The Costs of Buying a Used Car Near Camp Zama, Japan

Buying a used car can be one of the easier things to do for U.S. military or DOD personnel moving to Camp Zama, Japan if you know what to expect. But like many other considerations for your move, there are always costs not included with the bottom line that can sneak up on you if you are caught unawares. Here are some options on buying your used car along with some of the hidden costs you can expect.


Used Car Buying Options 

Just as in the States, there are a couple of options for buying your car – peer-to-peer, that is to say as a private transaction with someone selling their car, or from a local dealership. Each option comes with its own benefits and challenges. We’ll talk about these later. Costs related to both types of sales include the following charges:


  • JCI (Japanese Compulsory Insurance) 
  • Weight Tax
  • Road Tax
  • Insurance
  • Land Transportation Office


Japanese Sales Tax

Owners will pay a one-time 10% tax on the purchase of their car at the time of sale. This price recently went up to 10%as of October 1st, 2019. This tax is only applied when purchasing from a used car dealership.


JCI – Japanese Compulsory Insurance 

Japanese Compulsory Insurance is a government-regulated mandatory safety inspection that must be done every two years. What you pay for this depends on the vehicle you own. Fees are based on the plate number and can range from $250-$275, not including the garage’s fees for performing the inspection($45 at Camp Zama, but some places charge up to $90). Remember, this is done every two years.



Weight Tax 

Along with the biennial JCI fee, car owners can expect to pay a weight tax every couple of years. This tax is assessed at the time of your JCI inspection and is based on the weight of your vehicle and can range from $93 to $350.


Japanese Road Tax 

This tax is paid at the beginning of the Japanese fiscal year, April 1, and is based on the vehicle’s license plate and engine size as noted on the title. Expect to pay $30 for yellow plates to $200 for a 300 plate. Fortunately, this tax is payable on base as government officials will come to Camp Zama to collect the tax, meaning you don’t have to drive to their location. Watch for details.


Standard Insurance 

This is the typical collision-liability insurance coverage required in the States and can cost from $350 to $500 per year. Insurance must be purchased when you take ownership of your car and before driving it on public or base streets. Though the Japanese government does not require its citizens to have collision-liability insurance, the military bases do under SOFA. 


Land Transportation Office

The Land Transportation Office, or LTO, is the Japanese government office that deals with registering your vehicle and is the equivalent of the DMV back in the states. The LTO charges a fee of $35 to process your paperwork and register your car.


Camp Zama Used Car Dealerships 

So, here’s how the first year’s costs for buying a used car in Japan works out when purchasing a car from a used car dealership: 

  • Sales tax: 10% of the purchase price of the vehicle
  • JCI for 25 months – $250-$275
  • Weight Tax for two years – $93–$350
  • Annual Road Tax – $30-$200
  • Insurance for 12 months – $350-$500
  • LTO Fees – $35
  • Runner Fee – $50*

(*The Runner Fee is charged by dealerships to do all the leg work for getting the documentation and taxes taken care of for your purchase. Without this, you have to do it yourself. At ATC we only charge 3000 yen, and this cost is voided if you purchase your car from us.)

On the low side, expect to pay $758 in addition to the cost of the car and sales tax. The additional costs can go as high as $1410, not including the purchase price of the car and sales tax.

At ATC we just charge an additional $400, $500, or $600 depending on the plate saving you even more money on your vehicle sale.

Peer-to-Peer Sale 

The costs for peer to peer car sales are the same, except the JCI, Road Tax, and Weight Tax are good until they expire, even when the ownership of the car changes. That means you get a “bye” on these costs until it’s time to re-up.

Something to consider is that when it comes time to renew your JCI and your car doesn’t pass inspection, you may have to pay as much as $1,000 or even more to bring your car into compliance in addition to the JCI charges. So, if the JCI on the car you are wanting to buy from is a private party and is expiring soon, just know you will have to pay more money down the road if the car doesn’t pass the JCI inspection. You will also need to navigate all the documentation and tax technicalities yourself or hire a runner to do. 



Buying a Used Car Is Not Really That Scary 


There are definitely some added layers of complexity on car ownership in Japan. But don’t let them scare you. We have been taking care of U.S. service personnel for several years and have gotten this down to a science! If you have any questions, please don’t hesitate to email us or give us a like and message us on Facebook. We would love to hear from you. 


**All prices are subject to change based on exchange rates.


EDIT: This post is for on post personal. If you are not living on Camp Zama or NAF Atsugi there are additional costs such as parking permits to consider.