Importing Cars from Japan to NZ: What You Need to Know

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Posted on 23rd October 2023


Importing Cars from Japan to NZ: What You Need to Know

Whether you're looking for a bargain or something unique, importing a car from Japan to NZ is a great idea, and more and more Kiwis are doing it every year. However, navigating the Japanese automotive market can feel a little daunting. Here, we'll cover everything you should know about Japanese imports, from the grading system to how much it is to import a car from Japan to NZ.

Understanding Import Grading

When a used vehicle is auctioned to an overseas buyer, like a car dealer, it comes with a comprehensive auction sheet that meticulously details the vehicle's condition. This sheet offers valuable insights into the car's overall physical condition, both inside and out. Here's a breakdown of the grading system of Japanese imports you should be familiar with before importing a car to NZ:

  • Grades 7, 8, 9, or S: These grades represent vehicles that are essentially brand new, boasting only delivery mileage.
  • Grade 6: Vehicles in this category are similar to the higher grades but may have slightly more than just delivery mileage.
  • Grade 5: A Grade 5 car is nearly as good as new, characterised by its mint condition, low mileage, absence of physical faults, and the presence of all original body parts.
  • Grade 4.5: This category includes cars that have seen some use but remain in excellent condition. Any faults are usually insignificant and limited to a single panel, making these vehicles nearly flawless.
  • Grade 4: Grade 4 vehicles are in great condition, although they may exhibit dents and scratches from regular use. Typically, minor faults are present in more than one panel.
  • Grade 3.5: Vehicles with this grade have noticeable imperfections from regular wear and tear. They're categorised as average condition and may display visible dents and scratches.
  • Grade 3: Grade 3 vehicles feature dents and scratches in nearly every panel. They may exhibit signs of rust and wear on components, requiring significant paint, panel, and interior work.
  • Grade 2: Cars in this grade often have severe panel damage and extensive corrosion issues.
  • Grade 1: Grade 1 vehicles suffer from significant performance problems and are on the verge of becoming scrap.
  • Grade RA or A1: These cars have been involved in a minor accident but have been repaired satisfactorily.
  • Grade R or A: Vehicles in this category have a history of accidents, with some parts having been repaired or replaced. Focusing on grades four and above is advisable when considering a Japanese import. Always verify the grade with the seller before committing.

Service History and Previous Inspections

A thorough understanding of the vehicle's service history is imperative regardless of the grade. This history is instrumental in determining how well the car has been maintained and avoiding any unforeseen expenses related to performance or repair issues. To this end, always request written maintenance records when buying an imported Japanese vehicle. However, it's worth noting that used imports from Japan often lack a traceable service history, which is in contrast to new vehicles in New Zealand. This discrepancy can be attributed to the shorter ownership periods for vehicles in Japan. As a result, the need for consistent maintenance is not as pronounced. In cases where a traceable service history is unavailable, it is highly advisable to arrange a comprehensive mechanical inspection performed by a reputable mechanic or service centre. Such an inspection will help unearth any concealed problems and identify potential future maintenance requirements, ensuring your purchase remains a wise investment.

Import car from Japan to NZ - Cars in traffic at night

Service Manuals, Navigation Systems, and Japanese Radios

When importing a car from Japan to NZ, you'll likely receive a Japanese service manual, which can be inconvenient. Consider online translation services or Google Translate for assistance. Japanese navigation systems are often country-specific and challenging to reprogram for New Zealand. To overcome this, use smartphone maps or buy a portable GPS. Japanese car radios also have limited reception. Add a band expander to your car's aerial to expand your options. However, the frequency display may remain incorrect. For a hassle-free experience, replacing the Japanese car radio with a New Zealand-specific one is recommended to avoid interference with essential radio systems.

Be Mindful of Safety Requirements

When considering purchasing a vehicle, it's important to consider the safety requirements of the country it was originally manufactured for. For instance, the safety standards in Japan may differ from those in New Zealand, so you should compare the specifications of the vehicle you're interested in with its equivalent model sold new in New Zealand. A great example of this is the snow tyres that are common with Northern Japanese imports. These tyres aren't suitable for NZ's wet roads or temperatures above 7°C. Check for a snowflake symbol or "studless" on the tyre's side.

Find Your Dream Car Anywhere in the World with Cars2NZ

Importing a car from Japan to NZ can be incredibly rewarding if you can pull it off. If you have an eye on a vehicle overseas, Cars2NZ can help you get your dream car in your driveway quickly. Contact the team to inquire about our car transport services.


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