Saturday, September 19, 2009

Deals on wheels

You know those used car dealerships you see here and there, hidden between the giant Honda and BMW dealerships? They showcase an array of cars and trucks with neon stickers on the windshields and strings of balloons. They have creepy salesmen swarming the place named Ted or Bob. They have names like 'Super Motors' or 'Karl's Kars'. They look shady, and more importantly, they ARE shady. Well, these are pretty much the only used car dealerships we have out here in Okinawa (no Carmax!). These are the type of places where everyone buys cars from, and today, we became one of those people! We also purchased our vehicle without test driving it first. Yes, that's right, all we did was look inside and turn on the engine. I know you are probably thinking that this sounds sketchy and a little crazy, but I assure you it's not, and it's perfectly normal here!
Matt and I looked at a few places, but ended up coming back to 'Johnny's Used Cars', which is one of the most common places to go on the island. Our choice: a 2002 Silver Toyota Altezza hatchback, which is a Lexus IS300 Sport-Cross back in the US. I'm not sure I understand why yet, but there are a lot of American cars here in Japan that have the steering wheel on the opposite side and are called different things. Cars that are Lexus's in the US are Toyota's here, same thing with Infiniti's being called Nissan's here. Matt is telling me that this is called "re-badging". Anyway, the car is in almost brand-new condition, has a great sound-system, storage room in the back (for my furniture shopping!), comfortable seats, lots of leg room for Matt, and power folding-in mirrors for those super tight Japanese parking spaces! We decided to wait and get a second car for us when I get a job, which will hopefully be in the next month or two.

I guess its actually called "Johnny's Used CAR"

The car was marked $6500, but we got it down to $5400 because of our haggling skills and for also agreeing to pay cash instead of financing. We came armed with our checkbook and credit card, but after speaking to the owner, Jimmy (don't ask me why the owner of "Johnny's" is named Jimmy) we quickly realized that they did not take credit cards here - no dealerships here do! They also did not take debit cards or even checks. They take cash only if you aren't financing - literally CASH. After realizing that we only had about $20 on us (a tad bit short of the $5400), we talked to him, and he agreed to let us run to an ATM, take out $100, and he would hold the car for us until we could get the rest in cash.

Another thing that is different about Japanese car dealerships (at least used ones) is that you cannot go into one and drive off the lot with your new car the same day. It just doesn't work like that. They need a few days to get all the paperwork ready (there are a lot of fees and taxes that we don't have in America that go along with the cars) as well as check them out mechanically and give them a good once-over cleaning. There also happens to be some Japanese holiday this coming week, and the dealership's shop is going to be closed Sunday-Wednesday, so we won't be able to come pick up the car until Thursday next week. Thursday is going to be a big day for us, as this is also going to be our move-in date to our new condo on Camp Foster! SOOO excited!! I will be posting pictures of our new place as soon as we move in, but for now, here are a few of the new car:)

Oh, and for anyone wondering - Matt and I both passed our tests and got our Japanese drivers licences last week! However, all that was required was a written exam, so neither of us have actually had to drive on the opposite side of the road yet. I'm sure you'll hear all about it here on my blog once we attempt!



  1. How exciting. Not many of us can say we've owned a vehicle with the steering wheel on the right side! It looks like a sharp car. Good job on getting the price down. What kind of guarantee do they have if when you drive it, you find it has issues? Any type of warranty or service offered? Thanks again for the update. Love you! xo

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