At EFJ Japan, we know that the Japanese car auction system and auction sheets can be confusing for the average consumer. We give you the expert advice you need to buy your car with confidence.
Japanese Auction System Basics

Japanese auction formats can vary, but let’s look at the steps in the USS auction system. This is the largest used car auction in Japan, selling an average of 50,000 lots per week.

Information Provided by the Seller:

Seller notes the car's first registration date, maker, model, mileage, service book, etc. Seller can’t include comments on the car’s condition. But can refer to car’s special features, such as installed turbo timers, coilovers, drive recorders. If a seller gives inaccurate information, the buyer can apply to the auction house for compensation!
Sellers have to include their auction membership number, company name and starting and selling price. Sellers can specify any starting and selling price. This information can be seen only by the auction staff!

Vehicle Inspection

USS inspectors check the cars and give them a score from 1 to 6, which is fair and unbiased. It takes about 1-2 days to inspect the car, take pictures, and put the information on the auctions website. When the auction starts, buyers use the information on the auction sheet to decide how much to offer for the car.

What are Japanese Car Auction Sheets?

The auction sheet is a crucial document when purchasing used cars from Japan.. Auction sheets provide essential information about the vehicle's history and condition. including details such as:

  • Vehicle’s first registration date in Japan
  • Accident history
  • Repairs (repainting/respraying)
  • Dents and scratches, rated according to severity
  • Corrosion and rust issues
  • Interior condition (including wear level, scratches, stains, cigarette burns)
  • Engine noise, oil leaks, transmission problems
  • Condition of windshield, headlight and tail lamps

The car is given a grade for its interior and exterior, as well as a total grade that reflects its overall condition. All comments on the sheet are written in Japanese and by hand. The use of abbreviations can make it challenging to read even for native Japanese speakers. It's recommended to seek professional assistance to translate the auction sheet accurately.

Understanding Japanese Car Auction Grades

Grade S

New cars / Cars not older than a year.

Grade 6

Cars not older than 3 years, in nearly-new condition, and maximum mileage of 30,000 km. So a 5-year-old car with only 0 km can’t be given S or 6 auction grades.

Grade 5

Cars with a maximum mileage of 50,000 km, regardless of age. Given to cars that have no repair marks, scratches, or dents. Interior is in mint condition.

Grade 4.5

Cars with a maximum mileage of 100,000 km in very good condition. Given to cars with no visible repair marks, large scratches, dents, interior cigarette burns, permanent stains, or cracks in the dashboard. Quality repair work or modified body panels allowed.

Buyer Tip: Auction sheet comments about car condition should be carefully interpreted. For example, cars that were never repaired but were given light cleaning and polishing could be given a grade of 5. Whereas cars with higher mileage that had parts repaired or replaced might get a grade of 4.

It’s hard to know which is the better choice for you. That’s why it’s important to have an on-the-ground expert like EFJ do in-person inspections, provide photo documentation, and give you first-hand details on the car’s condition.

Grade 4

Cars with a maximum mileage of 150,000 km. May have small to medium-sized scratches. Generally given to cars in good condition.

Again, try to get as much detail as possible. For example, a 15-year-old car with rust marks on the underbody, a couple of details changed, but damage to the main body might get a grade 4.

On the other hand, a 3-year-old car with 10,000 km could get a grade of 4 as a result of two large scratches. If that car is repaired, it will be given a grade of 4.5. It may be more profitable for you to buy the grade 4 vehicle for a lower price.

Grade 3.5

Given to cars with large scratches, dents, modified or repaired rear fenders, scratches in the cabin, cigarette burns or cracks in the trim, or cars with excessive mileage based on age. For example, a new car with very little mileage and a tidy interior, but with serious damage to a door could be rated with grade 3.5.

Grade 3/Grade 2

Given to cars with substantial rust, corrosion.

Grade 1

Generally given to cars that have been submerged or burned.

Grade R

If any part of the body is repaired or replaced, regardless of mileage and year, the car is rated as R. Repaired or replaced parts include core support, side inner panel, crossmember, rear floor, center pillars, etc.

Getting the Most out of Japanese Car Auctions

Japanese car auction sheets can be a great resource when you’re shopping for high-quality, pre-owned vehicles. But don’t rely on these as your only source of information because, as we’re shown, auction sheet grades are open to interpretation.

What’s more important is to look closely at the specific notes on the vehicle you have your eye on. But it can be hard to know whether you’re getting the most accurate information if you’re half a world away. That’s why it makes sense to work with on-the-ground professionals who can personally inspect your target car to get a true picture of its condition.

EFJ has the experience and expertise to simplify your buying experience. We’ll help you interpret and understand your car's auction sheet. And we’ll give you a detailed, professional assessment of your car’s condition and true market value. We can help you find the car that’s right for you.

Connect with us at [email protected],  and let us do the work for you!