JDM Imports For Sale » JDMBUYSELL (2024)

Subaru Sambar Buying Guide

Does size really matter? Yes, it does! The proof is in the Subaru Sambar. Smaller really IS better with this petite Kei car vehicle. Available in two versions, a van and a pick-up truck, this little Subaru could – and does – provides ample space for most needs.

Table Of Contents


  • Virtual Tour
  • Pros and Cons
  • Common Issues
  • Average Prices
  • Comparable Alternatives
  • Models and Variations
    • 1961-1966 Subaru Sambar First Generation
    • 1966-1973 Subaru Sambar Second Generation
    • 1973-1982 Subaru Sambar Third Generation
    • 1982-1990 Subaru Sambar Fourth Generation
    • 1990-1999 Subaru Sambar Fifth Generation
    • 1999-2012 Subaru Sambar Sixth Generation
  • Compliance
  • FAQ
  • Resources
  • How to Import a Subaru Sambar

Virtual Tour

Pros and Cons


  • Cheap and practical
  • Available in 2WD and 4WD
  • Reliable
  • Good fuel economy
  • 1990+ models were available with a supercharger


  • Parts can be difficult to find as they were not exported to North America
  • Not the most practical vehicle for high-speed driving or long road trips
  • Naturally aspirated models with automatic transmission are a bit underpowered
  • Limited ground clearance when compared to similar Kei trucks

Common Issues

JDM Imports For Sale » JDMBUYSELL (2)

While generally regarded as reliable by owners, there are two commonly cited issues with the Sambar. The first pertains to the CVT transmission on certain models from 1990 to 1995. They suffered from a number of problems and the general consensus is to avoid them altogether as parts and finding someone capable of servicing them is quite difficult.

The second issue relates to the “Clover-4” engine used from 1990 to 2012. They were prone to oil leaks around the gaskets and seals. This is not necessarily a major concern in terms of leaks, but it should be noted.

Average Prices

Like most Kei trucks, Sambars can be found from a few thousand and go all the way up to over $10,000 dollars depending on the year, condition, and options.

Comparable Alternatives

There are several vehicles that come similarly equipped as the Sambar, some examples are:

  • Honda Acty (Read our Honda Acty buying guide)
  • Suzuki Carry
  • Daihatsu Hijet
  • Mazda Scrum
  • Mitsubishi Minicab

Models and Variations

If you choose the van layout,you will realize that despite its diminutive size, it can do just about anything that other minivans and SUVsdo, plus things that minivans can’t – like go off-road. If efficiency is what you seek, look no further as they are economical and can get up to 40mpg.

For those more interested in hauling their family around or camping, the Sambar is the ultimate family vehicle. With seating for five, full-time four-wheel drive, and a 660cc supercharged engine, what more could any family want?

The Sambar is equipped with either a five-speed manual transmission offering extra-low gearing or an easy-to-drive automatic.For those who like to camp out, the optional crystal lite roof and drapery help when getting away from the hustle and bustle of the city.

The pick-up form is ideal for any tradesman, such as construction workers who need to move small loads without hurting their wallets. Its size helps it get to smaller areas where larger vehicles cannot.

1961-1966 Subaru Sambar First Generation

In 1961, the first Sambar rolled off the production line. They were based on the Subaru 360 platform with an independent 4-wheel suspension and 356cc 2cyl motor that produced 18hp running. Power was put to the wheels via a 3-speed manual transmission. They were mainly marketed towards the business and commercial segments as a delivery vehicle.

1966-1973 Subaru Sambar Second Generation

The second generation saw a few minor changes along with a truck version being released. The most notable changes were: a slight increase in hp to 20, a raised roof for extra headroom, and a padded dash for safety. In addition, the motor was accessible from the outside, which made it easier to work on.

1973-1982 Subaru Sambar Third Generation

The third generation saw several improvements, most notably a bigger engine and optional 4WD starting in 1980. Early models had the same 356cc engine albeit now water-cooled. Starting in 1977, a 544cc 2cyl engine, which put out 28hp, became standard. Other features included sliding doors and an optional sunroof in 1979.

1982-1990 Subaru Sambar Fourth Generation

The fourth generation received some suspension and brake upgrades. Bigger drums were standard along with optional front-wheel disk brakes. The engine remained relatively unchanged and by the late 80s, full-time 4wd was available.

1990-1999 Subaru Sambar Fifth Generation

The fifth generation brought on a number of improvements over previous generations. Most notably was the introduction of the 658cc “Clover-4” engine which would be used all the way through 2012. Power was increased to 40hp on naturally aspirated models and a supercharged option was now available with fuel injection that put out a respectable 54hp. A 5-speed manual was standard and a CVT was available on some models. However, the CVT was dropped in 1995 due to reliability issues and replaced with a 3-speed automatic.

1999-2012 Subaru Sambar Sixth Generation

Most of the changes were cosmetic along with some safety features such as airbags and ABS brakes. There was a slight increase in horsepower in the naturally aspirated and supercharged models. Also, all N/A models were now equipped with fuel injection.

This would also be the last generation of the Subaru Sambar with the van being phased out in 2009, followed by the truck in 2012. While they still wore the Subaru nameplate, they were now made by Daihatsu.


Compliance in Canada for the vehicle is very easy. Universal headlights fit most of models, including the Volkswagen Camper conversion model. While the stock van also fits universal headlights for safety and looks, it is recommended that E-Code headlights be installed. As with all vehicles, a daytime running light (DRL) module, amber side markers in the front, and red rear side markers are needed.


What engine does a Subaru Sambar have?

All Subaru Sambar Generations have engines with less than 1000cc of displacement except the fifth-gen Sambar made from 1990 to 1999. It comes with a 1.2-liter EF engine, but it’s still in the Kei truck category. The first four generations have two-cylinder engines (EK series), with the largest being a 665cc EK42 engine.

What is the top speed on a Subaru Sambar?

The first four generations of the Subaru Sambar have a 60mph top speed, while the rest have a top speed of around 87mph for both trucks and vans.

How to check the year of manufacture on a Subaru Sambar.

The easiest way to check the YOM of your Subaru Sambar is first to find the VIN. It is located on the frame near the spare tire or near the bottom door hinge (kick panel) on the passenger’s side. Checking the VIN online shows you the year, month, and date of manufacture, among other credentials.

Where is the engine code on a Subaru Sambar KT2?

The engine code on a Subaru Sambar KT2 dump truck can be found on the right side of the engine block’s top.

How to tell the year of manufacture of a Subaru Sambar.

Apart from the visual difference, you can also check the VIN online, which reveals the Subaru Sambar’s year, month, and date of manufacture.

Which class does a Subaru Sambar belong to in the USA?

Due to its weight, size, and engine capacity, the Subaru Sambar is a microvan/truck specifically in the Kei car category.

How to check the chassis code on a Subaru Sambar.

The chassis code is embedded into the VIN among the YOM and other essential details on a Subaru Sambar. Check the passenger side kicker panel or underneath the spare tire to get the VIN. You’ll find a plaque with the VIN or find the VIN written on the frame.

How to check the frame number on a Subaru Sambar

The frame number is commonly known as the VIN (Vehicle identification number). When checked online, it reveals all information about the car’s YOM, engine and past accidents, among other details. On a Subaru Sambar, you can find the frame number on the passenger’s side kicker panel or on the frame near the spare tire.

Where is the engine oil filled in on a Subaru Sambar?

To fill in oil on a Subaru Sambar, you have to lift it and remove the rear bumper, giving you access to the dipstick and the oil filling cap. To drain the oil, reach for the drain plug located underneath the oil pan towards the engine’s center.


How to Import a Subaru Sambar

Read our ultimate guide, How to Import a Car from Japan.

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Christopher joined jdmbuysell.com in 2018 as an automotive Journalist and now oversees all communications with buyers & sellers.

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JDM Imports For Sale » JDMBUYSELL (2024)


Are JDM imports legal? ›

Most JDM vehicles don't conform to the federal motor vehicle safety standards (FMVSS) that are a must for car registration on U.S. roads. Fortunately, there is an exemption to this rule for any vehicle that is 25 years old or more, regardless of where it was built.

What is the cheapest way to import a car from Japan? ›

Cost of RORO Shipping

RORO shipping is known as the cheapest method of transporting a car. It is a kind of vessel when a car is rolled on the deck and then rolled off upon arrival in the destination port.

How much is it to import a JDM car from Japan? ›

Importing Cars from Japan to the USA starts at a cost of $1,895 USD depending on the make and model of the car and whether the destination in the USA is on the east or west coast. Below, our 2024 guide for shipping cars to Japan will explore everything you need to know about importing a car from Japan to the USA.

Can I import a JDM car to USA? ›

Importing is easy and affordable

There are two ways to import, informal and formal entry. If the commercial value is less than $2,500 the entire do-it-yourself informal entry process, including the filing of all documents, customs fees, and duty can be done for under $150! Formal entries require a customs broker.

What is the 25 year rule for 2024? ›

Credit the federal government's vehicle import laws, which allow the importation of vehicles that are at least 25 years old "without regard to whether it complies with all applicable Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standards." This age is based on the date of manufacturing, meaning that a given car can only be imported ...

What is the 25 year rule for Japanese cars? ›

If the vehicle is less than 25 years old and was not originally manufactured to comply with all applicable FMVSS, and/or was not so certified by its original manufacturer, it cannot be lawfully imported into the U.S. on a permanent basis unless NHTSA determines it eligible for importation.

Is it OK to buy an imported car from Japan? ›

”The majority of the parts are the same as their UK variant unless they have an engine which is specific to, for example, Japan. Only then do the issues occur and supply and demand rule comes in, plus a repair will take longer and cost more. “The main issues around imported vehicles is usually identifying them.

Can I buy a car in Japan and ship it to the US? ›

A Car Can Be Easily Shipped from Japan to the US

If you can't get your car yourself, make arrangements to have it brought to you from the coasts.

Why are cars in Japan so cheap? ›

The underlying reason is the large economy of scale (Japan is the third largest economy in the world) which allows the manufacturers to sell their cars at a much lower price in the local market. Moreover, the Japanese are used to buy newer models whenever they arrive in the market.

How much is a GTR in Japan? ›

2025 NISSAN GT-R Premium Edition (Japan-market version)
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How much is a skyline in Japan? ›

Looking at the Japanese Nissan website, a new Skyline in Japan costs 4,638,700 Yen or US $42,304.41 at the current exchange rate for the low end model and 6,160,000 Yen or US $56,190.06 for the high end model.

What is the import tax on JDM cars? ›

Most cars are subject to a duty rate of 2.5% of their value. Trucks are dutiable at a rate of 25%, while motorcycles are either duty-free or assessed at a rate of 2.4%.

What is the easiest state to register a imported car? ›

The easiest state to import your vehicle, however, is Montana. Montana is the only state that does not mandate a U.S. driver's license, residency in the state, or vehicle inspections. You do not have to pay sales tax there, either.

Why do you have to wait 25 years to import a car? ›

Effectively, the 25-year import rule waives the need for a vehicle to meet safety standards and emissions regulations set out by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) and Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), provided a vehicle is older than, you guessed it, 25 years, after which it is deemed a ...

How do you import your own JDM? ›

How to import a JDM vehicle
  1. Place a deposit with B-Pro Auto JDM Imports.
  2. We browse the auctions and dealers for your favourite JDM car.
  3. Your favourites are bid on until we win one.
  4. The car is shipped to port and we clear it through customs.
  5. You can pick it up at a port, or we can ship directly to you.

Are Japanese imports street legal? ›

Yes. However, the car needs to be 25 years or older to import. There are some good choices at what car you can import! I purchased a car from a neighbor with out-of-state plates.

Are you allowed to import cars to Japan? ›


You can import a used car or motor cycle “duty free” provided that the vehicle is at least 6 months old. Make sure to fill out the customs declaration form and keep a copy when you enter Japan. Required documentation for vehicle import is as follows: Customs Declaration Form C-5360 (See above)

Why do JDM cars have to be 25 years old? ›

In essence, the 25-Year Import Rule strikes a balance between welcoming classic cars and ensuring that safety and emissions standards are met. While this wait might seem long, it is designed to harmonize the interests of car enthusiasts, the automotive industry, and regulatory authorities.

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