Car auctions in Japan are a great way for car importers around the world to source good quality, low mileage cars and other used vehicles at great prices.
However, to make the most of the opportunities these Japanese car auctions provide you as a car dealer, you need to make sure you understand the car inspection reports. As a knowledgeable buyer, you can make sure you’re sifting through the gold and avoiding costly mistakes.
In this article, we will see together who produces these auction inspection reports and what you can find in them.
If you are serious about buying cars at auto auctions in Japan, you should read on.
Quick Introduction: What Are These Japanese Car Auctions?
There are about 86 different auction locations in Japan. A typical day will see anywhere from around 7,000 to over 40,000 used cars and other vehicles sold at these auctions across the country.
A good Japanese car exporter will give their clients access to all of these auctions through an online system. You may be a continent or two away from Japan, yet sit down at your computer and take advantage of this great selection of left- and right-hand drive cars right away.
Enter an offer with a click of the mouse and let the car exporter in Japan take care of the rest. A few weeks later, the car will arrive at the port for you to pick it up.
Used car inspections at Japanese car auctions
Auto auctions in Japan employ experienced mechanics to inspect all the vehicles they sell. These inspectors work on-site in the case of most auctions, or off-site at car dealerships in the rare case of Aucnet.
The auction inspection covers all aspects of the car, from the mechanical areas and the chassis, to the exterior and interior condition. Auto auction inspectors are thorough in their approach, with the only caveats being that they don’t drive the car faster than parking speeds and obviously can’t dismantle the vehicle to see really hard-to-reach spots.
The auction inspector’s report
The auto auction inspector writes his notes on the o-kushon hyo (auction sheet). You will use a combination of scoring systems, written descriptions, and an exterior diagram to give readers a good idea of the condition of the used car.
Overall auction rating
Auto auctions in Japan assign an overall rating to each of the cars entered in the weekly auction.
I do not recommend that you rely solely on this rating when considering whether or not to bid. You will also need to verify the other detailed information that the inspector has written on the auction sheet.
(A good Japanese car exporter will be able to provide you with a professional translation of these details.)
With that said, the overall auction rating has a role to play in helping you narrow down the field of potential bidding candidates. Here’s a quick rundown of the different grades:
Grades 7, 8, 9 or S – Refers to new cars with only delivery mileage.
Grade 6 – This rating can sometimes be equivalent to previous ratings, but cars with this auction rating will generally have slightly more than delivery mileage.
Grade 5 – These are vehicles in excellent condition, very close to the new standard, but with several thousand kilometers on the odometer.
Grade 4.5 – A car in excellent condition, but with a few tens of thousands of kilometers on the clock.
Grade 4 – A good, solid car that normally has less than 100,000 km on the clock.
Grade 3.5 – A higher mileage vehicle or one that will need some work to clean.
3rd grade – Either a very high mileage car or one that is generally badass.
Grade 2 – Very rough vehicles, usually with corrosion holes that are the reason for this low rating.
Grade 1 – Usually a heavily modified car that has a different engine or transmission installed, or has an aftermarket turbocharger. Other possibilities are used cars with flood damage or fire extinguishers.
Grade R, RA, A and 0 (zero) – These are cars that have had some kind of repair by accident. At one end of the scale, the repairs will be a single panel replaced due to a minor parking bump, while at the other end are vehicles that must have rolled in an accident with almost all panels replaced.
Unclassified vehicles – These are sold as is in the auction with little or no information about their condition. As such, they are very risky and can result in increased additional costs if you are unable to drive or move.
Some of these grades are more common than others. For example, Grade 3.5 and Grade 4 used cars will account for roughly 50% of a given day’s auction, while there will only be a handful of Grade 1 cars on the same day.
Indoor and outdoor grades
Japanese auto auction inspectors assign letters to indicate the interior and (sometimes) exterior condition of the car. Again, these are very broad designations, as is the overall auction rating, and it’s really important to read the details of the inspectors’ comments to get a complete picture of the condition.
Basically “B” is considered “average condition, considering the age and mileage of the car.” So an interior rating of “A” means that the interior is above average, and if it is “C” then it is below average.
The “Car Map”
This is a diagram of the exterior of the car and is usually found in the lower right corner of the auction sheet.
The auction inspector will mark this with a combination of letters and numbers to indicate damage to the exterior of the vehicle.
Here are some basic designations:
A = zero
U = tooth
S = oxide (from the Japanese word sabi)
C = corrosion
W = irregularity in the panel (usually caused by bumps from the panel)
These letters are also often followed by a number to indicate severity. So “1” is the least severe and “4” is the most severe. In practice, the Japanese are so picky about these things that something like “A1”, which stands for the smallest scratch, is barely visible to the naked eye.
Comments from Japanese Auto Auction Inspectors
In addition to the above, the inspector will also write comments about the used car as he reviews it. Obviously, the higher the grade of the car, the less likely you will have additional information written on it. So a grade 3 car will have a lot more feedback than a grade 5 car.
The exception to this may be cars that have a large number of modifications and replacement parts installed that the inspector then lists on the auction sheet.
Although the overall rating, interior and exterior ratings, and car map may appear to give you enough information to bid, I highly recommend buyers make sure to get these professionally translated reviews before making their final bidding decision.
A grade 5 or higher car may not come as a surprise, but with something below that, the inspector may have written something that could influence your decision to go ahead with an offer or not. That is why it is very important to look for a Japanese car exporter that offers professional quality translations of the auction sheets.
Auto auctions in Japan offer a great selection of used cars at a good price, and the auction inspection regime means you can get a good, detailed picture of the condition of any vehicle before bidding.
Although it may seem overwhelming to buy used cars in the other half of the world, these Japanese Auto Auction Inspection Reports make the process of finding good vehicles easier and more reliable.