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Import or Dealer Purchase?

Discussion in 'General Truck Info' started by Japspec, Feb 8, 2023.

  1. Japspec

    Japspec New Member

    Hi everyone. I apologize if this is the incorrect place to ask this. I’m now in the process of saving up some money in order to purchase my own kei truck. I’m looking to most likely get a Subaru Sambar due to what I’ve read about it being the most highway capable, since I’d like to be able to cruise between 60-65mph on the highway.

    Now, my current plan is to save up at least $5k before going on the hunt for a truck and use an exporter called Zap Auto Export. I also got to thinking about maybe just purchasing from a USA dealer who has trucks already.

    What option would you all go with? Should I get one imported, or buy from a US dealer? Any other recommendations on who to use if I was to import? I’ve heard great things about Zap so thats why I’m considering them. Also, do you all think $5k would be a decent chunk of change to cover most, if not all of the associated fees? (assuming truck price $2k or less).
  2. Smokie

    Smokie Member

    I would recommend going through a reputable dealer. I don't know your location, but Mayberry Mini Trucks has about 300 trucks in stock. He also delivers. Check some of his videos on youtube. (mayberryminitrucks) I'm not affiliated in any way with him, but am impressed with his inventory videos. I actually bought my truck from another importer, because Mayberry didn't have what I wanted at the time. I'm sure if I was looking now, I would find something. If you have questions, contact him and he will answer you honestly.
    If you import on your own, you will have a bunch of hidden fees, and by the time you add them up, it will be about the same as buying from a dealer. (around here anyway) Customs/USDA or some agency can hold trucks for detailed inspection and if they find something they don't like, you won't get your truck. It will be returned to Japan and you will pay the shipping. Just something to keep in mind!
    Hope this helps
  3. Smokie

    Smokie Member

    Forgot to mention, Duncan Imports in Christiansburg VA. They also give a 6 month/6000 mile warranty. Duncan has mini trucks and many, many, many other JDM cars! That's where I bought mine a year ago, because they had what I was looking for.
    Do a google search for Duncan Imports and or Mayberry Mini Trucks to see what's out there.
  4. Japspec

    Japspec New Member

    Thanks! I’m in PA, so VA and NC aren’t out of reach. I checked out their inventory and the prices are a bit steeper than I was expecting, especially Duncan. The reason I was thinking of importing was to hopefully save a bit of money on dealer markups while also getting familiar with the process for my future plans of purchasing a bit more rare and expensive of a vehicle. I also really want a kei truck, so I figure it might be a good opportunity to give it a try.

    Do you happen to know what typical fees are for importing? I know shipped is anywhere from $1k to $1.6k, not sure of many other fees but I figure tack on another $2k to $3k for other associated fees. Again, not sure how accurate that is because I have never done this before, but if there are any other dealers out there with trucks around $5k to $6k I am open to it for sure.
  5. Kevin in NC

    Kevin in NC Member Supporting Member

    I imported a WWII military Harley-Davidson from Russia in 2003. Getting it here was not too bad but then I had to deal with the hassle of getting it titled in NC. And then a total rebuild. It was really a roll of the dice what the condition would be when I opened the crate. When I decided to buy a mini truck last year, I bought from Mayberry Mini Trucks. Sure, they are more expensive, but the truck was already here, serviced and the process for getting an NC title had already been done by them. I test drove it, said "I'll take it," paid them and Tony delivered it to my house a week or so later. The truck was road worthy as it sat when I bought it. I was willing to pay extra for that. Import one yourself, you may get a good deal on a good truck. Or you may have just spent a ton of money to import something that will take another ton of money to make it road worthy. In the end, the choice is yours. Let us know how it goes.
    Good luck,
    Kevin in NC
  6. Japspec

    Japspec New Member

    Thats understandable. The service I was thinking of using is an exporter well known to inspect and test drive vehicles that you choose in Japan, so I guess thats one part that helps with knowing the condition at least. But I can see how it can still be risky. From searching around on here it seems most people end up importing one, but again if I can find a dealer who sells them cheaper than $7k then that I can likely swing from a dealer.
  7. Kevin in NC

    Kevin in NC Member Supporting Member

    Good luck and let us know how it goes. I drove mine today on the trails out in the woods and I'm really pleased with it.
    Kevin in NC
  8. Smokie

    Smokie Member

    Good luck in whatever you choose, and keep us posted.
  9. Japspec

    Japspec New Member

    Thanks guys! So I think I’ve decided on a Sambar, still need to save up some cash for it though. In the meantime, I’ve been doing a lot of research and watching videos.

    Two things that have caught my attention though are the fact that the ones legal for import currently into the USA are carbureted, and the safety of them.

    As for the safety, my only concern I guess is the no crumple zones. I’m no stranger to danger as I have a motorcycle, and I of course have no plans of crashing, but the thought of sheet metal clamping onto my legs is a bit unsettling. This doesn’t sway me away from getting one, but how do you guys try your best to mitigate risk when out on the road? Same principles as a motorcycle?

    As for the carb, my only carb experience is lawn equipment. Are they difficult to work on and diagnose issues, or if I have some level of mechanical knowledge I should be alright?
  10. Smokie

    Smokie Member

    I think import tax is 25%. You will need an escort to take you into the port to pick up your purchase. If you don't have a trailer or cannot borrow one, you will have to rent one. All of this adds up to the final cost. If the USDA or some other agency finds something on the truck they don't like, you will have to send the truck back to Japan. I considered importing on my own, but after researching, decided to go to dealer. The posted price is the final price, no questions/surprises.
  11. trktrd

    trktrd Active Member

    I’ve imported 2. Safe to say that after customs, port fees, broker fees (I recommend using an import broker) and all other fees, double the purchase price from Japan. Been a few years for me and prices have changed but that was my experience.
  12. t_g_farrell

    t_g_farrell Active Member

    Got my van from Mayberry in 2021. Even though it was in good shape I probably spent many man hours and $$$ doing all the maintenance so it can be reliable. Like, take it on a long trip (11 hours each way) reliable. Sure Tony had the oil changed and filters replaced but thats the tip of the iceberg. I replaced timing belt/waterpump and some seals first thing. Then new tires. Then I did all the rubber hoses (30ft of vacuum line alone). Then the steering (for death woble). Then I did brakes all around. Anyway you get the picture. So expect to some or all of that when it comes in. If you don't you will be fighting random failures and it will take 2x longer to sort out. I think the price I paid for the vehicle with a NC title more than makes up for any small amount I would have saved doing it myself. Oh and yes Duncan's prices are higher because he's not just a minitruck importer, he deals in all things JDM.
  13. maboyce

    maboyce New Member

    My truck is in the middle of the delivery process, so take what I say with a grain of salt, but I estimate to have saved $3 - $5000 by buying at auction through a broker rather than a local dealer. It's an automatic with air conditioning, 32000 km, and those command really high prices at the dealers around here.

    Even as it is, this is a more expensive truck than I was planning on, but lately I've been reading on here about lots of Hijet parts being NLA. I think it's a good idea to get the best truck you can afford, wherever you get it, because it might not be possible to fix up a worn one.

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