Home » Here Are Five Awesome Cars You Could Import This Year For Under $10,000

Here Are Five Awesome Cars You Could Import This Year For Under $10,000

Import Bargains Ts

Around this time every year, car journalists love rounding up the newest cars unleashed from the shackles of the infamous “25 Year Rule.” Like a young adult waiting until the magical age of 21, you can now indulge yourself in products the government deemed just too dangerous for you to consume a year ago. This year, you’ll be able to bring home some famed cars from your childhood, but don’t expect to pay under $10,000 for any of them. So, I’m going to do something different. Here are five cool cars that you can import this year that won’t require the sale of one of your organs.

Before I continue, I will reveal the most famous cars freshly eligible for importation without jumping through a bunch of hoops. You can now import a Nissan Skyline GT-R R34 without being all sneaky about it. You can then pair it with a TVR Tuscan Speed Six, a Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution VI, a Pagani Zonda C12, a Subaru Impreza WRX STI S201, and a Nissan Silvia S15.

Vidframe Min Top
Vidframe Min Bottom

I probably don’t have to tell you that most of the above list of cars will cost you a lot of money. To give you an example, back in October, a 1999 Nissan Skyline GT-R R34 rolled across the MIRIVE Saitama auction block with peeling paint, aftermarket wheels, crash damage history, and marks all over its condition inspection sheet. The inspection suggests the entire left side of the car had been replaced after the crash and the vehicle is still covered in imperfections. It earned a condition grade of R, a low grade often associated with crashed cars. It still sold for $78,361. Here’s the car below.

MIRIVE Saitama

Nice and rare Skyline GT-R R34s sell for over $100,000 in Japanese auctions, get brought over to America, then are sold for even more money. Sorry, friends. Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution fans will be happy to hear that their dream cars haven’t become crazy unattainable yet. A 2000 Lancer Evolution VI with a condition grade of 4.5, the highest grade an old car can receive in Japan, sold for $23,880 back in November. Here’s that car below:

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JU Gifu

It’s a similar story for the Nissan Silvia S15. A pretty 1999 Nissan Silvia S15 Spec R Aero with a healthy report card grade of 4 and four-wheel-steering sold for $22,334 in November. Here’s that car below:

Aucimage (2)
JU Sapporo

Spending $23,000 on a 25-year-old car an entire ocean away from home may not be a “deal,” but at least many enthusiasts could at least touch cars like these. Sadly, if you spent your childhood racing Nissan Skyline GT-R R34s in video games, those cars may remain out of your grasp. Don’t even ask about the Pagani Zonda C12. Those sold for $325,000 new and today, some collectors will pay a few million for them.

So, here’s the thing, I’m a cheapskate. All of you already know this. The most expensive vehicle I’ve paid cash for was a $8,500 Saturn Sky Red Line, and that made me feel like a Rockefeller. It’s unlikely I will ever exchange cash, drugs, alcohol, vintage phones, bottle caps, or any other form of currency for an imported Evo, let alone the Zonda. Instead, I like looking at the kinds of cars nobody cares about. You don’t have to pay a lot of money to own something weird and different in America!

[Note: Due to the closed nature of Japan’s auto auction networks, we are not able to provide links to sales statistics pages.]

Honda Z

Honda Z 1998 Wallpapers 1

If you’re an American, Honda Z will either refer to the tiny monkey bike of the 1960s or a slightly larger coupe from the same era. Honda arrived in America in 1959 and started making a name for itself with its glorious motorcycles. It took until 1969 for Honda to start giving its cars, and we first got the N600 sedan, which was followed up by the Z600 coupe. Both of these cars were kei cars in their Japanese homeland, but now they were available to frugal Americans.

The original Z cars are as cute as buttons and if you squint, look like an American pony car after a dip in an icy lake. As Hemmings writes, Honda’s creation of the N cars and the Z cars were a part of Japan’s plan to get its people off of motorcycles and into cars. Kei vehicles were cheap modes of transportation that achieved this goal while helping Japan’s car industry grow. Production of the original Z cars was from between 1969 to 1974, with exports ending in 1972. Yep, America got them just for a couple of years, but the cars did what they needed to. I recently saw a pristine Honda Z600 and now I need one in my life.


Honda Z 1970 Photos 3

In 1998, Honda brought back the Z nameplate, but for a completely different style of vehicle. The 1998 Honda Z was a kei-class SUV built by Yachiyo Industry Co. That’s cool enough until you learn that the engine is not up front, but placed in a mid-rear arrangement. Those side vents feed air to the 656cc triple that lives under the rear seats. The Honda Z also isn’t just tall for the heck of it, because it has four-wheel-drive with a viscous center differential.

Options include a turbo for the engine, but sadly, all of them came with a four-speed automatic. The naturally aspirated Z made 52 ponies while the turbo variant put out 64 HP. Production on these micro SUVs began in October 1998, so in reality, they didn’t start becoming legal until late last year.

Honda Z 1998 Images 2

That’s the funny thing about importation in the United States. Officially, it’s not just the production year that matters, but also the production month. A car made in June 1999 isn’t 25 yet. Keep that in mind when you read these sorts of lists. You may not be able to close the tab and buy the car you want yet. Some people buy the car anyway and hope that the agents reading the forms don’t care about production month, which does happen. Others just store their desired vehicle for a few months until there’s no question about when the car was built.

Anyway, let’s get down to what you’d pay for a cute SUV like the Honda Z. According to auction statistics I have access to, Honda Zs in condition grade 3.5 — driver-grade cars that are usually mechanically fine but will usually have minor cosmetic faults — can be purchased in auctions for $700 to $1,000. You’ll probably spend another couple of grand in fees, shipping, port costs, and paperwork, but you could probably get one landed in America for $3,000 or some ticks above that. That’s not a lot of cash for a weird little car you won’t often see in America. Since these aren’t kei trucks, some of the import-hating states in the East may even put plates on them.


Audi A2

Audi A2 2004 Pictures 3

Back in 2019, David Tracy blew my mind by introducing me to a compact Audi that I never knew existed. The Audi A2, at least to my eyes, looks a bit like what would happen if you took the Audi TT and stretched it out into a four-door economy car. I know, it really isn’t that, but that’s how I saw it. The A2 even had a different designer: Luc Donckerwolke.

The A2 was built for a future that never really came, a future where compacts were ridiculously efficient, aerodynamic, and spacious. We did get spacious tiny cars, as owners of Honda Fits and Smart Forfours could attest, but none quite as obsessive about getting everything into one package as the Audi A2.

Pictures Audi A2 2000 2

Audi put practically supercar-levels of engineering into the A2. The vehicle bears Audi’s aluminum spaceframe plus aluminum body panels. At its lightest, an A2 weighs 1,973 pounds at its lightest, which is lighter than other vehicles in its class in its day. Audi didn’t stop there, as it carved out a 0.28 coefficient of drag through flush windows, slippery bodywork, and even a wing on the back meant to reduce wind turbulence. It even had a fake grille years before that would become the norm. Another feature is a service flap that allows you to top off the vehicle’s fluids without having to pop off the whole hood.

When you equipped an Audi A2 with a 1.2-liter 60 HP turbodiesel triple, you could score an impressive 78.4 mpg. Not even my 70 mpg Smart Fortwo diesel can regularly touch that. If you don’t care so much for fuel economy, the best gas engine was a 1.6-liter turbo four good for 109 HP and a 1.4-liter diesel triple good for 89 HP. The gasser still got a respectable 40 mpg while the faster diesel earned 54.7 mpg. Mind you, those fuel economy numbers are in US gallons, and this was back in 1999 and the early 2000s.


The best part is the fact that Audi managed to stuff a regular car’s interior in the A2. The rear floor sits really low, so everyone in the car can relax in a more normal seating position. The interior also boasted hidden storage solutions, detachable cup holders, and versatile rear seats that could be folded or removed so the vehicle’s owner could carry large items.

Unfortunately, that neat engineering resulted in a £13,150 car, or £16,600 for one with the larger diesel engine. That was more expensive than the competition and the engineering didn’t sway buyers. Instead, buyers who could have bought an A2 got themselves a Mercedes-Benz A-Class and Audi ended up selling about half of the A2s it wanted to. The car was a blunder for Audi and its balance sheet.

Audi A2 2004 Images 1

Audi A2 production began in November 1999, which means you will likely want to wait a bit before trying to bring one in. I picked some early Audi A2s at random and it looks like you can get one for around $2,500 before importation costs. Not bad! Unfortunately, buying cars from Europe isn’t as easy as cruising Japan’s auctions, but an importer should be able to handle the legwork for you.

Toyota Crown Athlete

Wallpapers Toyota Crown 1999 10

“Mercedes!” You tell me, “Enough with the tiny and slow cars!” I hear you. Thankfully, not every cheap car that you can import this year is tiny. The Crown is an important brand for Toyota. Its name is famous all over the world and enthusiasts love the affordable luxury offered by the sedans and wagons. Here’s what Toyota’s UK arm says about the vehicle:


The aftermath of World War II left the Japanese car industry facing total reconstruction. In an effort to re-establish the domestic passenger car industry and catch up with Western counterparts, some Japanese manufacturers entered into agreements to produce foreign-licensed designs. As examples of this, Isuzu formed an alliance with Hillman, Nissan did similarly with Austin, and Hino joined forces with Renault. But Toyota wanted to maintain its pre-war policy of self-reliance.

Toyota was convinced that by developing its own projects which incorporated technologies masterminded in-house it would have a head start over corporations copying the designs of others, no matter how good those designs might be.


The first Toyota Crown rolled off the production line at the Koromo plant (now Honsha plant) on 1 January 1955. Its mechanicals were tailored to meet the prevailing needs and road conditions in Japan, while the curvaceous shape and rear-hinged rear doors echoed the styling cues of the company’s first car, the Toyota AA.

The Crown has enjoyed 16 generations of development and Toyota says the Crown brand represents not just luxury, but staying ahead of the curve with innovation. In 1999, the Crown sedan entered its 11th generation while the Crown Estate entered its 10th generation. Toyota says the sedan lost its stylish four-door hardtop, leaving behind a standard four-door sedan. Changes brought to the wagon in 1999 include the removal of the third row of seats, making the Crown Estate strictly a five-seat affair. All examples come with an automatic transmission, though you can shift gears through buttons on the steering wheel.

Photos Toyota Crown 1999 62

Available features on Crowns of this era include a head-up display, traction control, stability control, power seats, dual-zone climate control, touchscreen infotainment, AWD, rear seat entertainment controls, and more.

The Crown was available in a variety of trim levels and your choice depended on what you wanted. If you want a formal ride, get a Crown Estate Royal or Crown Majesta. These are geared toward luxury and tech giving you assortments of the above features. The Majesta is the crown of the Crown featuring tech that you couldn’t get with other grades, such as radar cruise control, air suspension, a crosswind assist, and rear-wheel-steer.

Toyota Crown 1999 Photos 4 E17043225045492


For the sporting individuals among you, the Athlete will be your pick. That’s where you’ll find the shift buttons on the steering wheel, tinted windows, Xenon headlights, and oh yeah, an optional 3.0-liter 2JZ straight-six rated for 220 HP. The best part? It seems nobody wants these things. I found a 2JZ-equipped Crown Estate Athlete that sold last year for $1,357. The catch was that one had 115,000 miles. The nicest one I found that sold recently went for $4,176 and that one had half of the miles of the previous unit. Sedans are equally as cheap.

Unfortunately, there is a catch with the Crown. The sedan began production in September 1999 with the wagon following suit in December 1999. That means both will be a waiting game unless your importer knows a way around the production month limitation.

Hyundai Equus And Mitsubishi Proudia

Hyundai Equus Sedan 1999

For most people, “Hyundai Equus” translates to the nifty executive car that was unveiled in America in 2010. However, there is an earlier generation of Equus we did not get.

In the late 1990s, Hyundai and Mitsubishi joined forces to take down their rivals. Mitsubishi wanted a piece of the market the Toyota Celsior (Lexus LS400) had while Hyundai wanted to beat the SsangYong Chairman. Together, Hyundai and Mitsubishi minted an admirable vehicle. The top engine for this flagship was a 4.5-liter direct injection V8. Mitsubishi provided the GDI technology while Hyundai handled major engine components including the aluminum block, pistons, and connecting rods. Mitsubishi designed the automatic transmission, which was produced by Hyundai. The latter company also handled body stampings while Mitsubishi did the welds for its bodies.

Mitsubishi Proudia 1999 Photos 2

Out of the other end came the Equus, the long-wheelbase Equus Limousine, and its Mitsubishi equivalents, the Proudia and Dignity, respectively. That V8 engine made 260 HP and sent it through the front wheels. Available features included Alcantara, Xenon headlights, parking sensors, seat heating and ventilation, rear seat displays, and more.


Hyundai considered bringing these to America and even exported one to send to American auto shows, but waited until the second generation to give it a try.

I couldn’t find any Hyundai Equus for sale, but the Mitsubishi Proudia does show up for sale in Japan sometimes. Recently, a decent one sold for $550. The Dignity is so rare I couldn’t find any sales data on it.

Holden Commodore

Images Holden Commodore 1997 1

These lists are almost always populated with exciting cars that you can collect from Japan or Europe, but what about our friends down under? In 1997, the Holden Commodore entered its third generation. The first of these cars was given the VT code and was developed from the Opel Omega B.

Despite the Opel bones, the Holden was bigger and adapted to the needs of Australian car buyers. When Holden was done with the Commodore, the resulting vehicle was sleek with a little bit of muscle. If you didn’t know any better, I bet you didn’t notice that it started as a German car. The VT Commodore also wasn’t just a reskin. Holden spent $600 million over half of a decade to bring the Commodore into the future. Reportedly, the VT got Holden’s first all-new braking system in nearly 20 years. An emphasis was put on handling and safety, too. The VT was 30 percent stiffer than its predecessor, boasted MacPherson struts up front, and a semi-trailing arm independent rear suspension. Holden also baked in a new electrical system and powerful engines.

1997 Holden Vt Commodore 02

Said another way, Holden put in a ton of work to ensure the Ford Falcon didn’t get anywhere near Australia’s top car. Remember, this car also served as the platform for the great Holden Monaro/Pontiac GTO. So, why would you care about a car that you have been able to import for the past couple of years? One of the complaints about the VT was the fact that it was considerably heavier than its predecessor.


In 1999, Holden released the VT Series II, the last major update before moving to the Commodore VX update. Most of the changes to the Series II are minor and cosmetic. The major changes happened under the skin. The 5.0-liter Holden V8 option was replaced with an imported 5.7-liter LS1 V8. This engine was more expensive but produced 11 percent more power for an output of 295 HP.

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At the time, Holden reportedly claimed that the Commodore HSV Clubsport with the LS1 V8 was the quickest car built in Australia. Another benefit of the Series II was a weight loss of roughly 66 pounds compared to a 1997 Commodore. The Clubsport hits 60 mph in 5.7 seconds and weighs 3,968 pounds.

Out of the vehicles on this list, the Commodore will be the most expensive. A pricing guide suggests that the cheapest Commodore Series II examples you can find will be under $10,000 USD, but they won’t be pristine examples. For example, here’s a VT Commodore Series II with the 5.7-liter V8 for about $7,393, but it will need maintenance done to it and you get an automatic transmission.

There you have it, five cool cars that you can enjoy without having to eat ramen for the foreseeable future. It can be disappointing to look at imported cars for sale and see asking prices you couldn’t swing without causing some sort of chaos in your life. While it’s unlikely the Nissan Skyline GT-R R34 will ever come down in value any time soon, you can still enjoy lots of import car fun.

Update: Before you embark on a quest to import a car from Japan’s auction system, I will issue a warning: While most cars will come with a handy inspection sheet, the accuracy of these inspections will range from spot-on to pretty far off. Thankfully, many importers and auction agents offer third-party inspection services. The extra cost may save you from buying a basket case!


What I recommend is finding something that other enthusiasts aren’t piling over themselves to buy. Everyone wants a Honda NSX, but nobody cares about the Honda Z. That means you can save some money and still get a cool car. If you need help, contact an importer, exporter, or auction agent. Personally, I’ve had great experiences with The Import Guys and Japan Car Direct. Good luck!

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3 months ago

I also agree, Mercedes has just got to have an early 70’s Honda Z added to her cool and quirky automotive collection. It’s part car and part motorcycle, she can cover to bases in one fell swoop!

3 months ago

That Holden looks like a Cadillac Catera’s long lost twin brother. That Honda Z is awesome, the five lug wheels on such a tiny car are over the top! I want one. I had a friend that had one of the original Honda Z’s. That thing was a hoot to drive, although I never quite mastered the odd dashboard hanging stick shift. Grounded gears aplenty whilst I was at the helm of that car, ha ha. We only got to drive it around the neighborhood, his mom forbid us to drive on the highway in it because it was so small and “unsafe” in her opinion.

3 months ago
Reply to  Greensoul

That Holden looks like a Cadillac Catera’s long lost twin brother

It is; they’re both based on a Vauxhall/Opel Omega

Curtis Loew
Curtis Loew
3 months ago

You can now import the Version 6 STI. I would take one of those over anything mentioned. The prices are getting up there, but not unreasonable. 10 will get you one, 20 will get you a nice one, perfect ones run about 30.

Black Peter
Black Peter
3 months ago

Filed under “shoulda-coulda-woulda”: I knew someone in the Japanese car trading community (many to and from the US),I was considering the purchasing an early WRX and leaving it in Japan until its birthday.
I wonder if enterprising people saw the trend in the US and bought “car” futures? Socking away GT-Rs and the like 10 years ago when they were cheap?

Morgan van Humbeck
Morgan van Humbeck
3 months ago
Reply to  Black Peter

Vancouver Canada is filled with cars just about to hit 25 years old. The minute they do, bam, exported to the states

Sampson Jackson
Sampson Jackson
3 months ago

Yep. Several companies specializing in just this, including some in the US. I imported a 91 Beat through a company that offers this service and wouldn’t hesitate to pull the trigger. I’m looking at 2000 year model cars now, to replace a Honda STEPWGN that I daily.

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