Friday Five Life in Japan

Buying a Car – 5 Ways Japan is Different

20 February 2015

As you might have already read, we recently bought a new car! Although it hasn’t arrived, here are some practices I thought were quite different from usual so I’m sharing them in this week’s Friday Five!

Oh, just in case it’s not clear, by “usual”, I’m comparing them to Singapore, since it’s the only other country where we have car-buying experiences.

1. A parking lot

In Japan, you CANNOT – I literally mean cannot! – buy a car unless you first secure a parking lot! You will have to submit the official documentation, which is issued by the parking lot owner and certified at the police station, to the car dealer before they can sell you the car.

Therefore, we effectively start paying for the parking lot way before the car even arrives D:

ps: High-tech automated parking lot pictured above not a prerequisite. A normal one will do ;)

2. Personal registered seal

Every Japanese has a personal seal, which is their form of signature. They usually have two – one for casual purposes like to acknowledge receipt of registered mail, one for formal purposes like opening a bank account, loan application and such.

The formal seal has to be registered at the city office and when required, they can issue a piece of paper certifying that the seal is, indeed yours. It is not uncommon for documents that require the formal seal to also ask for the certification.

It’s a whole lot of trouble to go to the city office all the time, and it’s not like this seal is any more secure than a signature! Moreover, these seals often cost quite a bit to make! So from the start we avoided this whole seal business and managed to successfully to skirt around it all these years by innocently asking each time (complete with big puppy eyes) “Can we sign instead?”

Unfortunately, we couldn’t get out of it this time for the car loan application and Fu had to have one made.

He had to cough out 6,000 yen for the seal and 1,000 yen for the case. (total is about SGD 80) He was grumbling about how expensive it is, but the kicker?

Instead of a intricate seal with beautiful characters (on the left), he had to get the alphabet one (on the right) since the name on the seal had to match the one on the passport. He was mega annoyed about it. Pay so much for such a plain and ugly thing. HAHAHA.

3. Money matters

Here’s the shocker: We did not have to pay ANY deposit!!!


Isn’t it strange?! Get a brand new car without having to pay a single yen upfront!

Apart from the deposit, there’s also the price of cars in Japan. Without a doubt, Japanese cars are definitely cheaper here.


European cars in Japan are generally 1/4 the price of that in Singapore. We got quotations for several different brands, and it holds across the brands.

4. Buyback scheme

In Japan, there is a very interesting buyback scheme for new cars.

Basically, after 3 or 5 years (you can choose), the car dealer will buy the car back from you for an amount (stated at the time when you bought the car, and assuming you fulfil all the conditions. Didn’t drive above x kilometres, etc)

For instance, a Lexus car costs 5 million yen. The buyback percentage is 60% at the end of 3 years. Which means at the end of 3 years, one can choose to sell the car back to Lexus, and buy a new car, effectively getting a new car every 3 years! Of course that also means you have to continue repayments infinitely la.

Alternatively, one can simply refinance the remaining amount if they choose not to sell it back and own the car completely after completing payments on the car.

Isn’t it interesting?

5. Options

The last time we bought a new car in Singapore, we do not remember facing this option selection process at all. Dunno why in Japan have one million and eight options to choose from!

From manufacturer options (means can only add at the point of buying the car) like sunroof, better sound system, type of seats to dealer options (free to add to the car at any time) like headlights, decorative panels and…


I really don’t understand this floor mat option. Are there people with cars that do not have floor mats? Why can’t they just package a standard set of floor mats with the car?

Our floor mats cost almost SGD $500. They are the cheapest ones available -_-

A sample of the options available:

These are only 2 pages out of the myriad of options available!

The thing I’m curious about it: Does anyone even buy the reading light?! I wanna read also won’t sit in my car and read leh… Maybe literary chauffeurs or taxi-drivers buy them?

… aaaand that marks the end of this post!

I know it’s nothing much to boast about… but we should celebrate every victory, no matter how small. So…

YAYYY! This is Friday Five #3, guys!!! *does a little dance* :D

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