The Japanese Auction System operates on a vast scale
More than 70 auctions and 140,000+ vehicles every week
This Japanese Auction Guide sets out how it all works
Use our Online Auction Search to view upcoming and past auction vehicles
FREE TRIAL our Auction Alerts System to receive daily email updates
See how auctions work to feel more comfortable about the process
Understand the grading system and abbreviations used on a Japanese auction sheet
Preparing to Bid at Auction explains how to inspect and bid on vehicles
Contact us at any time if you need further help or advice
The video below shows a typical Japanese auction in progress. Bidding for most vehicles takes about 10 seconds before they are either sold or passed in (reserve price not met).
The basic information on Japanese auction sheets is simple to understand as numbers and codes are used.
Many options, performance modifications and brand names are written in English.
Often the comments in Japanese to the left of the vehicle diagram will reiterate the damage shown.
Our agents translate relevant points from the positive and negative sections of the Japanese auction sheet, into English.
They run the engine and check the transmission while the vehicle is stationary.
Additional pictures are taken of the vehicle including underbody, interior, exterior, and any modifications.
There is much more to buying a vehicle than just the auction grade.
This is where experience is necessary to select only the best vehicles.
See What We Do for more detail on the auction inspection and bidding process.
Japanese Auction Sheet Codes Explained
Every auction uses a grading sheet or Japanese auction sheet which lists the details of the vehicle plus information about the vehicle condition.
Each auction house is a little different in the reporting format but the basic information remains the same.
Vehicles are given from 0 to 6 for the overall grade (6 is the best) with A to D used for interior grade (A is the best).
Some auctions will add an extra A to D grade for body condition, so you may see a 4 B B for example.
Interiors graded A should be virtually as new. B is also considered extremely clean, and C is often used for average condition. For some auctions a C is still very good, while at others it will mean the interior is dirty, has cigarette burns, or obvious wear and tear. C for a vehicle older than 10 years is generally expected, but would be cause for concern on a 2-year old vehicle. D usually means very untidy, dirty, smoke-affected, or stripped out for racing.
Grade 3 or 3.5 can also be the result of a minor accident repair.
Repairs are usually denoted with XX on the affected panels, but can be hidden in the auction sheet notes section written in Japanese.
Very minor repairs to front panels may be considered where it’s obvious that only bumpers or front panels have been repainted and any parts replacement has not affected the front structure. If there is any doubt about this we will avoid the vehicle as it is simply not worth the risk of rejection by your compliance workshop.
We generally source only vehicles graded 4 and higher on the Japanese auction sheet.
Occasionally a lower grade vehicle might be worth considering, e.g. some large scrapes and scratches on the bodykit / bumpers could result in a 3.5 grade for what is otherwise a nice vehicle. This cosmetic damage may be easy to fix yet result in significant savings on newer vehicles.
Grade 2 indicates very poor condition or water damage.
Grade 1 is a sign of ‘significant modifications’, this could be performance upgrades such as larger turbos, a transmission change from auto to manual, an engine change, or prepared for racing.
It is therefore a matter of reviewing the Japanese auction sheet and pictures for any vehicles of interest with an open mind to determine those worth further inspection.
Any that look promising will be physically inspected by our agent at auction to confirm actual condition and more pictures will be taken.
We then contact you to discuss condition and your budget.
See What We Do for more detail on the auction inspection and bidding process.
5 As new with no condition faults
4.5 Very clean, one panel affected by minor paint blemish
4 More than one panel affected by minor paint blemishes
3.5 Some attention to panel and paint is required
3 Rough overall condition
2 Serious panel damage, rusty or water damaged
1 Significant performance upgrades or mechanical changes
A, 0, R Accident damage and repair
A, 0, R and variations (RS, R0, RA, A1) are all used to denote repaired vehicles, with RA, A1, R1 being minor repairs. Repairs in the rear or any dents in structural members like chassis rails are exclusions for Australia under SEVS so we immediately avoid any of those vehicles for SEVS import.
*** Serious mechanical or body fault, e.g. engine problems, existing accident damage, fire
A As new with no condition faults
B Very clean and nice
C Average / clean for age including expected wear and tear
D Cigarette burns / smell, rips, tears, or other damage to interior, significant wear and tear
AW Alloy Wheels
PS Power Steering
PW Power Windows
XX Panels have been replaced due to repairs and / or painted.
Can mean the affected panel has been painted, and the paint is not as smooth as the original factory paint. However, in some cases even when marked with a W it is impossible to tell with the naked eye whether paintwork has been done. Auction staff can make mistakes also, and mark panels W when they are uncertain. W or W1, W2 and W3 are used, with 1 being least noticeable.
A1 is a tiny scratch, and generally you would expect this to buff out or be an easy touch up
A2 is a medium scratch through the top layer of paint, and won’t easily be hidden
A3 is a deep scratch such as a serious scrape or intentional key mark, and will definitely require paintwork if you want to fully address it.
U Pin dent
Only a small dent such as you would pick up in the carpark
U1 to U4 are used to denote the size of the dent, with 1 being the smallest
B Larger dents
These are more serious than pin dents. They are quite noticeable dents and range from B1 to B4.
You might see a G, X or even an A marked on the windscreen. This usually indicates a small stone chip or scratch and often these are quite small, the size of a pin head or so, and not easily visible. They are the sort of things most cars pick up through normal use and if you see them noted it doesn’t mean the windscreen needs replacing.
Y1 to Y4. Usually in bodykits or lights and often not a major issue as repair or replacement is fairly simple.
P Paint damage
P1 to P4. Fading, scratches or discolouration from sun damage, polishing, peeling, crazing or poor paintwork.
S / C Rust / Corrosion
S and C1 to C4 are generally used.
An S or C1 on the body can mean a small stone chip has some surface rust or there is a spot of rust on the edge of a sunroof which might be easily addressed. In other cases S noted in the negative comments section could indicate extensive underbody rust. C indicated on the wheel arches is a sign there is serious corrosion due to use in snowy areas.
Physical inspections are undertaken for rust regardless of whether it is noted on the Japanese auction sheet, as even grade 4.5 vehicles can be rusty.
The Best Auctions
While Japan has more than 70 auctions each week and many agents claim coverage of them all, in reality most vehicles are sourced from a smaller number of major auctions and these are the main auctions attended weekly by reliable auction inspection agents.
Several small auctions are held on Monday but most are online only such as AUCNET and NPS Tokyo Nyusatsu which don’t enable physical inspections as there is no centralised auction location.
Other auctions are so small that it is not viable to have an agent there to inspect vehicles.
For the best selection of vehicles, condition and prices our favourite auctions are in Tokyo, Nagoya, Osaka, Kobe and Fukuoka:
Tuesday USS Yokohama, JU Saitama, CAA Tokyo, CAA Gifu
Wednesday JAA, CAA Chubu, BAYAUC, BCN Saitama
Thursday USS Tokyo, Hanaten Osaka, KCAA Fukuoka
Friday USS Nagoya, USS Osaka
Saturday HAA Kobe, JU Gifu, USS Fukuoka
Fukuoka in the south of Japan has a couple of good auctions each week and can offer some good deals. Allow for additional transport of about 40,000 Yen to Osaka for shipping if required, as vessels do not always call into nearby Moji Port.
Auctions We Avoid
We specifically avoid all Sapporo auctions due to rust issues.
Sapporo is on the island of Hokkaido in the far north of Japan very near Russia, they have about 7 months of snow each year and salt the roads. That means nearly all vehicles there are affected by rust, such that no reliable buying agents regularly attend. Transport to the nearest Port of Yokohama also costs an additional 60,000 Yen.
We also avoid auctions in Gunma on Thursday and Saturday, as like Sapporo this is a heavy snow area.
BCN Saitama auction on Wednesday has been renamed ‘MiRIVE’ and is located in Fukuya City, Saitama prefecture. It is only a small ‘outback’ style auction.
Arai Oyama auction on Thursday is not very good for the type of vehicles we source. In our experience they have loose auction gradings as it is a very “backwoods” primarily truck / 4WD vehicle auction. As the area is a very mountainous one, the vehicles generally tend to be quite rusty. It is also about a 3 hour drive from Tokyo, and quite expensive for transport to the Port.