Once you find yourself in this land of the rising sun, living has its turns and adventures. And our city, Tsukuba Science City, is perhaps one of the most exciting and unique cities in Japan. The arrival of the Tsukuba Express perhaps has changed the very fabric of the city beyond easy recognition. And yet, there are some features of life that die hard. Tsukuba is a seat of modern science and technology research centers. And yet by design, or lack of it, some of the residents have to deal with an old-fashioned transportation system, spending considerable time in the process. Others just give up and resort to private transportation arrangements.
Tsukuba has one of the highest ownership of passenger cars per family in Japan. When consciousness for freedom of mobility is coupled with the relative weakness of the public transportation system, driving becomes a necessary chorus in Tsukuba. Getting a driver’s license entails a number of procedures and formalities. Arrangements for a proper Japanese driving license can cost a lot of time and money as well as a good dose of headache. Once you handle the driving license issue, it is time to find your car.
Once you decide to own a car, you have choices to make. If you happen to be in Tsukuba for a short term, not exceeding a year, you need not necessarily buy a car to enjoy the freedom of mobility and avoid the unnecessary headache of buying. The shorter the period of intended use, the more likely renting a car is sound, both economically and in administrating your time and effort. Renting a car sounds like such an expensive proposal and yet if you explore a bit, you can find arrangements which stand more attractive than owning a car.
The choice of renting a car, of course, works well for some but not all. If your period of intended use is longer than a year, the rent option becomes less attractive. The longer the intended use, buying a car becomes more appealing. Used cars in Japan are of high standard and quality. The drivers are generally careful and most of them keep their car clean or in cleanable condition. Moreover, most car owners use their car just occasionally, making most cars still in a good condition with low mileage. The road conditions are generally good, making life for cars much easier and problem free. Tampering with the odometer is rather rare, and so you can take the reading on the odometer at face value.
You can assess the basic mechanical condition of a used car by following simple procedures. The following are some of the indicators you should consider. First, check if the engine is clean and has had no accident, no leaking oil or shock. Open the engine oil cover and see if it is clean. If possible, check the maintenance record of the car and see if the car was regularly maintained. Second, check the joints, the lights, the tires, the breaks, the air conditioner, the audio system and the door locks. Third, it is not advisable to buy a car, especially small cars and lower engine size, beyond 80,000 km. It might require more visits to those costly repair shops and additional cost of maintenance. Finally, avoid cars older than 11 years. Avoid buying a car that you are not comfortable with. After all, you are in Japan and there is a huge stock of good cars to choose from.
The condition of the car determines its value. However, in the valuation of a used car, there are some issues you should consider. First, every car must have a safety inspection (Shaken) to be legally driven on the road. The shaken actually has three components: technical inspection, basic insurance, and weight tax. The technical inspection of the car is done every two years. The inspection fee is 1500 yen. If the car has nothing to be replaced or adjusted, that is all it costs to get it inspected. Moreover, every car must have a compulsory basic insurance (Jibaiseki) and it costs about 30,780 yen for 25 months. Finally, cars are taxed according to their weight category. The weight tax (Juryo) is 37,800 yen for cars with body weight ranging from 1 ton to 1.5 tons. It is 25,200 yen for cars with weight from 500 kg to 1 ton. The processing fee costs additional 750 yen. If you change the number plate, it costs 1520 yen. This information is for standard sedan cars. For detailed information for a specific car, visit (http://www.rikuriku.or.jp). These “taxes” form the main cost of a used car older than seven years.
In addition to the “shaken”, you need two payments before you can drive your car on the road. One is the road tax (Shazei) which is paid annually by car owners if the car is registered in their name on April 1. If the engine size of the car is between 1000cc and 1500cc, the road tax is 34,500 yen per year. If the engine is between 1500cc and 2000cc, the road tax is 39500 yen and for cars with engine size from 2000cc to 2500 cc the road tax is 45,000 yen. The recent addition to the cost menu is the recycle fee. This fee is paid by the buyers upon the purchase of their car, when they transfer ownership or when they dispose off the car. The fee generally ranges from 6,110 to 15,400 yen for standard sedan cars.
If the car that you buy already has “shaken”, these costs constitute a good share in the price of the car. As a rule of thumb, you can calculate the basic value of a car as follows. For each month of shaken and road tax remaining on the car, give a value from 5,800 to 6,300 yen. On the costs of “shaken” and the road tax, you add your estimate for the body value of the car depending on brand, condition, package and maintenance. That gives you a fair value of the car and a price tag for your unbounded freedom of mobility.
TsukuBlog is a daily blog for the foreign residents of the city of Tsukuba in Ibaraki, Japan. It is a sister site to Alien Times. It includes up-to-date information on events, news, living in Japan, Japanese culture, and more.
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