Here is a short guide based upon my experience on how you can go about importing a secondhand car from Japan.There are as I see it three main methods of importing a used Japanese vehicle:
There is another method of "do-it-yourself" which would involve going to Japan and together with a Japanese Dealer (who needs to be a member of relevant Motor Auctions) buy a vehicle on sight, rather than just on paper/internet.
I chose to do it all myself, and I'm sure my regular visitors will be able to attest to the fact that I've enjoyed every minute of it!
Here are the steps in brief on how to go about importing a used car from Japan yourself.
Decide what you want
Find a Japanese Export dealer
There are a few around on the net (See Links page). However, I suggest you contact Mike Ainis at Angel Motors Japan, they are the suppliers of my excellent vehicle, and I unreservedly recommend them. They are prompt in all communications, helpful to the extreme, and in my case bent over backwards to ensure I got what I wanted, at I believe a good price!
Normally, you will need to send either a deposit to the dealer or the whole amount in advance. Generally the preferred method of payment (MOP) is by bank Telegraphic Transfer, which will cost you around £25 per transaction. It may seem preferable to use a Credit Card, but dealers probably won't accept this MOP as it costs them a sizeable amount to accept a credit card transaction.
Tip: If when you place your deposit there happens to be a good exchange rate GBP/Yen, then why not open a foreign currency account for the balance at that exchange rate, which will protect you from the GBP falling against the Yen before you pay the balance. Although of course this may also work against you. It's your choice.Organise Freight and Customs Clearance Agents.
This may take a little bit more work, but there are some dealers and garages who will undertake the preparation required to make your vehicle UK compliant and therefore pass the SVA test (Click here for more details on the SVA process).Be Patient!
Whilst your Japanese dealer searches for the vehicle you want. If you have specified lots of features you thought you just can't live without, then why not re-assess your criteria and perhaps make certain items "optional" rather than "mandatory".
In readiness for you actually registering your import, contact the DVLA on 0870 - 240 - 0010, or your local VRO, to order an Imported Vehicle Information Pack, which should contain everything you need to register your vehicle, especially the form V55/5. The V55/5 is an appalling form, which is not easy to work out which parts you need to complete. Contact the DVLA for any assistance you may require, I found them quite helpful, once you get past their recorded messages.
You've probably done this earlier in the process, to get an idea for your budget. When you know what vehicle you're actually getting you will need to provide the company with the Vehicle Identification Number (VIN) to insure the vehicle to begin with.
Liaise/Pay Freight and Customs Clearance Agents.
SVA Preparation and Test.
If your vehicle meets the specified criteria (click here for details) then you must arrange for it to undergo a SVA Test. Before it can do that however, you must get some modifications completed to the vehicle. For a Toyota Estima these may include fitting of a rear fog light and switch, removing the external parking mirror (although this may be refitted after the SVA test!), heater control knobs etc. on the "X" grade will need to be replaced with smaller ones. This list is not definitive as what is required may well vary from vehicle to vehicle. Your vehicle is then ready to undergo the SVA test itself. You will need to collect the appropriate test certificate on completion.
Yes you can, under special circumstances. See the following extract from the Department of the Environment, Transport and the Regions' document "How to Import a Vehicle into Great Britain (PI-4)":
Registration and Licensing Procedures
A vehicle imported into GB for use on the public road must be licensed and registered immediately after arrival. The vehicle must be in this country and available for inspection before you make the application. After arrival the only circumstances in which you can drive the vehicle before completing these formalities are from the port of entry to your home address/first destination, to and from a pre-arranged SVA/MoT test and to and from a garage for remedial work following failure to pass the tests. Thereafter the vehicle must be kept off road until the licensing and registration formalities have been completed."
Normal MoT rules apply, i.e. if your vehicle is three years or older it will have to pass a MoT test. Please note that some SVA test centres can carry out a MoT test at the same time as a SVA test, as both tests are carried out under the auspices of the Vehicle Inspectorate.
Completed application form V55/5. £25 registration fees (if applicable). The required fee for the licence. A current British Certificate of Insurance. Foreign registration (de-registration) document and any other papers you have relating to the vehicle. Evidence showing the date the vehicle was collected (normally the invoice from the supplier).
It's All Yours to Drive!
Disclaimer: Please note the above is intended as an informal guide only and to the best of my knowledge is correct, however I accept no responsibility for anything arising from possible inaccuracies.