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In Japan, there is a wide assortment of small cars that you probably wouldn't find in your country. These tiny little critters are called K-cars or keijidosha (軽自動車) meaning 'light cars'. They are the cheapest option, and are easily identifiable by their yellow license plates.
The main advantages of K-cars are their fuel economy, lower road toll charges, cheaper parking, cheaper shaken, and a of course, a cheaper sticker price. Disadvantages are obvious, the moment you see one. Basically, K-cars are embarrassingly small, and usually lack airbags.
White plate cars range from mid-sized to larger vehicles. There are not any cost advantages for white plate cars, but they are certainly safer, more stable at higher speeds, and have more passenger and cargo room.

Finding a carEdit

  • Ask around at your school, your town hall, your acquaintances, anyone with whom you can communicate and tell them you need a cheap car.
  • Newspapers and car magazines have some good deals, if you can read them. Most JETs spend about ¥50,000 - ¥150,000 on buying their car.
  • Predecessors are a convenient and fairly trustworthy source for getting a car. Of course, be skeptical if the price seems too high, but sometimes the convenience is worth paying a little bit extra.
  • There are a few rental companies around who offer cheap lease cars to foreigners. These are generally much cheaper than owning a car, and are great because servicing and breakdown costs are included in the lease charges.


Necessary DocumentsEdit

  • A valid international driver's permit (IDP) or a Japanese driver's license.
  • A valid car parking space. Check with your landlord or visit your local police box and ask for a piece of paper confirming that you have a parking space available.
  • Insurance. Visit your town bank for this.
  • Registered hanko/inkan
  • Residency Card.
  • Cash.


Buying UsedEdit

When you are buying a used car/motorbike directly from the previous owner, you will need to register the vehicle at your local town/city hall. When registering, you will need all the documents noted above, and also a "vehicle abandonment certificate" (廃車証, haishashou) and "transfer of ownership certificate" (譲渡書, joutoshou). The person selling you the car will need to get these documents from his/her city/town hall.


Shaken 車検Edit

Shaken is basically the inspection that is required every two years. The amount of time before shaken expires is a large determining factor when assessing a used car’s value. This is because it tends to be expensive, usually in the ¥100,000 range. This includes the inspection, safety and emissions, and supposedly the repairs necessary to bring the car up into shape. Also included in the price of shaken is the mandatory insurance. This insurance is not nearly enough coverage in the case of anything happening. Drivers should always purchase additional insurance beyond what is included in shaken unless you like the idea of paying someone else’s medical bills out of pocket.

  • When buying a car, check when the shaken is due next, as this usually costs more than the actual car's worth.
  • For example, a K-car about eight years old, with no accidents and in good condition, shaken will be in the region of ¥80,000.
  • Without valid shaken, such a car is worth perhaps ¥20,000, whereas with shaken it would be worth ¥100,000.)
  • An old white-plate car (i.e. a larger, non K-car) without shaken is worth ¥40,000 - ¥100,000.
  • Do not buy a car in this price range that doesn't have valid shaken.

Please bear in mind that it costs to have a car destroyed or taken by wreckers, usually in the upwards of ¥30,000, people are usually very eager to get rid of older cars. In some cases, people may even pay someone to accept their car in an effort to avoid the wrecking charge. In the rural areas you may see abandoned cars parked in the bushes, rusting away probably people trying to avoid the disposal costs........please DO NOT ATTEMPT THIS!