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Buying a Car in Japan: The Hints

 

WRITTEN BY: Patrick Bickford      ADDED: Jun 3, 2010

 

INTRODUCTION

I have lived in Japan for approximately seven years and I have bought three cars and one SUV in that time. This article is most useful for people who are thinking about purchasing a vehicle in Japan for the first time, and/or considering buying a car that they have not had a chance to drive (a.k.a. buying from your predecessor). 

 

My car purchases in Japan have consisted of buying cars from a mechanic shop, used car-dealership and an ALT that was leaving the country. The following stories detail my experiences.

 

MY STORIES

STORY 1: TRUST AND HONOR

Due to extenuating circumstances, I learned how to diagnosis and fix cars from an early age, so I was pretty comfortable when I walked onto a Japanese used car lot for the first time. The first SUV I bought in Japan came from such a dealership. I took the SUV out for a test drive and it ran beautifully. I expressed my desire to purchase it, so the dealership said they would give the vehicle a final tune-up before turning it over to me. 

 

During the tune-up, they found there was a problem with the engine -- something that I didn't even hear when I was test-driving it. The dealership stripped down the top part of the engine and fixed the problem at no extra charge to the sticker price.

 

STORY 2: TAKEN FOR A RIDE

The second car I bought in Japan was from an ALT who was finishing up his time in Japan.  At the time, I already had a car but the ALT's car was more spacious and had a bigger engine. He wanted 150,000¥ (about $1,500USD) for the vehicle. Every day he would come over to my house for the sole purpose of pressure-selling me into buying his car, each day slowing dropping the price. Finally, I agreed to purchase it for 80,000¥ ($800USD). I thought I was getting a good deal until six months later when the car's shaken (registration) was needed to be renewed. To read more about shaken, check out THIS article.

 

Up to that point, I had zero experience of renewing shaken in Japan. I quickly discovered the process of shaken was grueling. Renewing a vehicle's registration/tags back home is quite painless and cheap (at least in the U.S.), but it didn't compare to the renewal test a car must pass here in Japan.  I won't bore you with the details but I will say Japanese mechanics are over-precautious when it comes to changing/replacing parts on your car during a shaken test.

 

Anyways, the "great deal" I thought I was getting was simply a bunch of smoke-n-mirrors. Turns out, when shaken-time came it cost me 230,000¥ ($2,300USD) to fix the various problems with the car and pass the shaken test! The mechanic that broke the news to me was actually surprised that I was surprised about the problems with my car. Apparently, the previous owner of the car (ALT) had already asked a mechanic for a shaken estimate. My mechanic found a written estimate in the glove compartment of my car. The estimate listed all the problems the car needed fixed to pass shaken.

 

This story just goes to show, that even if you are in-country and know a little bit about cars, it still doesn't mean that you are incapable of being taken for a ride.

 

Also, let me make it very clear that I'm not trying to make a blanket statement that all ALTs are trying to screw you over when it comes to selling their car. I'm simply sharing my experiences. I would venture to say there are just as many honest and trustworthy ALTs out there as there are deceitful ones. 

 

STORY 3: FIRST-CLASS CUSTOMER SERVICE

The car I own now (pictured below) was bought for me by a car mechanic that helps the ALTs in the prefecture of Yamanashi buy, sell and even ship their cars back home. There is a strong market for buying/selling used vehicles in Japan, and as such, there is a huge used-car organization that regularly holds car auctions all across Japan. Many mechanics attend these auctions when they are looking to buy/sell a vehicle. I told my mechanic, Kotaro, what kind of vehicle I wanted and how much I wanted to pay for it. He attended these car auctions for about a week until he found a car that matched my desires. Not every prefecture has a 'Kotaro' who will go the extra distance to help you out, but Japan is full of mechanics who will give you first-class customer service.

 

THE HINTS

If you think about it, the process of buying a car which you have never seen or driven is really quite strange. However, it is not unheard of in terms of ALTs coming to Japan. It's actually a fairly common practice. You will most definitely hear good/bad stories from people who have bought cars from their predecessors. There are a few reasons your predecessor is offering to sell you their car:

  • TRYING TO HELP YOU: Your predecessor is trying to make the transition into your new life here in Japan easier. They have already lived where you are planning to live for at least a year, if not longer. They know the type of situation you will be faced with and whether or not you need a car.
  • LAST DITCH EFFORT:
    Your predecessor has already tried selling their car to someone in the community but nobody needed/wanted it. This doesn't necessarily mean the car is a bad buy. It could be a fluke that nobody wanted to buy their car around the time they were selling it. Keep in mind, most ALTs who come to Japan know within the first six months if they are going to actually need transportation. If they need a car, they often buy one immediately. This means that when ALTs returning home try to sell their car, there isn't a huge market of buyers because everyone's car needs have already been met.
  • "NO" TO RECYCLE: You can't simply get rid of your car in Japan without paying a "recycling charge". This charge can be anywhere from 20,000-50,000¥ ($200-500USD). So, naturally it would be more beneficial to sell a car and make a profit rather than having to pay to recycle it. But once again, just because your predecessor doesn't want to pay to have their car recycled DOESN'T mean the car has problems. ADVICE: If your gut instinct is telling this might be the case, the odds of negotiating a much cheaper purchase is in your favor.
  • BAD APPLE: I hope this isn't the case for you, but it could very well be the case that your predecessor is selling you a car they know is going to end up costing you a lot of money in the near future. It's really hard to know you will be walking into this type of situation so keep in mind the price of the vehicle and how long until shaken expires. Here's a rough price guide:

 

Less than six months left on the shaken:

Free-50,000¥ (50,000 starts entering into the not-so-great-of-a-deal area)

7-12 months left on the shaken:

30,000-100,000¥

13-18 months left on the shaken:

50,000-150,000¥

19-24 months left on the shaken:

70,000¥ - total price of shaken

 

Basically, you have to trust your gut instinct when purchasing a vehicle from someone you don't know and a car you've never driven. To help make a more educated purchasing decision, I've put together a few clues/hints to help illicit more information about your potential buy.

 

HINT #1: PICTURES - Ask for 'em!

If you aren't afforded the luxury of test driving a car or even seeing it in person, the least the seller could do is provide you with as much information as possible. At the very least, they should provide you with pictures of the car, exterior & interior. Otherwise, it's like selling art to a blind person -- you never know what you're really buying.

 

If the person selling the car can't immediately (1-2 days) provide you with pictures, it is the author's opinion that the seller is either hiding something from you or is plain lazy. Both types of people you most likely won't want to do business with. That being said, there could be extraneous circumstances where the seller can't immediately provide you with pictures so use your gut instinct.

 

In general, the seller has no excuse NOT to provide you with pictures of the vehicle they are wanting to sell you. 99.9% of Japanese cell phones have an internal camera installed, and pretty much all ALTs have cell phones. But, let's not stop there. Even IF the seller doesn't have a phone, they should still have some type of camera, or at least a friend who has one or both.

 

BOTTOM-LINE: There is no excuse for the seller not to be able to walk outside, snap a quick picture with their cell phone and immediately email it to you.

 

HINT #2: "I DON'T KNOW" - Too many?

Growing up, you might have been taught that saying "I don't know" is a perfectly acceptable answer, which normally it is. Nobody can expect somebody to have the answer to every question in the world. 

 

But, too many I-don't-know's from a seller could be a sign of two things: 1.) The seller honestly doesn't know the answer, or 2.) The seller knows the answer but chooses not to explain.

 

If the seller doesn't know the answer(s), make sure to give him/her a couple days to research the question -- not everyone is familiar with cars.

 

If the seller does know the answer(s) but chooses to exclude something or not share the complete truth about the car (a.k.a. lie), there is little you can do to know they are keeping information from you.

 

ADVICE: See if you can work a deal where you will agree to pay for the car but only after you have driven it. The deal would include something like: "If there is a legitimate and/or real problem that you (seller) didn't include in the information you provided to me (buyer), I am released of all financial responsibility in regards to the purchase the vehicle."

 

However, there are challenges to creating this type of agreement:

  1. NOT FEASIBLE: Keep in mind that, just like you, your predecessor is in the process of getting ready to move to another country. As you know, this takes a lot of preparation, and loose-ends can create unneeded stress and frustration. Creating a "drive-then-buy" deal puts your predecessor in a situation where they are screwed if you arrive in Japan and then decide you don't want to buy their car. If you create a drive-then-buy agreement, you should also include a stipulation in the agreement that will help put your predecessor's mind at ease. For example: "I (buyer) will agree to purchase your (predecessor) car, as is, granted there are no major problems with the vehicle that has not already been discussed. Additionally, I promise not to flake if I don't like the color of the car or discover a small meaningless scratch that you forgot to mention."
  2. NOT FAIR: The paperwork to transfer the car into your name will need to have been prepped before you came to Japan. It's not fair to have your predecessor go through all the trouble of preparing the paperwork only for you to decide not to buy it after you said you would.
  3. LEFT-STRANDED: If your predecessor hasn't already left the country by the time you arrive in Japan, they will mostly likely be on their way out. If you agree to buy their car and then renege on the agreement, it puts your predecessor in a difficult situation because either they have to make drastic changes to their leaving plans (train/airline tickets, travel plans, etc) or come back to Japan to junk the vehicle. Both parties involved in this type of agreement need to be respectful of each other's situation and not back out of an agreement over something petty.
  4. MONEY: Paying for the car after you have driven it can become complicated if your predecessor has already left the country, however, it is not impossible. But, it puts your predecessor in a awkward situation of having to trust you to send them a money-order in the mail. That being said, if your predecessor has been upfront and transparent about everything they are selling you, there should be no reason for you NOT to uphold your side of the agreement. It's all about honesty and trust. 

 

An agreement like the one outlined above would be a bit more complicated to put together but I think it would be the best solution for both parties. Additionally, you will most likely be purchasing other "based-on-trust" things from your predecessor (furniture, appliances, dishes, tools, etc). You are already taking a risk that the things being sold to you are in good shape and useful in your life in Japan. By not paying for your predecessor's car until you know it has no major problems shifts a small degree of risk from you back over to your predecessor. This could be thought of as a "shared-risk" agreement.

 

HINT #3: THE RIGHT QUESTIONS - What are they?

What are the questions you need to ask the seller about the car?

  • KILOMETERS (KM) & YEAR-OF-CAR: (1.0mi = 1.6km)
    • RELATIONSHIP BETWEEN NUMBERS:  When buying a car, you want to know whether the car has been driven a lot or not much. The less kilometers, the better the chance the car has no problems. On average, ALTs drive anywhere from 8,000-10,000km every year. Believe it or not, those numbers are high for Japanese drivers because most Japanese people stay relatively close to home -- ALTs tend to travel in/out and around prefectures visiting friends and sightseeing. By asking for the year of the car, you can do the math to figure out how much the car has been used. The impact to this knowledge can give you hints: high kilometers = more chance of car problems / low kilometers = low risk of problems.
    • KILOMETER WHEN PURCHASED: Ask the seller how many kilometers were on the car when they bought it, and how long they owned it. This information can be a useful guide to whether the seller drove the car a lot from the time they purchased it. If it has high kilometers, this could be a sign they took a lot of road trips. High kilometers also increases the possibility of engine problems, but not always. Some sellers take really good care of their cars. Use your gut instinct.
  •  
    SNOW COUNTRY:
    • TIRES/TYRES: If you are going to a prefecture that receives a lot of snow every winter, you'll want to ask if the car comes with snow tires. Keep in mind, Japan's snow tires are simply "all-season" tires back in your home country, granted you come from a snowy country. If you have to buy snow tires, expect to pay 6,500-12,000¥ per tire.
    • 4WD: Ask if the car is 4-Wheel Drive. There are two types of 4WD: On-Demand and All-Wheel-Drive. "4WD On-Demand" allows you to shift your car from 2WD to 4WD by pulling a level located in your vehicle. This is a great option because 2WD conserves on gas. "AWD" is a system that powers all four wheels of your vehicle at all times. In terms of price, expect to pay a tad bit more than an average 2WD car for having either one of these 4WD options.
  • FUEL ECONOMY: Ask how many kilometers per liter (litre) the car gets. This is an important factor since the price of gas is ridiculously expensive in Japan -- about 1.35¥ per liter ($5.13USD per gallon). By the way, there are 3.8 liters in one gallon.
  • ACCIDENTS: You might ask the owner if they were ever involved in any accidents while they owned the vehicle. This will tell you two things: 1.) What condition the car is in (sometimes photographs don't show everything), and 2.) It can tell you the driver's skill level. It has been the author's experience (in the U.S. and Japan) that there is an overlap between less-than-good drivers and drivers who don't take good care of their vehicle.
  • CURRENT PROBLEMS: It doesn't hurt to ask if there are current problems with the car: oil/water leak, squeaking brakes/timing-belts, weird sounds from the engine, etc. Keep in mind, if the seller is forthright with you about the problems, don't automatically decide NOT to buy the car. Remember, the seller is being truthful and honest, so when they tell you other information about the car, that information is probably also very accurate. Also, a slight problem with the car doesn't mean it is a "real" problem. For example, squeaking brakes or timing-belts could be the result of water getting into the brake and/or engine compartment. This is not a REAL problem, just a temporary nuisance. Once that area dries, the squeaking goes away. NOTE: Most older cars almost always have at least one small problem or another. For example, I own a 1996 Nissan Bluebird (pictured below). Its back shocks are a little old and could be replaced. Yes, that is a "problem" with the car, BUT it's not really a big problem; it's completely drivable, road safe and still provides a smooth ride. Use your gut instinct when thinking about buying your predecessor's car.
  • LITTLE QUIRKS: Of course, while asking if the car has any major problems is always a good idea, also ask about the little problems as well. The little things can stack up to form one big headache. The following things are in no particular order of importance. Here are what you might want to ask about:
    1. TREAD WEAR: Ask how worn the tread is on the summer/winter tires. Having to buy new tires can set you back anywhere from 20,000-40,000¥.
    2. AIR-CONDITIONING: Ask whether the air-conditioning works. This is a very important question since Japan gets really hot during the summer.
    3. POWER STUFF: If there doors have power locks/windows, ask if all the switches are operational.
    4. TRUNK/GAS LEVER: Usually there will be a lever that opens the trunk (boot) and gas compartment located inside the car. This lever is simply a wire and sometimes the wire is stretched to the point that one or both of these levers stop opening.
    5. BACK DEFROSTER: If the car has a back defrost, ask if it is operational. It really is needed during the winter time, especially if your car doesn't have a back wiper.
    6. LIGHTS: Ask about all the lights on the car -- headlights, fog lights (if applicable), dome lights (above your head in the car), dash lights, brake lights, etc.
    7. STEREO SPEAKERS: While you might not be too concerned about the quality of sound coming out of the speakers, a constant scratchy sound or a completely blown speaker can be irritiating after awhile. Ask about the conditions of the speakers and how many there are. A handful of yellow-plate cars (explained directly below) only have two speakers so if one of them stops working, you're listening to your music via one speaker which can be really irritating as well.
    8. EMERGENCY BRAKE: Many people use the emergency brake (E-brake) every time they park their car but then forget to release it when they start driving again. After awhile, this can wear down your E-brake to the point of uselessness.
    9. CRUISE CONTROL: If this option is included in the car, ask if it operational.
    10. INTERMITTENT WIPERS: Sometimes wipers will have an option that will allow the wipers to turn on every 2, 3 or 5 seconds instead of them being constantly on. If the vehicle has this option, make sure it is operational.
    11. CAR LIGHTER: These days, all kinds of gadgets plug into a car's lighter. Check to make sure it is operational.
    12. SEATBELTS: I've actually owned a car where the seatbelts didn't lock when the brakes were applied suddenly. Operational seatbelts are one of the most important things you'll want to ask about.
  • WHITE OR YELLOW: If you look at the car pictures below, you will see my silver car (white-plate) and another teacher's car at my school (yellow-plate). These are the two types of vehicles you'll find in Japan.
    • YELLOW-PLATE: Cars with yellow license plates are referred to as 'K-cars' in Japan, which basically means they have smaller engines. They usually max out at about 120kph (60mph). While this speed might seem a bit slow, keep in mind it is perfectly fast enough in Japan since the average speed on most roads are 40-60kph and 80-120kph on the highway. 
      • BENEFITS:
        1. Cheap to buy and maintain: You can buy a yellow-plate (K-car) vehicle as cheap as 50,000¥ ($500USD). Sometimes, it's not unheard of to actually be given a K-car for free. The trade-off is that shaken (mentioned below, or check out THIS article for more information) will be due on it very soon, which you will be responsible for. Also, if something goes wrong with your car, parts are cheaper on a yellow-plate car than a white-plate one.
        2. Better gas mileage.
        3. Cheaper to get shaken renewed: It will cost anywhere from 60,000-100,000¥ for a two-year shaken, granted there are no other problems with the car.
        4. The price of toll-highways is a little cheaper for yellow-plates than their white-plate counterparts.
        5. Easier to navigate: Japan has half the population of the U.S. (127 million) living on an island 1/3 the size of California. Coupled with the fact only 13% of the country is deemed "livable", Japan's roads are very narrow, which make navigating much easier in a smaller car.
    • WHITE-PLATE: Cars with white license plates are standard cars you would find back in your home country. An interesting thing about Japan's white-plate vehicles is you can easily identify the size of the engine by simply looking at the license plate. Look at the two white-plate examples to the right. NOTE: I've blurred-out some information on the plates since they are real license plates from my teachers' cars at school. As you can see, one license plate has "310", while the other one has "500". Cars in the 300-series (300, 310, 320, etc.) have engine sizes over 2,000cc. Inversely so, cars in the 500-series have engine sizes under 2,000cc. As a reference point for those non-car-savy peeps, an average car back home contains about a 1,500cc engine. For more on license plates, check out Wikipedia's article on Japenese License Plates.  You can expect to pay more for bigger engine vehicles.
      • BENEFITS:
        1. Less road noise: That's the noise of the tires rolling over the pavement reverberating so loud in the car you have to speak up to hear each other speak.
        2. More power to pass: This is really important considering Japan is a 'one-lane road' country. Meaning, most roads, with the exception of the highways and outside of big cities, are one-lane roads. There are a ton of slow farmer trucks and old people driving, which tends to cause traffic jams. Sometimes you only have a brief window of opportunity to get around slower cars and white-plate cars can accomplish the task smoother than a yellow-plate one.
        3. Better quality: The fact of the matter is, K-cars are cheap because they are cheaply made. You pay for what you get. White-plate cars, on average, are built to last and would be safer if you were involved in a traffic accident.
        4. More comfortable ride overall: White-plate cars have many more options than K-cars: multiple speed wiper delay, cruise control, etc.
        5. More overall space: White-plate cars are bigger and have more spacious passenger leg-space. Also, they have a much bigger trunk (boot) space, which can be extremely useful when carrying multiple passengers who are each carrying luggage. In yellow-plate cars, there is little to no trunk space.
  • STICK OR MANUAL: For people who can drive stick-shift and manual, this might seem like a weird question to ask, but it's not. Back home, when you receive your driver's license, you can drive both types of vehicles. When you come to Japan, you can use an International Driver's License for one year to drive both types of vehicles. However, if you plan to stay longer than a year, you must get a Japanese license. If you are from Australia, Austria, Belgium, Canada, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Iceland, Ireland, Italy, Luxemburg, Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Portugal, South Korea, Spain, Sweden or Switzerland, you only need to take the written test. According to Emma (poster in comment box), as of 2008, United Kingdom citizens only need to take the eye exam -- no written test. However, if you're like me (American), you have to take the road test as well to get your Japanese license. There are two types of road tests: stick or manual. If you're not fluid at using a stick-shift car, you have one year from the time you get here to become proficient. After one year, you must take the stick-shift driving test to continue driving your stick-shift car.
  • CAR TAX: If you own a car in Japan, you will be required to pay a yearly car tax. The cost can be anywhere from 10,000-20,000¥ for a yellow-plate car to 30,000-50,000¥ for a white-plate one. The tax is usually due in May of each year.
  • NUMBER OF OWNERS: Not always, but some people will be privy to how many owners a car has had. The less owners could be a sign of a more stable car. NOTE: My guess is not a lot of car owners will know the answer to this question so kudos to car owners who do.
  • 'SHAKEN' EXPIRATION DATE: You will want to ask when the shaken (registration) of the vehicle expires. To read more about shaken, check out THIS article. The shaken's expiration date is valuable information when negotiating the price of the vehicle -- the more shaken is left on a vehicle, the higher the price people are going to be asking for it. The asking price on many vehicles being sold by ALTs leaving the country is usually the amount of time left on the shaken. The following is a rough estimate of how much you will pay to get shaken on your car. Of course your car could be higher/lower but this should provide you with a ballpark figure of what shaken costs for various cars:

 

Yellow-plate car with no problems:

Free-50,000¥ (50,000 starts entering into the not-so-great-of-a-deal area)

White-plate car (500-series) with no problems:

30,000-100,000¥

White-plate car (300-series) with no problems:

50,000-150,000¥

 

HINT #4: BELLS & WHISTLES - Car Accessories

Here are a few accessories that might come with your car:

  • ETC: Electronic Toll Collection devices are small little boxes (as seen to the right) that are installed into your car and allows to to get on/off the highway without having to stop at a toll-gate (also, seen to the lower-right). Using an ETC device also provides a huge price discount. To read more about ETC devices, check out THIS blog. The unit itself costs anywhere from 8,000-15,000¥. NOTE: Keep in mind that just because the car you're purchasing comes with an ETC device doesn't automatically mean you can start using the unit immediately. You need to apply for an ETC card, which is basically a credit card that is inserted into the ETC device. These ETC cards are exclusively for use on ETC systems, not as a credit card. For more information on ETC cards, check out THIS website.
  • GPS: Global Positioning Systems can be quite useful if you are planning on doing a lot of driving in Japan, especially outside of your local area. That being said, most ALT vehicles will most likely not come with a GPS. However, if one does come with the vehicle, keep in mind these systems are free to use but were expensive for the purchaser to buy. The price can run anywhere from 30,000-50,000¥ for a portable one to 100,000-200,000¥ for a system that is installed directly into the vehicle. If the vehicle being offered you comes with a GPS, you might ask what kind of system it is: portable or pre-installed.
  •  
    STEREO: We all love our music, right? But, at what price? Some ALTs will install a super-expensive stereo system and then attempt to pass along the price of the stereo to the next buyer. I would dare say for most people moving to a different country and adapting to a new culture that loud, crisp, heart-thumping music is probably not that high on the priority list. Personally, I wouldn't even care if the car I'm buying only came with a radio because I bought a wireless FM-transmitter that plugs into my Ipod Nano for 2,000¥at the local electronic shop. I pipe my Ipod music through my car's radio...I'm perfectly happy. So, before you get caught up in the hype of paying more for a vehicle just because it comes with an amped-up stereo, think about what makes you content and happy.

 

 

 

FINAL COMMENT

I hope this article has given you some useful information on buying a car that you've never seen or taken for a test-drive. Always remember, a smart buying decision is based on being presented with all relevant information.

 

If you have comments/questions, you can either email the site directly or write your comments below.

 

 

 

 

       K-CAR                    AUTHOR'S CAR

            

 

              

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Back to Driving in Japan

 

 

 

 

Old Comments:

  • (Jan 23, 2012) Roger said: I made a typo at the bottom of below
    it should read;
    But the bottom line is, we are all different, so its your own choice, but a lot of good info here
  •  
    (Dec 22, 2011) Roger said: I have been in Japan about 8 years and have had 2 cars. I bought both of them new. Its around double the price of a second hand one (depending?) and you get 3 years with no shaken plus a guarantee (being new) and of course everything is brand new so you know what you are getting. I got yellow plate cars both times and have never regretted it. One thing not mentioned (but probably obvious) is the huge difference in feul costs. My wife drove a white plate car for her job and we were amazed how expensive it is.
    I find yellow plates more than enough power 95% of the time and so much cheaper in taxes and on gas
    You might want to consider 4WD if you are in a part of Japan with cold winters
    But the bottom line is, we are not all different, so its your own choice, but a lot of good info here fl
  • (June 9, 2010) Patrick (mod)said: @Emma, thanks. I added your comment into the article. @Ron, I would think buying a used car from a garage or used car lot would be much better than from a private citizen, Japanese or foreign. Remember, Japan is a the country that has a reputation of being over-cautious and a high-level of customer service, and as such, any car a garage or car lot would sell you has most likely been put through some type of test to make sure it's not a lemon.
  • (June 9, 2010) emma said: A good article, thank you.
    Just one small point concerning tranfering from an international drivers licence to full Japanese drivers licence. I don`t know what the situation is for the other countries, but as a UK JET in 2008 I only needed to take an eye test to get a driver licence not a written test as stated.
  • (June 4, 2010) Ron said: Great article! Very useful.
    I'm planning on buying a second hand car for my first time in Japan, but I've been only looking in used car dealerships and websites like "Carsensor".
    Isn't that a better and safer way to purchase a second hand car?
    Or am I wrong...?
  • (June 4, 2010) Matt W said: Shaken is way cheaper if you do it yourself.
    However, it takes a lot of time, and can be frustrating.
    Also you need to read Japanese very well or have someone very patient who can help you.
    I had to renew my K-car Shaken, I called the vehicle testing center and booked my car in for the test.
    Then I went to the center filled in a mountain of paperwork.
    Then I drove my car through the check, basically a series of brake-checks, lights, tyres, etc.
    Payed the tax and non-voluntary insurance and I was given a new sticker and shaken certificate.
    Probably saved 20,000yen for a morning of frustrating paperwork.
    There were no problems with the car, so it was smooth. I assume if they found a problem they would just ask you to fix it and come back again. Meaning more time and expense.
    There is a lot of information on the web all in Japanese about it.
  • (June 4, 2010) mangakk said: Interesting article. There are a lot of things I had over looked when buying a car here in Japan, but I guess we learn from our expensive mistakes. Till today, I haven't bought a bad car, but one was a gas guzzler.
    Kudos to the author cause this article gives you a very good idea of what can happen to an innocent buyer.
  • (June 4, 2010) Angie said: I've been thinking of buying a new car lately because my shaken will be due in December and I think it will probably be expensive because even though there's nothing noticeably wrong with my car, it's a very old model (probably about 20 years). So this article is very useful.
    I'm happy you posted info about buying a car from your pred. When I came to Japan, I was way too naive about the trustworthiness of my pred. and assumed that the price she asked for was fair because she explained she'd only bought the car a year and a half ago and the shaken was good for another year and a half and that there were no problems with running the car and the air conditioning even works. Sounded great, but when I got here, I found out from other ALTs in my city that actually, she'd had the car the entire time she was here (3 years) and the car has a ton of km of it because she was constantly driving it long distances, not just to her schools or around town. Plus because the car is so old, it's likely that the shaken will be very high. So warning to all you new guys coming: ask a lot of questions and try to get pictures sent if you can't drive the car before buying it. Consider asking your supervisor or other ALTs in your area if they know anything about the car, too. Lastly, BARGAIN just like you would in America when buying a car.
  • (June 4, 2010) Dave V. said: Thanks!! Great information and it will definitely help me ask good questions about the car my predecessor is offering!
  • (June 4, 2010) Jean K. said: Nice article! Very informative!


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