Well, I've shortlisted some much nicer cars than I'd ever thought I'd be able to have, to be honest. I was ready to buy a $15-30K car, something used and German, low cc's, but it turns out that buying a car is kind of an all-encompassing statement, you either buy a car, car, or you don't, it's a very different world here. Also, my wife finally started working and making some money
I hadn't gone into the idea of buying a car thinking I'd finance it, but there's about a gazillion extraneous factors that I have to contend with here, as opposed to the much simpler (!!) process of buying a car in the US; in Tokyo:
- parking is expensive as hell. $300-500 a month for a basic spot near home, $20 everytime you want to park someplace else for a few hours. So on that alone, I'd want a car that is nice enough to really justify the cost of parking it, and it makes for a certain number.
- A new 0-mile car comes with 3 years, then subsequent reg'os get 2 years. Therefore, used cars come with maximum 2 years reg'o unless they're less than a year old and on the first registration, but in the real world, a used car is on the second or third and thus usually less than 2 years left (and the time remaining does factor into the price too) - costs during a registration year can be like $10K, other years pretty normal. The car has to be in perfect condition to pass, down to the seat upholstery and suspension bushings. Harder to hedge on a used car in this scenario. I have nothing against a used car normally, but given the insane regulations - somebody else's used car could be a money sink. Certainly don't have a garage or tools where I could DIY anything either. Japanese car registration is notoriously strict.
- Extreme used market values - top of the range models like M3's, 911's, anything that is sporty, compact - they have great residuals. If they have no power, like a 320i, then they depreciate like a rock, you can get a nice used very recent 320i for like, $12-18K. Nobody wants those. There's a decent market for the sports specials though, and they hold very good residual value, so they are smart to buy out if you can. This town is Porsche heaven.
-New cars come with service coupons, full maintenance, loaners, etc - used cars don't come with anything. Same as America, but very separate. Some cars are grey market and those are harder to get serviced.
-When it's time to get rid of your used car - you can try to sell it used, but likely will have trouble unless it's desirable (and used cars aren't really, see point 2 about registrations) - if it gets to the point where it's near useless, and sadly that could mean something up to like, $10K book value - you pay a fee for someone to actually take it away as a 'recycling fee' or basically give it to the dealer and let them export it, and instead of giving you some sort of credit for the car they might give you a waiver on the recycling fee, or some tax waiver, it's not much.
Financially, the two big differences would be that:
-the forex is haywire obviously, and the yen is way too strong. And if I can finance at 1.9% and hedge on the yen going down over the loan term (which it will, at least a little) - that alone will be thousands of dollars. Paying cash in the current climate would be kinda dumb, one just pays 25% more. Part of that could be amortized, even with a little interest working against it.
-Japanese loan terms are INSANE. They've Japan-ified the car loan to allow pretty much anyone to buy anything they want, barring like, F-cars and lamborghinis. Here's how, it's very unique and centered around the Japanese salaryman culture (in Asia people get paid 14 times a year) it's a lend-lease.
For an $85,000 car, a worksheet looks like this (and the rates are crazy, like 1.9% fixed)
a) downpayment - $15k
b) 58/59 months of a relatively very low monthly payment - $500
c) bi-annual 'bonus time' payments required, x 10 - $1500-$2500 (because of the 14 salary payments per year, they intend for you to use your bonus on this)
d) in month 60, you can pay a deferred amount of like, $25K, something very large to own the car outright- but the catch is, most people do not, it really depends on the market price of the car - so the philosophy on the buyer side is the same way a US lease works. There's a loophole where you can forfeit the car penalty free, and get a new car from the same maker, all other transfer fees waived. So for example, get 2012 Boxster now, in 2017, I want a 911 - I trade in the car and they waive the deferred payment and then get me a new car. You can also do this anytime before month 60
as well, you could get a new car every 6 months if you wanted.
It's a way for the makers to basically make trade-ins exclusive, they make money, and one basically ends up leasing a car. It's very strange. It's not the cheapest way to buy a car in this world, but considering what things cost here, it's in line with a lot of things - a, b, and c, on the worksheet don't really faze me considering what I pay in rent, and parking the thing will cost nearly what the payment is. It's also probably why everybody around here drives really nice, brand new cars. No point in paying that much to park a shitbox.
So that said, if I actually buy a car, it basically needs to be a marque that I'd want to keep driving virtually forever - or one that has a reasonable resale value that I can recoup costs on by buying out my deferred amount.
My shortlist has basically boiled down to the new 911 - base C2, virtually no options besides a sunroof and the PDK - they have great resale value so it's likely that I'd do the buy option at the end. Probably about the best resale, actually.
The M3 is getting old and with the competition pack, actually costs a little more than the 911. Likewise, the RS5 does as well. There's a lot of cars that cost less and are very nice, like the A7 or the new CLS, even the AMG C63 - but those will tank in value and so they'd end up being a very expensive lease.
Anyway, yeah, it's very different. Later i also want to get a used G500 with the intent to keep it forever, and probably not baby it so much - just park it at a cheaper chainlinked parking lot under a bridge or expressway. Then I can take my dog places in the wagon, like the beach or mountains.
There's a few upsides here though:
- great private garages that specialize in any kind of make and model - specific models at that. They're all great mechanics too, and labor rates are better here, nowhere near $100/unit or whatever it is in America for nicer cars. I think one could feasibly own a new-age Ferrari here for less than $1/mile.
- gas isn't bad at all, considering it's an island in the middle of the ocean. $4/gallon, starts at 96 RON, goes to about 103 or something crazy.
- people respect your property here well, don't need to worry about coming out and finding your car keyed or anything like that. Your car will be probably be parked to 5 other people's nice cars in any given lot anyway, everybody has nice cars. People on the street aren't gonna gawk at you unless you're driving some customized LP640 or something.
-nice infrastructure, supremely smooth roads, and you can drive cars with low ground clearance.