Get some wheels (part 1): K-Cars

This is the first post from our new author Leon. Leon is a web developer and is raising a family in Japan, so he knows all too well the importance of frugality. Be sure to leave and comment, and if you’d like to hear more from Leon and I, then subscribe to the feed!

Being frugal about your transport in Japan takes a little knowledge. I prefer a motorbike for everyday use, but I also have a car for the family and transporting stuff around.

While you can pick up a late model car for a fraction of what it would cost you back home, you need to be aware of the fees structure here. A 5-door regular sedan will cost you upwards of ¥100,000 a year for registration, taxes and jibaiseki (mandatory 3rd party insurance).

A “k-car” or keijidousha on the other hand – which is any car with about 660cc of grunt – will only set you back a few man per year for the same.

It is usually easier to find a good price on a futsusha, regular sedan or bigger car. But when you factor in the increase in fuel, fees and parts costs, the total cost of ownership of a k-car will be significantly lower.


K-cars also get a discount when you use highways or toll roads. A ¥700 toll, for example would usually be ¥500 yen in a k-car (or 250cc motorbike!). Keep in mind though that k-cars are only allowed to carry 4 people at a time, including the driver for a combined weight of I think 200 – 350kgs.

When buying a car, I strongly encourage budding frugalistas to pay the extra for nihoken or 2nd level insurance. This is similar to fully comprehensive cover back home and there are various plans available. Why spend the extra money? The mandatory jibaiseki, which is illegal to drive without, only covers you up to ¥1,000,000. The minimum cost of damages just for hitting a jidouhanbaiki (a vending machine) is ¥5,000,000! You can imagine how many more lifetimes worth of pay-checks you will be paying if you injure a real person!

As with all frugal things and life in general: failing to plan is planning to fail.

Stay tuned for a follow up on 2-wheeled frugalistic fun!

12 thoughts on “Get some wheels (part 1): K-Cars

  1. I drive a little yellow-plate Suzuki Wagon R. It’s about 12 years old, has 108,000km on the clock, but it’s just had its shaken and will last me a bit longer yet.

  2. Just did the shaken on my Mitsubishi MiniCab Van (K-car) which cost about:

    8,000 yen for the JURYOUSEI (weight-based fee)
    1,400 yen for the inspection line fee (when taking your own car to the shaken centre)
    19,000 for 2 years of JIBAISEKI insurance (mentioned in article)
    maybe a few thousand yen more for some other papers

    If you ask a car dealer to do it for you, it can cost over 100,000yen. Just be sure to bring some tools and check the following things on your car before going: air filter, emissions, brakes, tire treads, oil leaks, head light beam angle (had to retest 3 times to get my angles right!)

    I had a mate’s car shop adjust my lights for me after the 2nd failed attempt, but it only cost about 2,000 yen for that.

    My car has 150,000 kms and still runs sweet. Is a real work-horse!

  3. Also, to add to the article, small children count as .5 “real” people, so you could have the driver and 6 small children, provided you have seating for them and some earplugs….

  4. Pingback: Top 10 Frugally Wise Things To Do While Living in Japan | Frugalista Japan

  5. Nice post regarding having a car. I know that sometimes it is very difficult to really understand what to do when in trouble with your car. But good thing,there are some aftermarket sales like Car Parts Los Angeles and other stores who will give us information and guides to chose the best part that will help out our car. Indeed, this post helped me a lot!

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