How Are “Kei Car” Used in Japan?

Kaoru Sugiura

The author, who is Japanese, explains how light cars are used in Japan.

In lieu of displacement and output regulations (voluntary regulations), the price and taxes of kei cars are kept low, and fierce competition is taking place among them.

It is said that the quality of Japanese compact cars has improved thanks to this technological competition.

Now, as a Japanese, I would like to explain how kei cars are used in Japan.


The difference between a kei car and a regular car is displacement and size

First of all, I will explain the difference between kei cars and ordinary cars.

Compared to ordinary private cars, kei cars are limited in size and displacement.

The details are as follows.

Displacement660cc or less
Overall length3.4m or less
Overall width1.48m or less
Seating capacity up to 4 persons
Maximum load capacity350kg
HighwayDriving Permitted
Vehicle inspectionavailable
CharacteristicsLess expensive to maintain than a small car (registered car)
OthersMotorways based on the Road Transport Law can be traveled.

Advantages of owning a kei car for Japanese people

Low maintenance cost

The biggest advantage of owning a kei car is its low maintenance cost.

Japan is one of the most expensive countries in the world to own a car.

Driving up those costs are taxes and the cost of vehicle inspections.


Taxes vary in amount depending on displacement and weight.

For example, my current Mark X is 2500cc.

In this case, 43,500 yen is charged as automobile tax every year.

Kei car10,800Yen
Less than 1.0 liter25,000 yen
Over 1.0 liter to 1.5 liter30,500 yen
Over 1.5 liters to 2.0 liters or less36,000 yen
Over 2.5 liters to 3.0 liters or less43,500 yen
Over 2.5 liters to 3.0 liters or less50,000 yen
Over 3.0 liters to 3.5 liters or less57,000 yen
Over 3.5 liters to 4.0 liters or less65,500 yen
Over 4.0 liters to 4.5 liters75,500 yen
Over 4.5 liters to 6.0 liters or less87,000 yen
Over 6.0 liters110,000 yen

Vehicle inspection fee

Private cars must be inspected every two years.

In this case, a light car often costs about 60,000 yen including taxes.

However, for a standard car, it often costs close to 100,000 yen.

By the way, in the case of my car, it cost 130,000 yen.

How are kei cars used in Japan?

As a main question, how do Japanese people use light cars?

They are not used much in central Tokyo.

Except for delivery companies and business use, light cars are not used much in urban areas.

In particular, I have the impression that few people own their own light cars.

Here are some of the reasons why.

It is difficult to own a car in central Tokyo        

This is because there are few places to store cars in the city center, especially in the central part of Tokyo.

The reason is simple: land prices are high and parking costs are high.

It has been reported on Twitter that coin-operated parking spaces in central Tokyo can cost as much as 4,000 yen (about $30) per day.

The minimum wage in Tokyo is around 1,000 yen ($7), making it difficult for the average person to own a car in Tokyo.

There is no advantage to owning a car in Tokyo.

Many of my friends live in Tokyo.

They all say, “There are no advantages to owning a car in Tokyo.

There is no advantage to owning a car in Tokyo.

Tokyo is one of the most congested cities in the world.

The roads are always busy and congested.

Tokyo also has subways and railroads running in all directions, so you can go anywhere by train.

Land prices are high, parking is expensive, roads are crowded, highways are congested, and public transportation is well developed.

Under these circumstances, only the rich or car enthusiasts dare to own a car.

For this reason, few individuals in Tokyo own a kei car as an inexpensive utility vehicle.

Light cars are useful in the Japanese countryside.

Light cars are not used in urban areas.

However, light cars are very useful in rural areas of Japan.

One car for each person in the countryside

It is no exaggeration to say that in the countryside, each person owns a car.

In rural areas where public transportation is not available or inconvenient even if it is available, many people own a car as a “foot” in their daily lives.

Many people are given a car by their parents at the same time they graduate from high school and obtain a driver’s license at the age of 18.

As a student’s first car

Many college students need a car if they are going to attend college in the countryside away from their parents.

A used light car would be the most common first car to buy.

Light cars are inexpensive and have small bodies, making them perfect for a first car.

In Japan, used cars are very inexpensive (due to the national preference for owning new ones), and a good quality kei car can be obtained for $5,000.

Students buy this car and go to the beach or mountains with their friends or girlfriends.

As a wife’s car

In the countryside, it is common to have a minivan as the main car and a mini-car as the sub-car.

The main car is a Toyota Vellfire and the sub-car is a Suzuki mini-car, which is the ideal form of a “mild yankee” high school graduate and high income earner.

They take their children to and from daycare centers and elementary schools in their wives’ cars.

Kaoru Sugiura
A man who was president of a motorcycle circle when he was a student
・Motorcycle history 10 years
・Mileage over 100,000 km
・Achieved around Japan
Hobbies include long-distance camping touring and playing with motorcycles
Currently riding TRX850, W650, PCX, Mark X

I am creating articles with the aim of creating a blog that can be useful to those who read it.

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I'm still learning English, so please point out any mistakes