Car Costs

Costs of Car Ownership

Initial cost (assuming at least one year of shaken, cars without shaken should be this minus the shaken cost)
A used kei car will likely cost around 60,000 – 250,000 yen. White plates will be more expensive, starting around 100,000 for an older car and going up from there.

Yearly tax (April/May) (自動車税, jidosha-zei)
White plates: 29,500 yen (under 1,000 cc) – 111,000 yen (over 6,000 cc)
Kei cars: 7,200 yen (though inexplicably some people’s tax is more like 4,000 yen)
Scooters/Motorcycles: 1,000 yen (50 cc) – 4,000 yen (over 250 cc)

Weight tax, paid as part of shaken (重量税, juryo-zei)
New white plate (good for 3 years): 37,800 yen – 75,600 yen according to weight
Used white plate (good for 2 years): 2/3 of the weight tax of a new automobile
New kei car (good for 3 years): 13,200 yen
Used kei car (good for 2 years): 8,800 yen
Motorcycles: the weight tax is based on engine displacement

Compulsory Insurance, one year’s worth (自賠責保険, jibaiseki hoken)
White car: 16,350 yen
Kei car: 15,600 yen
Scooters: 7,280 yen

Voluntary Insurance (任意保険, nin’i hoken)
In general, compulsory insurance covers the car, while optional insurance covers injuries and damages. GET THIS. It’s “voluntary” but you will want it, and all drivers are expected to have it. Being in an accident can be very expensive and if you cause any injuries will lead to a long, complicated process. Even if you did not cause the accident, just being on the road means you have to take part of the blame for the accident. The insurance company will help you if this happens. If you were found to be the main cause of blame (for example, if you rear-end someone), you will likely have to pay for their repairs as well as your own. This is what voluntary insurance covers. Depending on your insurance plan, they may cover only the repairs to the other person’s car, but not your own. In other cases, if the other driver has no insurance, you may have to cover the cost to your car yourself. This can happen under ridiculous circumstances – for example, one JET’s car was hit by a drunk driver while it was parked and the JET was in their apartment asleep. Even though she wasn’t even driving at the time, the JET’s insurance company had to cover the cost and their insurance rate went up just because the drunk driver didn’t have insurance. The cost of this insurance will depend on the plan and the car. All cover the other car, some cover yours as well, and some cover your car if your friends drive it. Talk with the insurance agent to see which is the best choice, but remember that more protection is better.

Vehicle inspection (車検, shaken)
Finally, we’ve gotten to shaken. Cars (and motorcycles with an engine displacement over 250cc) must undergo a vehicle inspection periodically. This can be done at a dealer or repair shop. For a new car, shaken is good for three years. After that, it lasts for two years. It takes about a week for shaken to be completed. If you need to drive during that time, ask your dealer or repair shop to lend you a substitute vehicle, or daisha (代車). In addition to the weight tax (listed above), you will have to pay an inspection fee as well as for any repairs. A kei car may cost around 60,000 – 80,000 yen. White plates will be 110,000 – 160,000 yen. After a certain point, shaken costs more than the car is worth. This is why old cars and clunkers are rarely seen on the roads in Japan. When a car reaches that point, you will have to pay someone to take it off your hands.

Car ownership transfer cost
Keep in mind that there is some paperwork and cost associated with changing a car’s ownership. If you buy from a dealer, they should do this for you. If you buy from a predecessor, get your CO to help you. This paperwork includes:

  1. Parking Certification (車庫証明, shako shomei). This certificate, submitted to the local police, proves that you have somewhere to park your car. If your house or apartment doesn’t have a parking space, you will have to rent one. The price will vary depending on how urban you are. If you live somewhere very rural, this may not be necessary.
  2. Vehicle Registration (車両登録, sharyo toroku). All vehicles must be registered, and you must have the registration certificate in your car at all times. You will need to update the registration if you change your name or address, if your vehicle is out of service, or if you leave the country for good. You can likely get your CO to help you with this.

Additional Costs

In rural areas, most places will have parking available for free. This is not the case in the city. Kumamoto City has a variety of short term parking areas. Only some are 24 hours. Either you get a ticket and pay when you return, or the tires are locked and you enter your number bay into a vending machine to check the cost. The cheapest (24 hour) parking spots in the city are:

  • パスート (Pasuuto, about a 2 – 5 min walk away from the entrance of Kamitori / Shimotori. The parking lot is situated along route 3, very close to the big intersection where route 3 and Densha Dori cross. It is a big yellowish building). There is also another Pasuuto near the Kotsu Center, but that one is more expensive (although still cheap).
  • ぱーくすりー (PARK THREE, yep, this time written in ひらがな instead of カタカナ) The second cheapest parking in the city and it is situated right beside Pasuuto.
  • パスート (Near the Kotsu Center, and recognizable from a distance by the big P-sign. Right next to Karashima Park.).
    In Pasuuto the costs for parking can depend on the floor you park on. Parking on the first floor is more expensive than when you park on the roof. Sometimes in the evenings parking is priced the same for each floor and that’s when it gets really cheap/less expensive to park in this parking.

All expressways are toll roads, and they are costly. It can be very expensive over a long distance, but if you carpool with a couple of friends, it will cut the costs and will probably be cheaper and faster than trains. Toll costs depend on the kind of car and the time of day. For example, from Kumamoto IC to Fukuoka IC, it costs 2,380 yen in a kei car and 2,930 yen in a white plate car (excluding the urban expressway). There is a very helpful toll calculator located at

ETC (Electronic Toll Collection) readers are useful but may be difficult to get, as they usually have to be linked to a Japanese credit card. One major benefit of having an ETC reader is the ~30% discount depending on the time of day or the included holidays and weekends, meaning the trip to Fukuoka from Kumamoto would cost 1,670 yen in a kei car 2,050 yen in a white plate car. For more information on getting a Japanese credit card or for getting an ETC without one, check out these sites: 08/etc-personal-card-etc- without-credit.html

Obviously to operate a car you will need frequent trips to the gas station, known as “gas stands” in Japanese. There are two types of gas stations – self service and full service. Full service stations cost slightly more but offer services such as window cleaning and trash collection. If they offer you a towel, it is used to wipe the inside of the windows. Self service stations are indicated by the word セルフ. Indicated prices are by the liter. In self service stations, you prepay and get your change when you are done. In full service, they will tell you the price after filling up. A very useful word to know is 満タン, or mantan, which means “full tank.” Otherwise you can buy specific amounts of gas; for example 2,000 yen worth. Many gas companies have rewards programs where you can use their card to get slightly cheaper gas and also get points. Typically this is 1 point per 100 yen, but on certain days a week they might give 2 or 3 points per 100. Find out which days they are for the station closest to your house. You can use these points to get discounts later. Some cards can be used at multiple stores. For example, the T-point card can be used at Tsutaya (movie and music rentals slash bookstore), Family Mart (convenience store), Eneos (gas station), as well as any number of other companies.