Importing a car from Japan



  • mertesnmertesn I am Bobby Miller Yukon, OK Icrontian

    My turn to actually import one. My path was slightly different than BuddyJ's, but everything he posted is still valid.
    Went searching on It's not an auction site, so there's no bidding. They have just about any kind of vehicle you could possibly want. In my case, I found a 1995 Toyota Hiace Super Custom Limited with 55,800km (just under 35k miles). The interior looked to be in great condition, and it even had a few surprise features like an ice maker and water heater between the front seats. The price was pretty good too.

    Feb 27: Sent a message inquiring about the condition and had a good conversation with Mr. Ken. He assured me that it's in good mechanical condition, although the air conditioning didn't work well and there's a bit of rust due to the age.
    Feb 29: Payment sent, name, address, and shipping port confirmed
    Mar 1: Payment receipt confirmed
    Mar 20: Export certificate sent electronically. It's in Japanese.
    Apr 9: Export certificate sent electronically. This time it's the English translation.
    Apr 23: Estimated shipping schedule received. It should depart Japan on May 14 and arrive in Freeport June 11. Final opportunity to make any changes to shipping instructions.
    May 8: Bill of Lading released. Electronic copy sent.
    May 14: Car departs Japan on the Hoegh Jedda, a vehicle transport ship. Fun fact: you can track almost any ship's movement via
    May 17: Contacted the freight forwarder (long story) and started the process to arrange transportation from Freeport to my house.
    May 20: Shipping agent releases Surrendered Bill of Lading. Electronic copy sent. The real one will be sent via FedEx.
    June something: Ship stays in port in Jamaica for an extra day or two. Maybe weather related, no idea.
    June 3: BuddyJ's "Cost Group 2" logistics worked out with the freight forwarder and payment sent via wire transfer. They didn't offer a credit card method for some reason (didn't ask).
    June 12: Ship arrives in Freeport, TX
    June 14 @noon: Freight forwarder calls to say the vehicle is being picked up that day (Friday) and will be delivered early Saturday morning.
    June 14 @6pm: Freight forwarder calls to say the driver arrived 15 minutes after the port closed, so he won't be able to pick the van up until Monday morning, but he will be at the gate when they open. Cool. I'm leaving for Detroit in the morning, so I gave him BuddyJ's contact information as well (and separately arranged for a couple of backups just in case).
    June 17 @1pm: Got a text from the freight forwarding company stating the driver arrived at the port at 8am and got the van loaded at noon. Delivery would be somewhere between 9-10pm.
    June 17 @9:15pm: BuddyJ sends two videos from my driveway. The first is the truck pulling up to the house with the van on the trailer. The second is the van starting up in my driveway. He parks it in the garage and lets me know the couple minor things he saw that need fixing.

    And that brings us to today.

    So, here are my thoughts on the whole process:
    First, keeping in mind the CFJ folks are actually in Japan, response times are delayed, but Mr. Ken was very good about getting back to me as soon as possible. Any question I had he answered clearly and to the best of his knowledge. Would I go through them again? Absolutely.
    Second, the freight forwarder I used was not the same one BuddyJ used. For some reason I couldn't get his contact to return my phone calls, and when I finally did get hold of someone, they said they don't do customs clearing. BuddyJ then recommended Penbroke Cartainer. I was able to get in touch with them through their Customs House Brokerage contact link. They've been around long enough and have a good reputation which is why I was ok with doing the wire transfer. They were very prompt with communication, charged very reasonable prices, and worked with me to get the cost down as much as possible - things like an itemized invoice to break the vehicle, shipping, and other costs to separate line items. They managed to knock around $300 off the initial estimate thanks to things like that. The cost to get the van through customs and to my door was just over $2k (the van was significantly more expensive than the Suzuki or the Beat). Would I go through them again? Yep.

    I'll post pics when I get home from Expo.

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