The top 4 steps to help you buy a used car while living in Okinawa Japan ... including list of Models To avoid ...
#1: Step 1: How long will you be here? If you are just going to be here for 1 year or 2, at the most, you are best served buying a used car. If you are staying longer you will want to consider a new car. If you are looking for a small, economy car, new cars can be had for starting around $8000 and they will still have half the resale in 6 years. That will beat any used car deal you can get. The new car will include a 3 year warranty. There are many to choose from so roll by the dealership of your choice and see the options. Used “K-cars” hold their value and are nicely equipped, much differnt from the “K-cars” of years past.
As for used cars, you have many choices. You can use a service to buy from the auto auction, but understand how that works. Unlike what people believe, when buying a car from the auctions in Japan, the inspection form/car history that you receive is not in-depth. Only in the actual case of fraud are you covered. Example, let's say the transmission has sawdust in it to keep it from slipping for the auction. Then you can try to prove that is how it was when you got it. If you go the way of the auctions, it is better to go with the reputation of the dealership you are going through for the auction than what the auction says.
#2 Choosing the Right Car for you needs. This should really be your first step but I wanted to cover resale value first since that is a major concern when you know you are here for just a short time.
So, what kind of life do you live? Do you need a 4 door or SUV? How many kids will you be carting around? What kind of outdoor activities do you do? There really is not a big need or an SUV as we only drive around 18mph (30KPH) on average, if you get in traffic. The surface roads are around 35mph in your daily drive and most of the cars are sedan size, or smaller. More comfortable with metal around you? Stay with what you are comfortable, understanding the side roads off base are very narrow and congested most of the time. Don't even get me started with residential parking.
Choosing a model or maker is a personal choice. If you are looking for a sports car, the Nissan leads with the Skyline and Silvia. Both are well known for drifting and are readily available and are priced accordingly. You may want an AWD turbo model, such as the Mitsubishi EVO line or the Subaru WRX, both very popular. If you get the Subaru B4 thinking it is a fast twin turbo you will be disappointed with off the line performance. It is more of a luxury sports touring car, very nice none the less. I had one for a few months and really enjoyed it as a daily driver or for long drives.
I would suggest avoiding these car models with a proven history of problems.
Models To avoid
- Honda CR-X - transmission issues
- Honda HR-V - transmission issues
- Honda Capa - transmissions issues
- Honda Fit (first 3 year models) - transmission issues (Honda offers heavier ATF that may work ... for a while)
- Mitsubishi Automatic type - all sorts of computer/transmission issues (Not including the Pajero models)
Remember, this is a suggestion, my personal views. Not everyone of these cars has problems but I've seen more of these models have an issue than not. So, if you have one you love and have no issues, congratulations!
#3 Research your model. If you have been on island for a while and you have a mechanic that you trust, you might ask them what models you should avoid and what ones are more deniable. For example, I am looking to buy a certain model and ran the idea by my trusted mechanic and he told me to avoid the basic model and opt for the sport model because it has a more trustworthy engine. That was invaluable to my choice.
One thing to remember when buying a car in Japan. If you go to buy a car from a dealer and there is no current JCI/registration, if doesn't have plates, you will not be able to legally take a test drive. That is why a warranty is nice to have.
One nice thing is that odometer reading is now listed on the title so you can see the mileage at the last JCI. If the mileage on the dash is lower than the title last listed, they have some questions to answer. Just get up and leave unless they had already disclosed that fact.
#4 What is in my budget? Before you get that twin turbo, check with your insurance company to make sure you don't buy a car and get blind sided by the insurance. Most twin turbo sports cars are double the insurance as a similar non-turbo model. AGE and RANK are taken into consideration in determining insurance rates. Be forewarned!
More About Financing a Car on Okinawa