Finding a Car

In order to purchase a car, you need to have the following documents.

  • The certificate of registered Inkan* (Not required for a 660cc K-car)
  • The certificate of parking space* (Not required for residents of villages)
  • Inkan (for more information: What is an Inkan?)

Buying a Vehicle

If you wish to purchase a car, motorcycle, or moped, you will need an inkan (Seal) and the certificate of Inkan. If you are buying a white plate car, you will also need a proof of parking space called “shako shomeisho (車庫証明書)”. To get a shako shomeisho, you must get a document from your landlord or housing agency showing your parking space. Your landlord may charge you a hefty sum for this document. Once you have the document from your landlord, bring it to the police station. The police will verify that it is correct, and prepare a shako shomeisho.

You do not need to get a proof of parking space if your residence is in Onna- son/ Yomitan-son.

There are many English-speaking car dealers around U.S. military bases. However, their prices are much higher than regular “Japanese” car dealers. You can find Japanese car dealers on almost every highway. Usually, they leave the price sign on the front window of cars they are selling. Most cases, the price is only for a “vehicle”, and the dealer will charge you for tuning, etc. Please do not hesitate to ask the dealer questions such as Japanese Compulsory Insurance expiration date, if the car has been in an accident before, the actual price you need to pay, etc.

Please refer to the following for average prices for second hand cars. The price may vary depending on which year the car was made, the condition, and the mileage

Kei car (660 cc engine) Yellow license plate

  • Suzuki Wagon R: ¥200,000 to ¥700,000
  • Daihatsu Move: ¥200,000 to ¥700,000

Small car (around 1.3 to 1.8 Liters)

  • Toyota Vitz: ¥300,000 to ¥800,000
  • Toyota Corolla: ¥300,000 to ¥800,000

Regular (around 2 Liters)

  • Nissan Skyline ¥500,000 to ¥800,000
  • Honda Step Wagon ¥400,000 to ¥1,000,000

Other Necessary Things to Remember:

1. Automobile Acquisition Tax

When an automobile is purchased, regardless of whether it is new or used, the purchaser must pay an acquisition tax.

2. Disposition Fee

You have to pay a one-time disposition fee if you buy a new car/used car that has not yet had a disposition fee paid. If you purchase a car through an auto dealer, they will take care of the paperwork for you.

3. Voluntary Insurance

When you purchase a car in Japan, you have to subscribe to the Japanese Compulsory Insurance (JCI) which is a mandatory insurance that only covers a limited amount for injury to a third party. This insurance’s coverage is limited and doesn’t cover property damage liability, which means it doesn’t cover your injury or the damage to your car. It is highly recommended that you get the Voluntary Automobile Insurance from a private insurance company. The following insurance company has a branch office in Okinawa and an English-speaking agent.

CHUBB Insurance (English speaking agents: WILTEC)
Address:368 Sunabe, Chatan-cho, Nakagami-gun, Okinawa
TEL: 098-936-2710

4. Annual Road Tax

In Japan, passenger cars are classified into three categories: regular cars (more than 2,000cc), compact cars (660cc – 2,000cc) and mini cars (less than 660cc) based on their air volume displacement. Regular cars have a white license plate with a 3-series number. Compact cars are white plates with a 5-series number, and mini cars have yellow plate. Official vehicles of the Self-Defense Forces, foreign diplomats, and the U.S. military are required to display other plates. Plates that have a Roman letter (usually ‘Y’) are exclusively used for U.S. Forces personnel and their families.

All automobiles are charged an Annual Road Tax. The Annual Road tax is based upon the car’s engine displacement. Please see the following chart for the fees and examples of the tax and JCI and road tax costs for cars in Japan.

Road Tax (Car tax)

Annual road taxes are due each May. You should receive a notice in the mail telling you when and where to pay your taxes. Without paying the tax by the due date, you will not be able to drive legally. The amount of the tax depends on the type of your vehicle. For yellow-plate cars, light motorcycles, and mopeds, this is under ¥10,000, and the tax is collected by the city, town, or village you live in. The tax for white-plate cars and large motorcycles are depending on the engine size (ranges from ¥30,000 to ¥100,000) and is collected by the prefecture.

For more information: Tax

Selling a Vehicle

If you wish to sell your vehicle individually, you must change the name on the vehicle registration. Visit the Land Transportation Office together with the buyer of your vehicle. Bring both the seller’s and buyer’s inkans, insurance documentation, proof of vehicle inspection, proof that you have paid the yearly road tax, and both people's registration cards and licenses. If you are selling a white plate car, you will also need both person's Inkan Registration Certificates, and the buyer's proof of parking space (shako shomeisho 車庫証明証), if required.

Disposing of Vehicles

If you want to get rid of your vehicle, you must contact a private vehicle disposal company. Vehicle disposal is called “haisha” (廃車).

Vehicle Inspection & Insurance

Every 2 years, vehicles must pass a Government of Japan inspection that usually costs around ¥100,000. (For new automobiles, the initial period is 3 years) This cost should include the Japanese Compulsory Insurance (JCI), which is required by Japanese law and covers death and serious injury up to ¥30,000,000 per person, and hospitalization for up to ¥1,200,000. The inspection date is located on the windshield sticker and the color tells the year of expiration, and the number indicates the month. The date of the expiration is located on the back of the sticker. Car inspection is a carried out by private companies, and you can easily find a provider. Motorcycles of 400cc and above also require the inspection. You must keep your JCI certificate in the vehicle along with other vehicle documents.