How to buy a Bongo
There are a few options on how to get your hands on a Bongo. Each has its own benefits and pitfalls.
A Bongo pre-owned in the UK
There are a fair number of Bongo’s for sale via private sales, converted or unconverted. Check out BongoFury and ebay for a start. This ought to be the easiest way to buy, however, when you go to look at a Bongo that has been in the Uk for a while it is very important to check for rust.
Japanese cars are not protected from rust as the Japanese do not use salt on their roads and their climate is very different to ours. If the UK owner has not had the vehicle undersealed and waxoyled (a coating that must be sprayed into all of the cavities in the vehicle structure) to protect it, it WILL rust. Even with protection the owner must remain vigilant and deal with any rust spots immediately.
We went to look at several Bongo’s where the owners honestly believed their vehicle was in good condition but once we checked thoroughly there was significant rust. If you are not confident about checking out a vehicle do take someone with you who is – it is a big purchase! If you are lucky and find a Bongo in good condition, with the engine, model and mileage you want – well done. But don’t expect it to be easy to find.
A Bongo from a dealer
Bongos are sold in Japan in huge auctions on the docks. They are always unconverted. Dealers from England will buy a selection of Bongo’s, either in person or through a third party in Japan. The dealer will buy vehicles and then offer them for sale to his list of registered customers to buy. He will also import some to sell back in the UK. It is usually cheaper to ‘order’ a Bongo as the dealer then has the money guaranteed and can discount on that basis. However, it will be a long wait, generally your Bongo won’t be sent off until the dealer has enough other vehicles. Once it sets off it will take up to 3 months before it lands in the UK. If you can’t bear to wait this long you can buy a Bongo that has already landed. They will cost a little extra.
How do you know what you are buying?
Bongo’s are sold in Japan using a very thorough evaluation system. They will be graded, the best being a 5 – this is showroom condition, almost unheard of, the best you are likely to get is a 4.5 or a 4. The Japanese cars tend to be in excellent condition generally. However, they don’t tend to service them regularly. Possibly, this is why Japanese cars have been designed to be so reliable.
We found that anything with an external grade of 4 or above (with no reported significant body damage on the sheet), was great condition. We ended up going for one that was 3.5 with no re-spraying and have been very happy. The evaluators are independent and picky.
The interior is also graded. You want an A or B on the interior grade and do check whether the car has been smoked in. We would recommend avoiding anything with any mention of burns or smoking as the whole interior will be compromised. The evaluation sheet will show all marks and flaws both internally and externally. Your dealer should allow you to see this sheet. If they give you any story as to why they won’t, walk away.
Understanding the evaluation sheet.
The sheet can look a bit scary as it has lots of Japanese symbols but the important numbers and character are in standard alphanumeric. See here for a good, simple overview.
Also check that the sheet you are looking at is the sheet for the vehicle in front of you, cross check with engine markings.
BIMTA is a UK organisation that performs searches on the Japanese registration databases, you should be able to get hold of a BIMTA certificate which will include dates and mileage, depending on the car’s history. As always a low mileage example with a low price tag should be viewed with some suspicion.
Some companies such as Algy’s Autos in Bristol offer a service where they will identify a possible vehicle for you, undertake their own inspection plus the Japanese official inspection, take lots of photos for you to view and then bid in the auction under your instruction with a maximum bid in mind. It’s a good way to get exactly what you want but of course you can be disappointed if you lose in an auction. We did twice!
So now you may be thinking it all sounds rather complicated but be patient and thorough and you can get yourself a great campervan. Hopefully, this information will help you find the Bongo for you!
We have tried to cover everything we can think of about buying a Bongo as a campervan, please do comment if you have any additional useful comments or any questions. We will do our best to answer them based on our extensive research and personal experience.