My import process, part 1: buying a car

I’d decided I wanted a Stepwagon, and that I wanted to import itself myself rather than buying one already here. So first things first:

Research what I wanted

From looking at cars for sale in the UK and some info online and in Facebook groups (I’ll be collating more soon), I worked out what I wanted – an RG1 (2WD) model, in grey, dark blue, white, or silver, dark interior, ideally with both sliding doors, and a non-smoker’s car. I also wanted one that did not have the Internavi (built-in satnav) system because it would make it difficult to fit a UK stereo later on.

Find and appoint an agent

I came across Japautoagent from their YouTube channel which shows vehicles that have been purchased and are about to ship, showing the condition of the car. I spoke to Paul and he talked me through the process, and provided a spreadsheet of estimated costs, so I could see how various auction prices would affect the total I paid, and I could work backwards from my budget to see what I should bid up to at auction.

I got web access to the auction data so I could see what cars had sold for in recent weeks, and what cars were coming up in the next few days – it lets you see the auction sheet and a few basic photos of each car.

Pick a car to bid on

Either Paul or Sam (in Japan) would suggest cars, with a couple where I’d seen them on the auction system and asked them to look. They’d provide a translation of the sales and attention points on the auction sheet.

Unless there was something wrong with it, I’d get a few dozen photos and a phone call from Sam (usually late in the evening UK time!) to go through what he’d found.

If I wanted to bid, I’d give him an upper price in yen and he’d send me an email with the result a few hours later. We went through a few nice looking high-grade cars that went for way over my budget but after a couple of weeks found one that met all my criteria and we got it for 305,000 yen.

Pay for it

I got an invoice for the auction price in yen, plus a further 100,000 yen to cover the various fees. I then used TransferWise to pay Sam in yen from my UK bank account – all very straightforward.