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How to Import Car Parts From Japan: The Need For Speed

how to import car parts from japan
With the boom of the Japanese car market, all product categories from japanese auto parts are more popular than ever. Learn more about this exciting import here.
USA Customs Clearance
September 30, 2022
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Last Modified: October 13, 2022

The Japanese car culture in the U.S. is red hot, and knowing how to import car parts from Japan is more important than ever. After all, getting JDM parts into the United States is not as easy as it looks.

Imported car parts from Japan are regulated by the Environmental Protection Agency  (EPA), the Department of Transportation (DOT), and Japanese Customs. Japanese auto parts must be cleaned and sterilized of all oil, lubricants, and gas before being cleared for export to the U.S.

Learn more about why car parts from Japan are so popular, what to look for, and how to easily import those parts to the U.S.

Why Import Car Parts From Japan?

Import car parts from Japan

Importing car parts from Japan is a massive business in the United States. With the majority of cars in the U.S. being Japanese brands, the demand for JDM parts is high. 

Add to that the rising popularity of the “street racing and show car scene” in the U.S. Movies like “The Fast and The Furious” franchise have blown up the Japanese import scene, causing the demand for these cars and parts to skyrocket in North America and other parts of the world.

As a result, the cost of importing these parts can be expensive, but there are ways to lower these costs. Some savings directly stem from dealing with manufacturers rather than a third party. If you run a business that deals with Japanese car parts, there are other categories to consider, like the following.

  1. Aftermarket parts: This parts category refers to replacement parts that are not produced as “original equipment manufacturer,” otherwise known as OEM. In the case of Japanese racing, these parts are in the performance parts category.
    • Mugen
    • HKS
    • Yokohama
    • 5zigen
  1. JDM performance parts: This parts category refers to OEM parts made in Japan. Often, these parts are most closely associated with the performance divisions of Japanese auto manufacturers like the following.
    • Nismo for Nissan
    • Mazdaspeed for Mazda
    • Toyota Racing Development (TRD) for Toyota
    • Subaru Tecnica International (STI) for Subaru

Along with direct OEM manufacturers or aftermarket manufacturer savings, there is the issue of availability of these parts. Some Japanese car parts are challenging to acquire domestically. That is why it is essential to deal exclusively in Japan and avoid intermediaries.

Can You Import Car Parts From Japan?

How to import car parts from Japan turbos

You can import car parts directly from Japan. One must establish partnerships with Japanese auto manufacturers and aftermarket manufacturers to successfully import auto parts directly from Japan.

Some parts have a sort of “red tape” surrounding them. It doesn’t mean they are impossible to import, but they are more difficult to process through Customs. The following are examples of used auto parts that may present problems:

  • Valve trains
  • Complete engines
  • Turbochargers
  • Crankcases
  • Transmission systems
  • Piston housing

The reasoning for the listed components causing issues in customs clearance is because they have oil, lubricants, or gas associated with them, which is a hazard in transport. Under Japanese customs controls, the shipment of any items containing said materials is prohibited.

For this reason, any Japanese used car parts in this category must be cleaned and sterilized free from any liquid-based contaminants before clearing Japanese customs. Clearance for these goods to be exported will not be granted unless the aforementioned steps are applied.

However, it is not as easy as one might think. To successfully import car parts from Japan, many formalities must first be adhered to in the process. Success extends past those partnerships and goes right into laws and regulations.

Having a working understanding of Japanese export laws and conditions is essential. Check out our article on import costs from Japan to learn more.

Are Car Parts Cheaper in Japan?

Whether or not car parts are cheaper in Japan depends entirely on several vital aspects. Are these parts new or used? Are they direct from the OEM manufacturer, aftermarket manufacturer, or third party within Japan?

These questions are essential in determining the costs associated with bringing your auto parts to the U.S. The video below shows another alternative, recycled parts, an effective strategy for acquiring parts at a reasonable price.

Source: Nishikawa Shokai

Direct benefits can immediately be seen when dealing with direct suppliers in Japan or even the recycled used parts industry. Besides obtaining the best made parts, they are not knockoff fakes but the real deal. Dealing with the primary source also extends favorable pricing all around.

Ultimately, various factors when importing car parts from Japan dictate cost-effectiveness. Specific categories which surround your import will be varied depending on the shipment. Here are a few examples of what can influence them.

  • Cost per item
  • Exchange rate
  • Volume 
  • Dimensions
  • Fees
  • Duties
  • Taxes

Factors of the exchange rate, import fees, duties, and import quantity all determine whether or not it is advantageous to import auto parts from Japan. One must consider all of these factors before importing car parts from abroad.

The same rule applies when importing Japanese aftermarket car parts, Japanese car body parts, and JDM performance parts. Recently, a new form of vehicle started in Japan known as a Kei car.

The Kei car is a step below the widely known compact car and is a car type that is hyper fuel efficient and has a small footprint. In Japan, these cars are widely popular, and car manufacturers have even introduced them in America:

  • Toyota Yaris
  • Fiat 500
  • Mazda 2

So why bring up Kei cars in the first place? Well, with the rise in popularity of these cars, it is an excellent time to stock up on these Japanese auto parts now. These parts are commonplace in Japan but limited in the U.S.

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JDM Car Parts and Their Demand

JDM engine bay parts

As mentioned before, the explosion of JDM styling and performance in the U.S. largely became popular due to the ”The Fast and The Furious” movie franchise. The popularity of the films has sparked an insane car culture and the demand that comes with it.

Source: Johnathan Harder

So, how does this translate into importing car parts from Japan? In the grand scheme of things, you are in the business of value-based acquisition. This section is about value determinations and whether or not there is value in this car parts market.

So many people have bought into the JDM car culture, with more and more buying JDM cars each year. This market has seen an unbelievable increase in Japanese vehicle ownership, including a demand for genuine JDM parts.

Japanese Aftermarket Car Parts

Continuing with the theme of Japanese aftermarket car parts, demand and growth is very much alive. The aftermarket parts category in Japanese exported goods is intense and a significant player in Japan's exports.

Japanese Aftermarket Car Parts Fiscal Growth

YearSales Figures
2015$39 Billion
2016$41 Billion
2017$43 Billion
2018$45 Billion
2019$46 Billion

The imported aftermarket parts industry has been steadily growing annually, no doubt as a result of the incredible demand from consumers. Now more than ever, the business of importing these goods from Japan is at its peak.

Sourcing Japanese aftermarket car parts has likewise seen an incredible uptick in productivity and business. However, this was not always the case. In past years, Japan was not as open to dealing with foreign importers due to fraud and other forms of bad business practices.

These issues have since cooled off and have become less present in recent years, leading to manufacturers and businesses opening their doors wide open.

How to Import Car Parts from Japan: Documentation and Compliance

Import aftermarket parts dashboard gauge cluster

Both documentation and compliance are critically important when importing goods from Japan. This is especially true regarding automotive parts being exported out of Japan, as Customs from both the export and import points are very thorough in their process.

  • Documentation: In all cases, standardized import documents are required for imported car parts brought into the U.S. from Japan. US Customs and Border Protection (CBP) requires the proper filing of all import documents on a tight timetable.  Using a licensed customs broker is the best way to avoid additional fees, seizures, or even having your goods denied at the port.
  • Compliance: For auto parts imported from Japan, compliance is straightforward and has been met by the manufacturer. However, for genuine used or recycled parts, compliance must be met to ensure that all oils, lubricants, and gas are free from the parts. In the case of JDM or aftermarket parts, compliance with the Department of Transportation (DOT) and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) must be approved before importation.

Federal conformity related to imported car parts from Japan is critical when importing these parts. You must understand Japanese conformity and compliance if you are to be successful in facilitating these parts overseas.

Necessary documentation that upholds conformity and compliance for importing goods:

  • Entry Summary: The entry summary, often referred to as CBP form 7501, is a document that can also be submitted electronically. This form includes information like an appraisal, country of origin, goods classifications, etc.
  • Bill of Lading: A document that is legally bound and details the type, quantity, and final destination of those goods. The BOL is issued by the carrier on behalf of the shipper.
  • Commercial Invoice: This document is critical; it provides legality in the transaction between the seller and buyer for exported goods and is an invaluable part of the clearance of goods through customs.
  • ISF Filing: This regulation, known as 19 CFR p.149, but more commonly known as the 10+2, is mandated by the CBP to evaluate risk assessment before the arrival of your shipment, taking safety into account regarding your goods.
  • Customs Bond: This document is a contract that guarantees the payment of taxes and duties and a guarantee of compliance with U.S. customs.

As with anything that is being exported out of a foreign country and subsequently imported into the U.S., a litany of regulations and conformity is required. Regardless of anything else, these topics related to customs are the most essential piece of the puzzle.

HTSUS and Incoterms®

The Harmonized Tariff Schedule (HTS) is a code that represents the goods that you are importing into the U.S. This code lists the assigned duty rate of the imported auto parts. Our site has an HTS Lookup Tool that you can use to find your classification.

As part of the trade agreement between Japan and the U.S., there has been an elimination and reduction of some tariffs traveling both ways. Unfortunately, auto parts and vehicles are still under negotiations but are expected to become part of the current eliminated tariffs at a later date.

Example HTS Codes for auto parts being imported from Japan:

  1. Genuine parts and accessories: 
    1. Exhaust pipes and components 8708.92.5000
    2. Brake rotors 8708.30.5020
    3. Gearboxes 8708.40.5000
  1. Aftermarket tires and rims: 8708.70
    1. Toyo Tires road wheel tires 8708.70.0500
    2. Enkei road wheel rims 8708.70.1500

These HTS codes help an importer calculate the costs of associated duties concerning their imported goods. Finding the correct code assigned to each component you are importing is critical.

Another critically important asset for importers is something known as Incoterms®. What are these terms exactly? To put it all into perspective, Incoterms® was created by the International Chamber of Commerce (ICC) to help facilitate communication.

That is right, Incoterms® creates a “black and white” agreement that both sides of an international transaction can understand. While also dictating the rules and responsibilities set by both parties.

To learn more about Incoterms® and how they can better serve your importing journey, check out an extremely well written guide on Incoterms® basics.

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Import Consulting and Brokerage for Japanese Car Parts

mechanic engine repair and tuning.

When importing Japanese car parts into the U.S., you will likely require consulting to help answer questions regarding even the smallest detail.

Consulting services for Japanese imports are essential because something can get missed regardless of your experience in international trade. In other cases, a potential opportunity to save time and money can pass you by if you’re not careful.

Expert consultation takes all of the frustration and confusion out of importing, not to mention that familiarizing with Japanese trade customs is worth its weight in gold. Here are some example topics covered by our expert consultants.

  1. Federal Regulations
  2. Federal Restrictions
  3. Required Documentation
  4. Document Filing
  5. Duty Fees and Tariffs
  6. Customs Clearance

Besides consulting, customs brokerage takes things one step further. A customs broker effectively manages every aspect of the import process for you. They provide a litany of services that get your goods to the U.S. safely and quickly.

Customs brokers also have an excellent working knowledge of Japanese export regulations, including adhering to Japanese customs. This fact is incredibly important in moving your goods out of Japan on time while avoiding delays.

Also, and perhaps most important, customs brokers are incredible assets for avoiding unnecessary fines, additional fees, or even goods seizure due to an error on the part of the importer.

Some key areas where licensed customs brokers make all the difference in importing Japanese auto parts:

  1. Guarantee compliance with federal agencies or entities.
  2. Recovering any duty refunds, known as section 301.
  3. Correct HTS classifications are always applied.
  4. ISF filing management preventing fines.
  5. Complete transparency for your shipments
  6. Facilitation of customs bonds for one or more loads.
  7. Ensuring that used auto parts clear Japanese customs.

Customs brokers are the aspirin for import headaches, and their entire purpose is to ensure that imported goods meet all compliance regulations, documentation requirements, and timetables the shipper needs.

The purpose of a customs broker revolves around professional management in the trade of international goods. This is especially true as it relates to Japan, its culture, and its trade regulations and formalities.

With a customs broker at your side, details won’t be missed, and your importing experience will be streamlined and satisfying. Even obtaining consultation is recommended at the bare minimum when dealing with importing goods from Japan.

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USA Customs Clearance Helps You Import With Confidence

Knowing how to import car parts from Japan can be tricky. This trickiness remains true with JDM and aftermarket parts and accessories. Our team at USA Customs Clearance is experienced and utterly committed to helping you.

Our consultants and licensed customs brokers have decades of combined experience and know how to get your goods out of Japan and into the U.S. with ease. USA Customs Clearance, powered by AFC International, leverages skill and care to help facilitate your needs for every shipment.

With a wide range of services and support, our team is here to help!

  • Import Customs Consulting
  • Customs Brokerage
  • Customs Bonds
  • Importer of Record Registration
  • Manifest Confidentiality

Whether you are a pro or new to importing, we have services and support that take out the worries, stress, and risk of making a mistake that can cost you time and money. Why not give yourself the peace of mind you deserve and let the professionals handle your imports?

Our “unmatched white glove service” is an industry benchmark. Nowhere will you find the level of importing support that we can provide. You can click for more information or call us at (855) 912-0406 and start shipping and importing with the best.

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2 comments on “How to Import Car Parts From Japan: The Need For Speed”

  1. I would love to purchase some Pontiac trans am parts from Japan tail lights from a 79thru 81 export tail lights for 93thru97firebird export and mirrors from 82_97both export

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