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Auction Vehicles

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The basics you need to know

Japan has a massive network of around 100+ auction houses with approximately 140,000 cars each week up for sale. JDM Connection can purchase vehicles from all of these auctions for signed up customers and will translate auction report sheets as well as have vehicles inspected in person prior to bidding to confirm and get more details on a vehicle’s condition.

Auction pros:

  • Essentially a wholesale source with supply and demand dictating prices, so typically very competitive and cheap pricing
  • Large number of vehicles available each week

Auction cons:

  • Relatively short time to act if interested in a vehicle (typically less than a day), so signing up in advance to search for a car with JDM Connection is essential
  • Extremely detailed condition reports with 100’s of photos prior to bidding is not possible, however all of the info that a prospective buyer would want to know about a car is covered.

The information provided in greater detail below about auctions is very detailed for the info-freaks out there, if auctions seem scary or daunting please remember that in practice JDM Connection will shield you from a lot of this complexity and basically give you the information you need to know without all of the background mechanics. We are here to simplify things and ensure you buy a good condition vehicle, even if you aren’t familiar with the process itself.

How to buy a car from auction with us:

To the layman without experience in the process, buying a car from auction can seem daunting. As such JDM Connection assists customers with auction vehicles in the following ways:

  • Acquiring and sharing information with the customer

    All of the 140,000 or so cars per week at auction are displayed on our website to signed up customers along with auction photos (typically a front and rear picture only) and the auction report. If a customer is interested in a particular vehicle they let us know and we will translate the auction sheet. From there if the car looks promising we will then arrange for someone to go and look at the car in person, and all of this information is then presented to the customer for their consideration.

  • Advice and experience

    JDM Connection is always happy to advise customers on typical sale prices for a vehicle and what a realistic budget might be, as well as advice in regards to what the auction report and inspection might have had to say about a vehicle. If in our opinion customers want to bid too much on a vehicle we will say so, as it’s ok to miss out on a car rather than overpay when another similar car could be found for less, or a better condition car could be found for the same money. Likewise if a customer wants to bid on a car which we believe is of substandard condition we would caution them first.

    We can also provide advice on how common a particular car, features or a car in this condition might be, and can look up historical data on cars at auction recently to help make a decision on how much to bid or rarity of a car’s features.

  • Acting as a barrier

    Even if customers are not familiar with auctions we are, and JDM Connection will make sure that customers don’t accidentally bid on a car that is not suitable for them, or which is not in satisfactory condition for what that customer has requested.

The bottom line is to remember that JDM Connection is here to help customers and hold their hand through the auction process, it is not as scary as it seems with us to help you, and we are always happy to answer questions. We will never act on a car without your say so, and we will make sure that you don’t accidentally buy a poor condition or unsuitable vehicle.

How bidding works

Bidding works like any other auction in that the highest bidder wins. However, at most auction houses bids are proxy bids, which means the maximum bid which you put in will not necessary be what you end up paying, and in fact is generally less. If, for example, you are prepared to bid a maximum of 400,000 yen on a car and the next highest bid by other bidders is 300,000 yen, then you would win the car at 303,000 yen (3,000 yen is the typical minimum bid increase). Only if other buyers were prepared to go as high as 400,000 yen would the car end up costing the full amount, so the maximum budget which you provide does not mean that you will necessary pay that full amount, it’s just the highest case scenario.

Vehicles at auction can have a reserve price on them which if not met means the car does not sell. It is not possible to know which cars have a reserve price and it is not possible to know afterwards what the reserve price was if a car is passed in and does not sell, this information is only known by the seller themselves. On occasion if a car does pass in without meeting the reserve it is sometimes possible to negotiate with the seller and come to an agreement, but this is not so common. If a car does pass in it is possible the car will be auctioned again the next week or at a later date, or it may never be seen again. Vehicles have a start price at which bidding begins, however not a great deal can be learned from this, and some cars sometimes simply have a 0 yen start and a reserve price in case not many people bid. Start prices are usually not a useful indicator as to what a car will eventually sell for, other than knowing that the car can’t sell for any less than what the start price is.

JDM Connection does not limit the number of cars you request information on or the number of cars which you bid on, within reason. We will keep looking until we can find a car you are happy with, and looking at more than one type of car at the same time is not a problem. There is no rush and no pressure, and we prefer that customers are patient in waiting for the right car to come along rather than being in a hurry and buying a car that is not as good as they could have found had they waited.

About auction sheets:

The basics you need to know

Cars put up for auction are first surveyed by the auction house and a condition sheet is created. This contains information important to a prospective buyer such as vehicle details and model type, what options are fitted, mileage (including if there is any reason to doubt that the mileage is genuine), body condition, interior condition, mechanical condition, any modifications/non standard parts, and evidence of accident history. Vehicles are also given a grade which acts as an overall rating of the quality of the vehicle to assist buyers to determine at a glance if a car is in good condition or not and decide if additional details are worthy of investigation. Although it varies for each auction house, a front and rear photo is also taken of each car for you to look at. Auction sheets are a good source of information to initially qualify a car as to if it is worthy of further investigation, however JDM Connection does NOT buy cars based on the auction sheet alone. We also always have cars looked at by someone in person to verify the condition of a car, get further detail and ensure that there are no problems evident that the auction sheet might have missed.

The auctions JDM Connection covers includes both some of the large, well known auction houses which list thousands of cars each week, as well as smaller auctions with fewer vehicles or in less populated areas. Different auction houses may have slightly different grading systems and systems for indicating condition, and some will grade a car more harshly or be a little more generous than others. Cars might also sell for different amounts at different auction houses based on the number of potential buyers present, and you can get some real bargains from some of the lesser known auctions at times, for example.

The following is a brief explanation of the auction grades you will typically see, please see the “Further detail” section for a more thorough explanation and details of what is on a typical auction sheet.

Auction Grades

5 as new condition
4.5 excellent condition with almost no imperfections
4 good condition with maybe some minor imperfections but nothing major. Most people are quite happy with a grade 4 vehicle and it is usually the best compromise between good condition and reasonable price
3.5 decent condition but possibly with some imperfections that could be noticeable
3 typically a car with noticeable problems that will need some work to bring up to nice condition
1 a modified car, either with heavy after market modifications, or an engine or transmission swap
A or R Accident history or Repaired history, a vehicle which has had an accident in the past which has been since repaired

In greater detail

Keep in mind that although auctions and auction sheets seem daunting and confusing, JDM Connection is here to help customers understand what is going on, help them in their choices and of course ensure they don’t end up buying a poor condition car. As such the information provided below is not necessary for people to know as we will take care of these complicated issues for you, but it is provided for those who would like to learn as much about the process as possible.

Auction sheet formats vary from auction house to auction house, however many share similar conventions in naming and symbols. Some of the sheet is in Japanese and JDM Connection will translate all of the relevant information for customers, and of course have the car inspected further if it looks like a promising vehicle. That said, without understanding Japanese you can still learn some of the basics about a car armed with a bit of knowledge about what is on an auction report.

Below is an auction report from one auction house which outlines the information typically listed:

The overall auction grading system can vary from auction to auction, but as a rough guide:

5 As new condition. There are even higher grades than 5 however they are normally for cars only very recently manufactured (less than 2 years old)
4.5 Excellent condition, no noticeable problems
4 Good condition, possibly the odd scratch or dent but on the whole a quality car not in need of any major attention. Most customers are happy with a grade 4 condition car, and it offers a good compromise between price and minimal sacrifices in condition
3.5 Good condition but possibly needing minor attention, or an otherwise good condition car with one notable problem/imperfection. Some auction houses will mark half a grade off a car once it is over 100,000km or if the mileage is suspect, so sometimes a grade 3.5 can be a higher mileage car but still in quite good condition
3 poorer condition, probably needing some repairs or work done to it to bring it up to a level most people would be happy with There are lower grades than these but the quality of cars drops off and we would not recommend them, even most grade 3’s we would recommend steering clear of.
1 Modified. A grade 1 car might be heavily modified with a lot of after market parts, or may have some other work done to it deemed major such as an automatic to manual transmission conversion
R, A Vehicle with previous accident history, indicating the car has been in an accident in the past which has since been repaired. Some auction houses have an RA grade, indicating very minor accident history or accident history which has been very well repaired.
X, 0 Ungraded. A small number of auction houses will not grade some vehicles (typically older ones) and will recommend they be inspected in person to determine condition. Usually this mean the car has a serious problem or is quite old and the auction house is not willing to take responsibility for the details about the car
*** Non running vehicle, wrecked vehicle (usually pretty obvious from the pictures!) or missing de-registration paperwork and therefore not suitable for export.

As well as the overall/exterior grade most auction houses will also include an interior grade, normally A-D. These correspond with:

A Excellent/as new interior condition
B Good condition interior
C Average condition interior for the age of the car, sometimes C interiors are perfectly acceptable however
D Poor condition interior. Often vehicles with interior panels missing or with a roll cage will automatically be assigned a grade D interior.

Deciphering transmission types:

Transmission types are noted in a variety of fashions, as a rule if a car is an automatic it will have an A in it (for example FA, FAT, AT), otherwise its most likely a manual transmission. Common manual designations include F5, F6 (indicating a 5 or 6 speed), MT, 5MT, 6MT and so on. On occasion a column shift transmission vehicle will include a C somewhere in the designation. Tiptronic transmissions are usually just referred to as an automatic.

Body diagram markings

Common codes on the body diagram of a car include:

A scratch
U, V, B dent
E pin dent
S, C rust
P paint fade
W wave’s in the paint or paint imperfections
X damaged part needing replacement
XX part has been replaced in the past

Most of these are also included with a number from 1 – 3 indicating severity (from minor to major), so for example an A1 would be a minor scratch, S3 would be very bad rust, and so on.

Auction Timing:

Vehicles listed on our site are usually up for auction the day before or the day they are listed. That is, any car which you look at on our auction system will quite possibly have been sold by the end of the day. The auctions typically start at around 10am EST and can run until late at night for some of the bigger auction houses with a large quantity of stock to get through. Because of the tight time frames involved, if you wish to get information about and bid on a car at auction it is usually not possible to organize a completed Import Agreement form with JDM Connection and payment of our service fee in time, so if you intend on bidding on vehicles at auction please contact us to take care of this earlier as buying on impulse is often not possible. In particular people who wait for the right car to come up and THEN contact us are usually too late, so if you know you are interested in searching for a particular car please contact us before hand to get everything in place.

Typical JDM Connection/customer interaction for auction vehicles:

  • Customer signs up with JDM Connection, completing an import agreement form and paying JDM Connections’ service fee
  • JDM Connection creates a login for our website which includes access to the auction listings
  • Customer sees a car in the auction system which they are interested in, and contacts JDM Connection
  • JDM Connection translates the auction report and sends it to the customer, and at the customer’s request or if we can see that the car looks like it could be a suitable vehicle, will arrange for an inspection by someone in person
  • JDM Connection sends the results of the inspection to the customer
  • Customer either decides that this is not the car for them and passes on it, or says they would like to bid on it and either gives a budget, or seeks advice from JDM Connection about the car and what might be a suitable price to bid
  • JDM Connection places the bid and informs the customer of the outcome
  • If the car is successfully purchased then JDM Connection proceeds to take care of transport of the car to our facility in Japan for detailed photos / videos and the export process which follows.

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