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The following is my personal diary/log of what I went through, and my thoughts of how we bought our Estima. It covers the period from when I first made enquiries about importing a vehicle, to the vehicle being loaded on the ship and receiving documents from Japan. Mike Ainis of Angel Motors Japan, has very kindly added a few comments of his own, at my request, so one can see things from his point of view. I would ask you to remember that my comments are often, just the random  thoughts/concerns/feelings I had at that time, and they aren't always very coherent. But I think you'll see that I've probably had the same thoughts/worries about buying a used car from Japan without seeing it first, that you might have.

I started the log to use as the basis for my Purchase Diary page, but I think that combined with Mike's comments it may be of interest in it's own right.

Date My Comments Mike's Comments
23/07/00 Sent queries out to several Japanese suppliers for no earlier than a 1995 model  
25/07/00 Received first reply from Angel Motors Japan. Quote looks very competitive. Will ask for quote on newer models. Here at Angel Motors Japan we receive a number of quotation requests on Japanese vehicles each month. We do try to be prompt with our responses hopefully within 48 hours.
26/07/00 Got another prompt reply from Angel Motors, 96 & 97 models more than I want to spend. He supplies good explanations. On the Estima Diesel models, there was a big model change in 1996 onwards, ABS & SRS Air Bags became standard and there were changes in the front & rear light panels. So this explains the higher quotes for Estima models from 1996. I believe best value can be found on a 1995 model unless you do have a budget for a 1996 or 1997. Last year for a Turbo Diesel Estima here in Japan is a 1998 model.
27/07/00 Clarifying spec. of Estimas. Like his attitude, but can I trust foreign dealers? We do try to be completely honest & straight with our buyers and develop good communication to be clear, as we do want our clients to be satisfied & for return business.
28/07/00 Got e-mail about his business, he does seem genuine. Checked bank detail from the web site. All OK. He does seem to know his stuff about Estimas, more than the bloody dealers here. Has offered trip to Japan, would love to go, but not with my daughter so young.

We have decided to go with AMJ, the other companies just don't seem so efficient.

Have arranged transfer of monies. Will be doing the importing myself, something new.

Have contacted companies in Southampton - very helpful.

We are very thankful for Paul to have chosen our company to buy & ship his car. It is commendable for Paul to handle all import arrangements on his own and write about it in his site for all others to benefit from.
01/08/00 Mike has given me copyright to any material he sends me for the website.

Have received Purchase Order Invoice, but want to change spec.

Mike has kindly agreed to provide some more digital pictures, they should provide an excellent angle on the website. He will also accept a signed electronic copy of the invoice.

We have been happy to assist Paul with his site in any way we can to help UK buyers become better informed on the Japan Estima model. The Estima has been our family car of choice, but we find to hard to hold on to one as we always find someone that want to buy it. Ha! Here in Japan we also sell much lower than other Japan dealers do, so our prices are attractive.
03/08/00 Mike has clarified position on some of the specs. Looks like I'll have to do without ABS. Photos provided are really good, as is narrative.

Still want further amendments to the spec. and invoice - are we being too fussy?

My wife went to bank to arrange telegraphic transfer of deposit.

Sent signed electronic copy of invoice.

Through our experience together, Paul learned about being open on his colours, specs and requirements which did make it easier to find the right vehicle. In the end though we did find one with most of the specs he wanted.
04/08/00 Mike did not get copy of invoice through.

Have sent different types of file - zipped and scanned, hope these work!

Mike has received both copies of invoice, thank goodness

08/08/00 Got excellent description of reason for Lucida & Emina, seems logical.  
09/08/00 Mike has received deposit and sent receipt, has also sent photos - again they're excellent.  
10/08/00 Mike has answered query on switch labelled in Japanese - rear heat priority!! - how many people will know that?

Seems to be some confusion with the spec. we wanted a high roof model, now Mike wants to know if we want a J-Top - I think these are the same?? Have attempted to clarify.

Looks like we'll have to be patient, a Japanese holiday is looming, and the auctions will be down until end of August.

Just after Paul had ordered his vehicle was a big Japanese Summer holiday in August, so auctions were closed. From Christmas to just after New Years auctions are also closed.
18/08/00 Sent e-mail to Mike to see how things are going

Mike replies saying that he wants to phone me, as he has some ideas/proposals - what can these be?

Have given him details of my father's number or to wait until we get home as we are having a weekend break.. Glad I brought my handheld PC down with me.

After communicating with our UK buyers we feel the need to have phone communication with each to better understand their requirements prior to purchasing.
19/08/00 Mike phoned me, to discuss, requirements, timescales etc., I think we have been too strict in our requirements. Went through them with Mike saying what we can and can't do without. I'm hopeful now of getting an Estima in a couple of weeks  
01/09/00 Mike sent an update. Looks like we'll have to do without the j-top. My wife not happy, still if we want one soon I guess we'll have to go without that one. At least the Auctions are back up and running now. On the Estima models, there is the J-Top, a concave higher glass roof model. They are not so common as the standard roof model and thus do make it difficult to find, especially if one has a list of other specs & requirements.
08/09/00 Mike tried to call me at home, I think?? Mother-in-law not sure who it was, but thinks he may have mentioned Japan.

Yes it was Mike, he'd found a model that would have been acceptable - damn, if only I hadn't said 50k miles, still I suppose I had to draw the line somewhere. Mike also suggests widening our specs. Again, don't feel happy with this, but I suppose it's my fault, shouldn't have been too strict.

13/08/00 Sold our Fiat Uno - back to the train for me!  
14/09/00 Saw some of Mike's photos on another site, and let him know.

Mike's OK with other site using his pics. And gave an update on car situation, basically for what we want the price has gone up, @ 950K. He's again suggesting widening our requirements to get a car quicker, but I don't want to compromise again. Spoke to my wife at lunchtime and we both agree to extend our budget to 950K. Mike seems pleased with that, and thinks we should have a car quickly - I hope so.

Estima prices are not always so constant at the Japan auctions. From September to November prices tend to be high, which is when Paul ordered. In December, we tend to see prices drop as dealers usually sell all their old stock before the end of the year. So there are a lot more vehicles available at that time and prices are lower than at any other time of year. Once the new year comes in with new models, and then prices on older models become more fixed. But Japan prices always have to do with basic supply & market demand. Recently there was a flood in Nagoya, Japan where 100,000 vehicles were destroyed. So for the weeks after this, used car prices in Nagoya really went up.
19/09/00 Autotrade are no longer agents for HUAL, asked Mike what happens now?

Mike replies saying that I should now contact Wainwrights.

Have contacted Wainwrights and they seem Ok, but the company they put me in touch with for the SVA seem like a bunch of cowboys - no way am I going to use them!!

Autotrade now works with the Hyundai Group Car carrier Fleet called Yuwa. Their combined service company is called YuwAutotrade located in Southampton. Anyone who intends to have Autotrade do their modifications' work & SVA test has to have vehicle shipped on the Yuwa shipping line from Japan.
21/09/00 Mike rang me in the night, from inside a car at the car auction on his mobile, which meets our specs and VERY low mileage and turquoise, couldn't sleep much after the call - guess I'm still a kid at heart.

Got e-mail from Mike, we didn't get the car, in fact no-one bought it, he said it might be available next week, lets hope so.

My wife and I have tried to simplify our requirements, this must speed things up now.

22/09/00 Mike asks if we would go to a 94 L at a lower price.

I've agreed, but hope it doesn't transpire.

Pound has plummeted against the yen, to stay in budget, I've asked Mike to drop the max to 900K, don't like mucking him about chopping and changing again

27/09/00 Mike phoned again in the night, he'd found another possible, but it sold for too much - very frustrating this!  
29/09/00 Mike has found 3 possibles this week, but all went for more than our budget. During the phone call with Mike, I picked up on something that didn't click immediately. After checking with Mike later, I realised I had cocked up my calculations!! Can't believe it I checked them so many times, bloody idiot. Still it's good news really, as this means we are able to extend our budget to a million yen - more than our original quote, but if we can get a nice model it'll be worth it. I feel we're mucking around with our requirements a bit too much, we're getting desperate! We are sorry to have caused Paul & his wife so much anxiety like this. From our side we mainly wanted to give regular reporting on our weekly trips to auctions.
05/10/00 Mike phoned again this morning, with another possibility - sounds good, he mentioned that a body panel had been replaced by Toyota, I wonder if this makes it an accident repair grade? Also a mark on the dash about "the size of a silver dollar" that's no problem. Mike sounds more hopeful on this one somehow.

Got it!!!!! Photos arriving tomorrow.

06/10/00 Received photos, we both like the colour, have seen a few here so know what it's like. Funny after all our chopping and changing we got most of what we originally specified.

Left work early to arrange for telegraphic transfer of balance to Mike.

09/10/00 Went to the Imported Car Show, not as good as hoped, only one Estima and not in great condition, but met Ian Jacobs of Autotrade. He will still be able to process my import for me and do all the SVA bits - feel very good about this, they seem quite professional. Also gave Ian AMJ details, as he would like to contact Mike.  
10/10/00 Sorted out some quote’s for insurance  
11/10/00 Received 3 more photos from Mike, it's starting to sink in that we've finally got what we wanted. Mike also said he'd received the balance, and that we should receive documentation about the 3rd week of the month after the vessel has sailed.  
13/10/00 Mike sent some better photos from where he left the vehicle for loading. The vehicle is serviced and had the bush replaced. For our personal import clients we try to have their vehicles given a service check prior to shipping including oil change, new element * new power steering fluid. We did this with Paul's vehicle and spent time repairing a part related to the air con unit. Hopefully he will not need a service check for at least 6 months.
24/10/00 Mike confirmed that the car is enroute, and that he will be sending the documentation by 30/10. He also said that he'd established relations with YuwAutotrade, and has some queries about exporting to the UK next year. Nice to be able to help him for a change! We are thankful for Paul's kind assistance in obtaining all the latest information in importing vehicles to the UK.
25/10/00 Sent Mike some info. On UK regulations  
26/10/00 Asked Mike if he would write a little something for UKTES regarding my sale from his point of view, should make interesting reading from a different angle. This is it!
30/10/00 Phoned Wainwrights for ETA of HUAL Tribute, they said at the moment 22/11.  
31/10/00 Mike has despatched documents.

Have told Mike that any planned changes to regulations next year will not affect independent imports. Mike seems quite pleased with this news.

Approximately a week after we ship a UK buyer's vehicle, we receive some of the export documents from the Japan Freight agent. We add other documents from our company and then send to each UK consignee. All cars we ship also have marine insurance against loss or theft.
03/11/00 Received documents - bit of a query on Bill of Lading on size of vehicle.

Nothing Mike can do regarding Bill of Lading, but some "savings" were made elsewhere, so I'll settle on that.

Scanned all documents, so I can keep good copies.



(Special thanks to Mike Ainis of Angel Motors Japan for taking the time to provide his comments)

(Note: I have edited my comments slightly, removing names etc. for privacy reasons)