Looking to buy a car in Japan? 3 reasons you should buy a “kei car”

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Niseko is getting more and more international, and so many people from overseas come every year to work during the winter for the powder snow.

If you are planning to enjoy the summer, which many do, life is so much easier if you have a car.

Today we will be sharing with you what a kei car is, and 3 reasons why you should own a kei car instead of the usual cars whilst you are in Japan.

What is a kei car?

“Kei Jidousha”(軽自動車) can be translated into “light vehicle,” and will be cars that have a displacement of 660cc or below.

You can tell if the cars are kei jidousha if it has a yellow number plate. Cars that have a displacement of 661cc or above are called, “Futsu Jidousha”(普通自動車) or “general vehicles.” They will have a white number plate.

The government of Japan backs up residents to own kei cars for ecological reasons.

Is it safe to drive a kei car in the winter?

When it comes to driving on snow, having good winter tires and whether it’s 4WD are the two most important factors in avoiding slip accidents.

Although bigger cars will have wider tires, which will generate more stability to the car, kei cars also will do the job even on snowy environments.

However, especially near the Hirafu Intersection, some days can be very slippery and we’ve seen so many vans slipping and rolling over to the snow walls.

So you really have to take it easy and make sure you drive really slow, and use the engine/pumping brakes and make sure you do not hit the brakes too hard.

It’s better to check that it’s a cold weather model

Some people would sometimes think cars are really cheap looking at Car Sensor, but it really isn’t.

Another important element is whether the car is a cold weather model. If it’s sold in Hokkaido, 99% of the time it’s cold weather model.

But if you decide to bring it from Honshu mainland, you will find cheaper models but it might be because it doesn’t have the extras that are ideal to have in colder climates.

These cars can still work, but it has a higher chance of breaking, ware out quickly, and takes more time for the car to warm up.

Make sure to ask for the total cost of the car

Also, another to note is the price of the car doesn’t include shipping cost from the mainland to Hokkaido, which is quite pricey so you should make sure you ask the total cost of the car first.

Ok. So next let’s move on to three reasons why kei cars are a good buy.

1. Kei cars are cheaper to maintain

The maintenance fee will be a lot cheaper when you own a kei car, such as the following:

  • automobile tax and weight tax
  • car insurance
  • all car parts like wipers and tires when you need to replace them
  • fees for highways/ferry rides
  • better gas milage

Especially if you are planning to travel to many places in Japan, fuel, road fees and ferry rides can really add up.

The author takes frequent ferry trips to mainland Japan from Hokkaido, so it really helps that the transport fee of kei cars are much cheaper than general cars.

2. Easier to drive

Kei cars are designed to fit smaller spaces, so it’s simply easy to drive when you turn and park.

Driving in Hokkaido is not that challenging most of the seasons, as the roads are wider to keep spaces left to clear off the snow to the edge of the road.

However, if you go to big cities like Sapporo, or drive to Honshu in Tokyo or Kyoto, the narrow roads and small parking can get quite stressful.

A lot of department stores or amusement parks will even have some parking spaces that only kei cars could fit (to have as many parking lots as possible.)

Bigger cities will have multi level parking that wouldn’t allow you to park some of the bigger general cars, so owning a kei car might relieve you from having these stresses.

3. Easier to sell

So all the reasons that have been mentioned in 1. and 2. results in a higher demand for kei cars.

This makes it a lot easier to resell.

There is more demand for used kei cars than general cars, so you will have a higher chance of getting a good price when you need to resell it.

One thing to note: cars are harder to resell in Japan

One thing to be mindful of is that the price of cars tends to drop drastically in Japan compared to other countries.

It’s a lot easier to sell your car after using it for a year or two, but it comes out very tough to do in Japan, as people prefer to buy brand new cars.

In fact, it might even be difficult to get half of your money back…!

If it is a car that was first registered more than 10 years back, the car wouldn’t have any value left (unless it’s a vintage car.)

We had some British friends that bought a car and had the most difficult time selling it and ended up discarding it.

They weren’t happy with the results at all.

So do be careful and plan well before you purchase a car in Japan!

Take One Otaru can help you with your car purchase

Helping Dragon is working with Take One Otaru to help you purchase a car that fits your needs.

They will be more than happy to follow up even after purchase with the things you need to do in case of accidents, maintenance and reselling of the car.

Feel more than free to contact their facebook page!

For any other inquiries ask Helping Dragon

Please give us a free call to let us know if you need any help in Japan. We would like to help you get the most out of your stay in Japan!^^

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