The grading system for Auction Houses is important to understand as the grade sheets provide valuable insight for buyers looking to bid on vehicles at Japanese car auctions.
The Japanese system evaluates cars based on the condition and quality of the vehicle. At Moana Blue, we’re committed to helping importers understand the whole vehicle shipping process. In this guide, we’ll take a detailed look at Japanese car auction grades to help you make informed decisions.
Auction houses use a standardised method to appraise vehicles which is often shown on an inspection sheet. The grades are typically based on the condition, mileage, and overall quality of the vehicle.
Understanding the different codes and their meanings is important as it helps the buyer know the value and potential of the vehicle before they bid, lessening the risk of an issue. The sheet provided to you by shipping agents will help you understand the vehicle before you spend your time and money on a large investment.
Japan uses a mix of letters and numbers to represent and categorise vehicles, which are often shown on the grading sheet. Each auction house may also have different reporting formats, but the basic information is still the same as the sheets follow the same structure. Learning the different codes will make reading the sheet much easier to understand.
The different factors that they grade the vehicle on usually depend on the:
Vehicles are assigned a number on a scale from 0 to 6, where 0 represents the lowest condition and 6 indicates the highest. Occasionally, vehicles might receive a number from 3 or 3.5 due to minor accidents that were necessary for repairs.
These instances are marked with an “XX” on affected panels in the inspection sheet and are typically detailed in the sheet notes, often in Japanese.
Interior conditions are assessed using letters with:
Additionally, auction grades incorporate an extra letter to identify the vehicle’s body condition further. For example, a report could read “3 C B” which would indicate a good vehicle, with an average interior, and a good body.
Understanding the alphabetical tier system is a must when selecting vehicles to import. Vehicles graded A are typically in almost-new condition being virtually new, B signifies a very tidy interior with minor marks and C often represents an average condition.
While C can sometimes signify a vehicle with decent conditions, it might indicate signs of stains, wear, and tear at other auction houses. These attributes are common in vehicles older than 10 years. However, for vehicles under 2 or 3 years old, such concerns are usually minimal.
On the flip side, D grades are typically assigned to vehicles with noticeable dirtiness, cigarette burns, or having been disassembled for parts. This intricate grading system enables you to make well-informed decisions when choosing vehicles to import.
A, 0, and R may appear basic, but they are essential information to better understand the history of the vehicle. These letters can appear in different variations such as RS, R0, RA, and A1, each signifying distinct aspects of a vehicle’s repair history.
Furthermore, RA, A1, and R1 are indicative of minor repairs, and *** serves to indicate that there are severe mechanical or body-related issues such as engine problems, previous accidents, fire damage, or signs of flooding.
A typically corresponds to a virtually new interior, while B translates to a clean and well-maintained space. Moving down the scale, C typically represents an average interior showing its age through expected wear and tear.
Lastly, D highlights an interior marred by cigarette burns, odours, rips, tears, and evident damage – a clear indicator of significant wear and tear.
XX represents panels that have undergone repair or repainting, while W stands for wavy. W can be an indication that the panel’s paintwork has been altered from its original factory state.
W can be marked as W, W1, W2, or W3, these markings serve as a spectrum of visibility with 1 representing the least noticeable alternation.
It is nearly impossible to tell if the paintwork has been altered by the naked eye, so staff or crew will mark it as either W, W1, W2, or W3 when they are unsure.
Abbreviations play a significant role in understanding the different codes found on vehicles. Here are what some of the abbreviations mean:
A1 typically addresses minor surface scratches which can easily be buffed out. A2 delves deeper into medium-sized scratches that have penetrated the top layer of paint.
A3, on the other hand, represents deeper scratches with more visible and substantial damage that will most likely require a complete paint job.
U dents are typically dents that a vehicle would get from a parking lot, usually classified as U1 being the smallest to U3 being the largest.
For bigger dents, B1 is categorized as (minor) to B4 (major), each marking the severity of the dent’s impact on the vehicle’s exterior.
G, X, and occasionally A markings on the windshield reveal small stone chips or scratches commonly caused by routine driving.
Y codes (Y1 – Y4 with one typically being minor and four being major) highlight cracks that are often found in body kits or lights, which is often not an issue as those cracks are easy to repair or replace.
The paint’s condition is given its own set of grades. Ranging from P1 to P4, these codes address paint-related problems like fading, scratches, discolouration due to sun exposure, polishing, peeling, crazing, or subpar paintwork. Meanwhile, S and C1 to C4 indicate the presence and severity of rust and corrosion.
When you encounter an “S” or “C1” code on a vehicle’s body, it often signifies minor rusting—a stone chip with surface rust or a rust spot on the sunroof’s edge, usually manageable with proper care.
However, some instances of “S” in the negative comments section may hint at more severe underbody rust concerns. In parallel, the “C” marking on wheel arches points towards significant corrosion potentially originating from snowy environments.
This is what the auction sheet often looks like, detailing the highlights and issues the vehicle has. Below is a translated version of the same copy to help you understand what the different fields mean.
Year & Month: 26 Represents how old the vehicle is, meaning this car was made in 1997 (at the time of this guide). 1 Represents the month, meaning the month would be January.
Total KMs: Some staff may put a * to signify that the KMs are unknown. Furthermore, staff and crew may put a $ symbol to indicate the total km owner records supplied.
Model Details: The model shows a Serena Highway Star – S-HV.
Vehicle Highlights: This box typically contains the highlights of the vehicle. The highlights of this car are the electronic toll collection device and a back camera.
Vehicle Features: The vehicle features section breaks down what the vehicle has built into it. This vehicle includes a navigation system, TV, anti-lock braking system, braking, power steering, and power windows. Other features can include a sunroof, airbags, alloy wheels, and spoilers.
Comments and Notes: This section will have comments and notes that the inspector finds relevant to mention.
The auction sheet below shows any faults the vehicle has.
Inspector Comments: This section often has negative comments about the vehicle.
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