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miércoles, septiembre 27, 2023
HomeVintage CarsCurbside Outtake:  New Car Shopping in Japan – Things Are a Little...

Curbside Outtake:  New Car Shopping in Japan – Things Are a Little Different

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Our son’s 2007 Toyota Ractis is coming up for it’s biennial Japan Compulsory Insurance (JCI or “Shakken”) inspection in August.  It still runs well but will need quite a few parts replaced – and at sixteen years old, the inspection would cost more than it’s worth.  He has a wife and one-year old daughter and is moving into peak minivan years.  The spouse’s 2017 Toyota Sienta would be a perfect fit for his family…so we decided to hand him the keys.  That meant we were car shopping again – which is a little different here in Japan than in the states…

2023 Sienta


2023 Roomy


The wife expressed an interest in two models – a new Sienta which was updated this year, and a Toyota Roomy; a small two-row minivan.  She has never had a brand new car, only used – time to fix that.  So off we went to the nearest Toyota dealer.

The New Car Dealership.  Three things are immediately apparent when you walk into a new car dealership in Japan;

 1. There is no NADA – all the dealerships are owned and operated by the manufacturers.  That’s good in that the manufacturers have more of an incentive to keep you as a long-term customer and offer much better after-service.  It’s bad in that there’s no competition between dealers, so you’ll pay pretty much the same no matter which dealership you visit.

2.  There is no inventory.  Land being scarce and expensive, dealerships are mostly a showroom, a service area, and a small outside area for parking demonstrators.  As a result, if you want a new car in Japan, in almost all cases it needs to be ordered.  

3.  While we visited the dealership, it is also common to contact the dealer, tell them what model you’re interested in, and a salesman will visit your house with the respective brochures and a demonstrator model if you want to take a test drive.

As is typical with most service industries here, the salesperson was polite, knowledgeable, and professional – no hard sell or any “games”.  We would have likely bought new but when we asked what the waiting time was, we were told that once your order was placed, it was an eight month wait for the Sienta, and a six month wait for the Roomy.  Unfortunately that wouldn’t fit with our schedule.

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The Used Car Dealership.  There are a myriad of used car dealers in Japan – from small neighborhood eight-car lots to large national chains, to include the manufacturers. The major national chains are Keiryu, Gulliver, and Big Motor.  Exactly opposite the new car dealership, the large national chains have lots that can fill an entire city block – I guess since they’re dealing with cars already built, they have to put them somewhere.  We searched Big Motor’s website and found a nice, low-mile 2021 Roomy with the color and options the wife wanted, and it was at a lot very near our house.

The Transaction.  Similar to the new car dealership, the young salesperson was courteous, professional, and knowledgeable.  When buying a car from a dealership, there’s very little negotiation on price.  However, negotiating “bennies” or “service” as it’s called in Japan is fair game.  These include any services the dealer offers plus dealer-installed accessories.   The Roomy was in great shape so we didn’t need to haggle for many extras but on a previous used Toyota Mark II I bought, I paid the price the dealer was asking but negotiated for four new tires, replacement of the serpentine belt, new engine and A/C filters, oil change, radiator and brake fluid flush and fill, and a set of factory white lace seat covers.  Interestingly, in private sales, I’ve found negotiating is readily accepted.  

Which I guess must be standard practice everywhere, the salesperson gave us his pitch for an extended warranty and a paint sealant – which we politely declined.  He didn’t press any further.

After filling out at least eight different forms, and putting our official “hanko” stamp on the bill of sale, the transaction was finished.  The salesman said he would take care of all the registration requirements – which in Japan is a long, bureaucratic process, and that we could pick the car up ten days later.  

Total price for the Roomy was Y1,890,000 or at the current very favorable dollar to yen exchange rate a little over $13K. We picked it up this week and so far the spouse is happy.  I’ll do a COAL post on it sometime in the near future.  

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