Buying a Used Car in Japan

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

Second-hand cars are readily available in Japan, and there are a number of options for purchasing second-hand cars:

  • Auctions: Many of these are online and offer the best deals. However, auction houses only sell to dealers, who can purchase a specific car on a customer's behalf
  • Trade magazines: These are often a good starting point to get an idea of prices
  • Privately: Cars are advertised in local papers or trade magazines
  • Through car dealerships

Before buying a second-hand car, it is advisable to ask how long the current car inspection (shaken) is valid for. The compulsory car inspection (shaken) is valid for three years for a new car, and for two years for every subsequent inspection. However, as these inspections can be expensive, most Japanese car owners are very careful about maintenance and usually have a full service history. However, it is important to check this, and it may be worth having a vehicle checked by a garage.

Foreign cars often lose their value faster than Japanese cars.

Bargaining, although not normal for buying other goods in Japan, is normal when buying a car.

Documents required

The following documents should be provided by the seller:

  • Car registration document
  • Certificate of car tax payment
  • Change of ownership paper
  • Seal Certificate
  • Compulsory insurance receipt

Re-registering a car is often done for buyers by second-hand car dealers.

However, in the case of a private sale, the buyer must have:

  • A valid driving licence
  • A personal stamp or Seal Certificate

The following forms should be obtained from the local police department:

  • Proof of Parking Space certificate (hokan basho shomei)
  • Police parking application (hokan basho shomei shinsei sho)
  • Map of the location of the parking space (shozaizu to haichizu)

The Proof of Parking Space certificate must be stamped and completed by the owner of the parking space.

The police parking application should be completed and should include a map showing where the parking space is.

All three completed documents should be taken to the local police station. There is a fee for processing the forms.

All the above documents should then be taken to the Inspection Registration Office, along with the re-registration papers (stamped by the seller) and the owner's cancellation registration papers (stamped by the seller). These documents are available from the local city hall or ward office.

Vehicle Registration

Registering a vehicle and transferring ownership can be a lengthy process as there are a number of forms to complete. The transfer of ownership is the responsibility of the buyer, unless the car has been purchased through a dealership.

Registration and transfer of ownership takes place at the local Land Transport Office. A form for the transfer of ownership must be filled in.

The following documents are required:

  • Valid driving licence
  • Seal Certificate or inkan of the seller
  • Shaken certificate
  • Proof of Parking Space certificate
  • Proof of payment of vehicle tax
  • Bill of Sale with the seller's signature which must match the inkan or Seal Certificate. This should be completed in Japanese
  • Certificate of permission for a parking space
  • Police parking application
  • Map of the location of the parking space - this is checked by the police before a permit for a parking space is issued

Applicants are given a de-registration certificate to complete and there is a fee for this. Once the de-registration is complete, it is then necessary to pay the taxation fee on the vehicle.

If the car is from a different prefecture, it may be necessary to purchase new number plates.

Once this process is complete the car should be registered in the new owner's name.

Exact requirements may vary from district to district so it is worth checking beforehand.

Vehicle Taxes

There are number of taxes payable when buying a car in Japan. These are:

  • Car acquisition tax: this is five percent tax of the purchase price and is payable at the time of purchase
  • Automobile tax): this is an annual tax for owning a car. An invoice for this tax is sent directly to the owner's home address every April. Tax rates differ depending on the size of the engine
  • Weight tax: this tax is calculated based on the weight of the car. It is payable at the time when the vehicle inspection (shaken) is done

Disposing of a Car in Japan

If a car cannot be sold because it does not pass the vehicle inspection (shaken) or if the insurance costs become too high, it can be disposed of by a car sales or disposal company.

The following documents are required to dispose of a car:

  • Vehicle inspection certificate (shaken)
  • Number plates
  • Certificate of disposal (this is available from the disposal company, or the licensing centre if the owner is disposing of the car personally)
  • Automobile tax certificate, depending on the office or company processing the paperwork
  • Inkan and Seal Certificate