How to Import a Classic Car from Japan

As car owners, we must have known about Japanese cars, especially the classic vehicles. They are magnificent, from engine, exterior, interior to its affordability. In fact, they are the dream of every car enthusiast. However, it is not easy to purchase a car, not to mention a classic car from Japan. There are various risks, especially when importing an automobile from another side of the world. But if you understand about the JDM importing steps, as well as the rules of your country, the risk will be greatly reduced. 

For that reason, our car experts will provide you with information about the whole import process, from the beginning to the end, as well as everything you need to know to have a Japanese car. 

How to Import a Classic Car from Japan to USA

In order to import a Japanese classic car to the United States, there are a couple rules to follow, and the one who made these rules are the departments of the USA. In other words, they take responsibility for regulating imports. There are three departments: Department of Transportation (also known as DOT), Customs and Border Protection (CBP) and Environment Protection Agency (EPA). So in order to import a car from Japan into this country, that vehicle must satisfy all the requirements and standard sets by these three departments. And what are those requirements? Let’s find out.

The Import Rules in the USA

First of all, the year regulation must be no less than 25 years. In other words, your vehicle must be at least 25 years old. 

Second of all, there is no requirement to have a pre-ship inspection. However, the car entering US borders must finish a test by the US agriculture department. To be more specific, the car must be properly washed to ensure there is no soil, bacteria, sand or any plant material inside. 

Third of all, we need the required documents. In order to import into the United States, we need the following documents: CBP clearance certificate, bill of sale (or invoice), bill of lading and export certificate (also known as foreign registration). Another important thing to know is that all these documents must be accompanied with the HS-7 form. This form is to make sure that the car satisfied all the standards from DOT and EPA. 

Last of all, we need to pay tax for the car. Even though the duty cost depends on each type of vehicle and the price, there are still some standard duty prices. They are 2.5% for automobiles and 25% for trucks. Along with that, there are some Canadian cars that are duty-free in the US. 

We all want to have a Japanese car (Photo Source: Pexels)

How to Import a Classic Car from Japan to Canada

Assume that we understand how to import a Car From Japan to the USA, now it is time to know the requirements to import Japanese Car to Canada.  Just like the DOT, CBP and EPA in the USA, there are some departments taking care of regulating automobile imports. They are Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA), Canadian Border Service Agency (CBSA) as well as Transport Canada (TC). In order to be imported into Canada, your car must meet all the standards from these departments. With the Canadian Food Inspection Agency, they want your car to be cleaned. This means no sand, soil, pests, dust and plant residue. And this applies to every automobile. 

Even though there are many similarities between the US’s import regulations and Canada, we still have to acknowledge some differences. The first thing is the year regulation.To be more specific, the car must be 15 years old or older if it is not categorized as a bus. If it is a bus, the car must have the manufacturing year before 1971. The second thing is that if the car complies with the standards of Canada and is owned in Canada, the owners must seek pre-authorization from Transport Canada. The same thing happens for the returning vehicle with the specification of Canada.  

Japanese Vehicle Import Process

No matter what country you want to import a Japanese car to, the process is quite the same. 

Select a JDM Importer 

This step is totally optional, but if you want to select a JDM importer, this step is the first step. If you can find a trustworthy car importer, it can save you a lot of work. With around $500 to $1500, the importer can take care of many steps for you. 

The first thing he can do is to ensure the car you want is legal and satisfy the standards to be imported into your country. The importer can also translate and interpret the auction sheets, since you might need to translate the Japanese sheets to English. Along with that, he can also speak with Japanese sellers and arrange a pre-purchase inspection in Japan on your behalf. The following thing the importer can do is that he takes care of all the customs clearance paperwork for you, as well as set up the local delivery of your desired car when it lands. 

Last but not least, the JDM importers can also provide you the access to the inventory of the Japanese auction house, as well as private-sale cars that are not normally accessible to individual buyers. 

In short, the value of having the JDM importer is various, however, you can still do all the steps by yourself. 

Select the Vehicle

In order to import a classic car, you must first choose a classic car. With the wide range of options from the stock, you can pick based on price, make, model, mileage as well as year. You always need to make sure that a car is acceptable to be imported and to ride in your country. 

Normally you can only see the FOB as well as the CIF of the car. So make sure to save some more money to prepare for the full price. 

Purchase the Classic Car

In order to purchase a car, we have two methods: The first way is through private sale and the second way is the auction. They both have benefits as well as drawbacks so think carefully before actually spending your money on either of them. And in order to make it easy for you to choose, below is the way private sales and auctions work.

Private Sale

The first way you can get a Japanese car is through the portal of a car dealer in the private sale. By doing this, car buyers can freely pick a car from the stock. After that, they get the quotation of the cars, then receive the invoice through email. However, the private sale does not require any security deposit, which can be quite dangerous. 

Vehicle Auctions

On the other hand, car buyers might need to check the requirements if you want to join in the car auctions. Not only does it depend on various factors to get the dream car, you also have to use your experience in bidding to have the best price possible. 

Shipment Process

Alright, here comes the complicated step. Right after you finish paying the price, the process of shipping starts. Normally, the auto dealers will ship your car as soon as possible, so they will pick the earliest vessel. After that, they will issue the bill of lading after the departure of your car. The time will be around one week. Along with the bill of lading, there are some other crucial documents following.

The first two are the final invoice and export certificate, which we mentioned above. Along with that, we need marine insurance, deregistration certificate and inspection certificate from JEVIC as well as JAAI. To be more specific, the JEVIC is short for Japan Vehicle Inspection Association, while JAAI is also known as Japan Auto Appraisal Institute.

Vehicle Port Clearance

When the cars arrive at the port as we scheduled, customers need to bring all the required documents received from the auto dealers in order to release the vehicles. 

If you miss any documents, it is impossible to receive the cars. And in cases when you left the car in the port for so long, you might need to pay extra in order to release the automobiles. For that reason, remember the date and documents in order to have a hassle-free and smooth clearance from the port. 

Buying from Japanese Auction Houses

In order to get a Japanese classic car at a good price with guarantee, Japanese auction house is the best place to go. So how can you purchase one? Let’s go through all the phases of buying to understand even further.

Customer Registration

Customer registration is, of course, the first and most important step in the process. If you are in a different country, you need to sign up on the portal of the dealer. In the registration progress, customers need to provide information about themselves and the confirmation will arrive through an email. It is totally free, and the registration helps buyers to browse and search much more efficiently. 

Pay the Security Deposit

Do you know why the auction house is so secure? The answer is simple. In order to take part in the bidding process, all customers must pay the security deposit. And do not worry, this amount can be refunded in the situations when the bid of the customer is not successful. And in cases when the customer’s bid is successful, the website will calculate the car’s invoice to adjust the security amount.  

With this method, the Japanese can make sure everything happens fair and square. 

Bidding Process

After that, we come to the bidding process. If you ever see any bidding in real life or in the movie, the process here is similar. The buyers will set a bidding range on the website, and the car dealer’s agents will then bid for the car in the auction. If both of them meet, you get the car. And in the situations when the bidding is unsuccessful, you do not have to pay anything. After all the bidding, the results of the auction will be displayed on the website, even sent through email with the purpose of notifying all customers and bidders.

If you are the person with a successful bid, the invoice even contains the Cost of Insurance and Freight (also known as CIF), along with the methods of payment. 


Last but not least, if you received the mail, it is time to pay for the car. You want the invoice to have the car, and it cannot be generated without the payment. Based on the auto dealer, buyers can have many ways and methods of payment.

Buying from a JDM Exporter’s “Japan Stock”

The first and most crucial way to have a JDM classic car is to get it from the Japan Stock. Normally, you will purchase from the Japanese Auction House. However, there are various used car dealers in Japan just like in every other country. They buy cars from Japanese auction houses and privately in order to build their own dealer stock. 

The Benefits of Buying from a JDM Exporter’s “Japan Stock”

The Guarantee Classic Car List 

The greatest benefit of these JDM dealers is their valuable car list. To be more specific, they want to have the best cars for their own stock, which means they avoid cars with serious damage, odometer fraud, fraudulent auction ratings, as well as extensive repair histories. 

No Time Limitation

Since it is not an action house, there is no limited timeline. This means you have various time to check the condition and all the details of the vehicles. You will be provided with lots of past auction history, as well as high quality photos to check. Sometimes, you even have mechanical testing. 

Less Risky Process   

In order to purchase a car from this method, you need to go to the website of the car dealer with the purpose of picking the car from the range of stock listed there. Remember to note the ID or reference number in advance. If you cannot see the clear picture of the vehicle, it is essential to request more videos, photos or auction history from the dealer to clarify. After you have decided to buy the automobile, they will fill your purchase details in the agreement form. With some dealers, they will require a non-refundable amount. Following the form, you will receive a copy of the wire transfer document. In the mutual scheduled time period, car buyers must pay the remaining amount or the deposit will be forfeited. 

After that, all you have to do is wait. Once the car arrives, you can either ask the dealer to ship it to your wanted location, or pick it up by yourself in the port. Either way, you still need to take it to registration as well as safety tests.

The only downside here is the communication. Usually, they just speak Japanese so it is essential to work with an importer or exporter who can help you translate or communicate. 

Buying JDM Classic Cars Locally in Canada / USA

In order to own a JDM car, buying one from Japanese Auction House is not the only choice.

Car buyers can also buy Japanese automobiles locally, and this applies in both the USA and Canada. And in order to do this, you need to find an auto dealer who has already imported the cars. 

Benefits of Buying JDM Classic Cars Locally

Less Things to Worry

We consider this method to bring less problems than directly importing cars from Japan. To be more specific, if you purchase an imported automobile from your local dealer, you do not have to worry about the safety standards requirements, compliance as well as some documents. Normally, your car dealer who has imported this Japanese car will take care of all of them for you. 

Avoid Being Tricked

Along with that, you can avoid being tricked with odometer tampering and various things that can take place. Car buyers can check to see if your local dealer is worthy to trust or not, and it is much easier than checking an overseas dealer.

Easier Process 

Another benefit of buying Japanese cars locally is that the buying process is much simpler. You can finish within fewer steps as compared to buying it from a Japanese auction house.  The progress are usually like this:

Normally, car buyers will select the desired car, then send an inquiry through an email or direct call. The reference number will be the key element to identify the car. After that, the dealer will check the request, check the availability of the vehicle in the stock list to see if it is available for sale or not.

Following that action is the appointment. To be more specific, the auto dealer will meet you in person to test-driving the car. Car buyers can now see the car and perform all the inspection they want. You can even bring your trusted mechanic to help you. And after all the checking, the dealer will give you a bill of sale to arrange the finance payment. When everything is done, the dealer will give you the car keys, and the car is yours.  


Buying a JDM Classic Car listed as “In Transit”

Along with that, you can also buy a JDM classic vehicle listed as “in transit”. By definition, the “in transit” car is the car that is due at a dealership, yet it has not arrived at the destination point. In other words, you can buy a car listed in the transit section of the dealer. If that car is on its way to the USA or Canada or any other country, you can buy it. 

The method has many similarities as buying a JDM vehicle listed in the local JDM stock of the dealer. In fact, it is simple and smooth like this. The first thing is that you send the email or call the dealer about the car you want to buy, and provide them with the reference number and stock ID.

The second step is to receive all the information about the car from the dealer. They are usually inspection reports, stock images. You can also ask questions about other specifications of the automobile. After that, car buyers can decide whether to buy it or not. If the answer is yes, the dealers will ask for your information, as well as issue a bill of sale. In the time of 10 days, you need to make the payment to have the car. Once the vehicle reaches its destination, the dealer will send you an email for notification. You can either pay extra cost for further shipment to your location, or go to the port and pick it up by yourself.   

If you follow all the steps carefully and remember to usually communicate with your dealer, then buying a car from the transit section should be a smooth process.

Shipping a Classic Vehicle from Japan

Just in case that you picked to buy a car from Japanese Auction House for example, how can you get the car to your country? There are many ways to ship a car from Japan, yet we will take a look at two most common shipping ways used around the world: RoRo shipping and Container Shipping. So how do they work and which methods should we use? Here are the advantages and disadvantages of each shipping method.

RORO Shipping

RORO shipping, also known as Roll-on, Roll Off shipping, is the shipping method in which you put your car into the vessel. With this method, you or the staff will drive the car on a ramp. This ramp will ship your car into a giant parking space inside the vessel, also known as cargo deck. Along with your car will be various other cars, even yachts, boats, motorbikes, trucks and tractors on the deck. 

After parking your car, the staff will use safety straps and leashes to tie it. The aim of this action is to stabilize the vehicle when the ship is moving. And when the ship reaches the destination, the workers will drive your car on the ramp, rolling it off the vessel to your planned port. 

Container Shipping

On the other hand, car owners can also use containers to ship their car to the wanted destination. Unlike RORO shipping where the cars are tied up with straps or leashes in a cargo deck, container shipping means your car will be put inside a separate container. The size of these containers are various, yet the two most common sizes are 40 feet and 20 feet. And inside the containers, the car is free from any type of strap.

Once the workers drive your car in the container, the whole thing will be lifted and loaded onto the vessel to sail to the port. After that, a gantry crane will offload it.

Container shipping is the great way of transportation (Photo Source: Pexels)

So what type of transportation should we use? 

Compare RORO vs Container Shipping

To find out which option is the best for you, it is crucial to consider other factors involved like time, safety, shipping cost, availability of the shipping option, as well as the convenience of the destined port. 


Time is one of the most crucial factors. With RORO shipping, you might take less time since the cars are usually driven onto the cargo space then tied down. They will also have gasoline with an enough amount to drive in and out of the vessel.

The container shipping, on the other hand, takes more time since the workers need to be packed and carried onto the vessel.  


The second most important factor is the availability of both shipping methods. In many countries, there is no RORO shipping. For that reason, it is crucial to check if your country has the RORO shipping before purchasing. 

On the other hand, container shipping is available in almost every country.    


This is where the difference between two shipping methods becomes apparent. The RORO is one of the most cost-effective ways, as well as the cheapest way of transportation. 

The container shipping, however, is more expensive since it needs a whole container for your car. 

Extra Parts

With RORO shipping, car buyers cannot leave any personal belongings, as well as extra parts or material inside, since the cars are open and there is no guaranteed safety.

The container shipping is much better in this aspect since it will be locked inside the container. 


In order to answer the question of how to import a classic car from Japan, we believe that you have your answer. The guideline to import your desired vehicle into Canada or the USA from Japan are our examples. If you want to ship to other countries, you can do it by yourself. With a bit of research, carefully reading guidelines, as well as following all the steps thoroughly, the import process is a piece of cake.