After a lot of research into
models specification etc. and what features I actually want, and what the cost would be to
me to purchase a Toyota Estima, I've decided to buy one direct from Japan and do the
importation myself. I work for The Post Office, so the thought of a lot of paper work and
liasing with different authorities doesn't worry me.
I will be keeping a Diary
of Events so you can see how it progresses.
I contacted a number of
dealerships in the UK, Ireland and Japan (as listed on my Links
pages) and I believe that to maximise the benefits of buying a Japanese import, the best
way is to do it yourself.
I have estimated that I should save around £2000 or
more by purchasing one in this manner, I reckon UK dealerships make, well let me say a
"reasonable" profit on Japanese imports, and why shouldn't they?
After sending e-mail enquiries to several Japanese
dealers, and getting varying responses, one in particular stood out. Their reply was
prompt, giving excellent details on the service they provide and they have answered all my
queries in the same efficient manner. Obviously I felt dubious regarding sending hard
earned cash to Japan, but having obtained background on the company, I now feel confident
Their managing director, Mike Ainis is an American and
has supplied full and detailed answers to my queries, indeed has supplied more information
than I originally asked!
So I have decided to purchase through Angel Motors Japan (AMJ).
I will keep this brief, as I
feel a book could be written on it (now there's an idea!).
- I send requirements to AMJ, this is used to create a
- Once the purchase order details are agreed, half the
FOB is forwarded to AMJ (the FOB is the price of the car in Japan including inland
transport in Japan, all fees for Japanese customs and clearance, all other documentation
and dealer's fee) , which when received will enable them to start finding a suitable
- A suitable vehicle should be found between 2 - 4 weeks.
- Once the vehicle is found a Confirmation of Purchase
Notice is sent by AMJ together with a set of digital images, and then the final half of
the FOB is sent to AMJ.
- AMJ arrange for the vehicle to be shipped, which takes
around 4 - 5 weeks.
- Around 3 - 4 weeks later all relevant documentation is
sent by AMJ to me. This should be the point where AMJ's service ends.
- I liaise with relevant companies/authorities to arrange
- Payment of freight charges and maritime insurance
- Customs clearance, duty and VAT
- Legally required modifications to the vehicle and SVA
- Car insurance is arranged.
- I book a MOT and drive the vehicle to the test centre
- The vehicle is then registered with the DVLA, and new
plates fitted to the vehicle.
- Obtain road tax and arrange warranty on the vehicle (if
And that's all there is to it!
Diary of Events
||The day at last has
arrived, the tax disc arrived in the post this morning, we can now put our Estima on the
road! But if the transaction could be done so quickly yesterday, and put in the post, why
didn't Reading VRO do it over the counter? It would have saved themselves the cost of
postage and packing. Still I'm not really complaining, just happy we have the car on the
road for Christmas.
||Took all relevant
documentation to Reading VRO, unfortunately I was politely told that this is not an
"over the counter" transaction and that they would post the tax disc to me. Bit
disappointed as I had been told that sometimes Reading will do the transaction over the
counter. The guy said it can take around 5 - 10 working days - I hope not we need the
Estima on the road for Christmas!
Insurance Certificate with the correct VIN number on it, am planning to take all the
documentation to Reading VRO on Thursday.
||Was planning to get
the Estima registered today at Reading VRO, but the insurance certificate that arrived
today had the wrong VIN number on it, despite telling them twice on separate occasions
what the correct number was - most frustrating.
||Sailed through its
MoT with no problems. I noticed the rear wiper blade needed replacing and went to a motor
spares outlet a couple of units down from the garage. Pleased to find that the motor
spares outlet, Camberley Autofactors also specialise in providing parts for imported
Japanese cars. Finally got the car home, on my drive!
Southampton in the afternoon and planning to drive it 30 miles back home to leave it at
the garage for MoT testing the next day. No problems except they couldn't find my car in
their massive car park for a while, this lost us some valuable time. It became dark and we
were in the midst of one of the UK's now regular torrential downpours, I was starting to
doubt if we could make it back to the garage in time before they closed. Just a note if
ever you go to Southampton docks, in my case Eastern Docks Gate 4, you'll see literally
hundreds of Japanese cars in the holding yards down there.
Thoroughly enjoyed my drive,
although I nearly forgot to fill up with diesel! As expected it had next to no fuel in the
tank. Left the Estima with the garage, who locked it up overnight ready for it's MoT
||Found out at 11:30
that my Estima had undergone it's SVA test and failed!! A couple of minor adjustments to
the lights and most seriously, my nearly new tyres as supplied have to be replaced.
Nothing wrong with them except they do not bear a suitably acceptable 'E' standard mark.
Even though Michelin made them, they obviously don't mark them for the Japanese market as
is done in Europe. So, four new tyres required, although I do get to keep the Michelins,
so I'll have my next replacements readily available. Hopefully, the modifications/tyres
will be sorted out ready for me to collect the vehicle tomorrow afternoon.
||The little mishap
could work in my favour, as it appears they are pulling out all the stops to get it
through the SVA test. The preparation work is finished and it should be SVA tomorrow.
my insurance deal up, eventually! I had had a very good quote from Frizzell, and contacted
them to start the policy, only to be told that they will no longer provide cover for
imported Japanese vehicles. I frantically rang around again trying to arrange cover. I
eventually went with Bell Direct, but even they wanted £83 more than a quote I got from
them a couple of months ago.
||Phoned to see how
the SVA preparation was getting on, and was shocked to hear that they couldn't find my
car!! A detailed search ensued of the relevant car holding areas of Southampton docks. For
about an hour, I was wondering if I was ever going to see my car at all. I then received a
phone call, the car wasn't lost at all, and it just hadn't been moved to the SVA
preparation area due to a misunderstanding with the freight agent. It was all sorted out
in minutes, the car moved and they started preparation work on my Estima immediately.
||The vehicle completed
customs clearance today, and should be moved to the SVA preparation area of my agent for
work to commence on that, either today or tomorrow.
||My Estima arrived
yesterday, went to Southampton today to pay the freight and duty/VAT, which were almost to
the penny to my calculations (thankfully!).
||Got my number plates
made up ready. I'm able to do this as I'm transferring an already owned retained
registration mark. The plates look excellent, with the blue GB logo down the left hand
side, ready for our trip to raid the hypermarkets of France! Also I only ordered them
yesterday, that's what I call service!
also been in contact with the agents in Southampton, they HUAL Tribute is expected in on
the 23rd now all being well, and I now believe that I should be able to pick it up by
Friday 8th December. This is providing there is no unforeseen problems with
shipping/freight, customs/duty or preparation for and the SVA test.
||Delivered all the
necessary documentation to the agents in Southampton by hand.
||Received all the
relevant documentation today from Japan, i.e.:
- Bill of Lading
- De-Registration Document (Masho) in Japanese
- De-Registration Document (English translation)
- Customs Invoice
- Marine Insurance documents
I will be delivering these to the agent in
Southampton hopefully on Tuesday.
The vessel (HUAL
Tribute) is currently expected on 22nd November, having set sail from Kawasaki on
||The transporter ship
should have set sail today, with my vehicle on it. It's current eta. is 20th November. If
everything goes to plan, I should have it on the road around about a week after that.
||Mike of AMJ took the
last digital photos in Japan before it passes customs, and is loaded early next week (see My Estima page).
The vehicle is serviced and ready for use (SVA and MOT permitting) once it arrives. The
next time I expect to hear from AMJ will be once they have all the export documentation
ready to send.
||Received 3 more
photos from AMJ, it's starting to sink in that we've finally got what we wanted. The
photos also show a little of the workshop where the Estima was serviced.
AMJ confirmed that they have received the balance of our
payment, and added that we should receive all relevant documentation about the 3rd week of
the month after the vessel has sailed.
06:30 alarm went off - I got up. 06:42, received phone call from Japan, it's Mike of AMJ,
he's at his local Toyota auction, he's seen another possible Estima for me. A very high
spec. Emina, just as I want or near enough. I at first thought "here we go again!,
another car that fits the bill, it's bound to go above our maximum bid." Yet there
was something in Mike's voice that gave me a bit more hope, I had a gut feeling this might
be the one. Mike said he would contact me later with the result.
This would prove good timing as someone rear ended my
other car with my wife driving the previous evening at a roundabout, and drove off.
Fortunately there were witnesses and my kids weren't hurt, although my wife is suffering
from whiplash. We won't be able to get the car repaired until we get our Estima on
the road, as we need to have at least one car for us both to get to work. I hope the
police catch up with the miscreant, and give her a hard time. By the way she was using her
mobile phone at the time - I hope none of you do!
I arrive at work, expecting to hear bad news
sometime in the afternoon, along the lines of "Sorry Paul, but it went for a million
plus." At about 12:15 my phone rang, I thought someone else who wants me to attend a
meeting at short notice (I'd already attended two in the morning). But no it was Mike
"Good news Paul, we got it........"
At long last, I now knew that I'd have an Estima to ferry the family around in instead of
the trusty Vauxhall Cavalier. Apparently, the vehicle didn't sell during the normal
auction phase, but Mike went to the back, "haggled" and won!
Mike later e-mailed the Confirmation
of Purchase Notice, but no digital photos as it was already too dark to take any in Japan.
They would be with me tomorrow.
Friday, just after lunch, I received the
digital photos (see the My Estima page) and it really
started to click that we'd got almost exactly what we originally specified - well worth
the wait, if it's as good in "the flesh" as it looks in the photos.
It should be shipped from Japan on October
18th arriving Southampton on November 20th
We also arranged for the balance of funds to
be transferred to AMJ via telegraphic transfer.
||AMJ found three
suitable models last week that were perfect in year & specs with ABS as well, but due
to the fact that the mileage was very low, one was 59,000 km (36,500 miles) and sold for
990,000 (click here to see the detail), and two were 49,000 km (30,300 miles)
which sold for just over 1,000,000 yen, which were outside my proposed budget. However,
given the pounds recovery against the Yen and my reworking of cost calculations (I made a
bit of a boob here) I've decide to increase the maximum I'll pay. AMJ have again proved
extremely flexible in my change of spec. requirements and what I'll pay - "The
Customer is King!"
patiently. AMJ found EXACTLY what I was looking for last week, but the bidding went too
high, indeed the car wasn't even sold, maybe the seller was just asking too high a reserve
price. AMJ have been in regular contact, and I've widen the range of spec. that I'll
accept to hopefully find a suitable vehicle soon.
||Received my weekly
update from AMJ, still no luck in finding a model that meets all of my spec. requirements.
Will I ever get one! Maybe this week, I guess this sort of thing is not for the
fainthearted. I know I could of had a vehicle a least a couple of weeks ago if my
spec. wasn't so strict. Still I appreciate being kept in the picture fully by AMJ.
||AMJ sent me a
written update. Basically the J-Top roof I would like is difficult to get on a 1995 model.
AMJ checked with Toyota Japan who confirmed this and said that the J-Top was more
prevalent on 1993/4 models. I have agreed that whilst still a desirable feature for me, I
will settle on a vehicle without it. The auctions are now back in full swing, so maybe a
suitable vehicle will be found soon.
||AMJ telephoned me
over the weekend, to discuss, requirements, timescales etc., and I'm hopeful now of them
buying me an Estima that meets my specifications by the first week or so in September.
||The search for my
Estima should continue soon, after Japanese businesses get back to normal after the O-Bon
holiday. O-Bon is a traditional holiday remembering and honouring the dead, their deceased
family members. Companies and businesses close down for up to a week.
Transfer received by AMJ's bank. AMJ have sent receipt for partial payment.
specification of Estima Emina/Lucida, and arranged telegraphic transfer of half the FOB to
AMJ. AMJ now begin to source the vehicle.
||Made decision to
place order with AMJ. Finalising desired specification.