In short Japanese imports are better because they have an unbeatable value for money. When buying an import, you are getting a higher quality, better designed car with more options and less mileage for the same price tag or in most cases even lower than local counterparts.HIGH QUALITY
Japanese car makes reign supreme when it comes to reliability in any market, be it Europe or Australia.
However, Japanese cars for domestic market are designed and manufactured even to a higher standard than vehicles built and sold outside of Japan.
Due to high quality of Japanese cars, they are very reliable and have an excellent reputation of long lasting and low maintenance cars. It means no headaches for owners if a car is serviced regularly.
Most vehicles imported to Australia are preserved in an immaculate condition. They do not show wear and tear common on local cars after a certain number of years/kilometers.EASY LIFE
Imported cars have much easier life due to better roads and lower speed limits (in most cases up to 100km/hour only) in Japan.LOW MILEAGES
In general Japanese cars travel less distances as they have a superb bullet train system in Japan. It is not uncommon to find a 10-year-old plus vehicle that has travelled 5,000km or less in a year.THOUGHTFUL OWNERSHIP
The notion of respect is very strong in Japanese culture… Drivers are more affectionate to their vehicles and take a really good care of them. At the same time there is much more respect and consideration towards others in car parks, etc. so dents and scratches are less common.
99.9% imported vehicles from Japan arrive to Australia with genuine mileages.
After custom clearance and before compliance some vehicles go through a procedure called a "haircut" – illegal odometer tampering by dealers and privates alike. In this case compliance papers for these cars will show new fake low mileage.
Some cars have 50-60,000km slashed, but most of them are "cut" to match the odometer reading on the Export Certificate ex Japan.
Watch our videos on how to verify mileage on a Japanese Import here and become an anti-haircut pro!
I have already spoken about advantages of Japanese imports in general here.
Let's have a look at the family cars category in imports, like Nissan Elgrand and Toyota Estima.
Most people movers sold in Australia are focused only on a primary function of any full size three-row vehicle – convenience and easy access.
Apart from a few very expensive and near new models, they are typically unattractive, uncomfortable and low on options…yet quite pricey! A good example would be Toyota Tarago that hasn’t been updated for nearly 10 years and hasn’t had a reverse camera as a standard option until 2018.Modern Day Technology
Japanese people movers offer a lot more: great engines, refined interiors, and luxury features. Models as old as 2003 and 2004 come with all power options, including electric sliding doors, Sat Nav, Xenon lights and reverse cameras. AWD on demand is another very popular feature among our customers as it is not available on any local minivans.Low Mileages
The other striking difference is mileage. In Japan it is not uncommon to find a 10-year-old plus vehicle with genuine low mileage under 100,000km. We sell a lot of 2005 models with 70-90,000km. It always blows me away how great they look and drive compared to local counterparts.Great Ride Quality
All people movers that we import are top of the range models. They are equipped with the best engines in their class. Whether you are driving Nissan Elgrand or Toyota Estima, performance and power are outstanding... they love to be pushed. You can never tell you are driving a big “beast”: combination of excellent engine and supple suspension delivers a good impression of a sporty sedan.Best Value for Money
Want a reliable and long lasting vehicle? Love high quality interior and modern day technology, such as electric sliding doors, Sat Nav, Bluetooth and Xenon headlights? It is simply impossible to find a better value for money 7 or 8 seater than Toyota Estima or Nissan Elgrand in Australian market as prices start from $10,000 for a fully optioned family car.Wow Factor
And last but not least, people choose Japanese imports because they want something unique and fun to drive. And nothing fits the bill better than a sporty and lifestyle people mover from Japan. Japanese owners hate uniformity and most of them go for aftermarket add-ons to express their individual style. Some are subtle, some are weird and wonderful, the choice is your.
We recommend to service every 6 - 8 months or 7,000 -10,000km depending on your situation. Any good local mechanic will do, there is no need to take your import to Toyota or Nissan service center.
Average bill for service in Sydney area is between $125 and $175. It is very cheap compared to European and Korean family cars ($400-$700 plus).
If you have any further questions or would like to book our trusted compliance shop mechanics to service your car, please email us: firstname.lastname@example.org
Once the vehicle is purchased, a customer has two weeks to transfer in their names at any RTA office. This is when you pay 3% stamp duty off the amount of the tax invoice. If you go over 2 weeks, there is a fine around $110 in NSW.
Once you purchase a car and it gets delivered to you, you need to take it to a local roadworthy inspection. After a car passes an inspection, you then proceed to RTA with all paperwork (from the dealership where you bought a car and from roadworthy inspection) to transfer in your name and pay stamp duty. Stamp duty varies from state to state and reaches 4% in Victoria.
Once I nearly lost a customer because NRMA hit them with a very high quote and they honestly believed that this was the only company that insured imports.
Unless you are lucky and live a stress free life in rural and remote areas, NRMA is always going to charge you ridiculous amounts of money. Someone has to pay for their wonderful commercials that I can’t take my eyes off.
For those of you who like to think outside of the box, here’s a list of other insurance providers with reasonable and affordable prices:
|1. Enthusiast Motor Insurance||1800 101 044|
|2. MB Insurance||0299 669 777|
|3. Youi||1300 234 162|
|4. RACV||137 228|
|5. Suncorp||131 155|
P.S. Please note that you need to make a phone call to most insurance companies. Online quotes don't work for Japanese Imports.
For our stock we decided to focus on these two models, as they are truly the best: the most reliable, versatile and spacious, hence popular with our customers. We are happy to bring in any vehicle approved for importation under the Specialist & Enthusiast Vehicle Scheme (SEVS) by a custom order ex Japan. The most popular models by order are Nissan Skyline coupe, sedan and crossover V36.
Nissan Elgrand is the king in MPV category. But I will be honest; a lot of my customers prefer to buy Toyota Estima aka "Tarago on Steroids".
Let’s have a look why.
Nissan Elgrand shares its "luxury people mover #1" status only with Toyota Alphard, another popular Japanese import. Brand new it would be way over 100k in Australia if ever allowed.
Nissan Elgrand E51 (2002-2010) is one of the most versatile, spacious and luxurious 8 seater on the planet. In the next model E52 (2010 and onwards), Nissan shifted luxury status towards its 7 seats model, namely VIP, Rider, and Highway Star Premium. However, its 8-seater model Highway Star is still very impressive, especially compared to local vans.
Elgrand is always more presentable and more optioned than Estima. Inside or outside, it just oozes a high-class status. Everything you see or touch is fabulous from the scroll wheel for the infotainment to luxury leather and thick mats on the floor. Standard features include proximity entry and start and fantastic 360 all around view cameras from as early as 2007.
Estima is definitely one class down even in its top shelf model, however most customers choose it over Elgrand because it is cheaper, smaller, less on fuel and less on maintenance. People also feel "safer" because Estima has a local counterpart Tarago and hence parts are more available in Australia. Plus, everyone knows how reliable Toyota is.
Another benefit is that it is much cheaper to convert its head unit into English. You can have a budget of around 10K and get a very nice low mileage 2004-2005 Estima with all power options and brand new infotainment with built in GPS, Internet, Bluetooth and reverse camera.
To sum up, Toyota Estima is a perfect fit for a practical owner who is sensitive to petrol consumption, uncomfortable to drive “a big beast” and can’t be bothered to look for a knowledgeable mechanic in case of any issues.
If you are a serious car enthusiast, looking for a great ride, genuine luxury and a wow factor, you will fall in love with Nissan Elgrand. Besides, it has a bigger cabin and boot: It is possible to walk through the vehicle to check on those in the rear, and the rear seats could be folded flat to accommodate lots of luggage and the biggest of prams.
Series 1 (2002 - 2004)
Very comfortable and spacious, clever design, and easy access to all seats but from my own experience mechanically is not very reliable when mileage is close to 100,000km and over. There may be rattling noise in the cabin, especially in sliding doors.
Series 2 (2005-end 2007)
Fantastic car, but it lacks 360 all around cameras that is so nice to have on such a big car!
Series 3 (2008-2010)
The ultimate people mover. Drives better than previous series of E51, very reliable, interior is excellent, 360 cameras, and updated looks. By default all series 3 have dual electric sliding doors, Xenon lights, proximity entry/start, black luxe leather, and 360 cameras as standard.
Optional features include AWD on demand, electric sunroofs, drop down DVD and electric curtains.
Late series 3: runs from Dec’09 to July 2010 is a limited edition with some mechanical updates and new luxury leather on seats with white stitch.
Series 3 2008-2009 is always cheaper and much easier to buy in Japan, whereas 2010 is limited in numbers and hard to find, hence price is more at the auctions.
Both 7 and 8 seats Estima have long runners and middle row seats can slide back and forth. Third row of seats does not slide but they go neatly inside the boot and you end up with a huge space, handy if you need to go to Ikea or move furniture.
I always recommend going with seven seats where possible because of the following factors:
Despite age difference both cars are full size MPV with 8 seats, they have similar dimensions and Kia's Platinum model has established itself as a luxury MPV.
So I was intrigued to see how they contrast against each other. We test drove Kia Carnival Platinum 2018 with a 2.2 turbo diesel engine and all the bells and whistles.First Impression
I was disappointed as soon as I entered the cabin. Firstly, it didn't scream "luxury" to me. Everything I touched inside Carnival Platinum such as plastics, trims, knobs, etc. was much cheaper quality than in E52. Leather was too smelly and looked cheap as well.
Secondly, there was no recliner chairs with leg rests, no drop down DVD in the middle row…and no floor mats at all, let alone high quality tailored ones that should come as standard on a premium car. No sunshades on passenger windows either.
I realized that Kia's cabin is a lot smaller than in Elgrand E52. Although Carnival looks "biggish" from outside it is actually 1750mm in height as opposed to E52's 1815mm, so lanky people will find Elgrand more comfortable to drive and use.Test Drive
2.2 turbo diesel was quiet but slow on acceleration and had slow dynamics even with three people in the car. Fully loaded it doesn't stand a chance. England's excellent and powerful 3,5L V6 outperforms Kia with great margin.
Automatic Transmission works really well on Kia and to my surprise changes gears smoothly. However, it feels very heavy to steer. When you are cornering, a frightfully large jellyfish comes to mind. The ride was quite bumpy, even on a good road. When you are driving an Elgrand, you feel like you are inside a sports refined sedan: it rides smoothly and handles extremely well.
It was quite noisy in Kia with closed windows while driving on a decent road at 70km an hour, while Elgrand’s cabin is always very quiet, with little wind or road noise.Features
Being a new generation vehicle Kia has a few clever features that simply aren’t available on 2010-2012 Elgrand for example such as Blind Spot and Lane Departure Warning.
However, Elgrand has a more comprehensive list of standard features on all models including ABS, VDC, AFS (active front lighting), 360 cameras, proximity entry and start and electric sliding doors.
AWD on demand is a hit with a lot of my customers for extra safety on wet or unsealed roads.
Extra features include Drop Down monitors, premium Bose sound system or equivalent, Radar Cruise Control, Collision Avoidance Assist, and Moving Object Detection.Reliability and Service
I don't have sufficient information on a new Kia. My mechanics advise not to touch its previous model as it was very costly to maintain. Hopefully this one is an improvement, but Korean cars in general are still a far cry from Japanese cars in terms of reliability, especially from the ones manufactured for Japanese domestic market, such as E52.
Nissan Elgrand average service bill is around $200, twice a year. It is very reliable as long as you put premium petrol and service it regularly. It is one of the cheapest cars to run and maintain. Petrol consumption is around 11.5L combined.
Kia service bill is going to be much more: due to 7 years warranty you are tied to their overpriced mechanical shop with a lot of hidden fees. Average service bill is $500-800.Prices
As of Agust 2018 Kia Carnival is $65,900 for 2018 top of the range Platinum model.
Nissan Elgrand is not offered for sale brand new in Australia. Average market price for E52 model 2010 - 2012 is $30,000. Lower mileage ones can reach up to 40K plus depending on model (VIP, Rider or Highway Star)Resume
If your sole purpose is to buy a brand new MPV with a Lane Departure Warning and you are itching to spend 65k plus, I guess you won't be disappointed.
But if you are a car enthusiast, looking for a great ride, genuine luxury and want to make every dollar count, please do yourself a favor and check out Nissan Elgrand E52. You will come across a much more advanced, refined and higher-class vehicle and will save at least 30K.
It really depends on how much money you would like to spend on a car, since E52 is younger and more expensive.
Although E52 has a nicer updated design that appeals to more people than a boxy shape of E51, it comes with less versatile cabin, less space and less height. The boot is considerably smaller.
E52 will suit families without double prams and those who engage in sports activities with minimal gear (e.g. golf, soccer, tennis, etc.).
E51 is a perfect fit for active families with lots of gear, prams, tools, etc. It is a blessing for taller people even in the third row.
From my experience, absolutely nothing can beat Toyota Estima Aeras 2004-2005 in terms of value for money. This model comes with a choice of economical 2, 4L (ACR) and powerful 3L V6 (MCR) engine and 7 or 8 seats capacity.
Right now in 2018, prices start from $10,00 by custom order and even at this low price point, you will get a very nice low mileage vehicle with plenty of life in it.
The list of standard features is mind blowing for the year of manufacture and includes: dual electric sliding doors on remote, high quality trims, reverse camera, Sat Nav, Infotainment unit with Bluetooth, USB and Internet connection, Xenon lights, cruise control, ABS brakes, steering wheel controls, airbags, dual zone climate control, alloy wheels, pearl paint and all power options.
If you don’t want to spend a fortune and need to move your clan in comfort and high tech, without thinking about maintenance and parts, this is the one. You will be very happy.
"I'm becoming increasingly agitated over the amount of total crap I'm reading. What is it about this particular vehicle that attracts bad sorts, from sleazy private importers bringing in auction rejects and repairable wrecks... and the full size car yards down Parramatta way... There are exterior photos of vans with sunroofs, which mysteriously disappear in interior shots. On other sites the vans are so photo-shopped to be almost unrecognisable, and so many with options that don't exist."
I got this email from a ranting and fuming member of the Nissan Elgrand FB group and loved it... couldn’t put it better myself: there are a lot of dodgy sellers and a mountain of fake ads for imported vehicles online.
What can you do if the authorities turn the blind eye?
You can educate yourself and avoid those "fake news" yards and private sellers.
Firstly, what is a fake ad?
Here's my selection of 5 warning signs for you:
Low mileage cars are VERY EXPENSIVE at the auctions in Japan. When a car with low kms shows up, everyone bids on it and that pushes the price up. They are also not that common after a certain number of years.
So, if you see a seller that puts up a number of Elgrands or Estimas all with around 50,000km on the clock - Houston, we have a problem. They’re either clocked back OR those are ads of non existent cars designed for you to take a bait and come to their car yard, where they'll BS you to death (No, really! You probably know that better than me).
Here's some examples of correct VIN numbers for you: