Gunpla Buying Guide - Japan to UK

We’re going to be exploring the cost of Gunpla in the UK when buying from Japan which has long been the preferred option for a lot of fans.

It’s easier than ever to have goods imported from foreign countries to the UK and Gunpla is no exception. Let’s take a real world example from a popular Japanese retailer.

The Kit:

Gunpla KyriosJapanPrice

This is an appealing price when we consider that even on our own site. You would expect to pay a little extra for shipping from Japan though so let’s add that in now.

The Shipping:

Gunpla JapanShipping

We chose a slightly more expensive shipping option so that we have added tracking. Arguably, the cost could be as low as £51.74 which is still cheaper than what you will find in the UK in general and a whole 25 pence cheaper than us!

But wait! Unfortunately we aren’t finished paying for our kit…

The Tax:

Well, this is where things get messy because that order total is not the final cost of buying Gunpla from abroad.

You also have to account for VAT and courier charges. Once your shiny new kit arrives from Japan, there are other charges to consider.

VAT on goods sent from abroad is charged at the standard 20%. Here’s an excerpt from gov.uk:

Gunpla VAT

The 20% is applied to the goods and shipping combined. Using our example above, the cost now becomes £66.47 but we’re not done. Notice the first part about Royal Mail, Parcelforce and other couriers. Unfortunately when Parcelforce or other couriers collect your items, they will arrange the payment of VAT / Customs fees and charge you an admin fee. You can see from Parcelforce’s site that their charge is £12 so our real total becomes £78.47.

UPDATE 2021:

VAT rules have changed a little after Brexit so some Japanese sites may add VAT at checkout for orders totalling less than £135. Orders over that will work out the same as the above.

Why buy from Japan?

In reality, people don’t always end up paying an extra £40+ on top of their order. Customs checks are carried out by people and not all packages are checked as there are only so many hours in a day. Some retailers in Japan (and other countries) will sometimes mark parcels as ‘gifts’ or mark down the overall value of the package in order to avoid customs checks. This is of course illegal and most legitimate companies won’t do this but eBay / Amazon independent sellers have been known to do so. The end result is that Gunpla fans end up playing ‘import roulette’ with their orders.

Japan is the true home of Gunpla since it is manufactured there and is more readily available so a big reason why people opt to purchase their kits from Japan is simply down to availability. Japanese retailers have a larger selection and they get kits on release day. In the rest of the world, retailers end up getting kits up to a couple of months from the actual release date. This is because we have to wait for distributors to get the kits from Japan, process them and then send them on to us who also have to process them before making them available for sale.

It is also possible to get your Gundam models cheaper by choosing the slowest shipping methods where your order can take weeks to months to arrive. These options usually don’t include tracking info which personally isn’t for me but some swear by buying this way.

End of Part 1

We’ve made it easy to see how you could likely end up paying more than double the cost of the kit just on shipping and taxes by buying from Japan. UK retailers have a bad rap for being overpriced but they are subject to the same taxes and fees as anyone else in acquiring Gunpla so of course they have to factor that into their prices.

Our next post will look at how buying from the UK can work out cheaper and why buying Gunpla domestically can help to grow the hobby. Stay tuned!

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