Buying cars from Japan: The Process

Table of Contents

Key Takeaways

StepKey Takeaway
1. Selecting the VehicleFind the perfect Japanese vehicle online and check its details and total cost.
2. Ordering the VehicleRequest a free invoice, verify details, and reserve your chosen car.
3. Payment ProcessComplete the payment using a reliable transfer method like Bank Telegraphic Transfer or PayPal.
4. Shipping ArrangementsAfter payment, shipping arrangements begin and tracking is available online.
5. Collecting the VehicleOnce the vehicle arrives, arrange collection and registration in your country.


Importing a car from Japan has become increasingly popular due to the unique selection of vehicles available, often at more competitive prices than locally available alternatives. Whether you’re a car enthusiast seeking a rare model or simply looking for a cost-effective vehicle option, this guide will provide you with all the necessary steps and considerations for importing a car from Japan to the UK.

Why Import from Japan?


  • Cost Efficiency: Often cheaper than UK equivalents, even after shipping.
  • Unique Models: Access to rare or exotic models not found in the UK.
  • Higher Specifications: Cars with superior or custom specs compared to UK versions.
  • Bypassing Waiting Lists: For sought-after models with UK waiting lists.


  • Specifications Differences: Modifications may be needed to meet UK standards.
  • Additional Costs: Taxes, customs duties, and possibly higher insurance premiums.
  • Complex Process: Involves paperwork and can be time-consuming.

Step 1: Select Your Vehicle

The journey begins with selecting the right vehicle. With the internet at your fingertips, it’s easier than ever to find a Japanese car that suits your needs and budget. Websites like Car From Japan provide a comprehensive database of Japanese used cars, complete with detailed information and photos. Ensure to use the quote function for an accurate total cost estimate, including shipping to your country.

Step 2: Get a Free Invoice and Order the Vehicle

Once you have chosen your car, request an invoice from the dealer. Websites like JDM Auction Watch make this process straightforward, offering invoices via email within an hour. This step is crucial to lock in your purchase and prevent the vehicle from being sold to someone else.

Step 3: Complete the Payment

The next step is to complete the payment. Most dealers, as detailed on sites like, accept Bank Telegraphic Transfer and PayPal. It’s essential to send a copy of the payment proof to the dealer for confirmation.

Step 4: Your Vehicle is Shipped

After payment, the shipping process begins. You can track the shipment status through the dealer’s website. Important documents, including the shipping certificate, will be sent to you or your agent by courier.

Step 5: Collect Your Vehicle

Upon the vehicle’s arrival, you’ll need to arrange for its collection and registration. A clearing agent can assist with these procedures, including fee and tax calculations.

Shipping Warranties and Inspection Certificates

Consider choosing between Extended and Basic Shipping Warranties for added protection during transit, as recommended by Customs Complete. Additionally, opt for an Inspection Certificate to ensure the vehicle’s condition, covering essential check-points like engine, transmission, and exteriors.

This concludes the first part of the article. In the next generation, I will continue with the steps and additional considerations for importing cars from Japan to the UK.

Understanding the UK Importation Process

Can You Import and Register a Car from Japan to the UK?

Yes, it’s entirely feasible to import a car from Japan to the UK. However, it’s essential to be aware of certain rules and regulations. As outlined on Lease Fetcher, the vehicle must meet the UK’s environmental and safety standards. You’ll need to apply for Individual Vehicle Approval (IVA) from the DVLA, with certain exemptions for vehicles manufactured over 10 years ago.

How to Import a Car from Japan to the UK

  1. Find a Vehicle and Make the Purchase: Visit dealerships, car auctions, or private sellers in Japan if possible. For UK-based buyers, it’s advisable to find a trustworthy person in Japan to inspect the vehicle before purchase.
  2. Look for a Car Shipping Specialist: Choose a reliable shipping agency that specializes in international vehicle shipping and provides upfront fee details.
  3. Get the Paperwork Sorted for the Car: Ensure you have all necessary documents for customs clearance in the UK and vehicle registration.
  4. Register Your Imported Vehicle with DVLA: Notify HMRC within 14 days of the car’s arrival in the UK and register the vehicle with the DVLA, providing all required documents.
  5. Prepare Your Vehicle for UK Roads: Make necessary adjustments to ensure your vehicle passes the IVA and is ready for the UK roads.

Some of the most popular Japanese imports in the UK include the Toyota Prius, Subaru Impreza STi, Nissan Skyline GT-R, and Honda NSX. These models are known for their high performance, distinctive design, and reliability, making them a favorite among car enthusiasts in the UK.

Shipping Options and Preparations

When it comes to shipping your car from Japan to the UK, there are several options:

  • Roll-on/Roll-off (RoRo): A cost-effective method for operational vehicles.
  • Shared Container Service: Suitable for non-functioning cars, though it may take longer as the container must be filled before shipping.
  • Full Container Load: Offers a dedicated container for your vehicle, allowing for quicker shipping.

Before your vehicle is shipped, take detailed photos to document its condition. This will be crucial for any insurance claims for damages incurred during transit.

Paperwork for Importing a Vehicle

The paperwork involved in importing a car from Japan is extensive. You’ll need an import declaration, proof of ownership, shipping note, bill of lading, vehicle registration certificate, and proof of IVA. Websites like Customs Complete can provide guidance on these requirements.

Registering Your Imported Vehicle

After your vehicle clears UK customs, inform HMRC within 14 days and pay any due VAT or duties. Then, register the car with the DVLA, providing the necessary documents. It can take up to six weeks to receive your V5C registration certificate.

Preparing Your Vehicle for UK Roads

Ensure that your imported vehicle is ready for UK roads. This includes obtaining a UK number plate, insurance, and paying Vehicle Excise Duty. Modifications might be needed for some Japanese cars to pass the IVA.

Costs to Consider

Importing a car from Japan involves various costs, such as shipping agency fees, import duty, VAT, and DVSA inspection fees for IVA. These costs can vary, but you should budget accordingly to avoid surprises.

Additional Considerations and Final Thoughts

One of the more challenging aspects of importing a car from Japan is dealing with customs and import duties. It’s crucial to understand that these costs can significantly affect the overall expense of importing a vehicle. As per the Lease Fetcher guide, import duty and VAT are major considerations, with import duty typically being around 10% and VAT at 20%. The exact amount will depend on the car’s value and other factors.

Ensuring Compliance with UK Standards

Ensuring that your imported car complies with UK standards is a critical step. This may involve modifications to meet safety and environmental regulations. The Individual Vehicle Approval (IVA) process is an essential part of this, and you may need to budget for additional costs if modifications are required.

Understanding the Total Cost of Ownership

When importing a car from Japan, it’s important to consider the total cost of ownership, not just the purchase and shipping costs. This includes ongoing expenses such as maintenance, repairs, and insurance, which can be higher for imported vehicles, especially for rarer models. Websites like Customs Complete can provide valuable insights into these ongoing costs.

Choosing the Right Insurance

Insurance for imported vehicles can be more expensive than for domestic cars. It’s advisable to shop around and find an insurer that specializes in imported vehicles. This can help ensure that you get the best possible coverage at a competitive rate.

Long-Term Maintenance and Servicing

Maintenance and servicing of Japanese imports can be more challenging, especially for rare or older models. It’s essential to consider the availability of parts and the expertise required for servicing these vehicles. Establishing a relationship with a specialist mechanic or service center familiar with Japanese imports can be a wise decision.

The Joy of Owning a Japanese Import

Despite the challenges, owning a Japanese import can be incredibly rewarding. These vehicles often come with unique features, superior build quality, and a level of exclusivity that can’t be found in domestic models. For car enthusiasts, the joy of driving a rare or high-performance Japanese import is often worth the extra effort and expense involved in the importation process.

Final Tips and Resources

Before embarking on the journey of importing a car from Japan, it’s advisable to thoroughly research and plan the process. Utilize online resources, connect with other car enthusiasts who have gone through the process, and consider consulting with import specialists or agencies. The more informed you are, the smoother the process will be.

Remember to visit sites like JDMAuctionWatch for detailed guidance on selecting and purchasing Japanese cars, and Car From Japan for a wide selection of vehicles and comprehensive buying assistance.


Importing a car from Japan can be a complex but rewarding experience. By understanding the steps involved, preparing for the associated costs and paperwork, and ensuring compliance with UK standards, you can successfully navigate the process. Whether you’re seeking a unique daily driver or a rare collector’s item, the world of Japanese imports offers an exciting array of options for car enthusiasts in the UK.

Summary and Closing Thoughts

Recap of Key Steps in Importing a Car from Japan to the UK

  1. Vehicle Selection: Research and select a vehicle that fits your needs and budget.
  2. Ordering and Invoice: Request a free invoice and secure your chosen vehicle.
  3. Payment: Complete the payment using a secure method and provide proof to the seller.
  4. Shipping Arrangements: Track the shipping process and prepare for the arrival of your vehicle.
  5. Vehicle Collection: Arrange for collection, registration, and any necessary modifications in the UK.

Addressing Potential Challenges

Importing a car from Japan involves navigating through various challenges, including customs, import duties, compliance with UK standards, and the overall cost of ownership. It is essential to approach these challenges with thorough research and planning. Consulting with experts and utilizing resources like Customs Complete can provide invaluable assistance.

Embracing the Benefits

Despite these challenges, the benefits of owning a Japanese import are numerous. From enjoying unique models with high specifications to experiencing the thrill of driving a rare or high-performance vehicle, the rewards can be substantial. The joy and satisfaction of owning a piece of Japan’s rich automotive heritage can make the entire process worthwhile.

Final Tips for a Smooth Process

  • Research Extensively: Use resources like JDMAuctionWatch and Car From Japan to understand the process fully.
  • Plan Financially: Budget for not only the purchase and shipping costs but also for long-term maintenance, insurance, and potential modifications.
  • Consult Experts: Don’t hesitate to seek advice from specialists in Japanese car imports and fellow enthusiasts who have undergone the process.

The Future of Japanese Car Imports

The trend of importing cars from Japan is likely to continue growing, driven by the increasing global appreciation for Japanese automotive engineering and design. As the world becomes more interconnected, accessing and importing vehicles from international markets like Japan will become more streamlined.

Closing Thoughts

The journey of importing a car from Japan to the UK is an adventure filled with learning, challenges, and, ultimately, the joy of ownership. It offers a unique opportunity to connect with a different automotive culture and to own a vehicle that stands out for its quality, performance, and rarity. With careful planning, thorough research, and a passion for Japanese cars, this journey can lead to an incredibly fulfilling experience.

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