Japanese Car Auction Grading

 The grade is the overall assessment of the car given to it by the Japanese car auction house’s own assessors. The purpose of the grade is to give you a quick idea of the general condition of the car or vehicle. However, it is not enough to base your final bidding decision on: There will be a range of different quality levels within each grade, so a car that is classified as a grade 4 may be almost a grade 4.5 in quality terms, or it may be only just above a grade 3.5. As a buyer, you use the grading to narrow down the vehicles you may want to bid on. Once you have narrowed down the field, this is when the car map and our translation of the auction sheet will help you to make the final decision about whether to go ahead or not.

There are usually two grades: The overall grade based on the exterior and mechanical condition (usually a number), and the interior grade, based on the interior condition (usually a letter - A, B or C). Although different auctions may have slightly different methods of determining each grade, in general they are broadly similar. Let’s look in more detail at the grading below.

Overall Grade


Grade 7, 8, 9 or S is given to a new car that is being sold in an auction, with only delivery mileage.

Grade 6 Similar to the cars above but with a little more than delivery mileage.

Grade 5 to a car with exceptionally low mileage and in mint condition.

Grade 4.5 is in excellent condition, but can also have mileage of up to 100K.

Grade 4 is a good, solid car.  Mileage is not an issue (could be low or high).

Grade 3.5 is similar to a grade 4 but may need more paint and panel work. Alternatively, it may have high mileage.

Grade 3 often has either serious paint and panel, or it has had a panel replacement somewhere. Grade 3 cars can also be basically grade 3.5s in terms of condition, but with very high mileage.

Grade 2 is reserved for vehicles in the worst condition. This does not mean that they are write offs, simply that they have experienced deterioration such that they are now in a very poor state. A grade 2 vehicle will often have corrosion, perhaps corrosion holes and other serious issues. If you are looking for “classic” and other older cars or older trucks and buses, you will find a number of them are grade 2.

Grade 1 Can be one of the following
1). After market turbo / engine (some sort of serious modification to the original vehicle)
2). Transmission changed from auto to manual.

Grade A, R, RA are repair history cars. The auctions definition of “repair history” is a car that has had an inside panel repaired in some way. This can range from extremely minor to major.

Grade ??? are ungraded write off cars which may not move at all. Auctions provide no information about these cars on the auction sheets. If the cars are drivable, then there should be no additional transportation costs. However, if the motor does not start or if the car cannot move under its own power for some other reason there may be problems in getting it from the auction to the port, and then from the yard onto the ship. If the engine does not start and is not steerable, transportation and port costs can skyrocket.

Exterior and Interior Grading
Some auctions have a letter, A, B or C to denote the exterior and interior grade separately. These letters can be seen near the overall grading number. A is excellent, B average and C below average.
We will normally not note the exterior grade, as the exterior condition of the car can be ascertained by looking at the car map (see below). For the interior grade, we will normally note this in the translation of the auction sheet if you bid on a car.

Car Map

This is in the bottom right corner of the auction sheet. On the map, the number after the letter denotes the severity of the damage. 1 = light, 2 = moderate, 3 = significant , 4 = major

car map
A    Scratch
U    Dent
B    Dent with scratch
W   Wave, or repaired area
S    Rust (orange discoloration on the surface)
C    Corrosion (rust has progressed so that now the original metal is now flaking away)
P    Paint marked
H    Paint faded
XX  Replaced panel / item
X    Item that needs replacing
G   Stone chip on glass
Y   Crack
E   Dimple

In general non-Japanese people tend to find that this grading is stricter than they were expecting. Once you have received a car, and you can compare the actual vehicle with the car map on the auction sheet, you will then be able to have a better idea of how the Japanese used car auction inspector grades different issues. This will help inform your future bidding decisions.
If you are thinking about bidding on a car but are unsure because there are some Japanese notes, you can place a bid just over the start price and request a translation. Once the translation comes back, you can then decide whether to increase your bid to a sensible level, or to cancel the bid based on the translated information you receive. We will not bid live on the car unless we are sure you are happy with the condition of the vehicle you are bidding on.
Please note that, unlike some of our competitors, we do not charge for a translation of the auction sheet. As long as you have placed a bid on the vehicle and just need to know the details in order to make your final decision about whether to proceed or not, we are happy to give you a translation. Our goal is to give you the best information so that you can make a good, informed decision about whether to get the car or not.
Our customer service staff are both fluent in Japanese and English, as well as being experienced in reading these auction inspection reports. Of course, we can provide you with some advice as well, if we think a car is not a good idea to bid on, although the final decision to bid or not bid is up to you.
We give you the best information - you make the decision.

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