Import a Clean, Low Miles Used Car or Truck from Japan Now. It’s the Winner’s Move.
Import the Most Popular Full-Size Used Van from Japan: the Toyota Hiace
It seems like every second serious independent tradesman in my part of Japan’s cottage country has a Toyota Hiace. The carpenters building the cottage decks in the spring, the roofers re-slating the roofs in the summer, the tree trimmers loping overgrown branches in the fall, and the plumbers fixing burst pipes in the winter. Everybody’s got a Hiace van. They are, and have been for many years, clearly the right machine for the job;so it’s no wonder that we have been exporting a good number of Hiace vans to our main markets for Japanese used cars: the USA, the UK, Canada, Australia, and New Zealand. And that’s 25 year old used vans in the case of the States and Oz, Guys! These are tough, hard, long-lasting fellows, these Hiace Vans, 25 years of service is nothing to them. (To see the used car import rules for these countries, just click on the country name and it will take you to our main Japan Car Direct website for the details.)
What Makes the Hiace the Best Choice?
Talking used vans recently here with Scott, he put it this way:
“Hiace Vans really are the cream of the crop for heavy duty working guys as well as big hobby guys too.”
And that’s definitely what I’ve been seeing on the roads here in Japan for many years: Hiace dominates in the full-size van class from the simple, stripped bare bones tradesman’s workmate
to the surfer’s paradise wagon
to the camperman’s luxury home on the range.
All in all a used Hiace van gives you major carrying capacity and, due to its fundamental simplicity, robustness, parts availability, and longevity (I see lots of older ones in service on the roads here in Japan and they don’t seem prone to rust from the condition of the vehicles I come across), it scores four out of four from our list of important requirements for a “keep car” to import from Japan in these times of crisis and car shortage: good rust resistance, good parts availability, good build quality, and as simple as possible in its vehicle class. (We talked about the “keep car” in our first two JCD Blog posts in this series here, and here.)
And while the newer models of the Hiace, along with the newer models of everything these days (time of writing: summer, 2022), have gotten more complex, the vans from the ’90s, my favorite years for Japanese Domestic Market (JDM) used cars (see here) are not only easy to import direct to the USA and Australia, they are also more simple than what Toyota is offering us today.
A Bit of Hiace History
Toyota kicked off Hiace production way back in 1967 as a simple one-box type van.
Even as a car nut kid in Canada I don’t ever recall seeing one of these. Our vans were all GMC Vanduras
or Ford Econolines
or Volkswagen Type 2s; like the ones my father had (one of which I nearly tipped over after entering a tight corner while coming down a hill at too high a speed; got a smack upside the head for that from my dad who was in the passenger seat at the time).
But Hiace vans? Never a one.
Now, Hiace chassis codes and body styles and options packages get very confusing as time goes on and we don’t want to get bogged down in all that, so let’s keep it simple.
The first generation Hiace, the H10 chassis type, like the blue one above shown in an early publicity photo, sure has a retro look now, but with the second gen (chassis types H11 to H40), which came out ten years after the first gen and had a five year production run, the Hiace starts to take on the “modern” van look.
(What a lovely old goat this van is! Looks like a loved Hiace to me.)
The third generation Hiaces had a really long production run, from 1982 to 2007! And this is reflected in the chassis series numbers: H50, H60, H70. H80, and H90. Here’s one from 1988 that recently came up for sale here in Japan:
Nice looking unit for a 34 year old machine, eh? And an easy import to the USA if you are looking for a used Japanese full size van. Rock on!
With the fourth gen things get a bit more complex as far as production dates and figures go because there is a lot of production over lap. Fourth generation Hiaces like this,
which come out in 1989 and run to 2004, were being made while the third gen was still in production. But ones from 1989 to 1997 (the one we are looking at here is from 1995) are now 25 years old and are also easy used vans for self import to America or Australia,
We’ll stop with our Hiace history here because these fourth generation (H100 body types) and third gen (H90 body types) are the ones that most often come up used these days in good condition and with low kms for sale here in Japan, both at the Japanese used car auctions and at the used car dealers that we partner with.
(The H200 chassis vans are a different kettle of fish and we’ll look at those another time.)
Now let’s look at the options in terms of engine and drive train because these are key points in choosing a good commercial van (or a van for serious hobby fun, as well).
Used Hiace Options
For now we’ll look only at the Hiace vans from the 1990s, since these are your best buys because they’re still simple vans, and they are kind of in the “sweet spot” right now.
Since the Hiace is a “classic” van, in that it’s a one box, cab over type with the engine at the front (actually between the seats, just aft of the front axle, so, while you’re driving, it’s kind of under your butt…but still classed as “front engine”), you’ve got two drive train options: rear wheel drive or four wheel drive.
Engine options are many when you look at Hiaces that were sold outside Japan: 2.0 to 2.7 liter straight four gasoline engines, even a 3.4 liter V6, along with a slew of Diesels, but basically, for a used Hiace imported from us here in Japan, you’re looking at the 2.8 liter Diesel straight four or the 3.0 liter Diesel straight four. Both very long lived engines, economical and with lots of parts availability due to these engines being used in so many Toyota offerings.
In terms of body options, while Toyota did offer 3-door, 4-door, and 5-door bodies, almost all the Hiace ’90s vans I see here Japan are the four door type with the sliding door on the left side, or the five door type with two siding doors. Three door body type Hiace vans are a bit rare here, not unknown, just a bit rare. But we can find you one if that’s what you need.
In terms of internal layout, if you are looking at buying and importing a second hand Hiace direct from Japan yourself (we guide you through it all, but to get an overview of how the process works here at Japan Car Direct, just have a look here), seat layouts range from two to twelve, or 15 in the case of the Super Long GL (am I counting that right? 15? Wow!) if you count the jump seats. Have a look at this super simple crew bus:
I don’t know about you but, for me, the jump seats don’t look particularly comfortable and, maybe, not entirely the safest. But aaaanyway….there are lots of seats in a ’90s used Toyota Hiace from Japan and a variety of seat options.
Specialist Hiace Vans
Now, before we wrap up our look at the Hiace van, I just want to touch on a good point about buying one of these vehicles used from Japan, and that’s the point about specialist interior layouts. Many Hiace owners here, be they tradesman or hobby enthusiasts, have modified the interior of their vans to be perfect for specific purposes, whether it’s stacking surf boards or storing tools, and the right layout for the first owner may be just the right layout for you and, when you get that Hiace, that perfect layout just falls into your lap and you don’t have to do all that work yourself. That’s a plus to me!
Here’s a few photos to get you thinking about possible interior layout options on a used Toyota Hiace from Japan:
From very basic racking to multiple shelving units and box storage
to super space efficient campers.
Awnings are an option, too,
as are various well-cab and wheelchair access layouts.
You can get interiors like this basic fold down platform rest area:
and many more interior options.
And now here’s a quiz. Have a look at this used (and very low miles, 13,300kms! 8,300 miles!) 1997 Hiace. What is this specialist Hiace interior set up for?
Go on, Guys. Rack your brains. Is it a mobile doctor’s office? A blood donation clinic on wheels?
Something for you all to think about.
Get Your Hiace Van On The Way To You From Japan
So if you are saying: “I want to buy a good, clean, used Toyota Hiace van from Japan and import it myself,” then tie up with us here at Japan Car Direct by registering here so we can get things going to get you and your Hiace on the road.
We’re looking forward to hearing from you.
PS: Did you figure out what that special interior layout is in our “quiz?” O.K., I’ll tell you: It’s a mobile library. Gotta love it!
Click here to Register to our Vehicle Search Engine.