Alistair Benn
By Alistair Benn

The differences between Japanese cars and UK cars have changed. Global car production issues, micro-processor availability issues and rapid price increases have significantly changed the market. Big price savings are available if you know the detail. We explain the differences between the UK cars and Japanese cars to help you understand where to import your next car from.

2019 BMW X5 Case Study

If we take a look at the 2019 BMW X5 3.0L diesel SUV we can compare the spec and the pricing .

UK Car

Japanese Car



60,000 km

20" twin spoke alloys

$63,000 USD (FOB)

Japanese BMW X5


37,000 km

20" twin spoke alloys

$58,000 USD (FOB)

The Japanese car has lower miles and the lower price whilst the specification is the same.

2018 Range Rover Sport Case Study

Now let's take a look at the 2018 Range Rover Sport to understand how they compare.

UK Car

Japanese Car

UK Range Rover Sport HSE

3.0L SDV6


74,000 km

$56,000 USD (FOB)

Japanese Range Rover Sport

3.0L SDV6


44,000 km

$45,000 USD (FOB)

The lower spec SE achieves the lower price point, but it is a lower spec.

The SE is not available in the UK. In the UK, the HSE is the lowest spec available.

2021 Range Rover Autobiography Case Study

And finally, if we look at the 2021 Range Rover Autobiography we will see something completely different.

UK Car

Japanese Car

UK Range Rover Autobiography

5.0L 525 PS

25,500 km

$100,500 USD (FOB)

Japanese Range Rover Autobiography

5.0L 525 PS

24,500 km

$120,500 USD (FOB)

The same spec car has a significant saving in the UK.

These differences need close scrutiny to understand and will vary between makes, models and the age of the vehicles.

Key differences between UK cars and Japanese cars

The traditional differences between the Japanese cars and UK cars have changed in recent years. Whilst many obvious differences remain such as documentation and the car's controls. The differences in specifications and engines are less clear.

Diesel vs Petrol engines: Previously the UK cars were predominantly diesel engines and Japanese cars were only petrol. The UK today has good availability of Diesel, Petrol, Electric and Hybrid engines in all the traditional makes and models. More recently there are a number of newer makes emerging as Electric rivals to the main manufacturers.

Specification: Previously Japanese cars would be available in lower specifications. So cloth seats were regularly available rather than leather and key features such as sunroofs weren't a given. Today, some of the higher spec cars are also available in Japan (see the BMW X5 and the Range Rover Autobiography). However, big spec differences still exist and so it is crucial that you scrutinise the auction sheet and research the specification before making a commitment to buy a car.

Mileage: You will be more likely to find a lower mileage car from Japan as the average UK mileage is much higher than the Japanese average mileage.

Controls and Radio: Japanese cars will have Japanese controls and radio which will need attention on arrival. Of course this adds cost to you purchase. People who are buying higher end cars are more inclined to want to buy from Europe because they know they cars will be ready to drive when they arrive. The controls and radio will not need to be modified and so there is less to worry about and less to interfere with.  

UK Range Rover console
Japanese Range Rover controls

UK Retail Standards vs Japanese Auction Standards

Documentation and Service History Records:

One the beauties of importing a car is that the information on some imports is much more extensive than the information available on local cars. For example in the UK vehicles are regularly services and their service records are regularly maintained. So when you buy a UK car you can be confident the car has had its annual service so you can see it has been maintained properly and that the mileage checks prove it is genuine. In Japan the requirements are different. Instead of keeping a record book, the Japanese put stickers on the parts of the car and date when work was done. This makes it much harder to understand, and is not considered to be a full service history even though they probably have been serviced.

Retail Standards vs Auction Standards: UK cars are mostly bought from retailers and so they are prepared to retail standards. This means that they will not have any noticeable scratches or dents and usually come with 2 keys, matts, manufacturer’s bookpack and the service history. Whereas cars from Japan come mostly from wholesale markets and this means the original retailer has traded in the car to replace it with a newer model. They are not prepared for retailing so it can often have a chip on the screen or bonnet and only have one key. The Japanese grading system does help to grade the car eg the 3.5 is going to be a lower quality than the 5. You should account for this as it may add to your final costs to repair or replace any damaged parts of the vehicle.

The summary below provides a snapshot of the differences in vehicle preparation to anticipate.

UK Cars come prepared for Retail Sales

Cars prepared to showroom standard which means they come with all of the following as standard:

Full Service History

Roadworthiness Certification

Mileage checks

Accident damage records

2 keys


Manufacturer's book pack

Japanese Auction Cars

Auction cars are not prepared to retail standard

Stickers show Service History

Mileage Certificate

Export Certificate

Use the grading system to understand the condition. See our blog on the Japanese Grading System to fully understand.

In summary, there are still significant savings available between UK cars and Japanese cars. These aren't as clear cut as they were 8 years ago and so a good understanding of both markets is essential to get the best car at the best price with the right specification. The biggest deciding factors on where to buy your car from will depend on the type of engine you want, the mileage, spec choices, your budget and of course European controls or Japanese controls.

Take a look at the UK cars and Japanese cars we have to start your search or get in touch today and we will help you to find the best car to import.

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