roads.

Cars must be at least 25 years old to the month of manufacture to import to the USA.

This includes all the costs needed to get your car from Japan to Vancouver, BC, ready to pick up. This includes the cost of the car, inland transportation, export fees, ocean insurance and shipping, import fees, customs clearance, our fee, duty and GST.

Larger SUVs and vans are about twice as much to ship compared to an average car, as shipping is calculated by volume and weight. More expensive cars cost more as Duty and GST are a portion of the vehicle’s value. Very expensive cars also usually have extra dealer fees.

Our modest flat fee is the only amount we charge for import. As we have access to any unit in Japan, if another importer is advertising a car we can access for less, we are always willing to adjust our brokerage fee to match.

We always ship Ro-Ro (roll-on, roll off) as it is much safer than packing vehicles into a container. Vehicles are insured with full “ICC-A” coverage to the Vancouver, British Columbia or Halifax, Nova Scotia ports.

JDM cars can be shipped to a local distribution node or to your door anywhere in Canada, provided it meets the federal import laws. This could include Victoria, Vancouver, Terrace, Kamloops and Kelowna, British Columbia; Calgary, Edmonton, Red Deer, Lethbridge and Grand Prairie, Alberta; through the prairies including Regina and Saskatoon, Saskatchewan and Brandon and Winnipeg, Manitoba; centrally to Toronto, Hamilton, Ottawa and Mississauga, Ontario; up north to Whitehorse, Yukon Territory and Yellowknife, Northwest Territories; and all the way east to St. John’s Newfoundland, and St. John, New Brunswick.

We can also ship across the entire United States for vehicles over 25 years old.

No. Radioactive vehicles are not permitted to be shipped and are always checked before shipping.

A special order is when you choose a specific car for a specific price, and either bid at auction for that amount (or sometimes winning it for less) or we find one at a source in Japan. Our fee is a modest $1,000 for brokering the sale.

The Japan stock is some inventory from partners in Japan that we have chosen and are ready to ship out in your name. The cleared customs price is already set and includes everything to get the vehicle to the Vancouver port, ready to pick up.

Japan is much smaller than Canada and urban areas very dense with well-used public transportation, both reducing the need for car use. Fuel, parking and traveling over many toll bridges have higher costs, discouraging frequent car travel.

Enthusiast vehicles sometimes have their odometers changed, but this is often noted on the auction sheet with an asterisk (*) or a dollar sign ($). It is common for cars with an automatic to manual swap to change clusters, or if they want to increase the displayed speed from the normal 180kph to one of about 300kph, as offered by tuning outfits like TRD, Nismo, etc.

Japanese people buy vehicles as a status symbol as much as for transportation. “Used things” are generally not valued as highly as we do in North America. With some of the largest automotive companies headquartered in Japan, there are also government incentives to buy new. When someone buys a car, it tends to be new.

There is also a strict vehicle inspection every two years called “Shaken”. It requires vehicles to be kept up visually, mechanically and pass emissions. Making sure the vehicle passes the test is expensive, leading to many used vehicles being auctioned, as a new car is cheaper than fixing the older vehicle. With low local demand, it has created a large export industry from Japan at a very low cost.

The main Japanese auction system has a reputation for being reliable and accurate. It is also accessible online, in many cases being able to browse for free. This leads to many people knowing about it, using it to sell, and knowing about it to buy, compared to other places to buy and sell used cars.

With our extensive experience importing Japanese vehicles, and our hundreds of satisfied clients, we can confidently say that there is little risk to purchasing your next JDM from Japan. We have developed a network of trusted contacts in Japan, and coupled with the auction sheet and second checks, the vehicle you buy is the one that will be delivered to your door.

Our contacts have been developed over many years, and can provide photos of cars at auction, can contact dealers and private sellers, and give us expert advice of each specific unit.

The standardized auction sheets are given to each vehicle consigned to an auction house and are a thorough examination of the car’s status. It includes an overall grade (for most used cars a 4 or 3.5 are good targets), and will display where there may be any blemishes, dents, scratches and rust. The inspector will also make notes of oil leaks, weird noises, or even some of the aftermarket parts that may be installed. These are all translated from Japanese to English for units our clients are interested in.

Once a bid is placed, we can apply for a second check by a third party. They can sometimes get extra pictures, can describe any issues in more detail, and can indicate if anything was missed on the auction sheet. If something unexpected was found we can cancel or adjust the bid accordingly.

Insurance coverage ranges from full, third party liability, comprehensive and collision only coverage. It is available across the country in some form to almost everyone, but depends on the vehicle, individual, location, and insurer. We strongly recommend contacting your insurance broker before making the decision to buy.

Parts availability depends on the vehicle. Some Japanese models have North American counterparts, with many body panels and other parts being available. Others from global manufacturers may have used the same engine and mechanical parts in many other vehicles, with parts ready over the counter.

These days there are established supply chains from tuning houses, to online auctions like eBay and Yahoo Auctions Japan and brokers that help search for small used parts or whole front-end cuts. We can often point you in the right direction.

Anything is possible and is more likely with a vehicle with a North American counterpart.

But it is not easy, and the economics of doing so make it unfeasible for most. If you are unsure of driving a right-hand drive vehicle, contact a local car club and see if any local enthusiasts will take you for a ride!

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