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Want JDM Parts but do not know how to get them? Here's how...

29 March 2004
I have been asked on several occasions how I was able to source many of the parts for my build from Japan directly. In addition I have seen your posts in the vendor section and other places asking who the U.S. Distributor is for this or that. What if you didn’t have to worry about that? So you really want JDM Parts, but are unsure how to obtain them yourself? Well, here's how you do it.

First, understand what you are getting into.

There are no discounts...period. Beg, plead, do whatever you want, but you are not going to get discounts. If you cannot afford what you are looking at, do not think there is any possibility of haggling to get a better price. You could fly to Japan and speak with the shop you are attempting to purchase from and all you may get out of it would be a trip to a local Strip Club, but your part will still cost the same.

Understand that there is both a culture and language difference. Japanese do not dive straight into business; therefore, you need to be cordial! You may wonder why I am telling you this, but the answer is very simple...relationships go a long way in all things. Understand that the questions you ask may not be answered when you want them to be. The answers you receive may be difficult to understand. You may have to play the 20 questions game in order to get the information you are looking for; therefore, patience is a MUST!

Shipping can be expensive and it may take months to receive your item. Once again, patience is a must!

No matter how cheap the part is you find remember that there are additional costs that you may not be aware of.

OK, you've read my warnings above and are ready to obtain those rare parts you've always wanted. Here is how you do it!

There are four ways of obtaining the parts you are looking for.

- Find an Exporter

- Purchase via Buyee on Yahoo Japan (they act the same way an exporter does only more limited on what you can purchase)

- Use a vendor like Science of Speed, AS Motorsports, or anyone else you know that is able to obtain parts for you

- You are lucky and travel to Japan, be stationed in Japan (Military), or have a friend who is stationed in Japan.

There are pros and cons to each of the above options, which will be discussed below.

Use of Exporters

Exporters are very easy to find. You can simply Google JDM Parts and you will find a ton. Exporters are middle-men and charge fixed fees or percentages depending on who you chose. Your exporter will serve three very important roles for you, a) they will be able to obtain information from the seller of the item you are looking for, b) obtain the item you are looking for, and c) will arrange shipping for your item to your doorstep. Once again, you need to realize that these are middle-men; therefore, they will take their cut too, so you have to factor that into your decision to buy direct from Japan. The fee is usually very small and well worth the price of your sanity as they handle all of the customs paperwork (namely the declaration) and arrange shipping. Most vendors will not send items outside the country, especially Yahoo Japan.

The important thing to remember with exporters is that they do not possess the item you are looking for; rather they obtain the item themselves, and then send them to you. This is where patience comes into play. For example, my Route-KS Madonna Kit was ordered via an exporter from Route-KS Directly. It took 3-4 weeks for the exporter to receive the kit from Route-KS, then about a week to arrange shipping to the U.S. It then took 45 days by boat before the kit arrived in the U.S. Altogether it took about 3 months from start to finish.

For those that have been burned by unscrupulous vendors, this may be a huge point of concern and may even leave you pondering if you should dispute the charge. Relax; the likelihood of you being ripped off is minimal, though it does happen so you need to stay in contact with your exporter. They will be in contact with you too. Understand that most items such as body components, carbon pieces, and other such items are usually made to order (MTO). This means they are not readily available, which will add time to your overall wait time as the part has to be produced, received by your exporter, and then shipped to you. Regardless what you are told, things will usually take a lot longer than you were originally quoted...trust me!

A good example of this would be my GT One Dry Carbon Hood and Trunk. When I ordered them I was told two weeks for production. By the end month one I had an epiphany; this may be a little longer than 2 weeks! The end of month two resulted in frustration, while the end of month three involved me figuring that I got taken. Beginning of month four had me calling my credit card company ready to dispute the charge. Then one day Gil received a delivery notification in which he had to go to the Post Office to pick-up this item. The “item” actually turned out to be my Dry Carbon Hood and Trunk. I had received no shipping documentation, or notification. This was because GT One got pissed at me for being so impatient; therefore, stopped responding to my emails. By then I had already given up and purchased another hood and trunk from Downforce as this delay was affecting my build. This is why I tell you that relationship building is a MUST. Start with small items and work your way up. I started with large ticket items that had long lead times, which resulted in a ton of frustration on my part from the get-go.

Now that you finally found your selected exporter you will need to provide them information for the item you are looking for. If you are looking for a JDM OEM Part, provide them the part number. If you want an item from RF Yamamoto, provide them the link to the part you are looking for. This requires you to do some homework of your own. The exporter will contact the manufacturer or selling entity on your behalf and provide you a quote that will contain the items price, their fee, and shipping. They will require you to pay up front! Do not expect an exporter to purchase a US $16K Genuine NSX-R Hood or a US $77 NSX-R Shift Boot on your behalf in good faith. They are not ripping you off, but will not put themselves on the hook like that for these items. They simply provide a service; that service is to obtain the item you are requesting....nothing more. Payment method is usually PayPal. Some may require wire transfers from your bank. You may want to be a little more cautious when it comes to wire transfers as there is no real way to get your money back on the off-chance something does happen, or you do not get your item. Also keep in mind that there will be lag-time in communication. You may send an email and not hearing anything for a day or two.

You’ve paid your exporter and they are ready to ship your coveted item to you. Shipping can be one of two ways; either your item will come by air, or sea (depending on the size and weight of the item in question). Most body kits and larger items will usually be shipped by sea. Sea is generally cheaper for these types of items; however, if you have deep pockets, you can ship them by air. Average sea shipping times vary, but expect 30-45 days. Shipping for the Madonna Kit was approximately US $1,500. This was by sea. Air would have been double that! Air is fairly quick at approximately 4-5 days on average.

Pros/Cons of using an Exporter

Utilizing an exporter has very few disadvantages. Actual advantages are actually greater than the disadvantages associated with procuring these items yourself via an exporter. For instance, an NSX-R Shift Boot typically runs for about US $70-$80. Use of an exporter with associated fees (their cut and shipping) will bring the value of this item to approximately US $90-$100. Vendors usually sell this item for approximately US $110-$120. You save money by dealing with the middle-man directly and cut-out the secondary middle-man (usually a shop, or other individual). Use of an exporter also ensures that you have access to whatever hard to find parts you are looking for. This does not hold true with services such as Buyee who place restrictions on the type of items, or what individuals you can purchase from. The exporter also provides translation services.

The only real disadvantages if you really wish to call them that are the long lead times for items and the process involves more effort on your part (e.g. the research and possible language barriers). Other than that, there are really only positives in taking on the process yourself.

Use of Buyee on Yahoo Japan

I have very recently made my first purchase through Buyee and the experience has been good so far. Buyee is a great service in many ways. Upon creating your account and setting up your billing information, Buyee actually offers translation for use on Yahoo Japan. This is great for those of us who are not so fluent in Japanese. The service utilizes Google Translate, so the translations are not the greatest, but provide you a good overall idea of what you are buying. For instance, I was looking at an Esprit GT Wing for Track Days. The pictures on the auction were not the greatest, but the wing did have some damage as I was able to find out by use of the translation services. Otherwise, I may not have found out until the wing arrived in the U.S.

Buyee has been easy to work with so far and the communication has been great. I receive notifications as the items I have bought arrive at their warehouse. Some of the auctions found on Yahoo Japan are for sets of items, meaning the seller is selling Taillights for example. Rather than separate auctions, the seller charges one set price and you have the option to pick whether you want NA1 NSX-R Taillights or NA2 NSX-R Taillights. Buyee will send you an email on behalf of the seller asking which Taillights you are wanting to purchase. This provides you a little more confidence in what you are purchasing and saves you frustration in dealing with returning an item to Japan because you wanted one, but received the other.

Pros/Cons of using Buyee

As discussed already, the translation services and ease of transactions are definitely an advantage. The only real disadvantage to utilizing Buyee thus far is the restriction on the items you can purchase and the inability to purchase from certain individuals that may possess items you want to purchase.

Use of a Shop or other Individual

Without going into a great amount of detail, the advantages and disadvantages are pretty clear upfront. First, the shop/individual you are purchasing your item through is also utilizing an exporter. This means that the price you have been given is exponentially inflated due to the fact that both the exporter and the shop/individual are a business; therefore, they need to make money or the effort is not worth their while. They are not doing anything wrong, nor are they ripping you off. You are just essentially paying two different middle-men to obtain your desired item. You have the exporter who is charging your shop their fees to procure these items and you have the shop who is adding their overhead to the overall cost as well.

Pros/Cons of using a Shop or other Individual

The advantage in most cases is simply instant gratification. The vendor sends you a package and you receive your part within a week or less of the shipment date. Let’s face it folks, at that point you don’t give a damn about anything else because you have a JDM Part that you are holding in your hands. Your attention at that point is how fast it can be installed in your car and if you have the skill to install it yourself! The other benefit is that if the part comes damaged, you are dealing with someone in the U.S. vice Japan. This in itself can be worth the slightly higher pricing you may pay for obtaining your part in this way.

The disadvantages to this method are fairly simple. You pay two middle-men vice one. The shop you are using may only carry high demand items, so those of you looking for the rare parts may, or may not find support from some of these types of vendors. A less obvious disadvantage may be in the fact that when you want an update on your item, your question is going to be passed from the shop/individual, to the exporter, and quite possibly the manufacturer or distributor of the part you purchased. This equals lag-time and requires patience.

Travel to Japan or have Military Friends Stationed there

From a consumer standpoint there is really only one word that can adequately describe this awesomeness….BAZINGA! Traveling to Japan obviously means you get to check out these shops that you have always read about and see the cars that you had previously only seen in a magazine. So you get to enjoy the atmosphere and you can bring your newly acquired JDM Parts home as personal items. No dealing with shipping, exporters or anything else for that matter. Having friends who are in the Military and Stationed there is the next best thing. They purchase the parts for you at the actual cost and your only other expense is shipping. This method is cheaper as it will go APO/FPO/DPO. You will avoid customs to a great extent and generally not have to worry about duty fees.

The only problem with this method is the fact that you are bypassing the customs process.

Customs Process and Fees

Once the container housing your part(s) arrives at the port, it will be inspected by U.S. Customs Agents. While there are not enough customs agents to inspect every container/item, they inspect as much as possible; therefore, you need to be prepared for Import Tariffs. Import Tariffs for vehicle parts are 2.5 percent of the purchase value of the item. Below is a more in-depth explanation of the associated fees/taxes. It is basically the same thing if your item is flown in.

Duty Rates

Duty rates in the U.S. can be ad valorem (as a percentage of value) or specific (dollars/cents per unit). Duty rates vary from 0% to 37.5%, with the average duty rate being 5.63%. Some goods are not subject to duty (e.g. some electronic products, or original paintings and antiques over 100 years old).

Preferential Duty Rates

The USA has signed Free Trade Agreements with a number of countries. To be entitled to preferential tariff treatment, a good must meet the "originating" criteria as set out on the Rules of Origin of individual FTAs. A Certificate of Origin (COO) is required upon importation for preferential duty rates to apply.

NB: FTAs signed by the U.S. apply in the Customs Territory of the U.S., therefore include Puerto Rico.

Sales Tax

Sales tax is not automatically charged on imported goods. However, Customs and Border Protection (CBP) declarations are made available to state tax representatives that may occasionally claim state taxes from the importer.

Minimum Thresholds

Duty is not charged if the value of the imported goods is up to US $200.

Other Taxes and Custom Fees

CBP collects federal taxes and fees on behalf of other federal agencies, like the Internal Revenue Service, depending on the commodity being imported. User fees depend on the type of entry and mode of transportation.

Merchandise Processing Fee (MPF) is charged on formal and informal entries:

- MPF on informal entries is US $2, US $6, or US $9 per shipment, depending on whether the entry release is manual or automated, and whether it is prepared by CBP personnel.

- MPF on formal entries (for imports of goods valued over US $2500) is set at 0.3464% of the value of the goods with a minimum charge of US $25 and a maximum of US $485.

More information regarding Tariffs can be found by using the United States International Trade Commission’s Harmonized Tariff Schedule http://hts.usitc.gov/.

Many of you may be wondering how I will know if I am taxed on my item? Well, the good news is that if you are, that will not delay the delivery of your item to your door. You will still be enjoying your newly acquired toy; however, CBP will send you a nice invoice advising you of how much you owe. You will simply mail the payment form like you would a speeding ticket, or traffic violation. This invoice may include the MPF as well as the taxes owed for the importation of your item(s).

I hope this helps some of you overcome the fear you have of obtaining JDM Parts yourself. The process is relatively easy and does not require an Astro-Physics Degree to accomplish. Take your time and find a good exporter. Do not be afraid to send them a few emails and ask how their process works.

Enjoy and good luck!
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I was hoping to obtain these jdm parts when you sell them:biggrin:

You know the proverbial saying that "you can't take it with you?"

Watch me! lol I am building my casket and it's blue! :)
This is good to know. I wondered how some people were getting parts here even though the vendors state that they don't ship out to the US.

You know the proverbial saying that "you can't take it with you?"

Watch me! lol I am building my casket and it's blue! :)
Throw some rays wheels on it and your set for life. Ummm, or death.:biggrin:
Great writeup. I have a fantastic exporter for all my JDM stuff. None of the hassles you describe.
I was able to source a complete interior carpeting replacement from Honda Japan by using a vendor. Speedy it wasn't, but I knew that going into the process and the pricing was expensive even by Acura standards. Will I go this route again, yes. But I would caution anyone to be patient and plan well ahead in advance for needed parts.
Thank you for taking the time to write up all the information with the pros and con's to all. Options are always great to have, you have to either spend the money or the time.
Thank you for the kind words. It was just that people asked me how to do this on multiple occasions and even asked Gil. Figured it would be a good idea to post up for those who are interested.

So this is the book you were writing, when will you be doing Tours to Barnes and Nobles LOL. I didn't have to read it since I had to live it.

True, but becoming a part whore was your fault! Even the great Gil has bought into JDM goodness. :)
Thank you for this writeup. I definitely also appreciate you taking your time a few months ago to personally write/explain this whole process to me in an e-mail and even go so far as to call and explain this whole process to me over the phone (from a combat zone nevertheless)! I now have a quick link to this as a refresher to all the ins-outs, and things to keep in mind, but just wanted to say thank you again for all your help.