We recently published an article about importing a European motorhome into the UK and we hope at least some of our readers found it useful. If you’re thinking about importing a motorhome so you can get your hands on some not-available-on-UK-models features but the European market is not quite hitting the mark, how about looking into a Japanese import? Japan may not be the first country to come to mind when considering motorhomes, but it is quite popular amongst those looking for more unique holiday homes.

As with importing from Europe, there is plenty to keep in mind when weighing up the pros and cons of bringing a Japanese motorhome to Britain.

One of the major factors you will need to consider when importing from Japan, or elsewhere outside of Europe, is that these grey imports will not comply with British standards and are likely to require quite a bit of modification to become legal. Once the necessary work has been done, the imported vehicle will need to undergo rigorous testing under the Single Vehicle Approval Scheme to ensure their compliance with the relevant legislation. As you can imagine, this will add to the cost of buying and importing your new motorhome.

Why import from Japan?

Some of the reasons why caravan owners choose to import from Japan include;

  • Relatively cheap, recently-manufactured motorhomes with low mileage
  • Stricter MOT-type testing means the vehicles are generally in excellent condition
  • Japanese models tend to be exceptionally reliable and efficient
  • The range of gadgets and extras available far exceeds that on UK motorhomes
  • 4 wheel drive makes Japanese motorhomes suitable for driving on skiing or other winter holidays
  • A desire to own a motorhome different from any other on-site

How can I find a Japanese model to import?

If you choose to purchase and import a Japanese motorhome, there are a number of ways of going about it. If you are happy to take the risk on buying blind online, eBay and similar sites tend to have a few on offer, however, it is important to bear in mind that you may not actually receive the motorhome you are expecting.

While we’re sure there are numerous genuine sellers, the internet is full of horror stories about people being defrauded and either receiving no motorhome or one which was badly damaged in a tsunami and sold on by an unscrupulous dealer. These motorhomes were intended to be sold as parts but it has been suggested that some less reputable outlets have been cleaning them up and selling them as is.

Of course, you may find a terrific bargain online but make sure to keep your eyes open and your wits about you – if a price seems too good to be true, chances are it is!

Another option is one of the many grey import markets and dealers across the UK. This saves you from having to either travel to Japan or take the risk on buying blind. A quick search online will provide you with more than enough links and contact details to get you started.

Finally, you might choose to travel to Japan and view some potential purchases. This is far from being a cheap option but it does have the huge benefit of enabling you to view, inspect and test drive motorhomes before you commit to the transaction. If you have done your research before you travel and lined up a few viewings with a view to buying one before you leave, you could well find that, even with the cost of the flight and accommodation, the trip is worthwhile and you still get a bargain.

Whichever option you choose, research, knowledge and objectivity are essential. Never enter into a contract to buy a vehicle unless you are completely happy with the vehicle itself and the conditions of the transaction.

What problems might I have with an imported motorhome?

Some of the most common issues encountered with imported vehicles include the following:

  • Problems with obtaining finance to fund the purchase
  • The safety equipment may not be to as high a standard as that in UK vehicles
  • Difficulty obtaining insurance (although as a specialist broker, we have specific policies for Mazda Bongo's and Japanese imports)
  • Service history, handbook and other documents are unlikely to be printed in English
  • Mileage and other information cannot be guaranteed as accurate
  • Diagnostics, servicing and repairs may be problematic and expensive due to UK dealers not having the necessary parts or experience
  • The value can depreciate quickly once imported and it can be very difficult to sell the caravan on

Most of the specifics of importing a motorhome to the UK will be similar to importing a car – have a look at our previous article on the topic for more information.

Popular Japanese motorhomes and campervans

  • Hyundai 116
  • Nissan NV200
  • Mazda Bongo
  • Toyota Granvia
  • Nissan Elgrand
  • Toyota Regius
  • Toyota Grand Hiace
  • Nissan Serena II

Many of the Japanese imports have the added advantage of being compact enough to be used as an everyday car too. If you spot one that you are interested in buying, remember to consult a reputable dealer to make sure it can be converted to comply with UK legislation.

Lastly, have a look at forums. For example, the Mazda Bongo forum is very active and they are always willing to help and give advice to owners / prospective owners.

Contrary to popular belief it is possible to tow with a Mazda Bongo. Read our article here for more information.

If you found this article useful or have any suggestions or questions, please leave a comment below

The good news is that here at Lifesure we have specialist insurance policies for Mazda Bongos and Japanese import cars, so give us a call on 01480 402460 for a quote.

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