Japanese auto auctions are a great way to purchase vehicles. It’s usually cheaper and more affordable than buying through a local dealer’s or an exporter’s stock. While there are a lot of benefits to buying from the Japanese auctions, there’s one glaring issue. Let’s have a look!

The Japanese Auto Auction sheet

uction sheet for a Mazda Rx-7

While this auction sheet is positively full of information ranging from pros by the seller to various cons and things we need to be careful of by the inspector, there’s an obvious lack of photos. In the various auction houses’ defense, taking a ton of photos when they’ve got 10-30,000 cars per week to ready up for auction day seems daunting. Uploading videos also seem unsustainable over the long term given how the online system works.
Regardless of whatever the reason may be, the few auction houses uploading only 2 photos with no interior photos are inexcusable and their “if you want to buy, just come check in person” attitude is the worst, but I digress.

Japanese auction inspections of a Toyota Supra at the Japanese auto auctions USS Tokyo.
Japanese auction inspections of a Toyota Supra at the Japanese auto auctions USS Tokyo.

Japanese Auction Inspections

So what do we do when we’ve got customers who want to purchase vehicles but we need to make them feel safe and comfortable buying something they have never seen?
That’s where the auction inspections come in. In addition to the auction sheet translations, the auction inspections will provide an extra dimension of clarity with additional photos and videos alongside a report that the inspector provides.

Inspections on auctions around Tokyo will include one to two of our team members heading to the auctions and checking the vehicles for you while auctions outside of Tokyo will involve outsourcing the inspections to different dedicated companies that will inspect the vehicles on our behalf.

With thorough instructions, we aim to keep the inspections consistent throughout. The report usually includes checking for several key areas.

Exterior

  • Overall condition of the body and paint
  • Paint scratches, paint wear, paint cracks, and touch paint
  • Attention to repaired areas including panel distortions and bends, panel replacements, and chassis bends
  • Stone chips in the windshield

Interior

  • Dashboard bubbles, wear, cracks, and distortions that slight lift it up
  • General interior wear and tear
  • Attention to cigarette burn marks and holes on the seats
  • Rips, wear and tear, and the condition of the stitching on the seats
  • Interior ceiling condition
  • Wear on the shift knob, hand brake, and steering
  • If the stereo, power windows, power mirrors, sunroofs, and A/C are working
  • Odor

Undercarriage

  • Rust, corrosion, and corrosion holes
  • If the undercarriage is painted black, see if it’s to hide rust and corrosion.
  • Oil stains and oil leaks
  • Noticeable dents and bends on any panels from underneath

Trunk area

  • Check if there’s rust or corrosion in the spare tire house
  • Check if there are any repairs that are noticeable from the inside of the trunk

Engine and Transmission

  • Under special request: check the oil and transmission oil levels and color
  • Check for warning lights
  • The smoothness of the gear changes with MT vehicles
  • The engine idle and rev conditions/states

A real-time auction inspection walkthrough

Zervtek Japan’s YouTube channel

After the inspection

Once we receive the photos and videos, they will be sent to the customer which then he can use to decide if he wants to proceed with the bid or not and if he does, up to how much he would like to bid based on the condition of the vehicle.

Inspection charges

While other companies usually charge for each and every auction inspection, we understand that it’s essential for a customer to see a vehicle (especially if it’s old, a classic or there’s a limited amount available). This is exactly why we do 3 free inspections on the house. Thereafter, each auction inspection will cost 3,000 yen per inspection.

To be honest, it’s not something we want to do but we outsource these inspections as well and we cannot bear to do a lot of them for free so we charge the customer at cost.

When not to do an inspection

We usually do not need to do an inspection if the vehicle that we’re targetting is less than 10 years old, is relatively cheap, and has a lot of them coming up. In this case, the auction sheet is usually good enough to base the purchase on.


If you are interested in buying and importing a vehicle from Japan through the Japanese auto auctions, please contact us or have a look at the FAQ section. You can also register on our live Japanese car auction website.