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 15 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’re based in Tokyo, Japan as well as in Australia. When you search for a car at auction through us, there’s a good chance Troy will be standing in front it, taking photos and making sure it’s up to your standards (and ours!). For auctions in the Kansai area, we’ve used the same company for 15 years, owned by the person who first gave Kristian a job in the industry way back in 1999. It means we have good control over the quality of the vehicles we buy.

Signing up:

How much does the brokerage service cost?

Iron Chef Imports charges a standard service fee of AUD$1,100 (including GST) per vehicle, for vehicles imported from Japan to Australia. For repeat customers, we reduce this fee to AUD$880 (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 are also 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. 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 can be 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, I’m sure 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 let me say that 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 import their stock from overseas. The problem for dealers is that the market is getting smarter, and savings of over $10,000 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. I 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.

(I’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 me 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 I’m an Import Broker not your mother; I 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 me, and see setbacks as challenges rather than disasters, then you will survive the importing experience with far less grey hairs at the end!

Thank your lucky stars that the internet has been invented, because when I first started working as an agent in Japan, 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 I 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 I listen to people complaining about poor service from their Import Broker, I 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, my 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. That’s not such a bad thing: when I worked briefly at a Holden dealership, it was a well-known fact that there was more profit in servicing than there was in the initial sale of the cars themselves – bear this in mind if you were to purchase a car from an import specialist and then get your car serviced there later on.

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?

Firstly let me say that my customers usually expect me to say that my competitors are the spawn of Satan, but there are a number of other import brokers who I happily recommend to people who ask, and many potential customers of mine have ended up going to them to find their cars. There are also some import brokers I wouldn’t touch with a barge pole, but that’s the same for any industry I guess. The more astute of you would’ve noticed that my fee is a little cheaper than my competitors, but that doesn’t mean you’re getting ripped off by them – import brokering is a very thankless task at times!

At this stage I rarely advertise, and new customers generally come to me by word-of-mouth from my current and previous customers. While I get depressed about lack of sales from time-to-time, I wouldn’t say I’ve necessarily got the killer instinct for “closing the deal” (unless I’m negotiating with a dealer in Japan on behalf of a client!). I do this job because I love cars and I love finding great cars for other car nuts. I don’t bullshit around – if I think it’s a silly move importing a certain kind of car, I will say so, even if it costs me a sale. I know that my family will still have food on the table if I 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 I operate. I’m a one-man show, and my customers appreciate the personal attention they get as a result.

Why not just pay you up front for everything?

Like the better of my competitors, I 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 I 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. I’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 me, and they’re $5000 cheaper than me and can I price-match it (and I hear this quite often), then my response is to go get the car through the other company, with my blessing. The prices in Japan are what they are, so haggling or asking me 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 question mark next to it?

In these situations, the agent in Japan cannot find any evidence to suggest the kms showing on the odometer are genuine, and suspects that it may not be the case based on wear and tear inside the vehicle.

Cars available

  • 2017 Toyota Estima Aeras Smart
    Auction Grade 4B
    Odometer 72,500
    Colour Black
    Car Location Japan
    FOB Price ¥1,855,000
    Est. Price (AUD)
    View Details
  • 2016 Toyota Regius Ace (Hiace) DX 4WD
    Auction Grade 4C
    Odometer 142,200
    Colour White
    Car Location Japan
    FOB Price ¥1,657,000
    Est. Price (AUD)
    View Details