Car Auctions in Japan: An Overview for Car Importers

Car importers know that car auctions in Japan are a great place to find low mileage, high quality used cars at good prices. My aim in this article is to help you understand these car auctions in Japan better so that you can make a good, informed decision about whether to buy from them or not, and how the whole process works.junkyards near me

Why consider buying from Japanese car auctions?

This is a good place to start. After all, right now where you sit reading this article is probably many thousands of miles away from Japan. So why would you want to import cars from a country so far away?

There are two excellent reasons to consider buying cars from used car auctions in Japan.

First of all, the selection is immense and you can view all these cars remotely online. Auto auctions outside Japan may typically have a few hundred used vehicles, but only the tiniest auction in Japan would have such a pitiful selection.

In terms of individual auction locations, we are usually talking about over 1,000 cars per location, and sometimes over 10,000 cars (in the case of USS Tokyo) all in one place and being auctioned there weekly. Put all these individual car auctions together on the Internet, and over 30,000 on a single day is really not at all unusual.

So there is a huge breadth of choice. But that is not all. There is also a great depth of quality. The fact is that Japanese people just do not drive as much as people in other countries. An excellent public transport system and high levels of neighborhood walkability, in addition to the simple fact that urban driving speeds in Japan are incredibly low, all works together to keep people from using their cars very much.

Then on top of this the Japanese are fastidious in caring for their vehicles and yet it does not take long before the car they have seems old to them and they want a new one.

So, cars that are low mileage and well maintained are a dime a dozen. But the ironic thing is that the Japanese themselves are really not into secondhand items, so they don’t really want these used cars for themselves.

You can see where this is going: The car auctions in Japan have a great selection of great condition, low kilometer cars, but the Japanese people are really not that interested in buying them, so prices are relatively low and there is all the more opportunity for buyers from outside Japan to compete.

Car auction groups and locations in Japan

In Japan individual auctions are rare. They are usually part of a larger auction group. Here are just some of the more prominent groups:

  • USS
  • TAA (Toyota)
  • Honda
  • JU
  • JAA
  • CAA

USS Tokyo is the largest single used car auction location in Japan. This car auction runs once a week on Thursdays, and at peak season can have up to 20,000 vehicles all being auctioned on one day.

One auction group that does not have multiple auction locations (called kaijo in Japanese) is Aucnet, who hold their auctions on Mondays. Their model is a little different in that they do not have a physical auction house where all the cars are gathered.

Instead, they send out inspectors to car dealers who then keep their cars on their lots until they are sold. Since these dealers are still hoping to sell to a regular consumer at retail price, their reserve price at auction is often a little high compared with what a similar car might fetch at a regular auction.

How can you access the car auctions in Japan?

So far, so good. But wait a minute: How on earth are you going to be able to get a car from some used car auction way over there in Japan? You don’t know anyone there. You don’t speak Japanese. Even if you could buy the car, how would you ship it?

You need a Japanese car exporter to help you with this one.

Car exporters in Japan are set up to handle the process of bidding at the Japanese car auctions, transporting the car from the auction to the port, doing the paperwork and shipping the car over to you.

There are many car exporters shipping used vehicles from Japan, so this then begs the question of how you find yourself a good one. After all, we are not talking about trivial sums of money here, so it is vital you find one who is going to do a good job for you.

Here are some things to look for:

  • How many auctions can you buy from, and can you access them all from one place online?
  • Can you deal with a native English speaker who is also fluent in Japanese? (Nothing is more stressful than trying to overcome language barriers.)
  • Does this exporter offer professional translations of the car auction inspector’s reports and help you really understand the condition of the cars in the auction?
  • Does the exporter in Japan have good communication skills, keeping you in the loop about what is happening with your vehicles so you don’t worry?
  • Does the exporter work hard to ensure your cars get to you from the car auction in Japan as quickly as possible?

Who will bid for you at these car auctions in Japan?