IMPORTING A VEHICLE FROM JAPAN

The 25 year exemption excitement is in full effect. The early production BNR32 Skyline GT-R, among many others, are now legal for import into the US. There are plenty of importers popping up across the country, some more reliable than others, but what if you want to source a car directly from Japan or get one that you’ve already purchased imported into the US?

The process of exporting a car from Japan and importing it into the US can be a complicated and potentially financially devastating if not handled correctly. That’s where we come in. We specialize in importing vehicles from Japan under the 25 year safety and emissions exemptions. No matter where you are in the process we can help get it done. Whether you are still in the searching stage or you’ve bought one and it’s already in the water our goal as a bonded imported is to get that car in your driveway as pain-free as possible. Since 2013 we have imported over 100 vehicles under the 25 year exemptions for both businesses and individuals and can say without hesitation we are experts in the process.

Below is an overview of services we provide along with associated costs. Please note, that costs are not set in stone and can fluctuate due to a variety of factors including transport costs. In addition, while we do have our own inventory of vehicles they are exclusively offered to a small network of dealers in the US. We only offer sourcing and importing services directly to individuals. For more information please email us at sales@gtr-garage.com. 

VEHICLE SOURCING

For customers beginning their search for a car there are a handful of sources we recommend. Each has advantages and disadvantages and we have utilized them all ourselves on multiple occasions. Finding the right car can take days or months. It all depends on what you're looking for, how much you want to spend and how much patience you have.

Dealer Auctions

There are a number of major auction houses throughout Japan that are open to dealers only, with USS being the largest. While we have direct access to these auctions, we prefer to direct our customers to Nikkyo Cars (www.nikkyocars.com) because of their convenient online auctions search tools, English speaking stuff, quick translations and efficient logistics. Nikkyo handles the entire export process for vehicles purchased through them including shipment booking. GTR-Garage would only need to handle the actual import. Payment for the vehicle, export and shipping would be paid to Nikkyo, not us.

While there is plenty of selection available through the auction houses there has been major price inflation on 25 year old vehicles (especially the GT-R) because of the influx of US buyers. We highly recommend only considering cars that are graded at 3.5 or 4 unless you are looking for a project. There are still good deals to be had, but it requires some patience these days.

Car Dealers

Dealers in Japan can be a great source for cars and using sites like Goo-Net or Car Sensor it’s fairly easy to search through their inventories. However, most dealers have no English speaking staff and do not make export arrangements. In most cases we would need to make the purchase for you (broker). Our service fee is $500 and a $2,000 refundable deposit is required to start the purchase arrangements.

Yahoo Auctions

In most cases the cars you find on Yahoo Auctions are being offered by individual owners, so the eBay comparison is apt. There are some great deals to be had, but there can also be hidden issues. It takes a practiced eye to determine which cars should be stayed away from. We only offer export and import for cars on Yahoo Auctions if we do the actual bidding to avoid any confusion or complications for the sellers. Our service fee is $500 and a $2,000 refundable deposit is required to place a bid on a vehicle. Below are some useful links for searching the vehicles section on Yahoo Auctions.

EXPORT SERVICE

Whether you’ve purchased a vehicle yourself or we have helped source one, we can handle the export process. It can be a complicated, with a mountain of paperwork, but we do it on a regular basis and it has become old hat. Our service fee for export is $750 plus any transport costs associated with moving the vehicle to our holding area at port in Kobe.

Please note that we can only export vehicles that we de-register. If you already have a vehicle in Japan that has been de-registered by another company we cannot export it. In addition, our storage area at port in Kobe is limited on space and only vehicles that are being booked for shipping can be staged there. Vehicles that need to be stored short or long term must be transported to our facility in Iwakuni and will incur a $100 per month storage fee.

Export Service Fee - $750 (plus transport)

SHIPPING SERVICE

We ship the majority of vehicles on specialized large vehicle transport vessels that hold thousands of cars. These are referred to as Ro/Ro vessels as cars are literally driven on and then off. This is the quickest transport method and quite safe as all the cars are secured within the ship to prevent accidents. 

 We ship exclusively out of Kobe to the following US ports: Tacoma, Long Beach, Galveston (Freeport), Brunswick, Savannah, Newport News, Baltimore, New York and Boston. Transit time to the west coast is 2 weeks and the east coast is 4-5 weeks. In general, there are two ships a month going to the major ports and one a month stopping at the smaller ports.

Please note that due to process requirements we can only ship vehicles that we have de-registered and handled the export for. Also, while we ship most cars Ro/Ro, we can also ship via container, but the costs are much higher.

Vehicle Shipping Cost - $1,000


IMPORT SERVICE

This is the part of the process where mistakes can have extremely dire results. Inexperienced importers or individuals have found themselves in situations where their vehicles have been forced to be shipped back to Japan or even taken and crushed. We have the import process down to a science and there is no issues we haven’t run into and know how to easily resolve.

Once a vehicle lands at port we being the clearance process with customs as well as filing the exemption forms and paying all necessary fees and duty. In general, the clearing process takes 5-7 days and once complete the car will be immediately available for pick-up from port.

Typically we receive all the final documentation from customs within a week of the car clearing. Once those documents are completed we overnight you a package with the following documents to make your trip to the DMV to register as easy as possible:

  • Japanese Title (Export De-Registration)
  • Notarized Title Translation
  • Notarized Bill of Sale
  • Purchase Invoice
  • Bill of Lading
  • Customs Release
  • NHTSA Form HS-7 (Safety Exemption)
  • EPA Form 3520-1 (Emissions Exemption) 

Import Service Fee - $950 + 2.5% Duty

 

DELIVERY SERVICE

Once we have completed an import you are free to travel to port and pick it up yourself. If this isn’t possible we can arrange transport from port to your home for an additional fee. We use Montway Transport and their rates are very reasonable and service is good. Cost depends upon distance, but you can expect to pay $300-$500 within the same state or to a neighboring state and up to $1,500 across country. Enclosed transports are available, which we highly recommend.

EXAMPLE PURCHASE

Here is a purchase break-down in costs you can use as an example to get an idea of what you would be looking at to bring in a car. This assumes you have used GTR-Garage to source a car from a dealer, export it and import it under the 25 year exemptions.

  • 1991 BNR32 Skyline GT-R - $15,500
  • Sourcing Fee - $500
  • In-Land Transport - $300
  • Export Fee - $750
  • Ocean Freight - $1,000
  • Customs Clearance - $950
  • Import Duty - $387
  • Total - $19,387

As a general rule of thumb you can expect to pay $4000 on top of the cost of the car to to get it imported into the US through a major port and ready for you to pick-up or for us to have it delivered to you.


Happy couple receiving their R32 Skyline from port in Tacoma, Washington

FURTHER INFORMATION

Insuring Your Car

Most major insurers now offer coverage for cars import under the 25 year exemptions. This includes Geico and State Farm. However, we highly recommend Hagerty as we use them for our own cars and they offer good rates, full coverage and specialize in insuring rare and modified vehicles. Quotes and the coverage process can be started conveniently on their website at www.hagerty.com.

Registering Your Car

The actual registration of the cars we help our customers bring in must be done in person at their local DMV. While we can assist and advise, we cannot register on your behalf. We provide all the paperwork you need to prove that it was properly imported under the 25 year safety and emissions exemptions. You simply bring those documents along with proof of insurance to your local DMV.

Some branches may be familiar with the process of registering these cars and some may not. We encourage you to visit your local DMV prior to purchasing a car to ensure that the paperwork we provide fulfills all their requirements for registration. If it does not we need to know in advance so we can arrange in additional paperwork if possible.
Some states have direct-import specific documentation that needs to be filled out and some will simply want to see the documents we provide you. We are happy to help provide any specific documents your DMV may need that we do not normally provide.

Replacement Parts

This is a big concern many buyers have. Where do I get parts? In many cases the majority of replacement parts you may need were also used on US models. For example, the Z32 300ZX uses the same front suspension components as the BNR32 Skyline GT-R. There are also plenty of sources online for parts like www.nissanparts.cc or epc-data.com. We can also assist in sourcing parts, both used and new.