Alongside the Toyota Alphard/Vellfire, the Toyota Harrier is an immensely popular luxury SUV. Part of the reason why the Harrier is so popular is the lack of competition – it has no direct rival either from Honda or Nissan.
But the question remains – should you buy a cheap reconditioned (recond) unit or pay up for an officially-imported unit by UMW Toyota Motor?
Let’s take a closer look at the pros and cons.
Prices – Recond is cheaper, but for a good reason
Prices start from RM 243,000 for the Toyota Harrier 2.0 Premium, while the range-topping Harrier 2.0 Luxury will set you back for RM 266,000.
As for reconditioned Harriers, we checked several car listing sites and found that 2017-2018 Toyota Harriers with similar specifications as units brought in by UMW Toyota Motor are priced between RM 180,000 to RM 240,000, with the pricier ones boasting a lower mileage than cheaper ones. But we’ll get to that below.
With that said, a reconditioned Toyota Harrier is cheaper than an officially-imported by about RM 26,000 to RM 63,000.
Keep in mind that much cheaper reconditioned units could be the non-turbocharged, pre-facelift version of the Harrier.
Another reason why a recond is cheaper is because it is a used car.
Also remember that there are no used car/reconditioned car dealers in the Klang Valley that will sell you a car at the advertised price – not only there are hidden charges, customary “processing fees” that amounts to several thousand Ringgit also applies, which minimizes the price gap between a recond unit and a brand-new one.
Mileage – 3-year old car with less than 10,000 km mileage??
If you take a closer look at the cars advertised by recond dealers, you’ll notice that their favourite term is “low mileage, almost like new”.
They claim that Japanese drivers don’t drive that much, but you can be certain that that is not true.
The only way to verify the dealer’s claim it to have a copy of the car’s Shaken (mandatory Japanese vehicle inspection sheet) or the vehicle auction sheet (detailed below).
Without those, you can be sure that the “low mileage, almost like new” car has had its odometer rolled back.
History – Free accident or accident free?
Before committing to a reconditioned car, make sure you verify the car’s history by getting a copy of the auction sheet from companies like recond.my or scrut.my.
Both recond.my and scrut.my are able to trace a car’s history if the car was exported out of Japan via a Japanese auction lot, which happens most of the time.
The auction report is essentially the car’s history book, as it is the most reliable method to verify the car’s condition, mileage, and actual year of manufacture.
To get a report, you’ll need to provide the car’s Vehicle Identification Number (VIN) to the earlier-mentioned companies and they will charge a small fee for the report.
If the recond car you’re looking at does not come with an auction report, walk away.
You should also turn around and walk away if the condition on the Japanese auction report is rated as "R", as that indicates that the car was involved in an accident and has been repaired.
Aftersales service and warranty – You’re on your own if you buy recond
These days, support from car manufacturers are crucial, and that is lacking when you buy a reconditioned Toyota Harrier.
Reconditioned car dealers will not entertain your faulty Takata airbag inflator, nor will they bother with updating your car’s built-in maps.
That said, if you purchase a brand-new Toyota Harrier from UMW Toyota Motor, you’re backed by a 5-year, unlimited mileage warranty.
Some recond dealers will also offer you the option of paying more for warranty. It's a good option for added peace of mind but as these are third-party warranties, the coverage varies. Read the terms and conditions carefully.
Infotainment – Time to learn Japanese?
Similar to recond Toyota Alphards, the Toyota Harriers you see at recond car dealers were never meant for export markets – their infotainment and car controls are locked in Japanese, and there’s not much you can do about that.
In Japan, FM radio frequencies ranges from 76 to 95 MHz, limiting the number of channels you can listen to. In the past, you can easily swap the head unit out with an aftermarket unit, but these days, many of the car’s settings and controls are integrated into the head unit so it’s no longer viable to swap out the head unit without losing access to some of the car’s functions.
With an officially-imported Toyota Harrier, there’s no such issue as UMW Toyota Motor has fitted an English infotainment system and car controls.
Mechanically – Both recond and official unit look identical, but they’re not
While both the recond and official units may look identical, they’re actually far from it, as units brought in my UMW Toyota Motor have specific engine and transmission tuning to cope with local driving conditions.
Exterior – Same same, but different
The biggest giveaway between a recond Toyota Harrier and an officially-imported one is the number plate frame.
Officially-imported units wear the UMW Toyota Motor number plate frame, while recond units are fitted with Japanese format square number plate frames.
Recond Toyota Harriers are also fitted with Japanese dealership and emission stickers fitted at the rear of the vehicle.
Furthermore, the VINs of both cars are different – recond cars’ VIN start with ZSU60, while officially-imported units’ VIN start with JTEZB, with JT being Toyota Japan’s identifier.
Conclusion – Reconds offer good value for money, but only if you get the right unit from the right dealer
At the end of the day, the choice between a recond Toyota Harrier and an officially-imported one depends on you.
If you can afford a brand-new Toyota Harrier, it is a peace-of-mind purchase as you get a proper manufacturer warranty and aftersales support.
On the other hand, if you opt for a reconditioned Toyota Harrier, you’re spoilt for choices as the selection of colours and specifications are more than what UMW Toyota Motor offers.
UMW Toyota Motor only offers 4 colours on the Harrier (blue, black, silver, white), but with a reconditioned unit, you can have your Harrier in brown, purple, or red. Furthermore, if the regular Harrier is too plain for you, some recond dealers offer the Harrier GR Sport, or even a hybrid version of the Harrier.
Considering that recond cars are essentially used cars, the rule of thumb for buying used cars applies. Furthermore, no two used cars are similar, so picking the right car from the right dealer is important.
Plus, there are no free lunches - recond cars offer great savings, but you will need to put in a bit more effort to enjoy the savings.
At the very least, make you sure obtain a copy of the Japanese vehicle auction sheet before buying, and you’ll have to live with the Japanese infotainment and car controls.