An overview of importing a Nissan LEAF e+ from Japan into Australia

Electric car, Australia and bargain aren’t words you hear in the same sentence, but if you’re keen to go electric, don’t want to pay $75,000 for a Tesla and still want decent range, consider importing a used car directly from Japan.

My pick of the imports would be the Nissan LEAF e+, a variant of the popular Nissan LEAF with a bigger battery (62kwh vs 40kwh on the one sold here) that’ll get you around 320-330km real world range. The big battery version has been on sale overseas for almost 2 years now. Here’s a detailed overview of the car from Autogefühl:

It comes in various trims in Japan - the X, G and AUTECH. You want the G, as it’s the highest spec with all the cool options like ProPilot

The LEAF e+ is coming to Australia some time in 2021, but importing one from Japan means you can get it now and for a much lower price than even the 40kwh version currently on sale here.

Prestige Motorsport has a good article explaining the import process and YouTube channel EV4ME has heaps of videos about their experience importing a LEAF e+ into Australia - but from my understanding this is a rough summary of what happens:

  • Contact importer, tell em you want to buy a car and pay them their fee for the upcoming work.

  • Keep an eye on the auctions and when you see one you want, contact importer with your max bid ASAP.

  • Their dude on the ground bids and if you win, you pay the auction house directly using OFX/Transferwise/whatever in JPY.

  • Importer gets the car, puts it on a boat, brings it to Australia, forwards all the fees and taxes and shit to you to pay.

  • Wait for quarantine and customs to clear it, then it gets sent to a workshop to do “compliance” work to meet AUS regulations.

  • Once compliance is done, pay stamp duty, rego and insurance like any other car and off you go.

  • All up it can take about 8 weeks from when you win the car at an auction until it’s in your driveway with rego.

The main downside of importing is a lack of manufacturer warranty and specialist EV mechanics. If something goes wrong with the battery, you’re kinda shit out of luck. It’s very unlikely but something to be aware of. For other types of faults (e.g: suspension, cabin) most mechanics would be able to handle that sort of repair.

There’s also a semi-active Australian LEAF owners forum where you can get DIY tips if needed. Worst case you can take it to a Nissan dealer. The Australian LEAF and Japanese LEAF are mechanically identical so I’m sure they’d take your money to fix what they can.

If a lack of warranty doesn’t put you off, Prestige Motorsport has a nifty spreadsheet to add up the costs of importing a car into Australia. Let’s dig into the calculator a little and explore the costs involved:

STEP 1 - Median auction sale price for a 2019/2020 LEAF e+ in the G trim level and a quality grade higher than 4.5 (explanation of grades) is ~2,600,000 JPY according to historical sales for the past few months on Prestige Motorsport’s website. If I was buying, I’d tell them not to bid more than 2.6m JPY for an e+ G with a 4.5 or higher grading.

STEP 2 - At the current OFX rate of about 80 JPY for 1 AUD, that’s AUD 32,500 for the car. Prestige’s fee is $1210, there’s no transfer fees with OFX or Transferwise and this is a 1-2yr old car so AC gas doesn’t need refreshing.

STEP 3 - All the crap involved in shipping a car from JP to AU is in this fee. $2,500 seems to be the upper range of this cost to bring the car to a Melbourne workshop to do the compliance.

STEP 4 - Insurance, I’d get a quote, but for now lets assume I don’t bother. GST is 10% of the total setup to get it landed in to AU (the car itself & cost of shipping). Australia and Japan have a free trade agreement, so Japanese cars don’t incur any duty.

STEP 5 - Compliance means doing some work so it meets Australian regulations and giving it a compliance plate. EV4ME paid $2,250 for it.

STEP 6 - Need new tyres as part of the compliance process. Four good quality 215/50R17 91V tyres would set me back around $800.

STEP 7 - Don’t need an alarm, LEAF already has one.

STEP 8 & 9 - Stamp duty and initial rego for a $32,500 car kept in postcode 3340 is $2,142.40 according to this Vicroads calculator.

STEP 10 - Being a Japanese EV with a J1772 plug instead of the “standard” Type 2 plug used in Australia, there’s a few extra costs.

The instrument cluster and head unit are in Japanese, but the important bits on the instrument cluster are in English. They can be converted to English for $690 by Evolution in Melbourne, but it’s not necessary. CarPlay works just fine in English anyways. I’d probably drive it first and if it shits me seeing some Japanese writing on the dash I’d cough up to convert it later.

The total cost from auction to driveway would be $46,227. It’s not a bargain, but it’s way better value than any other EV on the market, new or used, in Australia. If you’re desperate to drive electric but don’t want to wait for a sub-$50,000 EV with 300km+ range to officially go on sale, the Nissan LEAF e+ is pretty much your only option.