How to tell the condition of a Japanese used car

By: Keith Taynton

When considering buying and exporting a Japanese used car you need to understand the condition of the car when it comes up for auction. As you probably wont be at the auction hall to inspect the car, you need to rely on your dealers description and the auction house inspection sheet.

The inspection sheets can be relied upon as they are made by the auction houses which means that their reputation is on the line. Trade dealers will quickly stop buying from auctions which provide innacurate information.

In general, Japanese used cars are virtually all low mileage and the mileage can be relied on. It would actually be pretty hard to find a car in Japan that had done 12000 miles per year and its rare to find a car with more than 60,000 km (37,500 miles) on the clock.

Heavy traffic, thousands of traffic lights and Japanese drivers' careful driving habits make fast driving impractical so most cars have almost certainly never been driven hard, and owners generally keep their cars very clean and well serviced as the car safety test is very strict.

This however means that there is a lot of wear and tear associated with heavily idled cars, so be sure to ask about things like cylinders, spark plugs and the exhaust system.

In general Japanese drivers are very careful of their cars and keep both the interior and engine in good condition. Therefore cars put up for auction in Japan are not only a good deal but also in very good condition.

Used car auction inspection sheets

If a car is damaged either mechanically or cosmetically then the details are marked on an auction inspection sheet. These are usually pretty honest apprasials of the car's condition as the reputation of the auctioneer, not the seller, is at risk.

If you are unsure about any aspect of the car you are buying you can ask the dealer to see the inspection sheet to see for yourself.

The inspections are graded on a number scale with 6 being top and

Exterior

6 or higher: Vehicle is as new. Usually only given to vehicles that have never been driven.

5: Vehicle is in near new condition. All origional body parts. No repair needed on vehicle. Usually only given to vehicles less than 3 years old. Body work in top condition.

4.5: Vehicle is in excellent condition. If it has had repair it was done very well. Very few slight scratches or dents. Nothing major at all.

4: Vehicle in overall good condition, few scratches and dents due to normal wear and tear as you would get with any normal vehicle.

3.5: Vehicle has a few scratches or dents visable to the eye. One or 2 panels on vehicle may have been replaced but has been done to an acceptable standard. The grade is usually given to a vehicle in average condition.

3: Various scratches or dents, some paint blemishes.

RA: Vehicle has been in MINOR accident. It has been repaired to an acceptable standard.

1: An auction grade 1 vehicle does NOT always mean it is a bad vehicle. Under the following circumstances it is given this grade:

Notes:
1) Vehicle has been modified with performance upgrades such as aftermarket turbo.
2) Auto transmission converted to manual transmission. See auction sheet text translation for confirmation of this.
3) Flood damage. See auction sheet text translation for confirmation of this.

******* SPECIAL SECTION ********

A, 0 or R: A is a vehicle which has been in an accident where some parts have been repaired or replaced.

****: Accident damaged vehicle however has not been repaired. Vehicle may have engine problems.
Interior

A: Immaculate condition

B: Very good condition, very little dirt.

C: Slightly dirty, will need to be cleaned to bring up to a good standard.

D: Dirty vehicle, some wear on interior. Cleaning needed. May be stains.

In general, check the auction sheet carefully, you can get translations done from the Japanese, but each inspection sheet comes with a diagram so you can use that to look for problems.

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