Ireland’s taxation system for new cars is severe enough to restrict buyers so that they tend to hold onto their smokey polluter longer than they should.

So where can an Irish dealer replenish his stock of good European vehicles for his yard? Sure, he can look next door to see what high km vehicles the UK has dumped onto the market! Or perhaps he should be looking further afield? Half way around the world? Looking at the Japanese market?!

The Japanese used car market

Yes, Japan is a right-hand drive country! Why? It wasn’t ever one of those English colonial hold outs! It has less to do with a king or queen but more to do with a samurai’s sword in the Edo period, but no time here to explain that. Japan is right-hand drive, so let’s enjoy those benefits.

As you probably know, Japanese use trains, a lot. Going to work in a city you use the train. You are guaranteed to arrive within a minute of the scheduled time. You need to be a millionaire if you want to park your family car close to the workplace each day, parking fees. It is also frowned upon in a company, driving your own car to work when you could use a train. When transportation costs are given to workers, it is always calculated from the cost of “training” to work, not driving. So when the average Japanese owns a car, it is usually for weekend or holiday use. The net result: compared with most countries, cars of similar age of lower used kms.

Harsh car value depreciation in Japan is the reason there is a used car export market. It costs, quite a lot, to keep a car in Japan. Before you can register your new car you need to own or rent a car park. Every two years there is a vigorous and expensive registration. Every year there is the car tax. So owning a car in Japan is a BIG financial commitment. If you are going to commit to such an expense of owning a car, it may as well be a fairly new one. There is no point in paying a large annual car park fee for an old, low-value car. The cost of owning AND keeping a car in Japan makes their used prices, the cheapest in the world.

Approximately 8% of new cars sold in Japan are foreign, most of those being European. Volvo, Fiat, Renault, BMW, Volkswagen and of course the luxury brands: all sold in Japan. About 450,000 European cars sold new each year in Japan. Most of them right-hand drive.

Buying them?

A large portion of the used vehicles sold in Japan each day are for export. Due to the steep depreciation curve mentioned above, the costs of purchasing and freighting half way around the globe is still financially viable. It is however, a closed system. The used car auctions are basically CLOSED to the Japanese public. You need a dealers licence AND a membership of the auction. This protects the used car dealers in Japan from the Japanese public going to the auctions and buying a car themselves at a cheap price. It also makes the car auctions of Japan, the WHOLESALE price. So when we give our foreign clients access to these auctions, they are at a cheaper price level than even the Japanese public have access to! By the time you pay for all the fees and costs in Japan (called the FOB price), you are still paying LESS than what the Japanese public pay for a used car. For the actual details of how to purchase, visit our explanation here.

Shipping Methods

There are 2 ways to ship your vehicle. Container or roll-on, roll-off shipping. Depending on the season, one is more expensive than the other.

Container shipping

  • Quicker onto the boat
  • Requires extra vanning and THC costs
  • Can take a non-moving vehicle
  • 40ft container can hold: 5 small cars / 4 sedan cars / 2 large cars … and sometimes 4 small trucks

RORO shipping

  • Simpler
  • Good for only one or two vehicles
  • No risk of vanning damage
  • Not subject to price fluctuations that impact container shipping
  • Hybrid car freight prices are cheaper on RORO

Presently, (2024 May) container shipping is cheaper.

CO₂ and NO₂ emission data from Japan

It is available, though it requires a good search of the Japanese Ministry of Industry and Infrastructure’s website. It is usually in Japanese so we will get that for you.

Exporting to Ireland experience

Yes, we have a lot of it as well as a guiness drinking Irish agent to assist when needed. (We also have non-guiness drinking, non-Irish agents with a lot of experiece exporting to Ireland as well as well).

Contact us ( (replace the # with an @ mark) or sign up directly and we will get in touch.