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Auction grade 0.1, R1, RA1 - Any experiences?

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Next year I'm planning to import a car from Japan for the purpose of drifting, thus the choice of the auction grade as I don't really care much for interior or spotless body panels.

I was also hoping to maybe save a few bucks on the fact that the car might have damage or is heavily modified; in your experience, is it so? Or does the price simply even out as these heavily modified cars just gets attractive to a different group of people?

Heavily modified can of course mean different things, but when it comes to the state of the engine, would that be something to worry more about in the auction grades compared to the higher grades?

I'm well aware that these grades can include accident damaged cars, but as I said, it's for drifting so it's definitely not going to be the last dent it gets. I'm importing it to the Netherlands so I'm not bound by the AU regulation (in case there might be something that may cause issues). I'm already rolling in a Japanese import (R33) but it was not imported by me, so now I'm looking into getting the full experience (although requesting help for the actual import) and doing as much research I can so that I can make a well-founded decision on what kind of car to choose.

In case you have other aspects that I haven't brought up already in terms of auction grade and the purposes of the import etc. let me know.

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Assuming that you use an auction/import broker, some groups will outright refuse to bid on or import "junk" cars. The one I used to import my car stated this on their site. However, most will be fine with importing R grade cars if they are streetworthy, so maybe my memory of auction grades is fuzzy. I've heard that Grade 3 is technically the lowest auction grade before some people would consider it "un-streetworthy" which could mean anything from either the engine wont turn over to it not meeting certain safety requirements (though this is of less concern for a drift car). 

To my knowledge, the auction grades are mostly for interior and exterior condition like body work, rust, paint, etc. They'll point out obvious problems like certain functions not working, any obviously aftermarket parts, and include notes from the original seller. Though rare, it's possible to get a grade 3.5/4 car that looks good but doesn't run strong, and vice versa with a low grade car that's still got a sound engine. Unfortunately when this happens most people find out which they end up with once they've already bought the vehicle. I'm pretty sure there is a process where if the car differs significantly enough from what is represented on the auction sheet you can get the auction house to take it back but I don't know the details. Things like engine state/condition are not heavily assessed by auction houses so it's hard to know things like engine health or compression results. Most buyers make educated guesses based on the condition of the rest of the car, the presence of work records/lack thereof, and verified/unverified mileage. If you're lucky you can have someone knowledgeable about a particular car (like skylines or RBs)  inspect a car of interest in person or more rarely, get a copy of the car's maintenance records/paperwork before you purchase.  

If you don't plan on using a broker, nothing's preventing you from bidding on anything, just get a good translator and read the auction sheets carefully. As for pricing, from my experience the heavily modified or damaged cars don't get too much attention and the prices don't normally get high like a grade 4 or mostly factory vehicle, since those cars usually sell so that their prices can be further inflated by the new seller, or be kept in good condition by the new owner. Those looking specifically to get beater condition cars to usually are not the one's shelling out big bucks at auction unless they know it's something really special. 

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Thanks a lot, that's excellent information! I'm not entirely sure which approach I'm going to take but to some extent I have to use a broker as I won't be going to Japan myself plus all the paperwork, I will however be able to bid myself.

As you say, making an educated guess on the overall state of the car is probably best, but given the R rating I might be in for a surprise, my biggest fear is rust but given the auction sheet that shouldn't be a problem, at least no big surprises.

As to documentation, how much is provided before the auction and what is provided after the auctions is won? I would assume that all available documentation is at least listed before the auction, at least what kind of documents that are available and performed mods.

Edited by noperope

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The thing with R ratings is that it varies a lot. Some cars with R ratings were only involved in a fender bender or other minor traffic accident where a body panel was repaired/replaced. While other R rated cars can be barely running. If I remember correctly, R ratings are given to cars where an insurance claim was filed.

Auction inspectors are typically pretty diligent about noting rust on the sheet and typically check the common areas. However, they can miss some things with the volume of cars that go through auction. When I imported my car I consider myself fortunate that it arrived as the sheet described. However, tucked in the rear wheelwell was a spot of minor rust that wasn't marked on the sheet. I'm not sure if the inspector missed it, or it didn't pass some sort of threshold to require a "rust" note on the sheet. It wasn't to bad to fix, but the point is, the auction sheets are not 100% accurate all the time. On the flip side, sellers might not mention all the mods that they've done to the car. For example, my car came with an oil filter relocation kit, various HKS electronics, a Mine's strut bar, some aftermarket stainless piping, BeeR downpipe etc. that I had no idea about until after purchase. The seller's note area is rather small so on a heavily modified car it is to be expected that not everything will fit on the sheet, especially if the original owner sells their car to a dealer, who then puts it up for auction. Typically the more times a car changes hands before reaching the auction house the less accurate the parts list becomes.

As much as I don't like to say it, buying cars from auction houses, sight unseen, based only on an auction sheet is a bit of a gamble, which can either work out in your favor or not. Hell, most listings only have 4 or so low-res photos of the car. Most brokers are able to access more/better photos through some sort of auction system but some listings literally only have a couple. Don't get me wrong, bidding on a higher grade car will usually get you a high quality vehicle, but the risk is never 0. And the risk will only increase as the grades go down. 

For documentation, unfortunately usually the only info you'll get is what's on the auction sheet. If you have a contact or broker in Japan, you might be able to ask them to ask the auction house about any documentation/paperwork but YMMV. For example, my vehicle's auction sheet made no mention of work/maintenance records but once the car was purchased, my broker found the owner's maintenance log with some other things in the car's glovebox during the post-purchase inspection. To be honest, I don't know if he would have been able to get his hands on that log before the car was purchased. In my case, most of the details came after the car was in my broker's possession such as various videos and tons of photos. Most brokers offer this service for free or at least included in their fee. The auction houses themselves dont do any sort of post-auction inspection. Anything they know about the car is typically listed on the sheet up front. 

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I've got an R auction car in Oz, my cima had a rear end accident and quality repair. The car has been complied in Australia and there is no sign of the repair, and no problem with the car for more than 200,000klm now.

Simply, I'd go for it, particularly for race use, as long as a broker I trusted inspected in directly.

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