5 Reasons it is not worth Owning a Car in Japan

Owning a car in Japan is an expensive feat. Here are the top  5reasons why it is not worth owning a car in Japan.

  1. You have to pay automobile taxes every year.

Some people think the only time they pay taxes on their car is for sales tax when they buy it. However, in Japan, registered owners of vehicles must pay an annual taxes.

What’s worse is that these taxes are based on the type of car (weight) and engine displacement (size).

For example, if you drive a 4.6L Land Cruiser, expect to pay up to 58,000 yen or more in taxes every year!

However if you drive a kei car, expect to pay on average around 8,000 to 15,000 in taxes every year. In regards to safety however, I highly suggest that you don’t drive a kei car.

Remember that you do get tax incentives for driving eco cars such as hybrids but those tax breaks are not worth the price of the car.

Btw, I hear that if you buy a Tesla, you are exempt from paying car taxes for 5 years. However, after five years, the annual tax rate is 60,000 yen.

The reason they have these types of taxes is to keep cars on the road updated to the times. The newer the car, the less emissions, the less damage to the environment, and it is overall much safer for people on the road if you consider safety features (side airbags, safety sensors, driving assist, and etc. )

2. You have to pay shaken every two years.

Shaken is a mandatory vehicle inspection program in Japan that is required for every vehicles containing an engine of 250 cc or more. For most passenger types of cars, you must pay every two years. If you buy a new car, you have three years, but then defaults to two years after the first inspection. You must have this before paying the car tax.

The most I ever heard someone pay for shaken is $2000 USD . In general, you pay a lot of fees for the paperwork, vehicle inspection, insurance, and any repairs if needed.

Shaken supposedly assures your vehicle is road-worthy and that emitted emissions are within a certain level. Also, shaken is there to ensure people do not illegally modify their cars (e.g. tints on the driver and passenger side and other external modifications that can prove to be hazardous)

Remember that a car cannot be driven on the road unless it has passed shaken.

To sum up “shaken”, shaken basically checks your brakes, your speedometer, all your lights (headlights, brake lights, etc.), your suspension system, the exterior of the car, the interior of the car, and for emissions.

3. Tolls on the highway….

Paying to go on the highway sucks. I never really understood the true feeling of freedom I had in the U.S. until I came to Japan.

If you want to go to Kyoto from Tokyo, you will have to pay around 11,000 yen for a one way trip by car. It would be many times worth it if you were traveling with a pretty girl or if you had to carry a lot of your stuff around country. Short trips range from 1000 yen to 3000 yen. It all depends on the distance and time of day you travel.

For an American who used to drive on the “freeways” without paying a toll fee, paying highway tools can be outrageous considering highways usually get congested during the holidays and weekends.

Remember that toll fees are there to ensure the highways are well maintained and they are maintained really well in Japan!

4. Gasoline is somewhat expensive in Japan

Gasoline prices hover around 120 to 130 per liter of gas. On average, that would be about $4.30 per gallon. Sounds relatively reasonable but try slapping an 8% sales tax on that while burning most of it getting stuck in morning traffic every day. It adds up.

Looking on the bright side however, gasoline is cheaper than bottled water (300 yen for a 2 liter water bottle).

5. You Need Parking Space and it Costs.

Before you acquire a license plate, you must prove you have a parking space within 2 km of where you live. For most people living in the city, they pay a monthly parking fee that ranges from $100 to $1000 dollars a month. In Tokyo, it is expensive and I have personally experienced rates of $600 a month. It is such a waste of money.

People with their own homes with some space have no problem but you pay land tax. If you live in an area where parking space is not available such as a condominium, expect to pay an average around $300 a month.

If you travel around, expect to pay up to  from 500 yen to 1,500 yen per hour in popular tourist destinations.

Parking lots is a good business in Japan.

Is it worth owning a car in Japan?

No, not really.

The benefits of owning a car in Japan is not worth it if you consider the 5 reasons posted above. But then again, there is always a huge price for that kind of freedom, especially in Japan. In Japan, owning a car can be more of an inconvenience and not a very wise financial move even if you’re pretty well off.

Yet, Japan being a beautiful country, one must understand that it is somewhat an expensive country to live in. With taxes and fees that can economically strangle people from growing financially and enjoying life such as in the U.S., it is astounding that this way of life is accepted way of living by most Japanese people. There is a price for everything.  Shouganai ne!

Note:I can’t imagine having such a system on cars imposed in other countries. In the U.S. there would riots for months! But in Japan, the Japanese will most likely suck it up.

Consider Public Transit?

If you want to travel, consider many economical alternatives such as taking public transportation. If you didn’t know this yet, the public transit system in Japan is claimed to be the most reliable, most punctual, and most efficient in the world. It’s very convenient and comparably cheap way to get around.

Vanity is strong in Japan

I like to also add that if you are buying a car just for vanity reasons, think twice. Japan is somewhat a vain country and this can influence many people’s thinking. Living in a relatively vain society can pressure you to owning a car even if you don’t really need one. Be strong inside and try to balance out what is actually important in your life.

But again, if you really need a car, buy a car.

If you don’t need a car, don’t buy a car.

If you buy a car, congratulations! You can really feel how its like to be living in Japan.  Taxes, maintenance fees, and the responsibility of driving in Japan is not always a pleasant experience but it will definitely give you a deeper perspective on what it’s like to live in Japan!

2 thoughts on “5 Reasons it is not worth Owning a Car in Japan”

  1. Shaken in Japan is bullshit. Brought my 3 year old car in for inspection last year and I had to pay 150,000 yen. Refuse to pay because I could not understand why and the garage held my car until payment. Mechanic felt threatened, I felt like suing. My friend said this is the way it is in Japan. Its over a year and my blood still boils when I think about it.

    Now check this out, I ask for an explanation for the costs of the bill and they said paperwork, checkup, and some taxes! As far as I know, my car is good. lights, brakes, tires and so on. They didn’t replace anything. Disgusted and I feel ripped off.

  2. Definitely not worth it. Only get a car for the experience. If you really want to learn more about Japan, get a wife, have kids, and join the Japanese rat race.


Leave a Comment