Thursday, February 5, 2015

Buying a Car on Base

Car for sale at the Lemon Lot
Most people on base drive around a 10 year old car. Some people go nuts and buy cars you can't get in the a Nissan Skyline GTR. There isn't much point to it since most roads are limited to 60 kph...that's a whopping 37 mph. The Japanese cars tend to have lower mileage compared to the U.S. For example, the 2005 car we bought for me has about 60,000 km on it which is roughly 37,000 miles. The Japanese have to pay for mandatory inspections (called Shaken) and higher fees on these older cars which can make owning them expensive, so a lot of people just end up getting new cars instead. We don't have to pay these fees under the Status of Forces Agreement, so it makes sense to drive the older cars since they've got plenty of life left. 

There are several places where you can get a car. The easiest is from the MWR  "Lemon Lot" on base next to the commissary and Youth Center. People PCSing out as well as spouses who work with used car dealers sell their cars here. There's also a Facebook page called Yokosuka Auto Resale with car ads. You could buy a car out in town if you'd prefer. Another option is to get in touch with one of the dealers and ask them to find you a specific car if you know what you'd like. We've bought our cars at the Lemon Lot both times we've lived here. The turnover is quick so keep that in mind when looking around. 

The purchase process is fairly similar to the U.S. Call the number on the ad, test drive it and negotiate a price. Most of the cars are between $2000 and $4000 USD. The cars we've bought have had to be paid for in U.S. cash, so if you bank with USAA make sure to move money into Navy Federal to withdraw. It helps to look for cars that have already passed base inspection and have about two years of Japanese Compulsory Insurance (JCI). JCI is liability insurance that is attached to the car. If the car doesn't already have it or it's expiring soon, you have to pay for two years of insurance up front. From memory two years of JCI is about $300-$500 depending on the car. A base inspection costs about $40 USD plus cost of needed repairs. 

Yokosuka City Hall
Once you put down a deposit or buy the car outright, the seller should give you all of the paperwork including the bill of sale, title, JCI, inspection and some others we couldn't read! Your first stop is the insurance office to get your own personal insurance (different than need both). It's in the same building where you got your license. You could also go out in town to other insurance offices. It used to be cheaper out in town so we did that last time, but the base has a new contractor selling insurance with competitive rates. They speak perfect English and know the base insurance rules which makes things simple.  It was about $300 for a year of insurance.

If you don't already have it, you'll need a parking certificate to prove you've got a spot to park the car. We got ours from Housing when we signed the paperwork accepting our house. If you haven't done that yet the Navy Lodge can provide it as well. The process is different if you'll be living out in town. We haven't had to do that so I don't know specifics. 

If the car has never been registered to a service member before (buying from a dealer in town or on base) you'll have to go to Yokosuka City Hall (10 min walk outside the gate) to get a temp plate. Bob had to go through this process with my car three weeks ago and his car last week. They're used to sailors coming in so they've got signs in English and some employees spoke English as well. It cost ¥750 and is good for five days. 
A convenience store inside Yokosuka City Hall
Next stop is the Vehicle Registration Office (VRO) which is also in the same building as insurance and licensing. They'll review all of the paperwork and make sure everything's in order to go to the Land Transportation Office (LTO) in Yokohama for registration. LTO is similar to what we know as a DMV. VRO will also give you a temporary base pass and a slip of paper listing all registration fees you'll have to pay. Ours was just under ¥20,000, so about $180 USD. This is on top of the price of the car. If you had to get a temporary plate the car will have to be driven to the LTO to have the permanent plate attached. They are put on with special screws and can't be removed. If you bought your car from another service member it'll already have a military plate (called a "Y plate") on it, so only the paperwork has to go to LTO. 

You can go to LTO on your own if you'd like but it's confusing and intimidating for new arrivals...especially if you've never driven off base before. The majority of us pay about $50 for an "LTO runner" to do it for us. They advertise in the base paper and on the Yokosuka Auto Resale Facebook page. They'll take your paperwork and drive your car if needed. Round trip highway tolls cost ¥2900, so your share will depend on how many sets of paperwork are being taken. Our car was back within a couple of hours which is worth every penny of the $50 we paid. 

Once the LTO runner is back your temp plate will need to go back to City Hall. Our runner returned it for us. Once that's done head back over to VRO with all paperwork and they'll check it over again. If it's good-to-go you'll get base stickers. 

I realize this sounds daunting, but we bought our car on a Wednesday night, went to insurance/City Hall/VRO Thursday and had the LTO run done Friday morning. By lunch we were street legal with our own plates! 


Anonymous said...

Very useful, thanks for posting this.

Anonymous said...

Wow, thanks, we just arrived in Yokosuka and started looking for a used car on base and this explained everything pretty good. Thanks!

Katie said...

You're welcome!

Diana Hayes said...
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Conrad Schmidt said...

Does American Insurance, such as USAA insurance count for the base insurance? Not the JCI but the other one?

Katie said...

No, it doesn't; we had USAA in the US also. It needs to be purchased from a Japanese company. They have an office on base next to the Navy Lodge and going out in town is also an option. Most people use the one on base for convenience.

Jade Graham said...
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Phil MC said...

No it doesn't you have to purchase insurance from Japanese company. I asked the same thing when I was in Okinawa in 2012

Jeromy said...

Oh man, I would be tempted to buy a Skyline GTR too! Love driving those in the Forza video games! This was a pretty cool look at something I had no idea about. Seems like the Japanese DMV is just as annoying to visit as the ones in the States! Thank you for sharing this by the way.

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