Buying a Used Japanese Car: Tips for Ensuring Quality and Authenticity

For many years now, Japanese cars have been known for their reliability, fuel economy, and longevity. While used Japanese vehicles make smart purchases, ensuring you get a quality, authentic car requires vigilance. Follow these expert tips to choose a great used Japanese car and avoid lemons or counterfeits.

Japanese car show JapFest 2015 402 Automotive

1.     Choose a Reputable Dealer

While many car dealers including JDM import cars from Japan, not all dealers are trustworthy. This makes it extremely difficult to find a quality second hand Japanese car. However, there are some ways you can tell if a dealer is reputable.

When searching for a used Japanese vehicle, look for longevity in business, positive reviews, fair policies, rigorous inspections, and warranty. Salespeople should be transparent with vehicle history reports, not high-pressure, and willing to let you properly test drive and get inspections. A good dealer stands behind what they sell if issues later arise. Taking time to choose a dealer known for quality vehicles and ethical practices protects you as a buyer and provides peace of mind with major purchase decisions.

2.     Verify the VIN

A VIN (vehicle identification number) is a unique serial code that identifies individual motor vehicles. Assigned by manufacturers, the VIN contains key details about the vehicle, including make, model year, where it was manufactured, engine type, and more.

No two cars have the same VIN, making it a useful way to identify and track specific vehicles. VINs are etched or stamped on plates and affixed to various locations on the vehicle, like the dashboard, driver’s side door jamb, and engine block. Insurance companies, law enforcement, and DMV regulators all use the VIN system to catalog automobiles. For owners, it provides valuable information about a vehicle’s history and specifications.

When buying a used Japanese car, run the VIN number through a decoder tool to confirm it matches the stated year, make, model, and trim. Make sure it wasn`t reported stolen. Cross-reference the VIN plate on the dash with the one on the door to spot fraudulent numbers.

3.     Review Maintenance Records

Closely examine maintenance logs to spot gaps or inconsistencies that could indicate odometer fraud or major unreported repairs. Look for thorough upkeep at proper mileage intervals from a trusted shop.

4.     Get a Pre-Purchase Inspection

A mechanic should thoroughly inspect the car before purchase to assess wear and tear and detect any underlying issues not immediately noticeable. This small upfront investment offers valuable peace of mind.

5.     Check for Warning Signs

Beware of rust, overspray, mismatched paint, quick fixes with generic parts, dirty, unmaintained interiors, new air fresheners masking scents, and abnormally low miles for the age. These hint at potentially disguised problems.

6.     Confirm No Flood Damage

Water damage is irreversible rot. Inspect for mud in odd places, rusted screws or seat tracks, foggy interior lights, and moisture in the trunk. Send off for a vehicle history report to rule out insurance claims for floods.

7.     Research Common Issues

Dig into forums and reviews to uncover widespread transmission problems, oil leaks, premature part failures, and other red flags for that particular make, model, and year. Arm yourself with knowledge to avoid recurring headaches.

8.     Favor One-Owner Vehicles

Cars with only one previous owner tend to be better maintained as that person cared deeply about the vehicle. Multiple owners means more unknowns in how it was treated and maintained.

9.     Test Drive Thoroughly

Take an extensive test drive checking acceleration, braking, alignment, Bluetooth connectivity, heat and AC, and all features. Make sure it drives, sounds, smells, and feels right. Don`t ignore your instincts.

10.  Confirm Authenticity

With higher-end models, use vehicle history reports and manufacturer tools like Lexus` Vehicle Build Sheet to spot inconsistencies proving the car isn`t real. Forego unbelievable deals on luxury makes and models.

Buying used requires diligence but takes the guesswork out of quality. Avoid newcomer brokers with cheap deals that seem too good to be true. Vet the car thoroughly and partner with seasoned dealers to score the Japanese gem it claims to be.