FAQ - The AutoAssist guide to buying a Japanese car

Buying a car in Japan

1. Finding and Buying the Car you want

There are a number of ways to go about buying a new or pre-owned car in Japan. One of the most popular is to purchase from a car auction. Every day, over 30,000 pre-owned cars are bought and sold this way, and terrific bargains can be had. However, disregard any images you may have in your mind about a group of gentlemen huddled around a car, waving pieces of paper as an auctioneer shouts streams of gibberish.

A Japanese car auction room looks more like the high-tech trading floor of an international stock exchange. Everything is handled electronically, and skilled traders may bid on hundreds of cars every hour. Members of the public are not permitted to enter the auction.

With such a high volume of cars being traded every day, there is a good chance you will be able to find something to suit your needs. Autoassist will take detailed information about make, model, budget and any other requirements you may have. We can then provide you with details of cars in upcoming auctions that match your criteria, and if necessary arrange for an inspection of a car by a qualified mechanic prior to bidding.

Once you have agreed on a car you wish to buy, we will undertake the bid process for you. We will bid on the car up to your budget limit, unless the car sells for less than your maximum price in which case we will obtain it for you at for lowest possible amount.

Alternatively, you may decide that you wish to buy a car direct from a Japanese car dealer. As a dealer ourselves, Autoassist carries a catalogue of pre-owned cars in stock at any time, and can sell direct to you at a fixed price. For more information see our 'current stock' section on this site. If you decide to purchase a car from a dealer other than Autoassist, we can still handle the registration and paperwork on your behalf, in order to make it as speedy and hassle free as possible.

2. Transferring the registered ownership to you

Once you have successfully purchased your pre-owned car, its registration information will be in one of two forms.

In either case you will need to transfer the ownership to yourself, by filling in a Japanese registration form called a jotosho. Soon, you will be able to download this form from our website here, together with guidance in English about how to complete the form.

3. Other paperwork and forms

If you intend to use the car within Japan, you will be required to obtain a parking permit known as a shako shomeisho. This is a legal requirement for all car owners. In order to obtain the permit, you will need to prove that you have access to a parking space or garage within 2km of your permanent address in Japan.

4. Taxes, insurance and recycling certification

There are two forms of Japanese car tax which must be paid by all owners.

Additionally, all cars must has compulsory third-party insurance (we can arrange this for you).

Finally, the Japanese Government has recently introduced a small fee known as recycling certification which is payable at the time of registration. However this is fully refundable should the car be exported to a foreign country.

5. Checking roadworthiness

If the car has not been deregistered by the previous owner, it is unlikely that this will be necessary at the time of purchase, however you will need to understand this process if you continue to use the car for a period of time.

For any car to be legally registered it must pass a series of stringent tests of roadworthiness as outlined by the Japanese Government. This is commonly known as shaken. Before the shaken test, the car must be taxed (see section 4). The car is then physically inspected at an official testing center located in major cities around Japan. If it passes all sections of the test, the car is then allowed to be driven for a period of 2 years before it must be tested again (1 year for commercial vehicles).

If you buy your car through Autoassist and it requires a shaken test, we will be happy to take care of this on your behalf, including any necessary prior repairs to ensure it passes first time.

6. Exporting the car to a foreign country

By far the largest English-speaking market for exported pre-owned Japanese cars is Australia. This partly due to it's geographic proximity to Japan and party due to Australia being one of the few other countries aside from Japan and the UK where citizens drive on the left side of the road. Cars are almost always exported by container ship, and availability or cost can significantly affect delivery times. Many countries have local import restrictions (see for example our short article on Australia) depending on the type of vehicle, its specification or its history.

7. Letting Autoassist handle everything for you

If you're thinking by now, “This sounds like a lot of tedious work”, you'd probably be right. Which is why Autoassist is here to help you every step of the way. We can provide help with paperwork, general guidance, and total management of your car purchase, to make life a lot easier for you. To find out more, or to ask any questions you may have, go to our contact page to get in touch.