Buying Your Own JDM Car Part 3: Money Makes The Wheels Go Round

Okay, so you've picked a car. How do you pay for it? Of course, depending on where you found the car and who you're buying it from the manner will vary. It could be a matter of dropping off a cashier's check at the importer's office like I did or you might have to do a bank transfer to an overseas seller. The seller, importer, or broker will arrange the payment method.

However the money is sent, first you have to HAVE the money and this is a part people don't often think about with these JDM cars. You can't finance them through traditional means. You don't have a room full of sharks like the one at your local American car dealership that are just licking their chops at getting your signature on a loan. YOU have to secure your own financing unless you have the cold hard shimoleans saved up already.

If you don't, it's still not impossible. Some companies like offer collector car loans but they demand good credit and probably won't approve of your Japanese treasure if it's not titled in the US yet so they're no good if you're importing the car still. Great for an American GTO, not so much for a Japanese one (It may be an option for a landed car that's already titled though). Personal loans from traditional institutions like banks and credit unions can be used but usually they have a vomit-inducing interest rate. There are certain non-traditional institutions however that offer low-rate unsecured (i.e. no lien or collateral) loans like You have to have stellar credit though. If you can get a loan from them however for a used car (which a JDM import is, they don't care) the APR can be just as good or better than any typical new car loan – like 1.99 percent versus double digit APRs for a traditional unsecured loan.

Weigh your financial situation carefully. Remember, a JDM car is not a necessity but if you've got the means, have a solid roof over your head, kids (or dogs, cats, tarantulas, blow-up dolls or whatever) are well-fed, and an oversized man with a baseball bat and an unhealthy obsession with your fingers isn't at your door, go for it if it's your passion.

Having talked about money, how much does a typical R32 Skyline cost? That's a tricky question of course since there's no Kelley Blue Book for these cars because they were never officially sold here. The only way to get an idea is to check various seller websites and look at the prevailing prices.

As of this writing, GT-Rs are going for $15-25 thousand or so after importation and of course, depending on condition and modifications. The less desired rear-wheel drive GTS coupes and sedans are much cheaper, ranging from about $7-12 grand.

Nismo GT-Rs are another matter since only 560 were ever made versus tens of thousands of the other R32s. Currently Nismos go for about $23K all the way up to $50K+ for a well-cared-for example.

Prices of course are going to fluctuate as time goes by depending on simple supply and demand. It's hard to be exact but it's fairly safe to assume that simple economics will cause prices for non-special edition R32s to go down over time as more and more become eligible for import with each passing year. Limited edition cars like the Nismo and N1 however are probably going to go up since only a small number were made and the racing connection makes for greater collectability.

A good barometer for how the US market might eventually stabilize is the Australian market, where R32s have been legal since they were first produced. There, Nismo's and N1s are valued at $45-70 thousand or so for really good examples versus about $25 grand for a good “regular” R32 GT-R.

Ultimately, like any car, an R32 is worth what people will pay for it. The more demand there is, the higher prices will stay.

However much you can or want to pay, remember to budget for basic maintenance and upkeep. Keep in mind that even a “pristine” R32 is still a 25-year old car with a likelihood of having problems any old car can have. Even if the motor is solid, weatherstripping often cracks, AC components crap out, and carpet and seats get worn and stinky. Most cars likely won't come with meticulous maintenance records so at the very least you'll want to spend on basic preventative maintenance like swapping the fluids, changing spark plugs and belts, possibly swap the water and oil pumps, the list goes on.

Even well-kept cars can have issues just from being 25 years old - like aged window molding. Factor that into your budget.
With my R32 for example, I've already spent over a grand on basic preventative maintenance and I'm still not done with it all and that’s with some of the work done myself. That also doesn't factor in the cost of new tires to replace the Jurassic era ones that were on the car. New synthetic oil, new oil and fuel filters, new gear and diff fluids, new timing and accessory belts plus timing belt pulleys – that all adds up quickly so make sure you plan ahead. No use buying a pricey Skyline if it breaks on you within a month because you couldn't afford the maintenance.
And that's it for this post. Next time we'll go slightly off topic and talk about the funky Japanese used car market that facilitates us getting these JDM cars. It's definitely different from what we're used to here in the States and it's not just from a lack of con artists and inflatable animals.


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