10,000 Yen Car


An acquaintance offered to sell me his car for 10,000 yen. At current exchange rates that amounts to around $83. Why would someone sell a reasonably well functioning vehicle at such a low price? The keys to this puzzle are shaken (車検) and hoken (保険). Shaken translates to ‘Vehicle Inspection’ and hoken, to ‘Insurance’.

New vehicles are subject to mandatory inspection after three years. After that, all vehicles are subject to inspection every two years. Mandatory, and rather limited, insurance must also be paid at the same time. I do not yet understand the system well, but the general opinion of foreigners is that the shaken price goes up progressively as the car ages; at some point becoming prohibitive. Everytime I ask people about the actual system, it sounds like the price actually goes down with the value of the car.

My understanding is that at the time of the inspection, required maintenance is added in and this shocks a lot of foreigners. It may be that many ‘optional’ maintenance issues are considered ‘mandatory’ in Japan as well. When a vehicle comes due for inspection a lot of foreigners will dump the vechicle on the cheap and pick up something that is not due for inspection.

Philosophically I think maintenance is merely a part of responsible ownership and expect that I won’t be surprised by the system. One teacher I know, picked up his car for a few hundred dollars several years ago, and he said it is the best purchase he ever made. This would seem to support my thinking.

Just another point to reinforce my opinion about the responsibility level of the typical foreign teacher here: the acquaintence selling the car, despite being fairly high on the responsibility level, drives without a Japanese license. He has been driving a friends car that he rents monthly. Apparently that friend is not renewing his shaken because it is too expensive, leaving my acquaintence to return to using his own vehicle. I think he will probably take another common course and drive without inspection; which, by default, means no insurance.

Perhaps I will drop the money on a new car since the features are sooo sexy.


One Response to “10,000 Yen Car”

  1. kevenker Says:

    Well it’s been said that Japanese cars function best with regular maintenance. I have generally done all my scheduled maintenance on my Toyota pickup and I’ve got 207k miles.

    I think many Americans are used to driving cars till they actually break. So having to actually pay for preventative maintenance would indeed be a shock to the system and make it seem like the car costs much more.

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