Tuesday, May 6, 2008

Sha'ken Not Stirred

Those of you playing along with the home version of the game may notice that the Kiwification Process indicator on the right bar has been updated to include both the School for the Girls and Car. Moving to Ngaio has convinced us that we need a car to adequately attend to the needs of our family and home. We were game to give it a go without---for a while---and if we stayed in the city we'd have probably done without one for a while longer even. But life in the suburbs requires a car, no doubt about it.

Jim (a repeat character on this blog) alerted us to a car dealer that deals in used Japanese cars exclusively. They sell low cost high volume cars that they get from Japan, clean up both cosmetically and mechanically, and then pass on to Kiwis who want used Japanese cars. There's a whole industry here in NZ to deal with taking Japanese used cars and preparing them for New Zealand streets. And there are some interesting reasons why that is so.

Sha'Ken (車検)

Shaken is basically Japanese car inspection.

But where car inspection is relatively straightforward in the US (yearly safety and/or two-year emissions standards inspections,) in Japan it's more involved and expensive. In California you pay $47 for a "smog check" emissions inspection. If you need a full safety inspection you'd pay somewhere around $100 or so. In Japan, fees associated with Sha'ken on a 5 year old vehicle may be as high as $1500 USD or more!

New cars must submit to Shaken after the first three years, and then every two years after that (in most cases.) Aside from the aforementioned fees, the vehicle owner also has to pay for all repairs to return the car to legal driveable state or they get a big red sticker on the back indicating that the car is fuseikaizousha! Mechanics there apparently charge an arm and a leg as Japanese cars are generally very reliable. Things are definitely structured to encourage car owners to get rid of their cars before having to submit to Shaken too many times.

The costs and rigors of the Shaken have given rise to a very large used vehicle export industry in Japan, and Japan's loss is very literally New Zealand's gain.

In Japan, they drive on the left-hand side of the road with the steering wheel on the right-hand side of the cabin. Just like here in NZ and in the UK and Australia. Unlike the UK and Australia, New Zealand has no domestic auto industry to protect and does not have high tariffs on import cars. These used Japanese cars are super-cheap here!

Our new car is a 2000 Honda Civic 5-door hatchback. It's light blue/gray-blue in color. It's very clean and in excellent mechanical condition. We bought it from Shackel Motors over on Kent Terrance in Wellington. They specialize in the used Japanese car trade and keep a constant flow of overseas cars coming through. Many of their cars cost less than $10,000 NZD, or around $7,000 USD for cars between 5 and 10 years old. Most of these cars are very low mileage and very lightly used (Japan isn't exactly a huge country and the Japanese don't eat in their cars like we do... the interiors are extremely clean.) Our Civic has about 64k kms on it. That's kilometers. That's less than 40k miles. For an 8 year old car. Crazy.

So cheap! And so many to choose from. What an unexpected but happy thing to discover about global automotive market dynamics!

Our little 1500cc engine won't suck down the gas, either. At $1.80 for a liter of petrol (somewhere around $7/gallon) we're not keen to use too much of the stuff.

You'd expect cars like the Toyota Prius to be popular here, but we don't see very many of them at all. The green-thinking angle coupled with the low petrol use makes it a shoo-in for NZ drivers, but I'm guessing when the Prius turns 6 or 7 years old we'll start seeing used ones showing up on boats from Japan as owners sell them instead of submitting to a Sha'ken on a hybrid car over there.

1 comment:

Cathy said...

Wonderful car, what a deal! It is amazing to me that you guys have found the right "modus operandi" for each task you have accomplished. I stand (or rather sit) in awe.