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Two Japanese import cars parked in a parking lot.

Topping the list of tips for buying a used car is to know what you’re getting into. No matter how much you’re spending, you want to know the true value of your car. This means knowing about any repairs you’ll need to do right off the bat and the greater cost of ownership to keep it on the road. Fortunately, the Japanese car auction market has come up with the perfect tool for every buyer. The Japanese auction sheet gives you the information you need upfront so you can make the right decision.

Most dealerships don’t make these sheets available to their buyers, but we do. At Motor Co, we believe that our customers should have all the information before they invest in their new set of wheels, so we’re including the auction sheet we used when buying the car with the information pack! Instead of hustling to the nearest mechanic for every pre-loved car you are considering, you can cast your eye on this helpful sheet and learn everything you need to know.

So, how does one interpret such a document? We’re always happy to help you figure it out, but if you want to understand it for yourself, here’s a handy guide, courtesy of the team at Motor Co.

What is a Japanese Auction Sheet?

Several of the cars on our lots are Japanese import cars, so we’re familiar with the functions of the auction sheet and what each section means. It’s an internationally trusted document that comprehensively grades cars on their condition, using symbols and letters to deliver the information quickly.

If you’re unfamiliar with these sheets, don’t worry. You’re certainly not the only one. Car buyers don’t typically see this document at all! It was developed by Japanese car auctioneers and buyers to make long-distance buying easier. Someone can look at the sheet for each car, comprehensively understand its condition, and choose whether to buy it sight unseen.

Grading the Car: Understanding Your Car’s Condition

There’s a lot of information on an auction sheet, but a buyer should only worry about three sets of information: the auction grade, the interior grade, and the bodywork markers.

Auction Grade

The first thing you need to look for on a Japanese auction sheet is the overall condition ranking of the vehicle. This gives you a quick indication of how well the vehicle runs, its fuel economy, its age, and the condition of the bodywork and mechanics. This number can be found on the top right-hand corner of most auction sheets.

For used cars, the grades typically run from a 2 to a 5 (it can go up to a 6 for new cars). The higher the grade, the better the condition of the car.

  • 2 – Poor condition, usually featuring unrepaired accident damage or corrosion.
  • 3 – Average condition with some marks, some light damage, or dents in the bodywork.
  • 4 – Used condition, pre-loved but well looked after with very light blemishes.
  • 5 – Very lightly used, could well be mistaken for a new car.
  • R or Ra – In older models, this can indicate aftermarket additions. In newer cars, this would indicate repaired damage that is no longer visible.

The Interior Grade

The interior grade is only meant to indicate the condition of the interior, not of the overall car, and it uses a different grading system. Some auction sheets feature an exterior grade as well as an interior grade (separate from the auction grade), and this would use the same grading system. The grades run from A to D, with A being the best and D being the worst. You can find this below the auction grade on the sheet.

  • D – Poor condition with significant wear and tear, would require dedicated repairs and replacements.
  • C – Average and clean, expected wear and tear for the age of the car.
  • B – Very clean and well presented, very few blemishes.
  • A – As new with no observed faults.

Extra features like a sunroof (SR), airbag (AB) or power steering (PS) are also marked below this grade.

The Bodywork Markers

Finally, the car’s bodywork is thoroughly inspected and any blemishes, dents, repairs, or changes to the original are scrupulously marked onto an image of the car. These markers are placed on the points of the sheet’s two-dimensional car where the fault appears, making it easy to track down the issues and see them for yourself.

Bodywork markers use both letters and numbers (1 to 4). Letters indicate the kind of repair work or damage, and the numbers indicate the severity. The lower the number, the less noticeable the damage.

  • A – Scratch
  • U – Pin dent
  • B – Large dent
  • G – Chip on the windscreen
  • Y – Crack, usually on body kits or lights
  • P – Paint damage like fading or discolouration
  • S or C – Rust or corrosion on the body

When you’re ready to start shopping with Motor Co, you can request the auction sheet to review the car’s condition and understand everything you need to know.

Know your cars and find the perfect one with Motor Co.

Our philosophy is to be as upfront and honest as possible with our customers. We present you with all the information you need to know at the outset, then work with you to find the perfect vehicle for your needs! So, looking to buy used cars in NZ? Look no further than your nearest Motor Co.