If you’ve noticed lately, the vanlife movement has really taken off. This is in part to the #vanlife hashtag on Instagram and other social media platforms that have brought this lifestyle so popular. Couple that with the current status of the world and more people are choosing to live and travel in vans full time. Whatever your reason may be, there is no doubt that getting into a van and seeing the world is a great decision.
So, you’ve got your mind set on vanlife but don’t know which one to choose. If you are reading this, chances are that you are a JDM fan, just like us. We are going to provide you with a detailed list that outlines their features in this article to hopefully make your decision that much easier. Keep in mind that this is only a list of the best vans to convert, but they are the only ones.
Personally, I took a Nissan Trade box truck and converted it myself over the course of 3 months. You can create a tiny house on wheels from pretty much any vehicle starting from a small station wagon and going all the way up to a 50 foot trailer; it all depends on your budget and what you are looking to do with your home.
Our Favorite Japanese Vans & Campers to Import to the US & Canada
Arguably the most popular JDM van when it comes to camper conversions is the one and only Mitsubishi Delica. The mighty Delica has been in production since 1963 and is still going strong to this day.
They came in several trim levels ranging from a bare bones model and going all the way up to features such as captain chairs in the back, window shades, added insulation, and even a “crystal lite” roof which offers you access to the night sky so you can stargaze!
What these little vans lack in size they make up for in accessibility. Delica’s were sold in FWD, RWD, and 4X4 configurations, but of course the most sought-after ones are 2nd and 3rd gen 4X4 versions. This is mainly because they are available for import and the internet has made them extremely popular with videos of them going virtually everywhere.
Thanks to their popularity, spare parts are easier to come by than other comparable models. That being said, they also don’t come cheap, but if you are into boondocking/off-grid camping, the Mitsubishi Delica should definitely be on your short list.
Here are some of the best examples currently available on JDMbuysell.com:
Toyota premiered the HiAce in 1967 and has been in production ever since. A total of 7 generations have been produced since its inception along with several trim levels and body styles. The Japanese automaker even made campers based on the HiAce platform.
The 4th generation (H100) is the one we will be focusing on for this article. It was on sale from 1989-2004 and came multiple engine choices in both gasoline and diesel variants. On top of that, a 4×4 and high-roof option was available, making it ideal for a camper conversion.
If you know anything about Toyota, its that they are famous for their reliability. If you are looking for something to give you many trouble-free miles and unlimited amount of memories, we suggest putting the HiAce on your list.
Here is are some of the Toyota HiAce’s currently available on JDMbuysell.com:
If you are looking for something compact that sips fuel and can be easily park anywhere, then look no further. The Subaru Sambar is classified as a Kei truck, meaning that it must meet the strict Kei car guidelines. They were in production 1961-2012 and are still produced to this day under the Daihatsu badge.
5th and 6th generation Sambar’s are the ones most used by vanlifers, so we will be focusing on those specific generations. Subaru offered the Sambar in either a rear engine 4WD or rear engine RWD configurations. Sadly, the 6th gen was only available in RWD configurations. One good thing about Kei cars is that they are very fuel-efficient thanks in part to their engine restrictions. For example, the 5th gen came with a small 1,200 c.c. engine that put our roughly 50 horsepower.
The bulk of the Sambar’s came in pickup truck configurations, but vans were offered as well. When we say this van is small, we really mean it. It is barely big enough to fit a full sheet of drywall inside. So, if you are a minimalist or have been backpacking and now want a bit more room, we suggest trying out the Sambar.
JDMbuysell.com has good selection of Sambar’s on sale, but most of them are in the pickup configuration.
In North America, we all know and love the Honda brand. But did you know that they made a great contender for the vanlife lineup? That’s right, from 1977-present Honda made this little Kei car in several configurations, out of which the pickup truck version was the most common.
In addition to the van, some Acty’s were sent out to certain factories to be outfitted as campers. You’d be surprised how roomy a high-roof Acty can be. And thanks to its smaller size, you won’t be spending an arm and a leg converting it.
If you are after something small and fuel efficient from one of the most prominent JDM auto manufacturers, you should look into a Honda Acty. Additionally, if you are lucky to find the “Street” version that came with a high roof, 4wd, and a 5-speed transmission, you should jump on it immediately.
As of this minute, here are some of the Honda Acty vehicles (truck, van, etc.) available:
If the name doesn’t cream out camper conversion, we don’t know what will. The mighty Nissan Caravan has been in production since 1973 and is still going strong today. It was offered in many engine variations over the years, in both gas and diesel configurations.
One thing that makes the Caravan a prime contender for vanlife is that it is quite a bit longer than the competition, adding up to more room. And when we talk about tiny living, every extra bit of room is highly coveted. In addition, they also cam in a high-roof version and with several body styles. This will come in handy as not everyone wants a van filled with windows. They tend loose a lot of heat and don’t provide much privacy. If you are planning to travel in colder climates, a panel van is ideal.
Although not many have been converted, a Nissan Caravan would be ideal for someone looking to get the most amount of space from a JDM van. When you couple that with an unbelievably reliable diesel engine, you have an adventure mobile that’s just waiting to make memories with you!
Here are a couple of examples currently up for sale at JDMbuysell.com:
Just like the other manufacturers, Mazda has created the Bongo in one trim or another since the mid-60’s. These minivans were built with front, mid, and rear engine configurations and available in a variety of engine choices. Moreover, there is a 4WD drive version that would make it ideal for anyone looking to go off the beaten path.
By the 5th generation, Mazda introduced a special edition Bongo called the “Friendee”. This was specially geared towards the outdoor enthusiasts as it came from a factory with a pop-top roof tent that sleeps two. What’s even better is that the bench seat in the back can also be folded flat for an extra sleeping space. The addition of the pop-top allows also makes the main cabin more spacious. Having separate sleeping quarters will give you so much more room to extend a kitchen, entertain, or whatever you choose to do with the additional real estate.
If you can manage to find a diesel pop-top Bongo, we suggest buying it right away as they are becoming more and more sought after every day. Even though this is an extended roof version, it will do nothing for head room as the extra space up there is take up by the bed.
Unlike the other competitors on this list, the Honda Stepwgn (that is actually how it is spelled) is fairly new. It made its debut in 1996 and its still going strong to this day. It may look like the Odyssey, but it is taller and seats more people.
This bump in space makes it ideal for van lifers that want to convert a Honda. Another thing that is unique about the Stepwgn is the engine position. Most of its competitors did a mid engine design, but that took up valuable room. We understand that a mid engine design is better for handling and weight distribution, however this is a minivan and not a supercar.
Honda thought about the adventurous crowd way back 1998 when they released a special trim level called the “Stepwgn Field Deck”. The Field Deck had a pop-up observation deck made from fiber-reinforced plastic. That may not sound like much, but being able to stand up in your home on wheels is something that few vans offer.
So, if you are a Honda enthusiast and want to get into van life but don’t want something as small as an Acty, then the Stepwgn is perfect for you. Below are a couple of examples currently available on JDMbuysell.com with the coveted pop-top feature.
Vanlife Northwest is a licensed dealer and importer proudly located in Portland, Oregon USA who specialize in the importation, customization, repair, service, and sale of Japanese 4wd vans.
So, there you have it, some of the best JDM vans for conversions. Everyone has a different reason for why they want to join the #vanlife movement, but one thing is for sure, there is no better way to travel than in a camper. The best part is that when building one from scratch, you get the freedom to choose your own lay out and have it fit your needs.
Before you start thinking about the layout, you have to get your blank canvas. In this case, that canvas is the van. We hope that the vans we showcased will help you decide which one is best for your needs. Just remember, there are no right or wrong choices. What is right for you, might not be right for someone else.
Personally, I have been living in a converted Nissan Trade for the last 6 months traveling around Europe and I am so glad I did it. Some people, including my family, thought I was nuts, but some people really got it. I have seen so much, been so many places, and got to visit countries I have always dreamed about. I highly recommend this to anyone that has been on the fence about getting a van and traveling the world.
Based out of Richmond, Virginia, JapaneseClassicsLLC has amassed over 367k followers. They claim to be the largest retailer of 100% federally legal Japanese domestic market vehicles. With over 1600 professional photos of their inventory and new cars being added daily, there is plenty of material to keep you glued to your screen.
With over 100k followers and nearly 1000 photos, TopRankImporters is one of the biggest JDM vehicle importer accounts on Instagram. They have any Japanese car you can think of, from a Mitsubishi Delica all the way to GTR’s. And with regular posts, you are sure to get your daily dose JDM vehicles.
Based in Canada, B-PRO has been importing cars from Japan since 2011 and currently lists 342 vehicles available for sale. Specializing in sports cars and vehicles for “Canadian winters”!
Yet another importer based out of Tampa, Florida, Montu Motors has just over 90k followers on Instagram. They focus mainly on Skyline’s. So, whether you are after pars or the whole car, they got you covered. Their catalog of over 2,600 photos are sure to keep you entertained for days on end.
This JDM importer page has just under 60k followers and is the number 1 importer dealer for imports in the UK. Their page is heavily influenced by Skylines, and with over 1,900 photos available for you to browse through, you’re sure to spend hours drooling over some of the most iconic Japanese cars. Head on over to @harlowjapautos to see all of their inventory.
This Michigan based company has over 18k followers on Instagram and their account features some of the best JDM cars on the internet. From SUV’s to sports cars, JDMsportclassics has a little bit of everything.
Boasting around 8,500 followers, Dragint is one of South Florida’s biggest JDM importers. They have been around for nearly 15 years and they build, race and, sell some of the finest cars that Japan has ever offered. With over 2000 photos, you won’t get bored of their page anytime soon.
Ottoex is based out of Portland, OR. and they focus more on vans, RV’s and speciality vehicles. At the time this article was written, they had just over 2,200 followers due to the fact that they are not the average JDM dealer. If you are the outdoorsy type, be sure to head over to their Instagram page and browse their amazing inventory.
As we all know, SUV’s are a favorite among North American drivers. It’s the preferred mode of transport for anyone from businessmen, outdoorsy people, and even soccer moms. Who doesn’t love a vehicle that will carry all your stuff and will give you that security on the road that no other vehicle can?
JDM manufacturers have been making SUV’s in one form or another since the beginning of the automobile itself and brands such as Toyota and Nissan have gained a great reputation for building some of the most reliable SUV’s in the whole world. Whether you want to do some serious off-roading or just go mall-hopping, our list of the top 10 SUV’s under 10k is sure to have a vehicle that will fit your style and needs.
The Land Cruiser has been the vehicle of choice for many military and police organizations around the world thanks to its unparalleled reliability. Additionally, off-road enthusiasts like them because they will go almost anywhere and will never leave them stranded. If it’s good enough for them, it’ll be good enough for you. The Landcruiser Prado is a slightly smaller version and is often still available with 7 seats.
Its compact size and outstanding four-wheel drive system have made the Samurai a favorite in the off-roading community. They are cheap to buy, easy to modify, and are exceptionally reliable. If you are looking to get into the sport, the Samurai is the perfect vehicle for you.
Nissan sold the Terrano under the Pathfinder name in North America, but as we all know Japan always gets the better options when it comes to models sold in both markets. So, if you want the iconic Nissan Terrano, we suggest getting it from its motherland, Japan.
Unlike its full-size brother, the Pajero Mini still retains many of the same qualities that has made it famous over the year, just in a smaller package. Another added benefit is that you can find them at much lower prices, just like the one we have listed here.
What can we say, the RAV-4 is a legendary SUV known for driving on the streets rather than off-road trails. It was meant to be an SUV for the city, and it did that very well. To this day, you will still see older RAV-4’s driving around thanks to Toyota’s great reliability record.
We’ve already mentioned its little brother, now its time to talk about the full-size version. Even though Mitsubishi never sold the Pajero in North America, it was a big hit in every country it was offered in. Its great 4×4 system and ability to take a punishment with little to no hesitation made it a favorite for use in countries where roads are “optional”. Here is your chance to own one of the most iconic SUV’s that we never got.
Arguably one of the most popular SUV’s of all time, the Toyota Hilux or 4Runner as it was known in North America had it all: a reliable engine, great four-wheel drive system, and enough space in the back for all your gear and pets. These SUV’s are well-known to easily reach 500k miles without missing a beat.
The Isuzu Mu was sold in the U.S. as the Isuzu Rodeo, but what we didn’t get was the mighty diesel engines. Here is your chance to own one with of the toughest and most capable SUV’s that can also return some impressive MPG numbers.
This SUV is well known all around the world due to its great off-roading ability. In America, it was known as the Suzuki Sidekick, meaning that replacement parts are quite easy to come by. There is also a lot of aftermarket support for this vehicle, making it a favorite for anyone that’s into the outdoor lifestyle.
This small and versatile SUV is ideal for someone who needs a capable vehicle yet doesn’t want to spend a fortune on it. Its compact size means it can literally almost go anywhere and their small engines won’t break the bank when it comes to fuel consumption.
So, there you have it, the top 10 SUV’s under 10k. Whether you are a hardcore off-road enthusiast or just an everyday person looking for a reliable 4WD vehicle, the list we have created has the right vehicle for you. And for under $10,000, you’ll still have enough money to put your own touch on it.
Minitrucks rejoice! This is Nissan’s version of the VW Caddy. Unlike the VW, this is a reliable workhorse that is just the right size for those who don’t have a lot to haul around. In addition, its classic looks and dual fender-mounted mirrors give it a style that’s unlike anything else on the road.
This mid-engine Kei truck is designed to do move anything you can throw in it while being good very good on gas. Its compact size makes it a favorite for contractors that have to drive around tight city streets. Furthermore, the fold-down bed sides add to its practicality.
If you are looking for something compact in size that can carry more than two people, than the Mazda Brawny is for you. This ex firetruck is a crew cab, dually truck that can carry your staff and their equipment.
As you know by now, Kei trucks are the preferred mode of transport for tradesmen in Japan. The reason for that is because they have small engines, are compact in size and can fit nearly anywhere. As people are becoming more and more aware of their existence in North America, we are sure to see an influx of them as we become more conscious of our carbon footprint.
The Mitsubishi Minicab can be used as a regular truck or a flatbed thanks to its fold down sides. This makes it possible to carry much larger objects in this tiny Kei truck. The cab-over design allows for a much more compact design when compared to regular trucks.
Ideal for people who live in snowy areas, the Acty is a Kei truck that has a very capable 4×4 system willing to go through just about anything. The added five-speed gearbox will give you ultimate control of the road.
Yet another 4WD Kei truck. This one is manufactured by Daihatsu and comes with a four-speed manual. The bed can be folded down for carrying unusually big items. Snow, sand, mud, etc., this truck will go through it all with ease!
Believe it or not, the Toyota Estima has all the requirements of a supercar. It is built on a mid-engine, RWD platform. However, that is where the similarities stop. What the Estima is known for is reliability and roominess, making its great at both of those things. This would make a great daily driver for anyone.
If you are looking for something that has great gas mileage, yet offers plenty of space, look no further. The LiteAce is a truly unique looking van coupled with an economical four-cylinder turbo diesel engine that will truly withstand the test of time.
Another offering from Nissan, the Caravan is a tall and long van that’s big enough someone who wants to go camping full-time in it or even for the buy tradesman. The economical four-cylinder engine is enough to get you up to speed comfortably while returning surprisingly good MPG numbers.
There is not two ways about it; you either love or hate the S Cargo. Its styling is like nothing else on the road and If you can get past that, you’ll come to realize that it is surprisingly roomy for its relative size. This is the ideal vehicle for someone who needs to zip around town all day long.
The ACTY is a small, Kei van that does everything a big van can. You may have to do a double take when you see one in real life due to its compact size. The 4WD version this van comes equipped with means that you can go over pretty much any terrain, making it ideal for a camper conversion for those who do not require a lot of space.
Yet another Kei van, the Subaru Sambar is a unique little van that can be spotted a mile away thanks to its old-school styling. If you are someone who wants great gas mileage and doesn’t need something big to carry your stuff, we suggest getting a Sambar.
This is quite possibly the most well-known JDM import van out there. It has been the choice adventure van for years and there is good reason for it. Its 4×4 system means that you can go anywhere on or off-road and the available V6 engine has plenty of punch. They come in several configurations to satisfy everyone’s tastes and budgets.
The Homy is a staple on the Japanese roads, but not many people know about its existence here in North America. It’s roomy, packed with tech and comes with a 3.0L V6 that drives the rear wheels. This versatile van can be used as a family hauler, work vehicle, and even be turned into a great camper for the more adventurous type.
If you are looking for a van that can fit in tight sports while still carrying all your tools, the Mitsubishi Minica is definitely for you. Being a Kei van means that it has amazing fuel economy, making it ideal for going from appointment to appointment all day long.
Slightly bigger than the Toyotla LiteAce, the accurately named Hiace is not only a bigger van, but it also comes with more high-tech features. This one, for example has a built-in cooler/heater that can even make ice! The four-cylinder engine will still return good MPG while lugging your stuff around.
This is the ultimate kid hauler complete with a custom air-ride system. The family-oriented van was also sold in North America, but the Japanese versions are much cooler. Your kids will be the talk of the school when they get dropped off in this van!
As we all know, lighter means faster. You could have 1000hp, but if you have a heavy car you’re not going anywhere. The Mazda Miata (known as the Mazda Roaster in Japan) has always been known as a car that’s unbelievably fun to drive even with its lack of power. We will be looking into cars that are a great alternative to the Miata. If you are someone of a bigger stature, this article may not be for you.
The Honda Beat was one of the only Kei cars to come from the iconic auto manufacturer. Like the Miata, it is small and compact, but unlike the Miata it is rear engine, making for an ever better driving experience. It is now also available for import to the U.S.
Yet another Kei car, the Suzuki Cappuccino was an instant success. From its compact size, nearly perfect 50/50 weight distribution and RWD, the Japanese people loved it from the moment it rolled off the assembly line. The best Part? You can now import one!
Of course we couldn’t leave out the mighty Autozam AZ-1. This was a collaboration between Mazda and Suzuki. Mazda provided the looks and Suzuki the Power. Even though it only produced 64hp from its 657cc turbocharged engine, the AZ-1 was and still is a blast to drive. As they are becoming of age to legally import in the United States, Be one of the first people in your car local community to have this iconic little car.
Since it’s inception, Porsche has been known for creating two-seater cars that were light, RWD and most importantly, fun to drive. The Boxster is credited for saving the auto manufacturer from bankruptcy in the 90’s. If you are looking for a German automobile that will give the Miata a run for its money, then the Boxster is for you.
The Bavarian automaker is well-known for adding a sporty feel to all of their cars, but the Z3 was their quintessential sport car, thanks to its low weight and RWD setup, especially the first and second generations. Just $3,500 can make you the proud owner of this little bundle of pure joy.
Audi Made the TT as a response for customers who wanted a compact car to really feel connected to the road in. It is approximately the same size as a Miata, but does come with Audi’s legendary Quattro AWD system. They start for just $3,500 on JDMBuySell.com and they are worth every penny.
Honda and Mazda have both made cars that are very similar to each other. Both are RWD. Both are two-seater convertibles. Both have a front-engine setup. Unfortunately for Mazda, the S2000 produced more power and most people recognize it as Honda’s ultimate sports car right after the NSX. As little as $12,000 can get you one of these iconic Japanese cars on JDMbuysell.com.
This was Toyota’s attempt to recapture the glory of the MR-2, and as we all know it was a good attempt, but it didn’t even come close the popularity that the mid-engine RWD car of the 80’s and 90’s. Unlike the MR-2, the MR-S can be had for as little as $2,700 right now on JDMBuySell.com. So, what are you waiting for?
Japan is known for making some of the best sports cars ever. From the Skyline GT-R to the Toyota Supra, they have produced some icons that will forever be immortalized as legends in the auto industry. We have curated a list of the top JDM exporters, based in Japan, who export the hottest JDM sports cars.
The team as Garage Defend prides themselves on being the leading Japanese GT-R importer. Not only are they a business, but they are also Skyline fanatics. They have accumulated countless satisfied customers since their inception in 1996, and if Skylines aren’t your thing, don’t worry, as they have other high performance JDM cars ready for you to browse over.
If you are looking for a strictly Japanese buying experience, this importer is for you. Even their website is in Japanese. However, that shouldn’t turn you off as they offer some of the best sports cars to ever come out of the land of the rising sun. From RX-7s to GTRs and even Chasers, the guys over at Garage R have it all.
JDM business has over 35 years of experience when it comes to importing your favorite Japanese sports or classic car. Their sole purpose is to help you find your dream car with the exact options you want. They also give the cars a full service before shipping them anywhere in the world for their customers.
The JDM scene in the US has exploded over the past 10 years thanks to popular movies such as “The Fast and The Furious”.
The barrier to entry to calling yourself a JDM importer is low, all you really need is a dealership license and a few JDM cars. As such, it’s not uncommon for JDM importers to appear and disappear over night.
This list is ordered by date of business establishment.
Another O.G. in the game of JDM importers. JDM Legends was created in 2008 by Eric Bizek and Trey Cobb, who is also coincidentally the owner of well-known tuning brand Cobb Tuning. Based out of Murray, UT., they mainly focus on importing older JDM classics from the 60’s and 70’s, but they do dabble in some newer cars as well. Moreover, JDM Legends have created some of the best and cleanest Japanese builds that the United States has ever seen. Check it out for yourself at jdmlegends.com
J-Spec Auto Sports Inc
Known mostly for premium JDM motors and parts, J-Spec Auto rides themselves for selling only premium quality parts. They have been in business since 2009, which tells us that they are doing something right. In addition to selling parts, they also sell their fair share of cars. Why don’t you show them some love by going over to jspecauto.com and maybe pick up something.
Duncan Imports & Customs
Duncan Imports specializes in hard-to-find JDM cars, mini trucks, classic, and muscle cars. Over the past 10 years they have made a name for themselves in Christiansburg, VA. and the country as the go-to place for Japanese cars. They pride themselves on having an inviting and friendly atmosphere which in-turn has given them any return customers. www.duncanimports.com is their website address and you should definitely check them out.
Toprank International Vehicle Importers
This Californian Import company has one of the best-looking websites we have ever seen! Additionally, they have a huge variety of JDM cars that confirms to everyone’s budget and taste. They have been around since 2011 and specialize in cars that pass California’s strict set of rules. Go on over to www.importavehicle.com and see for yourself why they have been the premier importer in their respective state.
Based in Rutsberg, VA., Driver Motorsports prides themselves on offering only the cleanest and most popular cars to ever come out of Japan. The fact that they have been around for over eight years should tell you that they’re doing something right. In addition, Driver Motorsports takes care of all the paperwork and shipping, making your purchase stress-free. Head on over to www.drivermotorsports.com and check out their amazing inventory.
This Oakland, Ca. JDM importer has been around since 2012 and are renowned for bringing some of the best cars that Japan has ever offered to northern California. They basically take the reigns when it comes to getting a JDM car imported. This includes taking care of the bidding and shipping, making it amazingly easy and stress-free for the customer. Head on over to WolfreignMotors.com and browse their impressive cars and parts they currently stock.
Founded in 2013, Japanese Classics is a full-service dealership that focuses on importing 100% legal JDM cars. They personally inspect every car for you in Japan before pulling the trigger. This close attention to detail has made them the go-to place for anyone in Richmond, VA. or even the whole country! You can get in contact with them via their website.
Their moto is: “Owning your dream has never been easier.” Based out of Tampa, Florida, Montu Motors has steadily made a name for themselves since 2014. They have been featured on many networks such as Road & Track, Car Throttle, ABC Action News, and so on. They specialize in uniting customers with iconic cars such as GT-R’s, Supra’s, ETC. Go ahead and check out their amazing inventory at montumotors.com.
RHC Specialties is based out of Kent, Washington. Although a fairly new business (2015), they have built a solid customer base thanks to their focus on importing the cleanest and best JDM and LHD European cars available. Being enthusiasts themselves, RHD Specialties knows what you want when it comes to finding the car of your dreams. Drop by their lot or visit them at rhdspecialties.com.
JDM Car and Motorcycle
In order to set themselves apart from the rest, JDM Car and Motorcycle specialize in odd Japanese vehicles along with scooters and bikes. From an Isuzu Rodeo camper to a Honda Motocompo, if it it’s weird, you’ll find it here. They are newcomers to the industry with only four years (2016) in the industry, but we are sure they will be around for a long time. Stop by their Seattle, WA. Location or visit their website and see for yourself.
JDM Auto Imports
Locate in Janesville, Wisconsin (a short drive from Chicago), JDM Auto Imports prides themselves in their streamlined buying process and impeccable customer service. After six years in business they have developed an amazing knack for having customers leave with a smile on their face every time they purchase a car though them. Go ahead, see for yourself what all the hype is all about at jdmautoimports.com.
Japan Direct Motors
Being Auto enthusiasts themselves, Japan Direct Motors knows what you look for when it comes to buying your JDM dream car. They have been operating in Irmo, SC. since 2015 and are known for importing cars in every condition. This means that there is a car for everyone’s budget. Whether you want a clean, ready to drive car or something that requires a bit of elbow grease, they have exactly what you are looking for. Their online inventory can be found at www.japandirectmotors.com.
Elusive Auto Company
Their claim to fame is importing JDM vehicles and hard-to-find USDM cars. They will go to any length and use any means necessary to get you into the driver’s seat of your dream car. As a relatively newcomer to the import industry (2017), Elusive Auto Company is slowly but surely building up their customer base while keeping prices as low as possible. If you happen to be in Pittsburgh, PA. make sure to stop by their showroom or even better, head on over to www.elusiveautoco.com and see what they have to offer.
This hot hatch is one of the flashiest ones on this list. And it has all the right to be so due to its 2.0L SR20DET turbocharged engine producing a healthy 227hp. The Nissan Pulsar GTI-R is what we call a “homologation special”, meaning that a certain number had to be made for the car to be eligible for the World Rally Championship, making it a very sought-after little car. Prices start at just $4,500 and go all the way up to $20,000 for an immaculate example.
Although not yet available for import to the US, this iconic car is still worth mentioning. The first model was introduced in 1997, so it will be available stateside very soon. Compared the regular Civic, the Type-R got a whole bunch of extra goodies, like a B16 engine producing 182hp, red Recaro seats, and a strategically welded chassis for increased ridgidity. Right now on JDMbuysell.com, the Type-R’s have an average price of $13,000.
Unlike most cars on this list, the Starlet Glanza V is not known that well, making it that much cheaper to acquire. It came with a modest 1.3L 4E-FE engine 84hp. This car was not about its performance, but rather about the smiles per gallon factor, and it sure delivered. With a staring price of just $4,600 on JDMbuysell.com, the Starlet makes a great hot hatch that’s attainable for almost anyone.
This pint-sized car was produced from ’82-’86 and it was the top-of-the-line trim for the Honda city. It was incredibly small, which is probably why it was such huge hit in the Japanese market. The addition of a turbo means that the 1.2L engine produced 99hp compared to the 67hp from the N/A engine. Here is a great example that costs just $7,500.
The Alto was a proper Kei car hot hatch. They are a blast to drive and if you are lucky enough to get the Works Turbo F version, you will benefit from a added turbo that produces 80hp. That might not sound lime much, but when you consider its light weight, you’ll realize just how quick it is. Their starting price is a reasonable $3,700, making it affordable for everyone.
This amazing Italian piece of engineering was built to celebrate the 1991 WRC, and that it did. It came with a 2.0L turbocharged fiat engine that made just over 200hp. Couple that with an amazing AWD system and you have yourself a proper rally car for the road. However, these cars don’t come cheap. Currently, the least expensive one on JDMbuysell.com starts at $58,000.
The late 80’s/early90’s was a strange time. This statement couldn’t be any truer when talking about the Nissan Pao. It had styling that resembled the 1960’s Mini’s and Citroen’s. That being said, this little car could return 79mpg from its tiny 1.0L engine. If you want something that’s great on gas, yet still turns a lot of heads, then the Pao is for you. There are currently 33 Nissan Pao’s on JDMbuysell.com that start from just $4,300.
Although the US can’t yet get the Renault Clio Sport V6, their Canadian neighbors can, so this one’s for you Canada. This legendary car was based on the Regular Clio, but that is about all it shared with the original version. Visually, it was wider, lower, etc. while mechanically it received a tuned 2.9L V6 that produced 247 stock. The Clip Sport V6 is definitely worthy of the “Hot Hatch” name. Here is a selection of the Clio Sport models currently available on JDMbuysell.com.
Everyone knows the Mini. Starting in 1959, this little iconic hot hatch is still in production to this day, granted it’s much bigger now. These can be had starting at just $4,600 which makes them for anyone looking for a small, yet fun car.
Once again, the Peugeot 206 RC is not available in the states just yet, but Canadians can get their hands on one today. There are currently two available at JDMbuysell.com and they start at just $6,900, which is a great price for a car that makes 175hp and weight next to nothing. Don’t miss your chance to own this amazing hot hatch.
Kei cars are synonymous with Japan. The
very first ones started popping up in the 1950’s after the war ended. It was a
way for automakers to get more customers. These tiny cars resulted in lower
prices and smaller road taxes for the Japanese people. Over the years, the Kei
car has developed quite a cult following and are now very sought after here in
We have curated a list of the Top 5 Kei cars that are now available for import.
The AZ-1 was Mazda’s answer to the tiny sports car movement in Japan in the early 90’s. This scaled-down version of a mid-engine, RWD car had all the DNA of a supercar, just on a smaller scale. It was fitted with a 660cc engine from Suzuki tht produced a whopping 66hp. This might not sound like much, but when you consider that it only weighed around 1,500 lbs, the AZ-1 could definitely hold its own.
They are becoming increasingly rarer as Autozam only made 5000 of them. People are drawn to its unique styling and compact size. The fact that they are now available for import is only going to drive the price up, so snag one up while you can.
Suzuki built this great little car between 1991-1998. Sticking within the Kei car rules, it came with a 657cc turbocharged, three-cylinder engine that made 63hp. Couple that with the perfect 50/50 weight distribution and you’ve got yourself a proper sports car.
The Cappuccino took cues from many
full-size vehicles of that era. As you can probably tell, it looked a lot like
the Mazda Miata. In addition, the folding roof could be taken apart to reveal
either a T-top or Targa-top, just like Porsches of that time period. It was
this striking design that kept it in production longer than its competitors.
Grab one while you can, as the Cappuccino is slowly becoming a future collectible.
Of course, Honda couldn’t be left our from this list. They produced their own version of the pint-sized car. Produced from 1991-1996, the Beat featured a 656cc inline-three engine which pumped our 63hp at an amazing 8100 rpm.
It wasn’t particularly fast, but it was sure to put a smile on your face every time you drove it. And now that its over 25-years old, it is available for import Stateside. Get your hands on one while you can, because Honda fan boys will be grabbing these quickly.
This retro-inspired Kei car was produced by Nissan for only one year back in 1991. There was a total of just over 20,000 built, so finding one shouldn’t be that difficult.
It featured a 987cc turbocharged engine from the Nissan March and it produced a respectable 76hp. The Figaro is definitely an acquired taste, but if you want something that looks old, is half the size, and has technology from the 90’s, then this car is for you!
This little workhorse was in production
from the 60’s all the way up to 2014. It came in several different configurations:
from trucks, to vans, and all the way to motorhomes, just in a smaller size.
The seventh generation can be currently imported to the States. Engines range from a 547cc inline-three and go all the way up to 1.3L inline four-cylinder. They are still popular in Japan to this day thanks to its compact size and you’ll see many in the truck or van configuration. So, if you’re looking for a small workhorse for your small business, or a compact expedition vehicle, then the Daihatsu Hijet is for you.
Chances are that you will never see one of
these in person, let alone have the chance to purchase one as there were only
three of them ever built. Look close enough and you’ll see a resemblance to the
famous Ferrari F-40. That’s right, this little 600cc, 55hp Kei car took a lot
of stilling cures from the famous Italian automaker.
We know that this mini Ferrari F-40 is basically a prototype, but we had to put it on the list due to the sheer wow factor it has.
We hope that you enjoyed this collection of
the Top 5 Kei Cars. Be sure to have a look at our other articles currently out
Every year we get closer and closer to being able to import all the best 90’s JDM cars to the USA. With 2020 upon us, American’s can now import vehicles that were manufactured and first registered in 1995 as a result of the 25 year import rule.
It’s important to note that the import rule is very particular on the month of first registration of the individual vehicle. A JDM car manufactured in January 1995 but first registered in March 1995 cannot enter US soil until March 2020. Importing a vehicle early could result in the vehicle being shipped back (at your expense) or worse, seized and destroyed. Please check with your JDM importer to ensure you’re covered.
Finally, the second-generation GT-R is available in the US this year. This iconic car has been every JDM enthusiast’s wet dream at some point or another, and 2020 is the time to get your hands on one. We are willing to bet that prices are going to be quite high, so start saving for one now!
We all know the NSX to be Honda’s answer to the supercar. What you might not know is that the NSX was also offered in a super-rare, Type-R trim as well. Only 500 of these cars were ever built and they had over 250 lbs weight savings with a shorter final gear. These cars are sure to have a six-figure starting price, so start saving up now.
Yet another model that was offered later in North America. The Integra Type-R was first unveiled n Japan in 1995 with a five-speed manual transmission only and a B18C engine that produced nearly 200hp at 8000 RPM. This is a car that Honda fanboys will definitely have on their list.
Although the EK was available in the States, there is nothing that gets you more “scene points” than a genuine JDM Civic EK. Plus, Japan always got cars with additional goodies when compared to their counterparts in North America.
This has to be one of the coolest little 4×4 to ever. Its looks just like a regular Pajero, but smaller. The 660cc engine enabled this pint-size SUV to be in put in the Kei car category. They were also available in N/A or turbocharged versions as well, making them a blast to drive.
This third generation EVO was only produced for two years in Japan. The power was increased by nearly 20hp over the previous model and was only offered with a five-speed manual transmission only. Add that to the famous AWD system and you have yourself a proper rally car for the road.
What the Crown Victoria was to the States, the Toyota crown was to Japan. This was the automaker’s answer to the big, full-size sedan. The 10th generation Crown can be had with the famous 2JZ engine, making it a true sleeper.
Another addition to the SUV segment is the Nissan Rasheen. This would be the result if you crossed a Volvo and Jeep Cherokee and then shrunk it down. Nissan also equipped the Rasheen with AWD and several engine choices. Be one of the first people to have this cool little vehicle in 2020.
Although not as popular as the Supra, the GT-Four was a great car in its own right. It was a great alternative to the STI’s and EVO’s of the day, as it came with an amazing AWD system. The price should also be considerably less than the Supra and makes for a great Toyota rally car, so it’s a win-win.
To finish off the list, we have decided to include yet another Kei car. Daihatsu made the Move from 1995 on. It was a big hit in japan thanks to its small dimensions and 658cc engine that classified it as a Kei car, meaning that Japanese consumers would pay smaller annual taxes. If you want something that’s completely unique and like small vehicles, then the Daihatsu Move is the one for you.
The Skyline GT-R has always been the pinnacle of Nissan’s engineering and therefore demanded a high price. However, in the last decade the price has skyrocketed way beyond the normal man’s price range. Therefore, we’ve created a list of the top 10 cheap GT-R alternatives that anyone can get their hands on right now.
This is yet another forgotten car from the 90’s. Back then, Prelude’s were everywhere, which is why you can get a second or third generation Prelude for substantially less than what a GT-R cost. Granted, the Prelude will have nowhere the performance that Godzilla has, but the top-of-the-line SIR V-Tec JDM Prelude makes a respectable 217hp, making it great fun to drive on city streets.
We had to include a rotary engine car on this list. The RX-8 was Mazda’s attempt to try and capture the same popularity the RX-7 had with the RX-8. Sadly however, that never happened. Poor sales, horrible gas mileage, and unreliable engines made for low demand. That being said, you can still find good examples starting at around $6,000 that you have a lot of fun with.
This is a great alternative for those who want a fast and fun vehicle that doesn’t cost a fortune. Fortunately, the S14 Silvia provides a great driving experience at a fraction of the price. Plenty of them were made and prices start at just under $5,000.
Bred to be a race-winning rally car, the Celica GT-Four is starting to rise in price thanks to its AWD system and 3S-GTE engine that produces 242hp. Prices start in the low teens, making it a bargain compared to the GT-R.
The WRX STI is truly a lot of car for the money. Starting around the $5,500 mark, you get the famous Subaru AWD system combined with a four-cylinder turbo boxer engine that, if modified properly, can give the GT-R a run for its money.
Another Nissan that can compete with, well, the Nissan Skyline GT-R is the Fairlady Z, just at a much lower price. Granted, it was never offered with AWD, but it did come with an optional twin-turbo V6. Prices have steadily gone up in the last few years for the 300ZX, so if you’re in the market for one, we suggest buying one before they get out of reach.
This two-door Toyota is vastly underrated. It came with the same 2JZ engine found in the Supra, but in a much more comfortable package. These cars can be had with a starting of just over $5,000, so they make for a great GT-R alternative.
Just one trim level under the famous GT-R, the GTS-25T came with the turbocharged RB25DET that made 247 hp from the factory. In addition, this Skyline can be had at a fraction of what a genuine GT-R costs.
Another great alternative for the GT-R is this Mitsubishi 3000 GT, or GTO as it’s known in Japan. Like the Skyline, the 3000 GT is also part of the AWD, turbo club and it can be found at a much lower starting price.
The Nissan Stagea is often referred to as the “Skyline wagon” and for good reason. It has all the Skyline’s mechanical parts over a wagon body, and if you can get your hands on the RS-Four Stagea, you will get the very same RB26DETT engine found in “Godzilla”. Prices are also substantially lower than an actual GT-R.
A lot of JDM cars appear to be increasing in value (and cost) these days due to surging demand for Japanese classics. However, many deals are still available to be had and some JDM cars for sale right now are downright cheap!
Here is a list of our favorite cheap JDM cars available for sale right now.
1994 Nissan Skyline ENR33
The ENR33 is an AWD R33 Skyline coupe with a RB25DE (non-turbo) 6 cyl. engine.
1994 was a great year for Japanese car manufacturing. Below you find examples that were produced in 1994 making them legal to import to the USA in 2019. Keep in mind, the manufacturing / production date is only an indicator of vehicle admissibility. For legal importation to the US, under the 25 year rule, the vehicle must have been first registered 25 years ago — to the month of initial registration. Check with your JDM importer / exporter to confirm.
Click on a model to view examples currently available for import.
Everything you need to know about how to import a car from Japan.
Buying any used vehicle has risk. When importing a vehicle that is on the other side of the world those risks are magnified. The more you understand about the JDM importing process, and the legalities within your specific country, the further you can reduce those risk.
In this article, we will discuss the entire import procedure from start to finish.
Before planning to import your dream vehicle into Canada,
it’s important for you to take into account the import rules and regulations.
It is also important to know what concerned departments are there which
regulate vehicle imports in Canada. Currently, there are two departments: CBSA
(Canadian Border Service Agency) and TC (Transport Canada) which are
administering and enforcing import regulations and other domestic laws. CFIA
(Canadian Food Inspection Agency) is another department which requires your
vehicle to be properly washed and free from any soil, sand, dust, pests and/or
plant residue before entering Canadian borders. This rule applies to all used
vehicles regardless of their export region.
Canadian Car Import Regulations
There are different import regulations for vehicles imported
from the United States to Canada and vehicles imported from other countries
such as Japan. It is not allowed in Canada to import vehicles that are not
compliant with the standards set by the Motor Vehicle Safety Act. However, you
can import vehicles from any country other than the United States if your
vehicle meets certain requirements that are set by Transport Canada and the
Canada Border Service Agency. The following conditions must be met for
importing a vehicle into Canada.
The vehicle is 15 years old or older with respect to its manufacturing month and year. The vehicle is regulated and is not categorized as a bus.
If the vehicle is a bus then the manufacturing year must be before 1971.
If the vehicle is originally owned in Canada, and complies with Canadian Standards and also is a returning vehicle with Canadian specifications, then the importer can seek pre-authorization from Transport Canada.
If the vehicle complies with Canadian Standards and was purchased new from a manufacturer’s foreign buyer program, then the importer can seek pre-authorization from Transport Canada.
If the vehicle was purchased new as part of a United States specification foreign delivery program and meets all United States federal motor vehicle safety standards.
Now that we have an understanding about Canadian import
regulations and conditions which should be met in order to import a vehicle
into Canada, let us move on to the process of importing vehicles from Japan to
How to Import a Car from Japan to USA
The import regulations for importing vehicles in any country
are governed and implemented by a couple of concerned departments. The
concerned departments in Canada which are in charge of regulating vehicle
imports are CBSA (Canadian Border Service Agency), TC (Transport Canada), and
CFIA (Canadian Food Inspection Agency). Similarly, in the United States, there
are some departments which provide regulations for importing vehicles from
other countries such as Japan.
The departments responsible for regulating imports in the US
are CBP (Customs and Border Protection), DOT (Department of Transportation),
and EPA (Environment Protection Agency). The vehicles which are in compliance
with the standards set by these departments: CBP, DOT, and EPA in the United States
are allowed to be imported into the country. Similarly, the vehicles which
comply with CBSA, TC, and CFIA standards are eligible to be imported into
Canada. Let us have a look at some important regulatory focal points related to
imports rules of both countries.
The United States import regulations require your vehicle to be at least 25 years old or 21 years in some cases.
The documents required for importing into the US include CBP clearance certificate, bill of lading, bill of sale, and foreign registration. These documents must be accompanied with the HS-7 form which declares the vehicle to be compliant with EPA and DOT standards.
Vehicles entering USA borders are subject to a test by the US agriculture department , which requires your vehicle to be properly washed. It ensures that no bacteria, soil, sand, or plant material is carried with the vehicle.
The vehicles imported into the US are subject to a duty of 2.5% for Auto, 25% for Trucks, and 2.4% for motorbikes. Duty depends on price and many Canadian vehicles are duty-free in the United States.
How Much Does it Cost to Import a Car from Japan to USA?
Regardless of whether you’re importing a vehicle to US or Canada the process is nearly identical. Japanese cars are famous for their low mileage, unique models and unique engine configurations. That is the reason why many people import cars from Japan.
1) Select a JDM Importer (Optional)
The vehicle importing process (optionally) starts with the selection of a JDM car importer that is trustworthy. For a small fee ($500-1500) a JDM importer can take care of a lot of headaches for you:
Ensuring the vehicle you desire is legal to import into your country
Interpreting and translating JDM auction sheets
Speaking with sellers in Japan
Arranging a pre-purchase inspection in Japan (sometimes)
Arranging additional pre or post pictures of your vehicle in Japan (sometimes)
Taking care of customs clearance paperwork on your behalf
Arranging the local delivery of your vehicle when it lands
JDM importers often provide clients with access to the Japanese auction house inventory and some importers can find private-sale vehicles which are not typically accessible to individual buyers.
You can opt to act as the JDM importer yourself if you’re willing to role up your sleeves. Even if you opt for the services of a JDM importer the more you know, the better your experience will be so keep reading.
2) Choosing the Vehicle
After the registration is complete, you can choose the car that you want to buy. The cars can be chosen from a wide range of stock. You can filter your search on the basis of price, model, make, mileage and — most importantly — year to ensure you’re important a vehicle that is permissible in your country.
While browsing vehicles for sale in Japan you’re generally only seeing the FOB or CIF pricing not the full picture as to how much the vehicle will cost by the time it’s registered in your name.
The vehicle importers offer two kinds of vehicle purchases:
auctioned vehicles and private sale vehicles. You need to decide which mode of
purchase is feasible for you according to your budget and other requirements.
The requirements for auctioned vehicles and private sale vehicles are
different. First, we will describe how auctions and private sales work and then
we will explain the complete procedure.
While buying a car from an auction, you need to consider certain things such as the requirements for taking part in auctions. You also need to take into account the pros and cons of buying a car from an auction. Your experience in bidding also affects your deal.
You can also buy your desired vehicle from an automotive dealer’s portal in a private sale. You can choose a vehicle from the stock, get its quotation and the invoice will be generated and sent to you via email. Unlike an auction, the private sale does not require any security deposit.
The shipment process begins after the settlement of
payments. Good auto dealers try to ship your vehicle on the earliest vessel,
and the bill of lading is issued one week after the departure of your vehicle.
The bill of lading is sent along with some other documents which are listed
Inspection Certificate from JAAI and JEVIC
JAAI stands for Japan Auto Appraisal Institute and JEVIC
stands for Japan Vehicle Inspection Association
5) Vehicle Port Clearance
The vehicles are delivered at the port as per the pre communicated schedule and it is necessary for customers to bring all the documents they have received from their auto dealer. In order to have a smooth and hassle-free clearance from the port, it is important to provide all the documents.
The auction process is based on seven steps or phases. We will discuss each step in detail so you could have an idea about how to buy a vehicle from an auction for importing.
1) Customer Registration
The first step in the process is to register or signup on
the dealer’s portal or website. The registration requires customer’s
information and the confirmation of registration is made through an email to
the customer. This registration is free of cost and allows the user to
effectively use all the functions of the portal or the website.
2) Security Deposit
The auction process is based on bidding and in order to
participate in the bidding, the customers must deposit a refundable amount of
security. If the customer’s bid isn’t successful, the security amount deposited
will be refunded to that customer. On the other hand, if the customer’s bid is
successful, the security amount will be adjusted in the invoice of the car.
3) Bidding Process
The bidding process is quite simple, the customers need to
set a bidding range on the portal or website. The car dealer’s agents will then
bid for the vehicle in the auction following the range set by the customer. In
case of unsuccessful bidding, the customer will not have to pay anything to the
4) Bidding Results
After the bidding process is complete, the results of the
auction are displayed on the web portal in order to notify the customers. These
results are also emailed to the customers on their provided email ids. In case
of a successful bid, the invoice containing the CIF (Cost of Insurance and
Freight) is provided to the customer along with the methods of payment.
If your bid results in success and you have the results
emailed to you, the payment should be made for the invoice generated and sent
by your car dealer. There are various methods for making payments which can be
decided with the auto dealer.
Buying JDM Cars Locally in Canada / USA
Buying a JDM car from an auto dealer in Canada or the US, who has already imported and complianced the vehicle, is hassle-free as compared to importing directly from Japan.
When you buy an imported car locally, you need not worry about the compliance and safety standards requirements because this will be taken care of by your car dealer who has imported this car from Japan. It’s easier to check the credibility of your local dealer than that of a dealer who is sitting overseas. You can save yourself from odometer tampering and other frauds which take place in the automotive industry. Buying from a local dealer is simple and is done in fewer steps as compared to importing a car after purchasing it from a Japanese auction. Let us have a look at the buying process below:
You inquire about your desired car through a call or an email. You will be required to identify your vehicle with a stock or reference number.
The dealer will have a look at the details of your request and check for that car in the stock list, whether it’s available for sale or not.
The dealer will give you an appointment for test-driving your desired vehicle. You can see all the inspection reports right there at the showroom and can also invite your trusted mechanic for further inspection.
If everything goes well, the dealer will arrange a bill of sale for you, and you’ll be required to arrange the finances to pay for it.
When you make the payment, the dealer will hand-over the car keys to you.
Buying a JDM Car listed as “In Transit”
Buying a vehicle listed in the dealer’s transit section means that you are going to purchase a vehicle which is still in the transit: on its way to Canada or the USA in our case. To simplify it further an ‘In Transit’ vehicle is the one which is due at a dealership but has not yet arrived. The dealer has ordered the vehicle may be from the factory or an exporter and it’s still on its way to Canadian / America ports. Buying an ‘In-transit’ vehicle is more or less the same as buying a Japanese car listed in dealer’s local JDM stock. The procedure for buying these vehicles is simple and smooth when you take care of all the necessary things such as buying steps, requirements, inspections, and documentation. The complete procedure for buying ‘In-transit’ vehicles is explained below:
You notify the dealer about the vehicle you would like to buy through an email or call and tell them its stock ID or reference number.
The dealer provides you with more information in the form of stock photos, inspection reports, and answers the questions about other specifications of the car.
You make the decision whether or not to buy this vehicle after having the specifications.
If you like the vehicle and have made the decision to buy it, the dealer will ask you for all the information and issue a bill of sale to you.
After being issued a bill of sale, you have to make the payment in approximately 10 days.
The dealer will notify you once the car arrives. You can now pick up the car directly from the port or pay extra cost for further shipment to your desired location in the USA / Canada.
This is the complete process for buying an ‘In-transit’ vehicle which is on its way to the US / Canada and is listed on a local dealer’s ‘In-transit’ stock portion. If you follow all the steps carefully, then buying a car from the dealer’s transit section should be an easy and smooth process.
Many JDM importers and exporters hold their own “Japan Stock” which you can purchase from. Additionally, there are used car dealers in Japan much the same as they exist in the USA / Canada. These Japan-based dealers purchase vehicles privately and from Japanese auction houses for their own inventory / dealer stock. Japan based car dealerships are unlikely to communicate in English. As such, you may need to work with an importer or exporter who can facilitate the purchase.
JDM importers, exporters and dealers are well versed in finding diamonds within the rough and, because they are buying the vehicle for their own stock, are incentivized to avoid “problem” cars that could have fraudulent auction ratings, odometer fraud or extensive repair histories. Because there is no limited timeline as found with Japanese auction house cars, you’ll have a lot more time to get into the details of the vehicle’s condition. Dozens of high quality images and past auction history are to be expected. Independent mechanical testing may even be possible. As such, buying from Japan stock is generally less risky than directly from auction. Here’s what the process looks like:
You go to the car dealer’s website and select your car from a wide range of stock listed over there and note down its reference number or id.
Request additional images (and video) from the Dealer to further validate it’s condition
Request it’s auction history and the last grading report if available.
If you decide to buy the car, you would be required to deposit a non-refundable amount of approximately $900 and fill out the details of your purchase in the stock agreement form.
The dealer then sends you a copy of wire transfer documents and you pay the remaining amount in the mutually agreed time period or at specified milestones.
Once the car arrives in North America, the dealer will notify you and you will now have two options: either to pick it up directly from the port or ask the dealer to ship the car to your desired destination in US / Canada for which you will have to bear the further shipping cost.
The last step in this process is to take your vehicle for safety tests, compliance and registration.
Shipping a Vehicle from Japan
Wondering how you should get your vehicle shipped to your
country? Let’s have a look at two of the most common shipping methods used
worldwide: Roll-on/Roll-off shipping and Container shipping. In the first
section, we’ll discuss how both methods work and then we’ll evaluate the pros
and cons of both shipping methods.
In RORO (Roll-on, Roll-off) shipping, as the term suggests,
your vehicle is rolled on into the vessel. This is done by driving the vehicle
on a ramp that takes it into a huge parking space allocated in the vessel known
as the cargo space or cargo deck. There will be a lot of other vehicles in this
deck and the workers tie your vehicle using safety leashes or straps just to
make sure that your vehicle doesn’t move as the ship sails. Your car keys are
often left in the ignition of your car when the ship is sailing. The cargo deck
is often massively loaded with a large number of vehicles including cars,
boats, yachts, trucks, motorbikes, tractors and many other vehicles. At the
time of arrival at the destined port, the dock workers will get inside your
vehicle and drive it on a ramp, rolling it off the vessel to your destined
Container shipping is another method for getting your
vehicle shipped to your destination. It is not like RORO shipping where the cars
are parked in a cargo deck, tied with leashes and straps. In contrast to RORO,
container shipping includes a separate, dedicated container for your car. These
containers have specific size dimensions, some of the most common sizes are 20
feet and 40 feet dry containers. There is no need to strap the vehicles in
containers. In container shipping, nobody drives your vehicle and the keys are
not left in the ignition. There’s no need to drive it on any ramps, because,
once it’s packed in the container – it will be lifted and loaded onto the
vessel by a gantry crane. When the container arrives at the destined port, a
gantry crane will offload it instead of dock workers driving it out on a ramp.
In order to decide which shipping option will be feasible
for you, it is important that you take into account the factors like shipping
cost, time, safety, convenience, and availability of the shipping option at
your destined port. Let’s draw a comparison between RORO shipping and container
Compare RORO vs Container Shipping
RORO shipping is not available in many countries, so it’s important to check its availability at your desired port before making any decisions. New vehicle manufacturers have priority with RORO so it’s not uncommon for grey market vehicles to have to wait weeks or months to get a place on the RORO ship.
Container shipping is available in many countries as it doesn’t require special ports to accommodate loading ramps.
RORO shipping, when
available, usually takes lesser time because the vehicles are simply driven
onto the cargo deck and tied down for safety. There should be some gasoline
left in your car, and it should be functional so it can be driven in and out of
requires more time as it requires the vehicles to be separately packed into the
containers and then loaded onto the vessel. There’s no need for any gasoline as
container shipping doesn’t require any driving during the process.
shipping is often considered as the most cost-effective solution for vehicle
transportation across different countries.
Container shipping is
generally more costly as it requires a separate, dedicated container for your
In RORO shipping, you
can not leave any personal belongings and other material in the car, because
the cars are open and there’s no safety of the material.
Container shipping is
slightly better in this regard because the cars are not left open in container
Ease vs Risk
Due to the ease in loading and unloading, RORO shipping is considered as more convenient as it allows you to be able to immediately drive your car, right after the long overseas journey. However, if the vehicle has been lowered via aftermarket lowering springs or has low ground effects / body kits then you’re at the mercy of multiple drivers who will be responsible for loading/unloading your vehicle off ramps as quickly (not as carefully) as possible.
The loading and unloading process is in Container shipping is not easy. It may require special tools and takes more time. However, if the vehicle you’re importing is highly modified or not running at all then you can take your time to carefully evaluate it’s condition prior to attempting to start the vehicle.
The conclusion of the whole comparison is that Container
shipping is costly, but it offers more safety and security for your vehicle.
Your car stays packed in a container and not driven by anybody. Unlike RORO
shipping, Container shipping is available in many countries. RORO shipping is
good when you’re looking for a cost-effective solution, have little time, and
want your car to be immediately driveable at the time of arrival. It’s
absolutely for you to decide which shipping method you want to use. Container
shipping is costly, takes more time, and offers more security. On the other hand,
RORO shipping is cost-effective, takes less time, and allows you to drive your
This was the complete 7-step vehicle import procedure for importing your dream car into the USA or Canada from Japan.
All you need to do is a little homework, read this guide properly and follow through all the steps, and you would be able to complete the entire import process on your own.
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Canada Import Regulations . (2019). Retrieved from Japanese Car Trade:
How to Buy.
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Importing a Vehicle. (2018, 08 23). Retrieved from Government of Canada: https://www.tc.gc.ca/en/services/road/importing-vehicle/countries-other-united-states.html
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Shippers. Retrieved from International Moving:
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cars to USA. Retrieved from USA Customs Clearance:
Zulfiqar. (2017, 12 04). How to Import Japanese
Used Cars to Canada. Retrieved from Zulfiqar.co.jp:
At the best of times, buying a used car from someone down the street can be a daunting endeavor. But at least you can inspect the car you’re hoping to purchase and you can look the seller in the eyes before doing so.
So what happens when you find a used car originating overseas
– in this case, Japan – and it just happens to fit your wish list almost
Despite what you’ve seen and heard (and maybe experienced)
about Japanese consumer markets, such as their work ethic, top quality
manufacturing and commitment to product perfection, you still need to do your
due diligence when buying a JDM car.
Sure, Japanese cars of all makes and models are well-known to be efficient, durable and value-retaining products. But before you decide to jump into the vast waters of JDM car buying, make sure you take to heart the following myths – and memorize their corresponding truths:
Myth 1: JDM auction sheets are free of omissions and errors.
You wouldn’t buy a used car in Canada simply based on the
seller’s listing. So why would you assume it’s any more reliable or detailed
from a used car auction house on the other side of the world? In fact, JDM
sellers often omit minor details, like engine rust or minor body dents, because
it’s considered part of the car’s aging process. They’ll assume you understand
Myth 2: JDM cars with lower mileage are better buys.
When buying a used car in Canada, it’s common practice for
the buyer to look for cars with low mileage; this is usually coupled with the
car’s year of manufacture. Obviously, in North America, the lower the mileage
of a used car, the less wear and tear it’s sustained from being driven. With
JDM cars, this isn’t necessarily the case.
Consider this: Any vehicle purchased and imported to Canada from a country other than the United States must be a minimum of 15 years old from the month/year of manufacture. If you’ve found a JDM car listed with unusually low mileage, remembering it’s at least 15 years old, you can either continue your inquiry into this vehicle (with caution) including a bumper-to-bumper assessment – low mileage JDM cars have been known to surface now and then – or you might want to keep looking. As the expression goes, if it’s too good to be true, it’s probably because of the next myth.
Myth 3: Odometer tampering in Japan never happens!
The unfortunate truth is that approximately 80% of JDM cars have incorrect odometer readings. By law, Japanese cars must be registered every two years. If you’re going to buy a car from Japan, you’re better off investing a little more to find out what you’re really buying.
In a 15-year-old car, there’s likely a paper trail of registrations, allowing you to verify the (approximate) true mileage. Even if a reputable Japanese seller provides documentation for a car that looks like it just rolled off the line, do your own due diligence on it. As in the previous myth, a bumper-to-bumper report or inspection, ideally through a reputable third-party service, is one way to verify what you’re getting. Check out JEVIC as a good starting point.
This is as good a time as any to get into the next myth about
Myth 4: Severely accident-damaged cars are never exported from Japan.
In Canada, before buying a used car, it’s pretty simple to obtain that car’s history. For less than $100, a service like CARFAX Canada can generate a report detailing a used car’s accident and damage history, any unrepaired recall information, money owed on the car (liens), and others to help you make an informed purchase.
It’s not so simple if you hope to buy something from Japan.
You may be surprised to know that many of these severely-damaged cars, which
would be considered unsaleable in Canada or the United States, are minimally
refurbished by auction houses and sold as mechanically stable and generally
safe to drive. It’s even noted as such in their supposedly forthright auction
sheets. In reality, they’re rolling deathtraps on tires!
As in the previous myth, you should definitely invest in a
service or hire an expert in JDM sales to verify everything about the car you
have in your sights.
Myth 5: All JDM sellers grade their car inventories on a standard regulated
As in the Canadian used car market, JDM car grading systems
vary from auction to auction. Do your research, or hire someone to help you
with that. Never take a seller’s rating at face value. Where engine corrosion
might lower the rating in one house, it may be completely ignored by others who
are less than truthful about the condition of their inventory.
Google might be your best resource when researching a used
JDM car, but having someone physically inspect on your behalf is the safest
route to a sound purchase.
Myth 6: JDM cars are religiously and properly maintained.
As a cultural phenomenon, the same could be said for auction
houses that are trying to offload their inventory. They’ll do the bare minimum
esthetically to make sure the car looks good online, but under the hood is a
whole different nightmare. This is truly “buyer beware”.
sufficiently nervous about buying a JDM car? Don’t be. It can be a viable
option if you’ve still got your eyes on that well-priced, fully-loaded, HG45 LandCruiser.
Being vigilant about details and resourceful in finding the right help to get
you those details can make all the difference when buying a used car from a
foreign market like Japan.
How can you protect yourself when buying a car in Japan, sight unseen?
Look no further than JEVIC. By verifying the mileage on cars after it leaves the auction house and before you purchase it, JEVIC makes sure you know the real distance the car has covered on the road preventing you from being overcharged for an underwhelming vehicle.
What is JEVIC?
Japan Export Vehicle Inspection
(JEVIC) is a reputable Japanese organization which inspects the car’s condition
before it is exported offshore.
Why Should You Trust JEVIC?
That’s a valid question given the
fact that you weren’t even aware of JEVIC’s name five minutes ago. Fortunately,
though, JEVIC is a brand which is trusted by worldwide governments. Hence the
reason why most countries have conditions binding their car importers to
receive a JEVIC certificate before importing any vehicle from Japan. That means
you can afford to trust this company.
How JEVIC Works?
There are two options available to you through JEVIC:
#1: Checking the National database
inspection: From records
While a JDM import’s history won’t be visible within a Carfax report in Canada or the USA it is available from the country of origin. Every country has a database where it stores data regarding the cars running on its roads and Japan is no exception.
In fact, the standards for vehicle inspection in Japan (aka “Shaken“) is much more robust than in North America. This database is updated every time a car undergoes its mandatory inspection.
Hence the reason why JEVIC turns to this option. Since it knows that while the car seller might fool you, he/she cannot fool the system. They check the national database to compare the mileage logged there against what the car is showing.
#2: National database + Physical Inspection
inspection: From records + physical inspection
To really reduce your risk, this option includes an inspector from JEVIC who will visit your premises to check the car’s condition. With their company-defined standards, they check your car’s odometer and other relevant parts to gauge the veracity of its mileage.
They also perform an inspection which gives you additional information to decide whether or not the car’s condition warrants it’s price.
Although the JEVIC method is undoubtedly the best, there are other ways to assess whether a car’s given mileage is accurate. For instance, a worn out steering wheel, battered gear knob, and shabby brake pedal are indicators that the car has seen long-term use. That said, if you want a clear picture, nothing beats JEVIC.