Buying a car in Japan

POSTED BY DANNY CHOO On Mon 2012/11/05 10:32 JST in Living in Japan Guide

At the time of moving to Japan 13 years ago, we didn't have the need for a car at all - Tokyo Metropolis is extremely well connected with trains that run regularly and on time.

In 2005, we did decide to get a car after buying a house for a few reasons:-

  • To own a car in Japan, you need to provide documents that prove you have a space to park the car. Most apartments and mansions dont usually come with parking so you would usually pay on average 30000 yen per month for a parking space. Our house came with space to park a car so obviously we dont need to pay this extra cost.
  • Getting around Tokyo is fine on the trains but there are times where my work involves me working late out filming or in a meeting etc. All public transport stops past midnight and to get home you neet to take a taxi which can charge up to 30% more in the early hours of the morning.
  • While trains are convenient, sometimes to get from A > Z, you need to change at W > X and Y - even though Z is just around the corner by car.
  • To shop at Ikea and Costco you really need a car.
  • Its fun to drive around Japan by car - especially when its an Itasha ^^;

This is our first car - a Nissan March. We got it secondhand for about 800000 yen. The roads are so narrow in Japan that we were not confident of driving around so got something at a reasonable price that we could practice in for a few years ^^;
in 2010, our Nissan March got the Itarization treatment and you can see the process here.

All cars in Japan must go through a safety inspection every 2 to 3 years. The inspection is called Shaken ] and in our case cost about 90000 yen. Many folks in Japan see Shaken time as a chance to change cars - they might as well use the money that they were going to pay for the inspection and put it towards a new car.
I loved our Nissan March but wifey really wanted to change it - she drives around more than I do and she's also our Finance Director so I cant argue with that ><

Our March was one grade above whats known as a "K Car" or Keijidousha - these are cars which have to meet certain ecological standards meaning that they run on more environmental friendly gas, smaller in size but the engines are not that powerful. You can recognize a K Car from the yellow number plate.

We do drive around Japan a bit and our March did tend to rattle while on the highways at speed and wifey felt it was time to change it. Thus we go car hunting.

Our first stop is a Toyota showroom. There have been many ads on TV for the Aqua and I liked the look of it.

Cars are big business in Japan - its rare that you should not see any car ads when watching TV. Many folks like to change cars often - buying and then selling just a year or so after they got it so that they can get a new one.

Because of this trend, there are services like Imanori-kun which let you rent cars long term for very reasonable prices - for example 10000 yen per month! Their selections even include a Nissan GTR.

This Aqua costs 1850000 yen brand new. Seems to be a popular car as the secondhand prices are not much different. What are prices of cars like in your neck of the woods?

This time round however, wifey wanted to get a new one which is going to be a company expense. It makes sense to put it down as an expense because its obviously used for marketing ^^

Yes they had orange too^^;

Toyota Alphard - huuuuge!

Big enough for a football team.

Its the battle between the car manufactures - lately they have been trying to make the showroom visiting experience a more comfortable one. They give you drinks, presents (character goods towels and snacks) and have an area to keep the children quiet - the showroom sales staff dont want children taking attention away from parents who are about to make a decision to spend loads of money ^^;

Wifey wants an SUV. We check out the Lexus - nice car!

But a new Lexus SUV costs about 6000000 yen which is way out of budget ^^;

Time to leave the Toyota showroom and head elsewhere - maybe the sales staff wasn't feeling too well that day but it looked like he didn't feel like helping anybody ><

Back into our March to head to...

...the Nissan showroom in Meguro.

Our first Itasha - ended up with Mirai in her Suku Mizu because I was in a rush to put the data together for the printers - from a branding perspective I should have chosen the Summer Uniform. As the image is reversed - the "d" turned into "b" and the hairpin is on the wrong side.
These days however, we make sure the pin is on the correct side even though the illustration has been flipped.

Nissan leave a note on our car to let the other members of staff know that we are customers and not just somebody who are using their grounds as a parking lot ^^;

The Nissan Leaf - runs completely on electricity.

Nice interior.

Electric cars are slowly getting popular in Japan - you can use sites like Cocoju to see where you can find electrical charging stations.

I really liked the design of the Nissan Juke - ideal for Itarization!

Wee bit pricey for the size though.

Can stick in a few warm bodies in the back.

Interior a bit on the plain side though.

Lookie around the showroom.

Took the Juke for a test drive too but it didn't feel much different than our March - even though the Juke is supposed to be a mini SUV.

Juke interior. Most cars in Japan are equipped with a large screen car navi - I have a feeling that our mobile smart phones will replace them one day though.

Then we took the Dualis for a whirl.

You know whats so special about the Dualis dont you? Its transforms into a mecha designed by Macross guy Kawamori Shoji-san!

Spacious boot.

Interior is way to bland though.

The Dualis is an SUV - seats are much higher than our Nissan March and feels responsive and comfortable to drive - looks like a decision is about to be made!

We drive it home to see if it would fit in our parking space - just about does ^^;

Then its back to the Meguro showroom to sign the papers!
There are many ways to pay for the car depending on your financial situation. We payed over half upfront and the rest is being payed in monthly instalments over the next 3 years at an interest rate of 5.4%.

They take about 2 weeks to prep the car depending on the optionals like car navigation, bumper style and wot not.

This is my dream car ^^; If I work hard enough for another 20 years then maybe I could afford a second hand one ^^;

As for our Nissan March - Nissan were offering 10000 yen trade in ^^;
Instead we went to Bigmotor who sent a young chap who was a fan of Mirai Suenaga - he offered us 10 times more at 120000 yen instead - and insisted that we kept the stickers on the car for him ^^;

Bigmotor resold our car for a certain amount to a certain who - we have no idea ^^; The great thing about Bigmotor is that they even provided a temporary car for us to drive around in (at no extra charge) before our new car was delivered - do second hand car dealers do that in your neck of the woods too?

Mirai-chan ;-;

The orange on green looked so good ><

Mirai-chaaaaaaaaaaan! Yes I did shed a tear ;-;

Our new trusty steed - the Nissan Dualis. While we did love our green March - the Dualis is a completely new experience for us. The bigger more powerful engine allows us to outrun burning bridges, the suspension provides a smoother ride over dead zombies and we can actually hear the music while driving on the highway as the car shell keeps out sound pretty well.

I wanted metallic orange but they didn't do it in that color so it was a choice between white, black and red. I hear that black and white cars are a pain to keep clean - red looked the best. However - we noticed much more bird poo on the car since we changed cars - Is red an easy target for birds? ><

In some regions, the Dualis is also known as the QASHQAI which I dont know how to pronounce ^^

Do you drive? Whats it like to buy a car where you live? I hear in Singapore you need to buy the rights to own a car which can cost the price of a house?

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Ah - nearly forgot to take a look at the engine.

I could take a PC apart and put it back together - but when it comes to cars I havent got the foggiest.

Yuki-chan likes to take the car for a spin from time to time.

And this is what our Dualis looks like now - felt really horrible driving around in a sticker-less car at first ^^;
More photos here >>>

If you are a foreigner in Japan, you will need a Japanese drivers license - read what it takes to get one.