CONTRIBUTED BY MEREDITH NOVARIO
You’ll need wheels so let’s swap stories about where and why and how much it cost and how happy we have been through it all. I’ll go first.
We bought both our cars at Payless Motors near Kadena Gate 2. We chose Payless because our sponsor bought his car there. They were happy with Payless and we needed cars immediately so we didn’t even think about checking out other places. Furthermore, checking out other dealerships would have meant that our sponsor would have had to drive us hither and yon to investigate since we were car-less. That seemed like a lot to ask. Fortunately, we’ve been very happy with Payless.
We bought two cars and agreed to a no-interest-18-month-payment-plan. Additionally, there was a three month warranty that seemed to cover the big stuff. We had minor problems with both cars that managed to get fixed under the warranty. The van cost about 4 grand and the Accord was a bit over 2 grand.
So now, 18 months later, we are the proud owner of a 1995 Honda Odyssey van and a 1997 Honda Accord.
The van is a very popular model on island. If you get this van you are guaranteed to spend some dizzying moments in parking lots trying to remember exactly where you parked while 26 vans exactly like yours quietly taunt you. I had never had a van or an SUV-ish car prior to now and the American in me was sure that I NEEDED this car with the 2 kids and the dog and all. But I dislike my van. The streets here are narrow and windy and while I’m used to driving it now, I don’t need a car this big. I say it to you because I wish someone had put that bug in my ear before I demanded a van.
The Accord is fine. No complaints only happy, shiny thoughts.
Overall, I am pleased as punch with our experience. My only regret is that I didn’t get one of the green and yellow stickers. It signifies that the driver is new at the driving game. They also have another sticker for elderly drivers. The genius of it all!
Anyway, this was our experience. What was yours?
P.S. I did not mention JCI (Japanese Compulsory Insurance) because I do not understand it nor do I know how to spell it. I’ll let you all hammer it out in the comments.
P.P.S. HERE is a link to a driving overview provided by the Marines. It includes a download-able copy of the driver’s manual that you’ll need to study.
Editor’s Note: Due to technical difficulties this comment was not saved on our server. We are re-publishing it now to continue the conversation on this post.
From Derek Satterfield on 9/17/13:
“BE CAREFUL they sold my wife a car that just shut off when she was doing 50km luckily we hit a curb and no another vehicle. because my child was in the car. Their warranty is a joke the try to patch the problem or flat out lie about the repairs they make as to try and wait out your warranty. You’ll be better off trying the lemon lot…
Good luck and god bless.”
As I was just made aware of this post, I will reply to inform everyone from now what to expect from Payless Motors. I can’t speak for this customer’s situation which made him state some serious accusations against the company I work for. I can however guarantee that we don’t perform “patch work” to let the warranty run out nor would I lie to a customer about problems with a vehicle. We have a 1 year bumper to bumper warranty and that would have to be a lot of “patch work”. I would simply ask that people shop around then come to Payless Motors to see what we have to offer. We have very competitive pricing, extremely clean cars with lower kilometers and excellent customer service. As a side note, My name is Don Fenton and my reputation is everything. I’ve been in the business for 20 years and don’t do business as explained in Mr. Satterfield’s post. I’m always willing to help even if you don’t purchase a vehicle from Payless Motors. Any questions or concerns, please call or visit our location. Thank you.
Never to go pit stop he sells cars bought at auctions and covers up mechanical issues… The 3 month warranty expired and never less the electrical system in my car went, along with alternator and battery as well… All with in 4 months of owning car.. I have spoke with numerous people about pit stop and they have experienced the same issues. Service is expensive and repairs are rigged cover ups.
Simply put stay as far away from Pit Stop on 58 as possible! They’ll act nice and helpful, but really they will get you every time you turn around. Buying a car from them was the worse decision I’ve made on the island. Here’s how to translate what Pit Stop tells you:
“The car is great and will pass JCI no problem”
Translation – “It won’t pass JCI, because the tires are too wide and you’ll be back and pay us to JCI it for you.”
“It failed JCI, but we can easily make the repair for 3,000 Yen”
Translation – “Did I say 3,000, what I really meant was 30,0000 Yen, but you won’t know that until you pick up the car.”
“The car runs and looks great!”
Translation – “You’ll be back within a couple weeks with problems.”
Not to get to deep into matters; my reference to stanards are not involved in any illegal actions and not listed as an off-limits establishment. The branch of service or command actually post the off limit listing for the command. I am not sure who or where but normally it would be found available at the legal office. We should move on to brighter matters.
Ed, I had no idea the military had requirements/standards that used car dealerships off base had to meet in order to be able to sell to US military personnel! What happens if you don’t meet these standards? What are the standards? How would we (the buyer) know if a shop/dealer is approved?
Mike-san; In regards to your comments: Daniel posted his comments without my knowledge I guess to share his story, he’s real; it was not I who posted the comment; this is my comment. I apologize for him using my email address but since it is not linked it doesn’t qualify as span, I believe. To all potential newcomers, now-a-days nearly all “licensed” shops big are small should be able to provide you a dependable vehicle. But please check out the shop, their policies, warranty and please check out the vehicles; especially the belts, radiators, oil leaks, AC, engine (let it run for a little while an pay attention to the various sounds); also check out the exterior/interior condition, tires, brakes, lights and the vehicle model, year and etc… If you then are sure that you have a good deal, buy it, if the price is right. Nearly all shops that sell vehicles to American meet the local military standard or they would not be open. Most shops provide loaner vehicles, full service support and some even go a step or two further. Shop around on-line first, select a few shops or potential vehicles and check them out in person. Have a wonderful day and tour in Okinawa, ED.
I purchased a new Volvo through military sales on 58. We financed through our banking the U.S., the banks on base also offer vehicle financing and I believe the Volvo dealership also has a finance option, but as I remember the rates at the dealership were pretty high. We had no problem getting everything taken care of. Japanese insurance on a new vehicle is pretty costly though so deffinately keep that in mind. I pay just under $2,000 a year with the lousy yen rate. Through the military sales dealerships you can also get stateside delivery after you return back to the states and save a few thousand from what it costs tp get the vehicle here + registration etc… It does take several months to get a Volvo delivered. The military sales program they offer is deffinately worth looking into if you are in the market for a new vehicle, either to drive here or to have ready for you when you go back home. We saved a little over $10,000 versus stateside pricing!!
Before PCSng to Okinawa, I too wanted to purchase a new car. I was mainly looking for a small car like the Honda Fit or Mazda Demio. I found out that the cost is around 1,600,000 JPY. After considering that we were only staying here 2 years, we decided that we were going to get used cars and dump em when we left.
We ended up buying a 2001 Honda Fit for $3000 and a 2000 Toyota Sparky (aka Daihatsu Atrai7) for $2900. The Honda was from the Lemon Lot and I found the Sparky in OkinawaYardSales.
1) As Paul says, you can purchase a new vehicle but the first hurtle is that you cannot get Japanese bank financing because you are SOFA status without a Japan work permit. So you gotta pay cash.
I know what you’re thinking, people finance their cars all the time at BC, Payless, Johnnys, etc. But those are used car dealerships that do their own in-house financing. New car dealerships would finance through their corporate finance or through local banks.
So how much is a new Japanese car? New cars can run as little at 1,000,000 JPY. Nice cars and vans run as high as 3,000,000+ JPY. YOu can google the Japanese websites for Toyota, Nissan, Mazda, Suzuki, etc and they all have prices. Today’s exchange rate is 78 JPY per USD. I cringe just typing it. That would put a 1,500,000 JPY car at $19,231.
2) When you PCS out, like Paul says, depending on what auto manufacturer you purchase, you CAN send it back to the states. Many of these are designated as “E Plate” cars. I think the BMW and Volvo dealerships have models that can be E Plated. If you purshase a Japanese or Korean manufactured vehicle, it is illegal to ship it back to the states (unless it is >25 years old which wouldn’t apply to you). So plan on buying a new BMW or Volvo in cash.
3) And like Paul says, you should have no problems selling it when you PCS. What he doesn’t mention is that if you want to sell it easily, you gotta sell it for CHEAP. If you do purchase a new Japanese vehicle and decide to sell it when you PCS out, presumably 2-3 years from now, the depreciation will be significant. In the order of 30-40%. The reason is that most Americans buy cars between $1000-6000 so selling it to another American will be challenging.
What about locals? Most Okinawans do not buy used cars from private sellers. Nearly all Okinawans buy their cars from dealerships. And where do you think dealerships get their 2-3 year old cars? From wholesale auctions on mainland Japan. Because of this, you would have to take a large hit just to unload it.
Now I’m not saying don’t do it because for all I know, you’re probably well off and can afford to buy a brand new BMW with cash and take it home; or buy a new Japanese car with cash and sell it for cents on the dollar. But for the rest of us who don’t have a trust fund, my suggestion is to buy used.
So I agree with what most people here says, buy a good used car for $4-6000. Drive it for 2-3 years and sell it for $3-4000 when you leave. Or buy a $1000 car and junk it for $200 when you leave. Either way, you won’t lose 4 months pay on the depreciation of your car.
You can buy a new car here no problem, and by planning ahead you should be able to sell it or, depending on the mfg you could ship it back. Do your own homework prior to purchasing. Don’t take other people’s word for it.
Kathy-yes there are new car dealerships. Everything from all the Japanese brands (Nissan, Toyota, etc.) to Mini Cooper, BMW, etc. My husband and I are car enthusiasts and have visited many new car dealerships on this island to look at new models that come out. We are not interested in purchasing a new car over here because we find the prices to be much more than what we would pay in the States and the shipping it back hassle or trying to resell it hassle is not something we want to deal with. Anyway, we have been here 2x and the first time we purchased a 4 door car from someone in the parking lot of the place where you take your driver’s license test. We paid $1400 for it and drove it for over a year with absolutely no problems. We only got rid of it because we decided we wanted a van. We got the van from a dealership (Payless) and drove it for 2 more years with no problems. We ended up selling it for the same price we bought it for so that was awesome. This time we bought both of our cars from used car dealerships. My van from Payless and my hubby’s car from BC. We paid cash for the van and financed my husband’s car. We have had no problems with either car. I live far out and drive my van everyday and I honestly trust it more than I trusted my brand new car in the States. I have 4 young children, so I understand your fear of breaking down, but I rarely see a broken down car on the side of the road here. Basic maintenance should keep almost any car you buy here running for a long time. If you do happen to break down (which I doubt will happen) just use your cell or walk into the nearest place and use their phone and call your hubby or Typhoon Motors or the dealership where you bought it and they will help you out pronto! I cannot think of a place on this island that I would be afraid to break down. You will find that Okinawans are kind and helpful. The money that you would be pouring out for a new car here can be much better spent taking your young children to see all the awesome things there are to see here. I know if I asked my kids what they would prefer, riding around in a new car or being able to go to Round 1, the Aquarium, the Zoo, eat out several nights a week, etc., they would pick all the fun stuff in a second. All that being said, you are going to do what you want, but just thought I’d give you my perspective on it. Enjoy your time here!
http://okinawa.bookoo.com/ for Okinawa always has used cars for sale from people PCS’ing out.
BC Motors was awesome for us. Kathy I hope you have an extra $20,000 to throw away if you’re planning on buying a brand new car and not being able to sell it when you leave. Sorry but it’s the truth and I’ve seen it happen many times in the last 3 years.
We’re headed out to Oki in Feb. I’m a spoiled brat that wants a brand new car. (yea yea, I know) I figure the husband can get the junker, since I’ll be toting 2 kids around…..I want to know I won’t break down anywhere. Are there new car dealerships on the island?
Do not buy from Johnny’s like I did!! Their warranty is horrible (doesn’t cover towing, falty batteries, starter – no rental car while yours is getting fixed) and is only for 90 days. You can get much better service and reliability at BC. Learn from my tough lesson ;).
I totally agree with Carolyn, don’t buy anything from Johnnys. We purchased the car on this may, and now we have a problem with the car! And they didn’t give us a loaner car when we were waiting to get the car from Johnnys…. pricey, terrible customer service and you will end up losing a lot of money to buy it and fix it.
We just bought a car from Payless and they were very nice. I got a Nissan Cube for $4800 total including full coverage insurance. They were out of loner vehicles tonight but will have one ready in the morning. I do not recommend PitStop at all. Their prices are high and the selection is horrible unless you’re looking for an Ipsum.
We bought both our cars at Payless Motors. They upgraded things for us just for buying ( one car got rims instead of hubcaps) the other a new CD player compatible with IPOD. They are great and we are very happy.
Ed (AKA Daniel)
Buy an ad and quit spamming with your advertisements.
I would try some of the smaller car lots. You can get a better warranty, with the same financing for 18 months. The service is great and they remember your name!!! I bought my car at Quality Used Cars. I got a 2001 Toyota Altezza, Charcoal grey with super nice rims. It was spotless inside and out. All of my co-workers are jealous. I even got a 2 year warranty. His lot is a little off the beaten path but Ed provided me with a free ride to his lot on a Saturday night at 8PM. It was a great experience and I love my new(used)car! I reccommend anyone new to the island go see Ed before you purchase anywhere else. I think his website is http://www.qualityusedcarsokinawa.com
ENJOY OKINAWA! I know I am.
Hello. I spent two tours on Okinawa and bought used cars from both Johnny’s and BC. Never had any problems with any of the three cars I had. On my second tour, I had my sponsor drive me straight to Johnny’s after picking me up at the terminal and I had my car in two days. Now, I am going back to Okinawa as a civil service employee (doing the exact same job!), and will have my old fishing buddy Hiroshi take me around car shopping when I get there.
Here is the scoop, if you want to get a good price on a quality used car, try Dan at ezcarz (www.usedcarsokinawa.com) on Rt58 near Lester. He said he would even get something from the auctions for you. They junked my car and I was super happy with their services. They even offered me a discount for the car I junked, on my next car. Try them out, he is a nice American guy so there is no language issue. Oh, and he has a guy that does stereo work also.
hai. im coming to Okinawa in about 2-3 weeks.. i know its crazy but im pretty much looking for a good sports car.. not much into the minivan thing.. haha.. but it would be nice to get sumthing nice and sporty, but not to pricey.. any suggestions?
Vitz is ok, the Nissan Cube has a lot of room in them for a small car. The FunCargo is also a great little car for running around town.
thanks for the insight guys! i just got to the island last friday and need a car. my husband has a car already but is unable to take me around to look for mine, hes on 12s all week and weekend. i need to find something roomy- hes 6’7″ and wants to be able to fit in it also! guess ill try to find a vitz- other suggestions? i want something thats easy to get around in also, we live off base – thanks again!
We bought both our cars off of japanupdate.com, very similar to the lemon lot in that we’re buying from someone leaving the island. I will say be sure you look at numerous cars this way. Most people are understanding about coming to the west pac to see you about it. Lots of the cars we looked at had major problems that we veered away from. My husband and I are by no means mechanics, but we could tell which owners did take care of their cars and which didn’t. Our total for a 96 Odyssey and a 96 Presea Sedan came to under $4000. It was a great deal for us. 2 years later and our presea needs to go into the shop as its making a whining noise, but both cars were in good enough shape to pass their JCI’s in the last year.
The best Used Car Dealer in Okinawa that deals with the American Military is Pit Stop Used Car Sales on Highway 58 south of the Camp Foster Commissary Gate. Just over there and ask to talk to Phillip. Phillip offers Excellent Customer Service and he goes to the Welcome Aboard Brief every Wednesday on Foster. I have talked to many people about these other dealers. I made the mistake and bought a car from B.C., they don’t care about you after you buy there dirty cars. Phillip will even find a customer for you when you leave Okinawa. I not sure how much they are paying him, but he is worth every penny in my book. Once again, go to Pit Stop!
Lynn…put lots of ads out there…Japan Update, Milcir.com, and okinawayardsale.com. You’ll have a taker in no time. We just got another car last week or I would have def. been interested! I wasn’t interested in paying 3K and up at a dealership for a car so I looked crazily every day through classifieds. I know there are others out there doing the same:) Good luck!
My husband and I will be PCS ing soon, but we haven’t get rid of my car yet. We we’re thinking of junking it, but it works very well. Ive been driving it for just a year without failure. Is there somebody out there wants a new car? or new in the island?
I just wanted to comment on Pit Stop. We bought my funcargo from them back in July. I thought it was a little pricey but it looked great inside and out. So far it has been a great car and I love it. They even gave us a loner car while we were waiting for ours to be ready. The way they did business was if the car was say $4000 and you put down a $1000 they would match that thousand. So that left a balance of $2000. Add in your road tax, recycle fee, sales tax and insurance and you are back up to about 2800. Still not a bad deal. Also you can get up to a year warranty but of course you pay for that little piece of mind too but worth it in my mind. We bought our second car from Johnny’s and between the two, I would go to pit stop over johnny’s.
My Husband and I bought a toyota Vitz from Quality auto sales..The couple that owns this company are professional and work with military members with auto junking free six month warranty and a quality car. I am so haapy with my clean newer car…with rims..2001 and under 5000.:)..tell Ed the Romeros sent ya and he won’t be able to do anything but give you the same great deal he gave us…bueno suerte..09037323035..quality car lot..ask for ED…(former military)
The price stickers may not be under $5100, but car price is reduced an extra ~$1000 (as I heard from the salesman), and you can negotiate an even lower price if you know how to bargain. I went a month ago and got my car for $1500 off the price sticker.
Tara, just so you know…
Arrow-shaped stickers are for beginners, the drop-shaped stickers are for elderly drivers. Around here, accidents are considered using a comparative negligence standard to determine which driver is MOST at fault. I think the stickers are meant to give other drivers fair warning, so I give both a wide berth.
On topic, for the last four years we have owned a 97 Toyota Spacio from BC Motors and a 97 Suzuki Wagon R Wide from the Kadena Lemon Lot. Normal maintenace only; no problems with either that weren’t caused by us (and by “us” I really mean my husband)!
We decided to save some money by buying one car at the Lemon Lot and the other from a reputable dealer for the warranty (and spaced-out payments via GI Bill Pay). We don’t know much about cars and didn’t want to risk ending up with two stinkers by purchasing both at the Lemon Lot. Many Americans I know treat their cars like long-term rentals, rarely if ever changing the oil, checking fluids, rotating tires or fixing rust spots etc. There are some good deals to be had, but I’ve also heard a lot of horror stories about Lemon Lot purchases over the last four years. Caveat emptor!
Hey…just wanted to add in here that we went to BC yesterday to have a look at what they have in stock. I couldn’t find a single car there for under $5,100! I was shocked. We purchased our “expensive” family car there for $3100 a year ago. They do have a lovely new building though. I think I’m seeing a correlation between their increase in prices and the loveliness:)
looking for a small SUV like a Mazda s-mx or mistral (prefer non-deisel) anyone have a suggestion?
I am looking at a van at Pit Stop. Any advice on this dealership???? Good/Bad??? Thanks.
Cindy, that sucks.
We didn’t buy our cars off the lemon lot for precisely that reason. We choose to go to BC-a bit more expensive yes, but really, less expensive in the long run when you consider we didn’t have to worry much about getting a lemon!
CAUTION! I purchased a Delica Spacegear van from the Kadena lemon lot. Great looking vehicle, but lots of mechanical problems. Also, the seller lied about the condition, didn’t mention ongoing electrical problems, and actually charged up the *broken* AC before selling, knowing it would only last a couple of weeks!! I’m obviously not a good judge of people, because I never expected to get taken in this way.
Most cars are automatic that I’ve seen.
Are most of the cars, standard or automatic. will be PCS’ing in May 09. Trying to get a jump on things. My wife does not know how to drive a stick, and can not teach her due to being deployed.
We just bought a Funcargo from Payless. They had a Red one also. You may want to try there
I have just arrived and passed my driving test. I am looking for a Toyota Funcargo or Cube. Or something like it. Anyone need to sell there car. : ) Thanks, Nicole
when we arrived, after we got our licenses we rented a car from the place next to Foster WestPac. GREAT move b/c it wasn’t much per day, but we still had the freedom to meet housing agents and look at cars without feeling the pressure to rush or to make our friends drive us around.
we bought one car (2000 Vitz, I agree – fantastic little commuter car with more room than you’d think!) off a nice couple in the Kadena LL – it was their son’s car and he left for college. We negotiated a bit and it worked out great for hubby’s commuter car (from Sunabe to Hansen).
The other car we saw in the parking lot at the hospital on Lester – we saw a sign in the window of (now my car) a Nissan Cube. A wonderfully kind Korean doctor who was PCS-ing to San Diego owned it – low-ish mileage, great condition, and she said she only drove it to & from work and to yoga on Saturdays. She was a dream! So have your cell phone with you (also get THAT early!) so you can call from the parking lot of wherever you are.
Check the lot by the lodges too – people leaving must sell fast and giving you rock bottom prices – and also will probably let you test drive.
Good luck – PAM THAT SUCKS!! Call me.
I agree that all should be careful buying cars off of the lemon lots. I’ve been on Okinawa since 1989, and most Americans don’t really take that good care of their cars. I would ask them for any maintenance paperwork that they may have; i.e., oil changes, new parts, etc. I heard one lady bragging about the good price that she got for her car as she was PCSing, and staying at the Westpac Lodge. She said, “It was a good car. I drove it for three years and never even had to change the oil”. Just my two cents. Have a great tour.
aggghhh, I wish it was congrats on the car, turns out it is actually a lemon from the lemon lot, took it in and needs $2,000 work done to it, it didn’t start this morning and brakes started schreeching, all kinds of probs…after MUCH debate, the owner is taking it back on Monday, so the search is on again…BE CAREFUL! The next car we get, if from lemon lot, we are going to ask to owner to come with us to the mechanic shop for tune up and make sure nothing MAJOR is wrong…aggggghhhhh again!!!
Congrats on the car! It is AMAZING how much more freedom you feel the second you get that first car on island — enjoy!
We just got a car today from the lemon lot on foster…there were not many cars there and the day b4 we were on kadena lemon lot, a lot of cars, we were looking at a delica but didn’t want diesal (even thou hubby is originally a diesal mechanic LOL). We paid $1,500 for a Toyota something or other, I think Edima or something…we just rolled up, luckily owner was there waiting for someone else to see it, other peson came and left and we bought it right there, hope it survives, seems fine, needs a tune up and maybe some brake work and new tires (front)…now we have to find another car, I am just glad we have one!!!
I hope someone else can jump in, but I have “heard” that if you bring your car from the states it counts towards your weight coming over. I have also “heard” that you can ship a car from Okinawa to the states for free as you rate it (you can buy US! ready cars NEW here to drive while you are here and take them back with you. Again, this is just what I have “heard”. The shipment office should know when you schedule your shipments.
Does anyone actually bring their cars to oki from the states? are we allowed? is it free? thanks.
Welcome, welcome, Tara!!! 🙂
Jason: I’ve been in Oki for a week, and that sums up what I was told about the new driver thingey (is it a sticker or a magnet??). Also, there’s another type of sticker that you might see around… it’s for drivers that are 70 yrs old. I don’t remember if they told us during our safety briefing if the fault is doled out similarly when in an accident with a senior, but I suspect so. I must admit that the “un-stickered” drivers make me more nervous though… particularly when they’re like my husband. He’s already adjusted well to being on the other side of the road, but too many times I’ve found myself sitting right on top of the line between [same-direction] lanes and yelling at him not to make me intimately familiar with the driver next to us. o_O He did that a little back in the States, but is worse here.
As to the main topic of this section: We went to BC Motors outside of the USO gate on Kadena… it’s not far to walk to from TLF or the Shogun Inn. (There’s another down Hwy 58 a little ways too, but I didn’t know that until 3 days later.) On top of the one-year warranty, they offer 18-month no-interest financing as well. So even though they’re more expensive overall, I felt much better going with them than taking a chance at the Lemon Lot (though someone has a cute lil purple Daihatsu Tieros right now). Plus they do tend to knock about $1000 off the price right off the bat, and will take a little more if getting more than one vehicle at the same time. Our total monthly payment for both will be around $400, so that’s not too shabby (IMO). Oh yeah, and if you’re someone who has difficulty with some of the accents around here (as my hubby does), BC’s good for that too. I’ve have more trouble understanding some of my Midwestern friends than I did with Reggie and the lady inside who did our paperwork (hers was more obvious, but she was very clear – I forgot her name though!)
We didn’t shop around as much as I normally would have done, as hubby was already on island for 2 weeks and had resorted to renting a car so he could stop mooching off of co-workers. Luckily, we found a couple cars we were both happy with. He got a 1999 Toyota Vitz, which has a ton of leg & head room for a little car, though could use a little more pick-up-and-go power (FYI). (Be warned about getting a silver car though… you will likely find yourself trying to unlock someone else’s car in the parking lot!) I got a 2000 Nissan March Mia, which I absolutely ADORE so far (and it’s purple too!). I have no idea how to set my clock though ^^; All that being said, I have to say that we don’t have kids, so am unsure how either would work with strollers & whatnot. They’re comfy if you’re a passenger though, even in the backseat (which is a requirement to me, and I always test the back as thoroughly as I do the driver’s seat). I had one simple requirement when looking: big enough to carry 4 people fairly comfortably, but small enough to park off-base easily. Mission accomplished. [Sorry if TMI, but I write as I talk (babble)]
Another thing that should probably be mentioned… The “New driver sticker” shown in the photo at the top of this article. From what I understand, for new Japanese drivers the sticker will serve as a sort of alert to other drivers to be careful around them. I also understand that if a driver diplaying this sticker is in an accident, a good bit of the responsibility can be given to the OTHER driver, due to the fact that the “Sticker car” is a new and inexperienced driver.
Now… For those of us with a SOFA license, it’s just a cool Japanese novelty item. People carrying a SOFA licenses in Japan are considered “professional drivers”, and therefore not entitled to the “benefits” of the new driver sticker, thus rendering it meaningless.
I may not be 100% correct with this info, but if my memory serves correctly, this is the way it goes. If anyone has any other, or contradicting info, please post it. I won’t be offended to be proven wrong, just want to get the word out on how this sticker really works.
DH arrived on the island first and bought a car from the Kadena lemon lot. A month later we purchased 2 more vehicles (we have a 20 y/o) at the same place and I have to say they have served us well. There was the usual wear and tear, i.e. brakes and such, but the way cheaper price more than made up for that.
I agree with an earlier poster that if something should happen we go ahead and buy another island junker and hope for the best.
I agree with Jason – if you know something about cars, the lemon lots can be a cheap and easy way to go. One year isn’t a long time for a warranty, and if you know what to look for in a car, you can spot some of the major problems brewing in advance and can try to avoid buying one that would need major repairs. My husband is good with cars, and we test-drove several cars from lemon lots before deciding on our Nissan van and Toyota Avalon (total: $5000). He actually got the Avalon from someone PSC-ing from his shop at work – another decent option (buying directly from the person you’re replacing or another person at work who’s leaving soon). In any case, after purchasing our vehicles, my husband took them to a local mechanic for a “super tune-up” to make sure they were in good running condition for our family – new tires, new battery, new oil, checks on a whole bunch of belts and things, etc. I think I would recommend that everyone buying a used car get a super tune-up, no matter where you purchase your car – that way you can feel confident that key aspects of your car are in good running order (ie, how do we know for sure when the tires were replaced or the oil was changed?, etc.).
While I was in Okinawa, we bought a total of 3 cars from the lemon lot on Kadena, and saved a TON of money in the process. All 3 vehicles served us well too, with just minor wear and tear expenses. One of them lasted us the entire 7 years we were there, and is still cruising around the island today! If you have the money to spend, and maybe know a little bit about what to look at on a car, I’d say it’s your best bet. The warranty at BC is nice, but you pay for it. And if your $900 Lemon lot mobile happens to die in a plume of smoke and fire, you just go get yourself another $900 beater and you’re still in it for less than you would have paid at a car dealer. Just my 2 cents.
We will be in Okinawa in 2 weeks and the one thing I have been stressing about is a vehicle. Thanks for all your comments, I know they will help us when we are looking.
My husband and I have just PCS’d here to Okinawa. We have been here just over a week and did quite a bit of shopping before we settled on our car. Since we didn’t have a car, it was a bit difficult going to all the dealerships and such, but our sponsor has been very helpful. You should look at both lemon lots, one at Foster and Kadena. The lemon lot at Kadena has more cars. We ended up buying our car at Johnny’s and feel we got a pretty good deal. The prices at the dealerships are a bit higher than those you see at the lemon lots but we felt that having the warranty was well worth it. Just keep in mind, you will not be allowed to test drive the car. Check the car thoroughly before buying. Make sure the exterior is not rusted (humidity and rust are a big problem here in Okinawa) and check to make sure the AC is cold. Take a look under the hood and make sure the engine looks clean as well. In the end, we paid about $4000 for our car. We would have liked to have bought a car with a yellow plate (less taxes and insurance) but alas couldn’t find a car we liked so we opted for a car with a white plate instead. Best of luck.
Well, we have started our shopping. We are looking for a van. Thanks for all of the information from previous post.
What about AFEES….
I just got here to Okinawa last Tuesday, and promptly bought a 1995 Skyline from B&C out of Gate 2 also. We looked around the lemon lot and a few other places, but in the end it came down to the warranty. This will be my 9th year in Japan (Yokosuka x 5 yrs, Misawa x 3) and their deal is actually pretty good compared to the other bases. Misawa’s was close, but I dont remember a 1 year guarannty. I’ll send another message if my car dies in a plume of smoke in 2 months. lol
One other thing, I recommend getting tinted windows for anyone who has little ones.
OK, so I have to add that I do have a larger vehicle. It’s a Mitsubishi Chariot Grandis – I’m not sure if it counts as an SUV or van. Although it CAN be a pain driving around the smaller roads here I like it anyway. I have a toddler and an infant and I like having plenty of room for my carseats and stroller(s). Plus we have the option of pulling up a 3rd row in the event that we want to carpool or have relatives visiting us. I guess my ideal would be if the car were smaller on the outside but larger on the inside however I don’t think that’s going to happen anytime soon. Let me know when someone patents that invention!
We bought both of our cars from the BC Motors right outside of Kadena Gate 2 after doing quite a bit of shopping around. We looked through the Lemon Lot, the parking lot outside of the Westpac, and Johnny’s Used Cars. I think the main selling point for us was the 1 year warranty that BC Motors offered. It made us feel really secure to know that if something went wrong within that time frame we hadn’t dropped a whole lot of money for nothing. We’ve been very happy with the service at BC Motors and have had one of the cars fixed twice under the warranty. Luckily we have not had any problems with our other car so far.
So we bought our first two cars out of the Kadena Lemon Lot. Mostly because it was easier then trying to figure out the taxi system and we didn’t know how to get off base or what to do. I think we got an ok price for our van and a good price for the sedan. Unfortunately, 9 months later, our sedan (the newer of the 2 cars), died in a plume of smoke and fire (unfortunately, that’s not an exaggeration). Our van has taken about 500 dollars in repairs. To their credit, I think the servicemen who sold us our cars were as honest as they could be. It’s hard to know how 10 yr old cars are going to do.
We replaced our sedan with a Toyota Ipsum station wagon from BC Motors. We probably paid 500-1000 dollars more for it then for something in the lemon lot. But, it comes with a one yr warrantee if anything major goes wrong. In the last yr we replaced the battery (50 bucks).I’ve been really happy with the Ipsum. Its a great car that has given me very little trouble. I think if you’re shooting for a more expensive car like a station wagon or van that you are going to pay over 3000 dollars for, its well worth it to go to BC Motors or a similar dealership. Thye price of their more expensive cars is close to what you’ll get in the Lemon lot and the warrantee gives you peace of mind. If you’re looking for just a 2 door sedan, many of which are available on the island for less them 1000, then you may want to consider whether you feel the extra money is worth the warrantee (i.e. will you use up 1000 in repairs in the next year).I would definitely look at the dealerships though, I wish I had.