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Thread: Cost of Importing a Car from Japan to BC

  1. #1

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    Default Cost of Importing a Car from Japan to BC


    I recent imported my first car from Japan, in the process I used this forum a lot so thought I’d try and give back a little and write up how much it cost me. If you have any questions feel free to PM me. First off though, I am useless with car repairs and general handiness and I managed to figure it all out so you don’t need to be a car expert to make this happen

    If you’re just looking for the bottom line at the end of the day I paid $5300 CAD including everything to get a 1998 Subaru Legacy Outback with 65,000 km from Japan to Fernie BC - the cost break down is below. The first few weeks I found the right hand drive a bit weird, but I’ve gotten used to it and the more I drive the car the more I love it.

    Total cost
    1. Purchase price of the car including commission - $1350 (129,000 Yen)
    2. Shipping from Japan to Vancouver – $1300 (125,000 Yen)
    3. Freight Insurance – $10.50 (1000 Yen)
    4. Customs broker - $250
    5. Customs Excise fee - $100
    6. Customs Duties – $82.94
    7. Customs GST – $77.13
    8. CFIA inspection fee - $45
    9. Dock Charges - $100
    10. Flight to Vancouver from Calgary last minute - $320
    11. Temporary Operators Permit (from ICBC to drive from the dock to home) - $40 for 2 days
    12. Gas to drive it home – $100
    13. Temporary Permit to drive from my house to the shop - $20
    14. Work to safety the car - $1600
    i) New Head Lights
    ii) Wiring Work for DRLs and North American Headlights
    iii) CV joint was leaking, needed to be replaced
    iv) Inspection fee

    Areas I could have saved money

    1. Not hiring a customs broker – I felt it was totally worth it, but if you live in Vancouver or nearby you could likely figure it out on your own by taking a few trips to the dock
    2. Headlights – could have purchased used head lights or ones off Ebay, likely could have saved 100 bucks. I tried finding used lights, but none of the shops around me had any. Could have ordered off of ebay, but was going to take a few weeks to get them in and was tired of waiting
    3. Wiring the DRLs myself, likely could have figured it out myself, but I had fiddled around with it long enough and wanted someone who knew what they were doing
    4. The inspection – I likely could have shopped around a bit more to get the inspection done at a cheaper location. The shop I used is my local one who I trust, but he wasn’t super familiar with JDM cars and the process of inspecting them, so it took him a bit longer, but as I mention below, was the only one in town who would do it.

    More details on how I found the process:

    How I Bought the Car
    On a recommendation from a good friend I used Royal Trading ( I found the website easy to use, there were no fees to view vehicles and the people helpful. English was a bit broken, but got the job done.

    Once you get access to their auction website you can browse thousands of cars, of all ages and varieties. There are a few different rules about what you can and can’t import (lots of info out there on this), but the most important is that the car cannot be new than 15 year to the month, to bring into Canada. Auction page for the car I got is attached to this post. That's all the information (plus the translation of the auction sheet) that I had on the car before we bid.

    It is a 1998 Subaru Lancaster (equivalent to a North American 2001 Subaru Legacy Outback)
    Mileage: 64,000 km rated a 4.5b

    Once I found the car, I emailed my contact at royal trading to translate the auction sheet. I had asked about a lot of cars earlier and explained what I was looking he told me the car was in “fine shape”. He had described a lot of cars for me, so I was comfortable with that. I had no interior pictures, and had to go with his opinion. I did find that many cars of which with similar ratings he described as “old and dirty” which I eventually learned to understand meant, 15 years old and used. I wouldn’t’ take old and dirty to mean literally old and dirty and wouldn’t’ let it deter me from buying one in the future.

    After my wife and I decided we wanted to bid on it, I emailed the contact at Royal Trading, told him what we wanted to pay and he placed our bid on the car and we won. He then sent me all the banking information to transfer the money to him. I use PC financial and thought it would be a nightmare to send money across the ocean, but it was actually quite easy.
    After payment was received, he booked a spot on the next boat (which was 3 weeks after the date I purchased it) and mailed me all the original documentation. The boat took about 10 days to cross the pacific, and arrived in Vancouver about a month after the day I purchased it. I didn't have to do anything other than email him the money. He took car of all the shipping arrangements and insurance.

    First look at the car

    Overall first impression was good, started no problem and was in great shape. Tip: bring a razor blade to scrape the shipping information they write off the windshield. Also plan to buy gas right away, it was pretty much empty when I got it.

    Here are a few minor things I found:

    1. The car had the stereo removed so i was stuck listening music on my phone for 14 hours
    2. A fuse had blown so the interior lights, heated seats and few other accessories wouldn’t work
    3. Didn’t have cruise control so I was stuck with my foot on the peddle the whole way
    4. came with heated seats and wooden steering wheel, which was surprisingly nice
    5. tires were pretty bald. Would have been a sketchy ride had it been winter.

    But I drove it straight from Vancouver across the province no problem.

    Port and Customs
    The whole port and customs situations is complicated, there are a lot of things to be done and it can take several days from when the car clears customs to when you can actually pick it. If you live in Vancouver or Victoria you could certainly sort it all out yourself, but living in the interior I didn’t have the time to spend 4 days messing around, so I used a customs broker - Al Thompson Logistics ( can’t speak highly enough about him. He took care of everything, was so helpful and professional – it cost $250 for his help and it was totally worth it. He got everything sorted out and just let me know when I could pick the car up. He paid all the customs and dock charges for me, then I just paid him a lump sum for everything including his fee and mailed me all the customs paper work which you need to register the car after it’s passed the inspection. His website is a bit low budget, but I had found others on here recommended him, so took a chance and it went well.

    To drive the car from the port to the point of inspection you need insurance from ICBC. To get this you need
    1. a bill of sale showing a zero balance or stamped “paid” with your name on it
    2. Export certificate with an English translation

    Generally it wasn’t too bad. But don’t expect the folks in your local insurance branch to know exactly what’s going in. It’s a relatively unusual thing and may take a while especially if you’re in a small town like me. Just go in expecting lots of questions and that it’ll take a while and you’ll be fine. You may have to email your Japan contact for slightly different paper work. I was lucky and it all worked out, but it just as easily couldn’t have.
    Here is how it went down for me:
    1. First the lady said I couldn’t insure it to drive home so I had to ship it from the port on a truck. I politely said I’m pretty sure it can be and asked her to call ICBC. What you want is a “Temporary Operation Permit” to drive from point to point.
    2. My invoice from Japan had the total cost, and a Japanese stamp/signature at the bottom, but did not have an English stamp that said “paid” – this proved to be an issue. They said they needed proof I paid for the car. One solution, to this problem would be to have someone stamp the paper with “paid” stamp like a bank, or a business and sign it yourself. I’ve heard that works... Alternatively you’d have to email Japan and ask for a new copy.
    4. My English translation of the export certificate also did not say “translation at the top” nor did it have a signature at the bottom. This was an issue for the folks when I went to get my temporary operators certificate. They ended up allowing it, but was a hassle. If i were to do it again I would just sign the bottom myself
    5. My export certificate only had ***** beside name of owner and address of owner. Again this caused some humming and hawing and calls to ICBC in Vancouver. But eventually they allowed it. Ideally it would identify who the seller was and their address
    After all that they issued me a permit for 2 days to drive directly from the port to my house.

    Out of Province Inspection
    So the major things you need to do when you import a car (or so I’ve read) include, replacing headlights, installing day time running lights and putting DOT tires on the car. I put the tires on myself and fiddled around with trying to jump a relay to get DTR lights, but got nervous and decided to take it into the shop. I also tried to swap the headlights out but the connections for the Japanese lights are different than the DOT North American ones, so a new wiring harness needed to be wired in, again opted to let someone who knew what they were doing do it.
    I did have a bit of trouble finding a shop out here to inspect the right hand drive. There are about 5 shops in town and only one would do it and they didn’t seem thrilled about it. Because of that, I paid a bit more.

    Once I had it inspected nothing else really needed to be done aside from a leaky CV joint. By having the shop do everything it did cost a bit more than I expected – $1600, after taxes and everything. You could certainly do some of the work yourself to cut that down a fair bit.

    I had heard that Insurance for a RHD would be a lot more expensive, but I didn’t find it to be too bad. I can’t remember off the top of my head what coverage we have but we have the same on both cars we have. One is a LHD 2003 forester and this Japanese one. The Forester costs 1400 for a year, and this guy costs 1360. So maybe it cost a bit more, but not un manageable.

    Bottom Line
    Over all I’m glad we got it. My wife and I do find the RHD a bit odd, especially in bad weather or in heavy traffic, but for the most part we’re doing highway driving in the interior so it’s really not a big deal. Just takes some getting used to. Car is in great condition, drives well and will be a great commuter car. Even with the extra I paid at the shop, I’m confident I could get more than $5300 I paid if I wanted to sell it.

    Hope that answered some questions

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  2. #2

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    nice write up.. what did PC financial charge for sending the moneys to Japan?

    Sounds like you had a good experience overall.

  3. #3

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    mmm I'm trying to remember now, I want to say 40-60 bucks to send the money.

    Is that typical? or is there a better way of doing it?

    I'm already planning my next one =)

  4. #4

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    I think I paid $45 thru RBC so that sounds about right.

  5. #5

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    so the website you used to purchase the vehicle and place a bid, is absolutely free?

    normally exporters charge a fee of about 100,000? or have i been getting ripped off this whole time

  6. #6

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    Not sure what other places are like. I think the commission they charged was about 800'cdn, but that was included in the price I bid on the car. I didn't have to pay anything to access the website though. There was definitely a commission built into the price though, not free.

  7. #7

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    BCRob, seems like there are a few of you JDMers in Fernie. We should try to get a 4x4 JDM meet in Cranbrook at the Lordco there one weekend.(when it's not puking on the ski hills) I'm in Kimberley, and there is lots running around here for sure.
    1993 Toyota Celsior Sold
    1996 Hilux Surf Ready for a Rocky Mountain Summer
    2007 Toyota Tacoma
    1992 Delica Sold

  8. #8

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    Sounds like fun. I just need to get one suitable for the back roads!

  9. #9

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    Actually just a JDM meet would be fun....always have to read about the guys on the coast meeting here and there. Get her going in the Koots, spring would probably be the best.
    1993 Toyota Celsior Sold
    1996 Hilux Surf Ready for a Rocky Mountain Summer
    2007 Toyota Tacoma
    1992 Delica Sold

  10. #10

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    the cost of shipping seems a bit low
    what carrier did You use?
    in average it's $1500 for Imprezas'
    and for Skylines a whooping $1700 (well it's big and heavy =o))
    also You're lucky not to pay PST in Alberta =o)
    2000 2,5RS stage rally car
    2011 Lexus CT200h - DD
    1990 GT-4 stage rally project

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