CC  1

Japan has an image as an expensive country, but with a little searching, you can find some pretty good deals. For example, the other day I went out and got a haircut, bought a shirt, and had a pretty good sushi lunch, and none of those three expenditures cost me more than a thousand yen (US $9.80).

Still, my bargain hunting skills can’t compete with those of our Japanese-language correspondent Go, who with 980 yen just bought himself a car.

Recently, Go spent a few days poking around two of Japan’s biggest used car sites, Goo-net and Car Sensor Net. After all, summer is coming soon, and as convenient as Tokyo’s trains are, they start smelling pretty ripe once both the temperature and humidity start soaring in June.

So imagine his excitement when he came across a dealer in Nagoya that was selling a car for just 1,000 yen ($9.80). Granted, as a 1997 model, it wasn’t the newest model in stock, but still, with a price like that, this was something we had to follow up on.

SC 5

A car that costs less than a beer in a swanky Tokyo bar isn’t something you see every day, so we knew it was only a matter of time until someone else spotted this amazing offer, too. So we picked up the phone and called the seller, the Nagoya branch of the Minikuru dealership network, to ask if the car was still available.

Thankfully, they said they were still looking for a buyer, so we jumped right into the negotiation process. With a price this low, we figured they had to be some sort of catch. For example, did the car, a Mitsubishi Minica Guppy, actually run?

The dealer assured us that the powertrain, suspension, and brakes were fine, and that the Minica would get us back to Tokyo with no problems. They did tell us that the rear left door handle was broken, but estimated a mechanic could repair it for a few thousand yen.

SC 6

Nor had the car been run into the ground. The car had seen surprisingly little use over its 17 years, with just 93,000 kilometers (57,787 miles) on the odometer.

SC 8

Really, the only major drawback we could find was that the car’s shaken (the periodic safety inspection mandated by Japanese law) was going to expire in November, so we’d have to take the car into a certification center in the fall. This was hardly a deal-breaker, though.

When buying a car, the cost of the vehicle itself is just one expense, though. There’re also things like insurance and registration, and according to the car’s listing, these would tack a little less than 90,000 yen ($886) onto the total cost. Everything listed on the website was pretty standard though, and we confirmed with Minikuru that there were no other hidden fees.

Honestly, we were ready to pull the trigger on our purchase right then and there. In negotiations, though, many people say you should reject the first offer, so we decided to push our luck just a little bit. “Is 1,000 yen really the best price on the car you can give us?” we asked.

SC 9

To our shock, the dealer admitted they could indeed knock another 20 yen off for us. With that, we were sold, and so was the car.

Even with the ridiculously low amount of revenue the transaction was bringing into Minikuru, the dealer didn’t treat us like second-class customers at all. As a matter of fact, as we arrived in Nagoya to take possession of our new ride, we were surprised to see the Minica parked at the front of the lot, with its blue paint shining from a fresh wash by the Minikuru staff.

SC 10

SC 7

True to their word, the invoice showed the cost of the car was just 980 yen.

SC 3

Our attentive dealer had even agreed to take care of the necessary paperwork to register the car and set it up with liability insurance for the next eight months. Even adding in taxes and sales processing fees, the total price we paid to drive off in our Minica was just 89,800 yen (US $880).

▼ The laptop we’re using to type this report cost more than our new car

SC 2

So did the car actually run?

As you can see, the Minica got us back to Tokyo without a hitch. Even with only a 660 cc engine, Go reports the lightweight car has good acceleration, and the cabin is relatively vibration-free, even on the expressway. As a matter of fact, the only quibble he had was that the windshield wipers could be smoother in their movement.

For private transportation at this price, though, he can live with it.

Dealer information
Minikuru Nagoya Branch / みにクル 名古屋店
Address: Aichi-ken, Nagoya-shi, Meito-ku, Takabari 1-703
Open 10 a.m.-9 p.m.
Closed Wednesdays
[ Read in Japanese ]