Iron Chef Imports

Frequently Asked Questions

An immaculate Isuzu 117 coupe we imported to Australia that still had plastic over the door trims! Owner won a show'n'shine event on its first outing.

An immaculate Isuzu 117 coupe we imported to Australia that still had plastic over the door trims! Owner won a show’n’shine event on its first outing.

What makes Iron Chef Imports different to other companies?

Every import broker will tell you their company is the best; that’s fairly natural! Like one or two of our competitors, we have been in the game for over 20 years, and as one of Australia’s largest importing companies, we’ve stood the test of time where many others have promised the world and then disappeared overnight, leaving a string of unhappy customers in their wake. We don’t need to advertise: virtually all our new customers come to us after being referred by our existing customer base. We don’t need to give you the ‘hard sell’: we have a steady stream of enquiries and would rather lose a sale than sell our customers cars that don’t meet our standards in terms of quality for the sake of a quick buck.

What makes us different is that we run a tight ship when it comes to quality control. We have a small number of agents who know exaclty the standard we expect, some of whom we’ve been working with since we began back in 1999.

Signing up:

How much does the brokerage service cost?

Iron Chef Imports charges a standard service fee of AUD$1,210 (including GST) per vehicle, for vehicles imported from Japan to Australia. For repeat customers, we reduce this fee to AUD$990 (including GST) per vehicle as our way of saying thanks for sticking with us.  If you wish to import a vehicle to a country other than Australia, please contact us for our service charge cost.

Does Iron Chef Imports give me a refund on their fee if I don’t find a car?

We understand that there may be times when you may need to postpone or cancel their search after you’ve been looking around for a while. If a vehicle has not yet been purchased for you, we will refund your service fee minus $330 in the first 3 months, and minus $110 for every month after that (or part thereof) that we have been searching for a vehicle for you. We believe this is a fair compromise and covers the time we spend searching for and inspecting vehicles on your behalf.

If a vehicle has been purchased at auction in Japan and you wish to cancel the purchase, you will not receive a refund. In addition, you will be held liable for any losses incurred as a result. Note that the cost to re-auction a vehicle is close to $1,000 on its own, so for obvious reasons, we would highly advise against cancelling at this point.

Once the vehicle has been paid for in Japan and put on a boat, there is no option for receiving a refund or cancelling the order.

 I don’t live in Australia. Can I still purchase a car through Iron Chef Imports?

Yes, you can. Because we have our own agents based in Japan, we can ship cars direct to your country anywhere in the world. We have a surprising number of local buyers (both Japanese and foreigners living in Japan) who purchase vehicles through us at auction and then get us to arrange local registration.

Searching for a vehicle:

Where does Iron Chef Imports source its cars?

Our staff and agents attend dealer-only vehicle auctions across Japan six days a week, so that’s obviously where we buy the vast majority of cars for our customers. We also have some wholesale suppliers and private buying agents who can be particularly useful for tracking down rare or classic cars that don’t come through auction very often. Japan is different from most other countries in that virtually all second cars are traded in to dealers when a new vehicle is purchased. Owners very rarely sell cars privately unless they’re rare or collectible.

I’ve found the perfect car at a dealer/on a website/on Yahoo Japan. Can Iron Chef Imports buy it and import it for me?

Yes, we can, but with a huge word of caution, because in 99% of cases, we cannot check vehicles at dealers in Japan on your behalf. Would you buy a car sight unseen from a dealer in Australia, just based on photographs? If the answer is no, why on earth would you trust the word of a dealer in Japan? Sales staff and private sellers have been known to bend the truth in order to get a sale at the best of times, but when the car is going overseas and the buyer has no recourse if the car isn’t as described, you can imagine how easy it is for them to ‘talk up’ a car’s condition. Auctions are preferred because when we check cars, we are on your side, not the seller’s! The other big advantage of auctions is that the transport process is straightforward. If you’ve seen how narrow Japanese streets can be, you can surely understand how difficult (and therefore expensive) it can be to collect a car from somewhere that’s hard to access or remote.

Import Broker vs. Car Dealer – what’s the difference?

A Car Dealer: adds a margin on their cars, and you never find out how much it is.
An Import Broker: charges you a set fee for the work done.

This is probably the reason why you’re here! Firstly, this is not a dealer-kicking exercise – dealers can (and should) charge whatever their market is prepared to pay. That’s fair enough if the dealers are committing their own money to importing their stock from overseas. The problem for dealers is that the market is getting smarter, and significant savings are not uncommon when purchasing a $30,000 car overseas through a broker.

The only amount you should have to pay directly to an import broker should be the broker’s fee – any other expenses related to importing should be paid directly to the companies your broker uses. We take a very dim view of any import broker who expects you to pay money into their accounts to pay bills on your behalf – as soon as you’re asked to do this, there’s the possibility they’re loading the price on other invoices.

A Car Dealer: has the car in front of you – you can see it, and drive it before you purchase.
An Import Broker: helps you purchase the car, in most cases, sight unseen.

(We’d love to say that this lessens the risk when you purchase from a car dealer, but as many of you will already know, buying cars from dealers can be risky sometimes too!)

When importing, the element of risk is reduced substantially when you use the right people, but the fact is that importing your own car still involves an increased level of risk, regardless of which import broker you use. If you think this risk will stress you out too much, then purchase your car from a dealer and pay the extra money. Sometimes problems occur during importing. The people who tell you their success stories about importing their own cars are the rare ones who were lucky enough to have everything go smoothly. Equal to these stories are the number of people who come to us with a disaster on their hands and want someone who knows what they’re doing to bail them out. When something goes wrong, brokers quickly become worth their weight in gold.

The flip side is that we’re your import broker, not your mother; we have a very low tolerance level for people who unrealistically expect they can take risks and nothing bad will ever happen to them, then when things go wrong, think that stomping their feet or shouting really loudly will get them what they want. Life sometimes throws us curve balls – if you think like us, and see setbacks as challenges rather than disasters, then you will survive the importing experience with far fewer grey hairs at the end!

Thank your lucky stars that the internet has been invented, because when we first started working in  Japan in 1999, it was virtually impossible to send photos over the internet. All the descriptions of cars were done over the phone, and customers never knew what their cars looked like till they saw them in the metal for the first time!

A Car Dealer: buys the car, then sells it to you.
An Import Broker: helps you buy your car overseas.

This concept sounds stupidly simple, and yet it is probably the biggest misconception we deal with.

Remember that your import broker provides you a service: in strict terms, your car is purchased from an agent or dealer in Japan, not from your broker. When we listen to people complaining about poor service from their import broker, we find that 99% of the time, it is not the fault of the broker, but rather the companies the broker is using. It can be frustrating for customers when they’ve placed their trust in their import broker, but brokers get equally irate when the companies they trust let them and their customers down. Bear all this in mind if anything ever goes wrong, because it is easy to “shoot the messenger for the message”.

A Car Dealer: provides a warranty and back-up service.
An Import Broker: doesn’t provide these things.

This gets back to the previous point that import brokers sell a service, not a car. Car dealers usually have to pay someone else to give you a warranty on their vehicles – think of it as insurance policy against mechanical breakdown. The cost of this warranty is factored into the sale price of the vehicle. Import brokers actually are able to provide vehicle warranties, but the cost of these is worn by you, the customer. In virtually every case, our customers don’t bother, but the option is still there if you want it.

In terms of parts or insurance or any other service provided after the car has been delivered to the customer, most brokers will be able to point you in the right direction, but in the end, you will need to do the legwork yourself.

A Car Dealer: has cars “in stock”.
An Import Broker: doesn’t carry stock, but does have ready access to a range of cars that are available overseas.

Asking an Import Broker what they have “in stock” is a waste of time, because they don’t carry any stock – what they can do is help you locate a car through one of their suppliers. It’s playing semantics a bit, but it’s still worth remembering the difference.

What makes Iron Chef Imports different to its competitors?

Our potential customers usually expect us to say that our competitors are the spawn of Satan, but there are a number of other import brokers who we’d happily recommend to people who ask, and many potential customers of ours have ended up going to them to find their cars. There are also some import brokers we wouldn’t touch with a barge pole, but that’s the same for any industry.

We rarely advertise, and new customers generally come to us by word-of-mouth from current and previous customers. We do this job because we love cars and love finding great cars for other car nuts. We don’t bullshit around: if we think it’s a silly move importing a certain kind of car, we will say so, even if it costs me a sale. We know that our families will still have food on the table if we don’t force customers to buy cars they don’t want just for the sake of a broker’s fee, and so that’s how we operate.

Why not just pay you up front for everything?

Like the better of my competitors, we do not receive money up front from customers. Aside from being an accounting nightmare, let’s say a customer puts $20,000 into a broker’s account for a vehicle. If the broker brings the car in for $18000 and the customer doesn’t see any of the paperwork, there would be nothing to stop the broker pocketing the extra cash. The bills ICI receives from other companies on behalf of you get sent directly on to you for payment – that way if ICI gets you a bargain, YOU save the money rather than getting a loaded price.

Why is your estimate higher than other brokers?

As a general rule, we quote based on buying cars that are auction grade 4BB with less than 100,000km. For obvious reasons, there are cheaper cars around in many cases, but it doesn’t take much extra cash to buy a better car. We’ve had customers very adamant that they want rougher cars at lower prices in the past, and that’s fine, as long as the cars are suitable for compliance in Australia. If you’re positive that a rival company is quoting for the exact same car as us and they’re $5000 cheaper than us and can we price-match it (and we hear this quite often), then our response is to go get the car through the other company, with our blessing. The prices in Japan are what they are – for the most part, we all shop at the same spots – so haggling or asking us to price-match a competitor is a waste of time in most cases.

Also bear in mind that an estimate from a broker is a bit like receiving tenders for a government contract; the cheapest estimate can often end up being far more expensive at the completion of the job, so remember that estimates are exactly that – estimates.

An explanation of Auction house gradings (Chef Style)

5 – like brand new, without faults or blemishes.
4.5 – very very good, almost as good as new, only a seriously fussy bugger would find something wrong.
4 – very good, better than average wear and tear, maybe a few marks here and there but generally very clean.
3.5 – normal wear and tear for a vehicle of its age and kms travelled, might need some tidying up around the paint, or bits fixed inside.
3 – getting pretty rough, will definitely need some paint and panel work, will probably be showing signs of heavy wear and tear inside.
2-2.5 – absolute dogs, anyone mad enough to buy one would end up with years of headaches unless they were using it for racing and were pulling it to pieces.
1 – modified cars, they’re the kind of cars we’d all love to own, but generally would cause too many problems for compliance. Still worth asking if they’re ok to bid on because sometimes they are.
0 or R – cars that have signs of accident repair, usually structural damage, making them no good for compliance under SEVS. Occasionally the damage is light, so again, worth asking if they’re ok to bid on.

Interior gradings

A – brand new, no wear or tear.
B – very tidy, better than average wear and tear.
C – Average wear and tear for years and kms travelled, sometimes there are marks or tears on seats but bigger issues like that are usually listed separately on the auction notes.
D – Very rough or stripped as part of a racing car weight loss program.
E – A rubbish tip.

Why do the kms have a star or a dollar symbol next to it?

On an auction sheet, if you see a star next to the odometer reading, it’s because the auction house has found evidence that the odometer reading isn’t consistent with either the condition of the vehicle or previous odometer readings recorded. If there is a dollar symbol next to the odometer reading, it’s because the odometer has been changed, but the change has been documented. In this situation, the kilometres shown on the auction sheet are the total travelled, while the auction sheet will normally list what the new odometer is now reading.

Cars available

  • 2003 Toyota Altezza Gita AS300 L Edition
    Auction Grade 4C
    Odometer 95,000
    Colour Pearl
    Car Location Japan
    FOB Price ¥750,000
    Est. Price (AUD)
    View Details
  • 2017 Suzuki Alto RS Turbo
    Auction Grade 4.5B
    Odometer 84,000
    Colour Red
    Car Location Japan
    FOB Price ¥885,000
    Est. Price (AUD)
    View Details