The importing process
The short version for those of you with ADD:
Pay the $1100 broker’s fee
Buy the car
Pay for it in Japan
Car gets shipped to Australia
Pay the customs broker
Car goes to compliance workshop
Car is complied
Car is delivered to your door
The long version for everyone else:
Do I just pay you the whole lot up front?
This is one of the first things most people ask me, and the answer to this is no, because I am a broker, not a car salesman! My role is to provide a service – that of helping you bring the car in yourself. The only part you have to play in the process is to pay the bills, which come to you directly from the companies I use and trust.
Step 1 – Signing up with ICI
My fee from start to finish is $1100 – hopefully as we go along you will see that this good value for money! In the past (when I just imported for my mates), I wouldn’t collect my fee until the car had arrived, but as the business grew, customers pulling out of deals has burnt my fingers from time-to-time, so it’s now paid prior to the purchase of the car. Please note that this fee is refundable* if you don’t find a car, or end up getting another car elsewhere prior to a car being purchased in Japan.
Step 2 – Shopping for a car
The fun part! You, as the customer, always have the final decision about the car you buy – I have as much or as little input as you desire. I’ve had some customers come to me with cars already bought or found in Japan, and at the other end of the scale, others are quite happy to give me the details of the car they’re after and let me do all the work. The first and probably most important part of my role is to advise you on what is eligible and ineligible for import to Australia. There are many, many traps for the uninitiated, all of which can result in your new car never even making it to our shores – a pretty expensive mistake as I’m sure you can imagine.
I have one particularly trusted friend and auction buyer in Japan who is one of the few export agents who goes to check the cars ‘in the metal’ before bidding. Unless a customer specifically requests otherwise, I use this one buyer for all my purchasing needs in Japan. Having said this, I can and have sourced cars from a number of other export companies in Japan at the customer’s request. Depending on how specific you are, I may also look through dealer websites to see what is around if we’re having trouble sourcing the right car, but dealer mark-ups in Japan are no different to Australia, so you obviously have to pay accordingly. Ultimately, it’s far more important to take your time and get the right car rather than rushing into it.
I also have access to a number of vehicles via wholesale companies here in Australia, which is quite useful if you need a vehicle in a hurry, although again, they can be slightly more expensive than importing your own. Those who go down this route obviously have a very different path for the rest of this process.
Step 3 – We got one! What next?
Once the car has been purchased, you receive an invoice from the export agent in Japan, which is the cost of the car, plus the FOB charge. FOB stands for “Free On Board”, and covers all the bills and processes associated with getting the car on to the boat at their end in Japan. It is in Japanese yen, and you simply take the invoice into your bank and ask for an international bank transfer. Usually within 24 hours, your money is received in Japan, and your car is booked on the next available boat to Australia. Depending on where you live, it can take up to three weeks to get on a boat, but the average wait time on the docks in Japan is usually two weeks or so. As a general rule, “Roll-On, Roll-Off” (or RO-RO) is my preferred method of shipping, unless you’re bringing in a Ferrari or another equally rare or exotic vehicle, in which case we can put it in a container for you.
Step 4 – Setting sail from Japan
Around the time your car goes on the boat in Japan, you will get an approximate ETA in Australia (or wherever your local shipping terminal is) from me via email or phone. The trip from Japan to Australia takes approximately two weeks. By now, I will have already organised your compliance workshop, and they may or may not request a deposit from you before they apply for import approval for your car. It’s not uncommon for cars to be complied in a different state to the one where you live – it all depends on which workshops have compliance plates for your car, how much they’re charging, and a host of other things.
Step 5 – Your car lands in Australia
The process of getting your car off the docks in Australia generally takes about a week, so don’t expect it to be rushing out of there the same day the ship arrives! You’ll be hit with a variety of charges and taxes that help contribute to our federal government’s revenue – at one point you’ll even pay tax on a tax! I employ a customs broker to help clear the car off the docks – for comparatively little money, they make life much easier for everyone and they are invaluable if things ever go wrong. You’ll know when your car is about to be cleared, because once your car has passed through all the necessary processes, you’ll get a bill from the customs broker, which includes your shipping charges, Customs duty, GST, Quarantine Fees, port charges, steam cleaning and a host of other small fees along the way. While some brokers are happy to move your car on before you pay the bill, many will refuse to release the car until everything is paid up. Given that storage charges in some ports are up around $70 a day, this invoice is the one that needs to be paid as soon as you receive it!
Step 6 – Compliance
Your car is then transported from the docks to the compliance workshop (I arrange this for you), where they begin the process of making your car roadworthy for registration and use on Aussie roads. This process generally takes 2-3 weeks, with the longest part being getting through all the necessary red tape, as well as a 10-day turnaround time for the compliance plate to be made, sent back and fitted to your vehicle. Costs for compliance start from around the $3000-mark and can vary quite a lot for a number of reasons. As with other bills, you will receive the invoice directly from the workshop. The cost of replacement tyres (which must be done during compliance) is not generally included in a “landed and complied” quote, mainly because the cost depends what tyres you prefer.
Step 7 – Delivery to your door
Depending on how close you are to the workshop complying your car, I will arrange delivery of your car right to your doorstep (at your expense – again all you have to do is pay the bill). From there, it’s simply a matter of presenting your car for registration, screwing on the plates and enjoying your new ride! A word of advice – make sure you have a cover note for insurance before you take it for a ride, and drive your new car like a granny until you can put a fresh tank of 98 octane in it. After a couple of weeks, fuel starts to drop octane, and I can guarantee that any fuel left in the car will be totally stale, so no thrashing or you may wind up with a dead motor!
That’s about it! If there are details I’ve forgotten to mention, feel free to email me and ask for more info.
*Please note that prior to a vehicle being purchased, you are entitled to a refund for your broker’s fee minus search costs of $110 per calendar month or part thereof. If you decide not to import a car after it has been purchased for you in Japan, your entire broker’s fee will be forfeited, and you may also be liable for additional costs associated with re-auctioning the vehicle in Japan if they total more than your broker’s fee.