Buying a Used Car in Japan

Buying a Used Car in Japan Car

My current vehicle (a Mazda RX-8) was purchased through a private sale website. When I bought it, I did a lot of research and took it for many test drives. In this article, I will explain the process of purchasing a used car in Japan, based solely on my own experience, and what to look for when doing so.

Where can I buy a used car?

Car Dealers

Japanese Car Dealers

You might think of a dealer as a store that sells new cars, but there are cases where vehicles traded in by customers are sold as used cars, or dealers affiliated with manufacturers sell used cars from other manufacturers.


The benefits of purchasing a used car from a dealer include the car’s good condition, peace of mind, and a full range of warranties. They frequently have their own brand of used cars as their primary product line, so they have a good selection of used cars and are familiar with their previous owners. Their repair abilities are also strong and consistent, and they frequently provide nationwide warranty coverage.


Prices are high, and there are frequently few manufacturers from which to choose. There are also a number of stores that sell a limited number of used cars.

Used Car Dealers

Japanese Used Car Dealers


Used car dealers can get you a better deal on the vehicle of your choices. They frequently have a broader range of manufacturers than other dealerships. You can also inspect the vehicle and take it for a test drive to ensure about its condition.


It is difficult to assess the condition of a used vehicle. Some dealers repair and resell vehicles that have been in accidents or are in bad shape. Another disadvantage is that after-purchase maintenance varies greatly from dealer to dealer. For example, if you relocate, you may be unable to obtain a warranty in another prefecture, or the range of repairs that can be handled may differ depending on the dealer’s technology.

Auction Agent

Bidding and winning bids on behalf of users at used car auctions, which are primarily a sales method used by used car brokers and in which you must be qualified. The client pays the winning bid price plus an auction bid fee ranging from 7,000 to 22,000 yen, a monthly automobile tax, a recycling fee, a land transportation fee, and an agency fee ranging from 3% to 5% of the winning bid price (minimum of around 30,000 yen).


You might be able to get a car for a lower price than you would at a used car dealership. You can buy the car of your choice in terms of color, grade, price, and mileage. Used car auctions are run by companies with a high level of social credibility and social responsibility, so the vehicle listings are all accurate and can be viewed before you bid.


The car’s exterior and interior are given to you as is, with no care. There is no maintenance or warranty included. The selling price could be higher than the market price.

Sites for Private Sales

Private Sales

Yahoo Auctions is a well-known site for private sales of used cars. I also bought a car from this website.


The transaction is between individuals, there are no margins or intermediate fees for vendors, making this the cheapest way to buy a used car (the seller pays a small amount to the site operator). Furthermore, because the cars are displayed by amateurs, the prices are frequently much lower than the market price.


There is a problem in that private transactions are prone to complications. Unexpected defects are frequently discovered after the vehicle has been delivered. There are also many cases where the negative aspects are not mentioned at the time of the exhibit. Furthermore, in addition to taking delivery of the vehicle, you must also complete the procedures for transferring ownership and replacing the vehicle yourself. Sellers are also inexperienced when it comes to selling used cars, which can lead to unexpected issues.

Buying on a private sale website is not a good way to get a good car unless you are familiar with the car you are purchasing and even ask the seller to test drive and inspect the car in person. 

How to Purchase a Used Car

The flow of buying a used car from here on is for buying from a dealer or used car dealer. It is a little different for auctions and private sales.

The first step in the used car buying process is to determine the conditions of the car you want. If you are buying a car for the first time, you will also need to decide where you want the garage to be located in order to obtain a garage permit. Next, use a used car search site to find out if there is a model of the car you want. If you find it, contact the dealership to confirm inventory and make an appointment for a test drive. Then, visit the store to check out the car and test drive it. If you like what you see, ask for a quote.

The estimate may be given when you go to see the car, or it may be given again in person or by phone. If you are satisfied with the estimate, you can sign the contract and prepare the necessary documents. The dealership will prepare the contract for you.
For regular cars, the required documents are your personal seal, proof of personal seal impression, garage certificate, and a letter of attorney.

For kei cars, you will need your seal of approval, certificate of residence, garage certificate, and an application request form. In some areas, you do not need to apply for a garage certificate for mini vehicles. After signing the contract, you will pay the purchase price, and the dealer will change the name of the car, perform maintenance, and deliver the car.
If you buy online, the process is the same, but all documents are sent by mail. If you have any questions, be sure to contact the dealer by phone or email before signing the contract.

Documentation Requirements Summary

Personal seal

Personal seal

The contract of purchase must be stamped with a seal bearing the name of the purchaser. What is required in this process is a “real seal” that has been registered with the government office. If you have not registered your seal, you should apply for it before signing the contract.

 If you are not registered, you should apply for it before signing the contract. It is important to check whether your seal is registered or not, as it will not be used frequently.

Certificate of Seal Registration

Certificate of Seal Registration

When you use your personal seal, you need to prove that it is the same as the registered one. To do this, you will need a certificate of registered seal impression (Inkan toroku shomeisho). If your personal seal has already been registered, it can be issued immediately at a municipal office or other institution. It is important to consider that the certificate is to be submitted as a set, since the store where the real seal is sold cannot verify the real seal by itself. Please note that if more than three months have passed since issuance at the time of the procedure, it will be invalid.

Garage Certificate

Garage Certificate

Except in some areas, a garage certificate is required to prove the “place of storage” for both regular and mini vehicles. Before you apply, decide where you plan to store your car, such as your garage or a rental parking lot. The document will be issued at the police station with jurisdiction. If you plan to store your car in the same place as you used to own it, there are cases where the dealer will take care of the procedure for you. It may not be possible to request this service depending on the contents of the contract, etc., so it is best to check beforehand to ensure a smooth process.

Power of Attorney

Power of Attorney

In most cases, when you purchase through a dealer, the dealer will take care of the administrative procedures on your behalf. A power of attorney is required in most cases. It is possible to print out a power of attorney by searching the Internet. However, in some cases, the person in charge will have already prepared it for you when you sign the contract. The process is to fill out the power of attorney form with the necessary information, put your name on it, and affix your personal seal. You will also be given an explanation of the contents, so be sure to check it directly if you have any questions.

Certificate of Residence

Certificate of residence

Depending on the contents of the contract and the type of used car you are buying, you may be asked to submit your certificate of residence. In general, this is not required. A certificate of residence can be issued at the city or ward office. It will save you a lot of trouble if you complete the procedure together with other documents such as your seal registration certificate. It is also important to check the date issued and make sure that it is not more than three months old.

From contract to delivery

Once the contract has been signed and payment has been made, the car is ready for delivery. If you are buying a used car, you will not be able to take delivery of it the same day you sign the purchased contract. This is because it takes about one to two weeks for the car to be delivered, including checking the engine and other functions, inspection, and transfer of ownership.

In some cases, the used car dealer will provide you with a loaner car, but it may not be available depending on the time of year or other factors, so you will need to check in advance. It is also advisable to take out voluntary automobile insurance before delivery.

For more information about car insurance, please see the following article.