‘One stop shop’ for all your automobile needs.
Tel: 03-5573-8776 (English line)
Driving, Renting & Buying Cars in Japan
In Japan, driving is the same as Australia, Britain, and some other European countries. Drivers sit on the right side and drive on the left side of the road. Basically, the road signs and rules follow international standards, and fortunately most signs on major roads and highways are in both Japanese and English. Drivers must be at least 18 years of age or older to legally drive in Japan.
Relative to the cost of living, buying a car is not that expensive in Japan. In the homeland of Toyota, Honda and Nissan there are some deals on used and new cars. Owning and maintaining a car is the expensive part due to the mandatory car inspections (shaken) every two to three years, automobile taxes, high parking costs in cities, expensive tolls on highways, insurance premiums, and the high price of gasoline, (about ¥130/liter).
Getting a Driver’s License
Getting a drivers license can also be quite expensive due to the mandatory driver’s education courses.
Foreign residents who already have a valid international driver’s license from their own country can drive for up to one year in Japan. International driving permits must be obtained in your home country, usually through the national Automobile Association, before coming to Japan. However, Japan only recognizes international driving permits from countries on the Geneva Convention of 1949. Therefore, international driving permits from some countries, such as France, Germany and Switzerland, are not valid in Japan. Instead, foreign residents with driving permits from these countries can drive in Japan for up to one year with an official Japanese translation of their driving licenses from their respective embassies or consulates in Japan.
Foreigners, who reside in Japan for more than one year and wish to continue to drive in Japan, must convert their driver’s license into a Japanese license by taking an eye exam, and in some cases an aptitude test and a practical exam. Residents from the UK, Australia, New Zealand, France or other European countries can change their original driver’s license to a Japanese license without taking a practical exam.
Residents from the US or other countries, which are not mentioned above have to take a written and driving practical exam to change their license into a Japanese.
Necessary Documents and Fees
- Alien Registration Card
- One 3 x 2.4cm photo (color or B/W)
- Valid Driver’s license from your home country
- Japanese translation of your original license from the JAF. For this you will need a photocopy of the front and back of your drivers license and, in the case of most countries, your Alien Registration Card. The translation costs Y3,000 and can be done at the JAF or by post.
- Pay a fee of ¥4,150
JAF Regional Headquarters
2-2-17 Shiba, Minato-ku, Tokyo, 105-8562
You can download the application form and get more info at:
Buying Cars in Japan
Due to many local regulations and taxes, buying a car in Japan can be a bit painful. However, you will enjoy a wide selection of Japanese and imported cars.
Dealers in Japan normally show only the base price for the car, but the actual “on-the-road” cost will go up as additional mandatory charges are added on top of it.”Shaken” is the Japanese vehicle inspection system and a series of tax payments. The first Shaken inspection and payment is valid for three years on new cars, after it must be paid every two years.
Purchasing a new or used car?
Purchasing a new car is always a popular option, however, buying a used car in Japan offers the biggest benefits. Most used cars are available for a very reasonable price and are in great condition due to regular inspections with the highest standards and care.
It is definitely a good idea to contact a car dealer to help you arrange your car purchase in Japan.
You can start by simply providing a dealer with a list of ideal of makes, models and optional extras and let them do the rest. You need only choose the car that’s right for you from their existing stock or when it first becomes available.
This can save you a lot of time and money. As well, your dealer can help you to take care of your car if it’s time to renew the “Shaken” (mandatory car inspections in Japan), car insurance, or in the event of accident or any servicing that might be required. To have a local dealer you can rely on – that also provides English service – is a necessity for foreign car owners in Japan.
Perhaps the most important reason to make your car purchase arrangements through a dealer is to get assistance with the necessary documents.
Numerous documents have to be filled out, including forms to register your car, to verify ownership of a parking space, and so on.
This procedure is quite complicated and time consuming unless you are buying from a dealer. When you purchase a car, you need to ensure that you have the correct documentation in order to register a car in your name. Let your local dealer handle most of the paperwork for you and your car purchase will go much more smoothly. All you have to do is sign the forms!
Renting Cars in Japan
Renting a car is usually an economical option, especially if you are planning to explore rural Japan and are traveling in groups. To rent and drive a car in Japan you need a Japanese driving license or an international driving permit. Some of Japan’s leading car rental companies are Japaren, Mazda Rentacar, Nissan Rentacar, Toyota Rentalease, Nippon Rentacar and Orix Rentacar. They operate hundreds of outlets across Japan, offering cars in all sizes and, in some cases, large vans, buses and RVs.
Most Japanese car rental companies do not provide English websites or service in English.
Typical Costs for Renting Cars
Compact Cars – about ¥6,000/day
Mid-Sized Cars – about ¥10,000/day
Full-Sized Cars – about ¥15,000/day
- prices include an insurance fee.
- rates can be higher in peak season
Club Tocoo is a recommended budget for car rental service in Japan is who offer discounts and service in English.