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Can I Trust the Mileage Advertised on a Used JDM Engine?

Can I Trust the Mileage Advertised on a Used JDM Engine?

There is a lot of variation within the car world, and many factors could lead to different results in a vehicle’s mileage. Many used JDM (Japanese Domestic Market) cars have very low mileage, which may seem too good to be true. Many think that these values can’t possibly be so low, but there are lots of reasons why this is.

The mileage on a JDM car can usually be trusted if purchased from a reliable seller. A thorough inspection system is used to assess JDM vehicles. Because this inspection costs thousands of dollars, JDM cars are commonly traded in after a few years so drivers can save money.

It makes more sense for most Japanese drivers to simply trade their vehicle in after 2-4 years instead of paying the hefty fee of inspection. This explains the low mileage on so many used Japanese domestic vehicles and engines. However, a purchase can go wrong if the buyer makes the wrong choice of JDM vehicle or doesn’t know which factors to consider.

Low Mileage on used JDM Engines: Explained

In general, used Japanese cars have much lower mileage than other cars. Used American cars, on average, have 165,000 miles on their engines. In contrast, used Japanese cars typically have an average of 37,000 miles. (For context, American cars, on average, are 11 years old and are driven 15,000 miles a year.)

But why is there this big of a gap in mileage? Below, we’ll explore the reasons.

Gas Prices and Emissions

It is more expensive to drive around in Japan. Even if you aren’t driving a gas guzzler, the gas still costs nearly twice as much as it does in America.

The gas emission rules are much stricter in Japan, set by an organization known as Shaken. Inevitably, this means many cars and trucks are just off-limits, and the pool of vehicles civilians can use and drive becomes smaller. Additionally, expensive inspections to check gas emissions are an ongoing requirement. The easier option is to walk, bike, or use mass transit.

Required Inspections

The combination of Japan’s JCI (Japan Compulsory Insurance), and gas emission rules from Shaken requires a new car to be inspected every two years. Since it is mandatory, it can cost drivers hundreds to thousands of dollars to do this every few years, and the cost can quickly add up. The price is also likely to increase as the car ages.

There’s a reason the cost is so high; the inspection process is quite rigorous, and usually involves making sure a vehicle meets these requirements:

  • Any exterior body damage requires immediate repair before it goes back on the road.
  • The whole undercarriage of the car is inspected, and the durability of the suspension system is tested.
  • The strictness goes beyond exterior dents and scratches; emissions aren’t even allowed to be 1% above the normal value.
  • Every light on the vehicle will be tested to confirm they function properly and aim at the correct angle.
  • The inspection tests the speedometer of the car by running it on a dynamometer.
  • The car’s interior is tested with scrutiny to make sure it is in accordance with Japanese transportation law.

Typically after the third inspection, the car starts to fail these tests and is stripped; the engines and transmissions are shipped across the world.

As you might imagine, the hassle of these tests can keep some people from having a car for more than three years if they decide even to get a car. Because drivers do not want to bear the high cost of inspection or the repairs needed to pass an inspection, they often will trade the cars in to save money.

Public Transportation in Japan

Due to most of Japan’s urban nature, the country has developed an extensive public transportation system. In contrast, many other countries have wide tracts of land that have yet to be developed in this fashion.

This means that many citizens of Japan simply take buses, trains, subways, boats, and planes wherever they need to go and avoid using a car. To many people, cars are seen as weekend vehicles and use them as such. The Japanese people are extremely proud of their vehicles but especially their trains. Many people will drive their car to the train station because they prefer the train. All these varieties of transit add plenty of commuting options to take advantage of.

Additionally, public transportation comes with multiple benefits:

  • Congestion is a common problem in cities, and for many, public transit can be much faster and even cheaper than driving a car around everywhere.
  • Some people don’t want to drive on the way to work or elsewhere on the weekdays cause they would rather nap, work, or read; driving a car eliminates those options.
  • Additionally, there is no responsibility to the driver if something were to happen; crashes and accidents on public transportation leave liability to the transit system.

Culture of Newer Cars

The Japanese usually do things quite differently from the rest of the world, making them stand out. Maintaining vehicles is no different. The culture in Japan is very into cars, and they generally don’t like to have old cars for very long. New cars are a status symbol in Japanese culture that creates fervent competition to ditch the old car and get a new one.

Japan is one of the world’s greatest car manufacturers with such brands as:

  • Nissan
  • Honda
  • Subaru

This fuels the competition and creates all sorts of brand loyalty for the Japanese people. They are very proud of all their successful car manufacturers, and what better way to support them than to buy new ones constantly?

Physical Wear

Japan is an island nation, and because of this, cars are extremely susceptible to rusting and corrosion. The sea air and saltwater leave all sorts of moisture in the air that travels around the country, leaving damage on people’s property. Because of this type of damage, drivers may prefer to opt for newer vehicles with wear over time.  

Are JDM Engines Reliable?

Many consumers report that JDM engines sold en masse have little to no problems with their mileage and others say they are completely broken.

Those who sell engines that have higher mileage than what they really have will only stand to gain more money by charging more. Plus, the fact that JDM engines are unverifiable means that the consumer has no idea what to expect. It is tough to find a seller of these bundled engines honest about high mileage; for them, the profit margins would drop significantly.

Also, keep in mind that some Japanese drivers know that their engine is temporary and that they will get rid of their car within three years to avoid a Shaken inspection. Knowing this, it is probable that some will abuse their engine, and despite its low mileage, it will run very poorly without oil changes and maintenance.

Some say this is a conspiracy and that most drivers will take care of the cars, with some outliers. And, generally speaking, JDM engines are very reliable. It all comes down to a game of risk; although it’s quite common to find a JDM car with extremely low mileage, there could be other things wrong with the vehicle, such as poor maintenance, that you won’t notice until you drive the car off the lot.

Find a Trusted Seller

Finally, if you do plan on purchasing a used JDM engine, it’s best to stick with reliable sellers. Shops like these below have been around for a while and have a reputation. They have solid Google Reviews, contact emails/phone numbers, good-looking websites, etc.

You are better going off with a seller who has a good reputation because they will want repeat customers. They won’t sell you a dud engine; they will sell you the real deal because they want to keep making money. Better to spend the extra cash versus buying from a random person on Craigslist.