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Bringing your car to Japan
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Bringing your car to Japan

Automobiles and other vehicles may be imported temporarily free of duty and/or tax provided they are subsequently exported.

Buying an Automobile or Motorcycle

In Brief

In order to purchase an automobile or motorcycle, the owner must show proof of the following:

1. Parking (Shako)
It is essential that one has a parking space. Those who do not have a space at home must rent one. This parking space must be located within a 2kilometre radius of your residence.

2. Inspection (Shaken)
Automobiles or motorcycles over 255cc must be inspected at regular intervals. The inspection certificate must be carried in the vehicle at all times.

3. Insurance (Hoken)
Basically there are two types of insurance to cover traffic accidents.

a) Compulsory Insurance (Kyosei Hoken)
When purchasing a new vehicle, owners must enroll in the compulsory insurance plan; and, when inspecting the vehicle, the insurance must be renewed. Enrollment is handled through the vehicle dealer or maintenance shop.

b) Optional Insurance (Nini Hoken) As compulsory insurance has only limited coverage and does not cover a wide variety of accidents, it is common for people to enroll in optional insurance plans. Please be sure to check what areas your policy covers you for when you apply.

4. Vehicle Registration (Sharyo Toroku)

Automobiles and motorcycles must be registered in the owner's name. Usually, the dealer takes care of vehicle registration where the vehicle was purchased. Any changes regarding registration matters of the vehicle must also be reported (such as change of ownership or scrapping).

For more information about driving in Japan please contact
The Japan Automobile Federation.
Tel : (813) 3761 2761

“How do I get a car?"
Like everything in Japan, getting a car is never as simple as picking one out, putting your money down, and driving your new honey home. Many people go past some used car dealers, see some good looking cars, (some for just a few hundred bucks) and wonder if they're really that cheap! Well, they are. But there's more to what you see. The real costs come afterward. Before you can call that car yours, you'll have to get a parking space for it, pay the taxes on it, get insurance, and then there's the mandatory periodic maintenance check. Still gung-ho? Or is that adrenaline rush of roaring down the street waning a bit? First ask yourself WHY you want a car, and if you really need it. Where you live in Japan is a big factor -- if you live in the mountains or some small town, or if you'll be constantly needing to transport a lot of stuff, it might not be a bad idea. Plus, you won't be a slave to train and schedules, which stop before midnight. And the fact that Japan has some of the most beautiful mountains in the world! On the other hand, if you live in a big city, the costs can be very discouraging -- in fact, they're meant to be. Traffic jams 30 miles long aren't unusual, gasoline prices are triple that of the US, cities are clogged with cars, and the freeways are anything but free. Let's look at what's involved in that car purchase...

The parking space
You must have a registered parking space and submit certification of such (shako shomeishou) to the police. The rental of the space varies -- from a couple thousand yen/month in the sticks to up to $1000/month in the glitzy areas of Tokyo. To get a parking space, some are found thru real estate agents, others are rented directly from the owners. If it's from the fudosan, except for the guarantor most of the other terms for apartment-hunting apply. If you change your parking space contract you must also notify the police.

Paying taxes
When you buy a car, you'll have 3 main taxes to pay. One is an Acquisition Tax, another is a weight tax, and the 3rd is an annual tax every May. The first 2 you pay when you buy the car. Basically, the bigger the engine, the more you pay. The Acquisition Tax is around 5% of the price of the car. The weight tax for cars with engine sizes up to 2 liters are about 56,700 yen. Over that is 75,600. Passenger cars with a 300 something or 33 in the upper right corner of the license plate (including nearly all US cars) are the highest. A 50-something on the license plate indicates a medium-size car, and the "Kei" cars with an engine of 660cc have a yellow plate and are lowest. The May annual tax for Kei cars is the lowest as well at about 5000 yen, but for larger cars the tax quickly escalates to 34,500-39,500 yen for medium cars to 45,000 yen for 2.5 liter cars and 56,000 yen for 3 liter cars. You also need to pay consumption tax when you buy gasoline, and many gasoline stations don't post their prices. Prices can vary and may be up to 15 yen/ltr. cheaper at some stations -- a big difference.

See more information on the next page... (next)




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