Advantages to using an import consultant
We are starting to see some export agents offer their services direct to members of the public, as opposed to business to business dealings which has always been the more traditional manner in which export agents make money. We are sometimes asked why someone should use our services instead of doing all the work yourself. Assuming in the first place you do know how to bring a car over and are aware of the pitfalls which may mean you unknowingly pay more than necessary, a good import consultant should be able to offer the following benefits:
Knowledge of Australian laws
Very frequently agents in Japan know how to buy cars and make some arrangements for export, but this is the limit of their knowledge. Knowing whether a car is even eligible for import into Australia or assist with other issues is often not something these agents know anything about, and we have seen on numerous occasions agents in Japan selling cars for Australia which would be denied entry because they don't know any better.
An import consultant should be looking out for you.
There are some disreputable agents in Japan who if you say put a max bid of 400,000 yen on a vehicle which sells for 300,000 yen, they will tell you it sold for 370,000 yen and will pocket the difference. Some agents will not tell you all of the bad points about a car, will not tell you if there is evidence the mileage is not geniune (or just wind it back themselves), or won't steer you clear of a car that's not as good as you could get for your budget.
With a consultant like J-Spec an agent in Japan is relying on repeat business so it's against their interests to be deceitful, and an experienced consultant should be able to pick very quickly when one is trying to pull something. The people who provide us with information and cars overseas we have been dealing with for many years and we know which ones should be avoided at all costs due to unreliable information.
Availability of cars at auction
If you are using an agent in Japan they may have access themselves to a couple of auctions at best out of the 100+ which run each week. They'll probably be the bigger ones, but if the right car comes along at one of the smaller auctions (where you often get better prices as well) you'll likely never even know about it, let alone be able to bid on it or get reliable information about the vehicle.
J-Spec has a network of people at almost all auctions and can get info on all auction cars, as well as almost always somebody to inspect them in person. This access to many, many more cars by not being a single export agent increases the pool of cars to choose from, and increases your chances of getting one at a better price.
Buying from non-auction sources (e.g. Yahoo, Japanese dealers, etc)
Although there are some export agents in Japan who offer to buy cars from Yahoo Auctions or other less traditional sources, we know of no one other than J-Spec who can get the amount of information we do or arrange for pre-purchase inspections with hundreds of photos from almost anywhere in Japan. To our surprise sometimes of the few who can assist with buying these cars many expect a purchase to be made with almost no additional info about the car and without a third party assessing the car in some manner... you have to trust the Japanese used car dealer or seller alone that the car they are selling is ok!