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Everything you need to know about buying a Japanese import

Almost 60% of all vehicle registrations in New Zealand each year are used Japanese imports, according to Driven. These cars are popular for a reason – Japanese roads have very stringent, rapidly changing safety requirements so drivers sell their cars frequently, often at heavily reduced prices.

This means imports are often great cars, in near-new condition and sometimes they’re even hundreds or thousands of dollars cheaper than used cars from NZ. With that said, just like with any car, you should still be careful when buying a Japanese import.

Here’s everything you need to know to make sure you choose a goody.

Import grading

When a used car is sold at auction to an overseas buyer in Japan, it comes with an auction sheet that details the condition of the car and all other important information. This will usually include vehicle grading which describes the general condition of the car using a number from 5 to 1. If you buy a Japanese import, it’s always best that you find out its import grade before committing as this will tell you a lot about the vehicle.

Here’s a quick guide to auction grades, according to Car Web:

  • Grade 5: Showroom condition, all original body parts, low mileage.
  • Grade 4.5: Excellent condition. Maybe some small marks.
  • Grade 4: Good condition, some scratches, and dents from normal use.
  • Grade 3.5: Average condition with scratches and dents visible
  • Grade 3: Scratches and dents, worn components, chance of rust.
  • Grade 2: Badly corroded, damaged or modified.
  • Grade 1: Not far away from being scrap, or heavily modified.
  • Grade RA or A1: Has been in a minor accident. Repaired to a good standard.
  • Grade R or A: Has been in an accident and had some parts repaired or replaced.

These grades are assigned by experts who know their stuff so you can be fairly confident if you’re buying a car that’s grade 4 or above.


Japanese imports can be great value if you buy well.

Service history and inspections

Regardless of what grade a Japanese import has, it’s still a good idea to look for a car with a good service history and get it inspected. A complete service history will give you even more peace of mind knowing that the car’s been taken care of, as well as improving its resale value if you ever end up selling.

A mechanical inspection is another great way to ensure you’re buying a goody. Just have a reputable local mechanic look over the car before you buy and they’ll be able to tell you of any problems it’s got and any maintenance that may be required in the near future. That way you’ll go into your purchase with full knowledge of what you’re buying.


Japanese imports are often cheaper than NZ new cars.

Tips and tricks for choosing a goody

  • With Japanese imports, one thing to look out for is snow tyres – according to the AA these often aren’t suitable for NZ conditions and mightn’t be as safe as regular tires. Look out for a snowflake symbol on the sidewall of the tyre to identify these.
  • If you’re buying an older import, you should also take a close look at the odometer reading. If its suspiciously low, you should either avoid the vehicle or ask the seller to verify the number for you. Look out for an AA sticker verifying the mileage to be sure.
  • Make sure you fully understand all the features and specifications of the car. Some Japanese imports have different tech, engines, trim and design features than NZ models.
  • If possible go for a popular make and model. When you need to repair the car the more popular it is, the easier and cheaper buying new parts will be.

Japanese imports can be great cars, and they’re often sold at a bargain price. Take a little care when you buy and you’ll end up with a vehicle that keeps on going forever.

If you’re ready to start your search drop into your nearest Nicholson Auto dealership and check out our huge range of high quality Japanese imported cars.


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