Understanding Japanese Car Auctions and Auction Sheets

Understanding Japanese Car Auctions and Auction Sheets

Vehicles sold at Japanese car auctions are inspected top to bottom by independent professionals, and the inspection results are written on an auction sheet. 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.

Seller Provides Vehicle Information

Seller notes the car's license plate number, first registration date, maker, model, mileage, service book, etc. They can’t include comments on the car’s technical condition. They can only refer to some of the car’s special features, such as a leathered seats, sunroof, etc. 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, contact number, and starting and selling price. Sellers can specify any starting and selling price. This information can be seen only by the auction staff!

Tips for sellers: it costs about $ 100 to put a car up for sale at auction, and $ 100 more if sold. Auctions are usually held on the city outskirts, so be prepared for delivery costs between $50 to $200. The car should be taken to the auction site at least 3 days in advance to allow as many people as possible to discover it.

Vehicle Inspection

USS inspectors impartially evaluate vehicles in line with a 6-grade scoring system. It takes 1-2 days to inspect the car, take pictures and post the information online.

Vehicle registration and information access

Vehicle photographs and inspection results are entered into a database. Information about vehicles to be auctioned can be reviewed in advance on a USS satellite TV terminal or a live Internet link.

From there, the auction is ready to go, and the bidding will be strongly influenced by the information provided on the car auction sheets.

What are Japanese Car Auction Sheets?

These sheets show the results of the inspection done prior to auction. They’re an essential part of purchasing used vehicles from Japan, and they provide important information on the car’s history, condition, and market value, including details such as:

  • Vehicle’s first registration date in Japan
  • Any crash history
  • Repairs
  • Dents or scratches, rated according to severity
  • Chassis number (to make sure the car you’re sold is the one that’s shipped)
  • Corrosion or rust
  • Interior condition (including tears, scratches, stains, cigarette burns)
  • Engine noise or transmission problems
  • Oil leaks
  • Repainting/respraying
  • Air conditioning
  • Condition of windshield

After the inspection is done, the vehicle is given a grade for the interior and exterior, as well as a total grade which indicates the car’s overall condition and market value.

All comments are in Japanese and often written by hand. You’ll also see that abbreviations are used for specific terms, words, and phrases - which make can make reading difficult, even for native Japanese. It’s wise to get professional assistance to help provide an accurate auction sheet translation.

Our auction grade “cheat sheet” below can help!

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, and rot.

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.

Two cars produced in the same condition and having similar condition can get different ratings. For example, if car #1 with no center pillar damage only replaced two doors, it gets a grade of 4.5. But if car #2 had center pillars repaired, it’s given a grade of R.  In other words: you need to know exactly which parts have been repaired or replaced, because that will determine the rating.

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 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!