Having a car gives you a great way of traveling around Japan. Although the country has a very good public transport system, this mainly serves the major cities. If you want the flexibility to travel further afield and see some of the country’s spectacular countryside, it’s better to do it by car if you can. It also means that you can travel with family or friends and not have to haul luggage around with you all day on trips. Japan has good road networks and relatively low road accident rates, so many foreigners and expats choose to drive when in the country.
If you’re living or staying in Kobe, here is some useful information on getting a car and driving around.
Renting a Car in Kobe
Renting a car is a great alternative to buying a car. You may want to consider renting if you may be only occasionally making journeys by car, or if you want to try out a few different cars before buying one. Advantages to renting a car are that it’s cheaper than buying one, there is less maintenance hassle and you can try out various different Japanese cars.
If you want to try renting a vehicle in Kobe, Lease Japan is a great option. They have a local office and a large selection of new and used cars including Toyotas, Hondas, Mazdas and a selection of European cars.
See website: http://leasejapan.com/en/
Buying a Car in Kobe
If you do decide to buy a car in Kobe, the next thing you need to decide is – new or used? There are plenty of used car dealers in and around Kobe, including Lease Japan (who offer a range of used cars to sell as well as to rent) and others such as Imperial Solutions. Used cars are usually good quality but, like with any country, you’ll need to do your own research and check everything is in order before signing away. The cost of used cars start at around 200,000 – 300,000 yen but can be over one million yen.
If you want to buy a new car, it’s best to go directly to the dealerships. Information can be found on the main Japanese brands – Toyota, Honda, Nissan, Mazda and Subaru. New cars will normally cost in excess of one million yen. You can often trade in your old car to reduce the price.
One thing to bear in mind is that there are generally two types of car in Japan – yellow number plate (smaller, slower and cheaper) and white number plate (faster, bigger, safer, more spacious).
When buying a car anywhere in Japan, either new or used, you will need to fill out lots of forms and have numerous documents ready (see below). It is common (even expected) to negotiate on the price and there are options to pay in installments.
Information on Driving Regulations and Licenses
- All vehicles in Japan must pass an inspection (shaken) every two years so make a note of this if buying a used car.
- When buying a car in Japan, you need to show a parking permit (chushajo shomeisho) that proves you have a parking space.
- Other costs associated with car ownership are liability insurance, automobile tax (5% of vehicle cost) and petrol (around 130-150 yen a litre).
- Except for a handful of countries, foreign driving licenses are not recognised in Japan. You’ll need an International Driving Permit (IDP) that is valid for 365 days.
- Japanese cars drive on the left side of the road, which is the same as in Australia and the UK, and most roads have a speed limit of 60 kph (100 kph on the expressway).
Japanese Automobile Federation – http://www.jaf.or.jp/