Buying a New Car in Japan

Information on the paperwork and processes involved when buying a new car in Japan...

Buying a car in Japan can involve a lot of bureaucracy and form filling. However, there is the option to pay a dealer to do this. Even though buying a car in Japan is relatively inexpensive, running costs and taxes can be high.

For example, the following costs apply to vehicle owners:

  • Compulsory vehicle inspections (shaken) every two to three years which can be expensive. These inspections include weight tax, vehicle inspection and compulsory insurance
  • Car tax
  • Optional insurance
  • Parking costs in cities (which can be high)
  • Tolls on motorways

Buying a New Car in Japan

It is necessary to have a valid driving licence when buying a new or used car in Japan. It is also necessary to have a parking space before buying a car, and a Proof of Parking Space Certificate is required. This certificate is normally available from the police station nearest to where the parking space is located. Parking spaces are often included in the rent for city apartments but if not, they can be rented at a monthly rate from apartment blocks. It is also necessary to obtain a personal Seal Certificate (inkan), which can be purchased from the local public office on presentation of a Resident Card/Alien Registration Card.

Note: The inkan is a name stamp used instead of, or in addition to, a signature on official documents. The Seal Certificate is proof that the name stamp is official.

A number of documents must be completed when buying a new car. However, most dealerships do all the paperwork on the customer's behalf for a small fee. If buyers choose to complete the paperwork themselves, they must:

  • Have a valid driving licence
  • Have their Seal Certificate
  • Have the Proof of Parking Space certificate
  • Pay car tax
  • Pay mandatory insurance
  • Register the car at the Inspection Registration Office

Vehicle financing

Most dealerships offer car loans at relatively low rates. The advantage of financing a vehicle through a dealership is that they take care of all the related paperwork for the buyer.