Mini Trucks and Kei Turbo Cars - Japan Car Direct - JDM Export Import Pros (2022)

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Are you looking for the perfect utility vehicle or ATV? Well, the Japanese mini truck is the perfect truck for you! Mini trucks are amazing go-anywhere machines that are fun, durable, easy to maintain and extremely affordable (starting at $800 for a good condition 25 year old one and up to more than $5000 for those around 10 years old with dump boxes). They are just one of the handiest vehicles you can find. They are easily maneuverable, sporting 4WD on all makes with hi and low range. These trucks have plenty of power, unbeatable fuel efficiency (avg. 16Kpl / 36.7Mpg), and of course the comfort of a full cab with optional A/C. All makes have fold down sides and rear gates available, so it’s very easy to haul whatever you are loading on or off. The good thing about these trucks is that most of them will haul 12-1500lbs of load. Opposed to a standard utility vehicle, they have much more payload capacity for their size. Fold ‘em down and rock and roll!

Those that are carbureted can reach 55-60mph, and those with fuel injectors can get up to 65-70mph. They are supremely versatile and can be converted to anything you are looking for, most commonly, a modified dump truck. Mini trucks have been popular throughout Asia for decades. Now the rest of the world is waking up to their practical appeal. This is especially true in the United States, Canada, Australia and the UK, where more and more people are importing used mini trucks directly from Japan.

Mini Trucks and Kei Turbo Cars - Japan Car Direct - JDM Export Import Pros (1)

Some of the Different Mini Truck Versions

Mini Trucks with dump beds are great for farming, construction sites, landscaping jobs etc.
Mini Trucks and Kei Turbo Cars - Japan Car Direct - JDM Export Import Pros (2)

Box Mini Trucks come in standard and refrigeration unit types. Perfect for local delivery of goods that need to be kept dry, safe and even refrigerated.
Mini Trucks and Kei Turbo Cars - Japan Car Direct - JDM Export Import Pros (3)

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There are also a number of different soft top covers that fit on all stock Mini Trucks.

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Trucks with lifts make every heavy job safer and easier.
Mini Trucks and Kei Turbo Cars - Japan Car Direct - JDM Export Import Pros (5) Mini Trucks and Kei Turbo Cars - Japan Car Direct - JDM Export Import Pros (6)

Fire Truck.
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Gas Tanker.
Mini Trucks and Kei Turbo Cars - Japan Car Direct - JDM Export Import Pros (8)

Farm Tanker.
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Delivery Truck.
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(Video) Loding Japanese Mini Trucks

Customers who want to export a Kei Truck from Japan often ask us: What is the Best Kei Truck?

Ouch! This one is hard to answer.

The Japanese kei truck is one of the ultimate utility vehicles. It’s an engineering and mechanical ideal: The Most for the Least / Do More With Less. As such there is little room for frills and fancy stuff in any of the kei trucks, be it the Daihatsu Hi-Jet, the Suzuki Carry, the Subaru Sambar, or any of the others. In a sense, they are all basically alike: tough, simple, long-lasting, cheap to run, highly capable. The most capability for the least metal and fuel and money.

Deciding which kei truck is the best to export from Japan is thus a difficult question because choosing between good and bad is easy, but choosing between good and good is much harder. Whichever kei truck you buy, you get something good and you won’t lose.

I’ve had a number of kei trucks and other Japanese Kei vehicles and, with the kei trucks, my favorite is the pre-October-1998 Subaru Sambar.

Mini Trucks and Kei Turbo Cars - Japan Car Direct - JDM Export Import Pros (11)

But that doesn’t mean that it’s “The Best.” Although I think it is, or, at least, I like it most; but I’ll be the first to admit its drawbacks. For example, it doesn’t have a full low range like you get with the excellent Suzuki Carry. But I’ve always been well satisfied with the Sambar’s Extra Low as more than enough to get me out of anything off road.

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Some guys will swear by the Hi-Jet, or the Acty, or the Minicab, or whatever, and I can’t disagree. Other guys will point out that having the engine at the extreme rear (as in the Sambar) is not ideal due to the increased potential for over steer on dodgy road surfaces.

True. And yet I found more over steer in our two Honda Actys on dirt and gravel roads at speed. Not the fault of the vehicle, really, since only dorks overdrive the conditions, right? But, yeah, I’m sometimes a dork. (Hey, you gotta have fun sometimes, and if you can’t have fun on a middle-of-nowhere back road in your kei truck, then where can you have fun?)

For build quality, many kei truck owners will plug for the Daihatsu Hi-Jet. Again, I’m with them on that, based on the Hi-Jets that I have test driven (although I’ve never owned one or used one for work, so I have no experience on long term with a Hi-Jet). But still, when it comes time for me to look for my next used kei truck, I’m going to look for a nice, fresh, Subaru Sambar.

For all round value and cheap running cost and good parts availability, I guess the Suzuki Carry truck is in the lead, and its full-on low range in 4WD is awful nice. I’ve had good fun off-road in Carrys, both pre 98s and (once) in a newer, post 98 model. That full low range is great. At the moment, I’ve got the use of a newer model Suzuki Carry owned by a lady friend of mine up here on Mount Fuji, so I’m content. I mean, content with the kei truck….well, and the lady friend, too. I’ve got no complaints about her, but I do, actually, have complaints about her kei truck. The late model Carry trucks now have a transmission that I just don’t like. I don’t like the way it goes into gear, too wishy washy and clunky thunky. Guys, go for the older Carry trucks, I think they are better. So, for the folks in the USA, the UK, Canada, and Australia that can’t get the new kei trucks anyway, I’d say you’re not missing anything much. Go old kei truck.

Now, for something to help you decide what may be the best kei truck for you to import from Japan, we have some articles over on our blog here, here, here, and here.

Of course, if you can get the chance to test drive your friend’s kei truck, jump at the chance. The things that make you decide on the kei truck you pitch for, the kei truck that is best for you, may be very subjective. It’s that way for me with the Sambar. This is because, at base, like I said before, all the Japanese kei trucks are good, and are good value. There are no “easy outers” in the kei truck dugout. Every kei truck is a slugger.

Especially these days, with hard economic times coming, due to government responses to the Corona Virus, a Japanese kei truck is going to be the best vehicle going forward, especially for preppers, for people hoping to stay out of the cities but who need to work, get around, stock up, you name it; for hunters who really do need to bring home the bacon (well, the venison, actually); for people who are forced to downsize and cut back on their contracting, landscaping, or small delivery service, again, a kei truck is the best thing to have right now. We’re all going to have to cut back, but with a kei truck, you don’t have to cut back on capability and capacity.

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We don’t know what the world will look like after all this is settled. There seem to be fewer and fewer things that we can rely on. But with their high reliability, high capability, and low running costs, I think that we can rely on our kei trucks. They’ll keep their value, too in the months and years ahead.

FAQs

How much is a JDM mini truck? ›

Well, the Japanese mini truck is the perfect truck for you! Mini trucks are amazing go-anywhere machines that are fun, durable, easy to maintain and extremely affordable (starting at $800 for a good condition 25 year old one and up to more than $5000 for those around 10 years old with dump boxes).

How much do Kei trucks cost in Japan? ›

You can quickly get a used Kei truck that costs around $800 to $5000 instead of purchasing a new one. Do not worry! You can buy a quality truck in this range. Furthermore, they are simple to operate and drive and far more capable of doing daily errands.

What are Japanese mini trucks used for? ›

For example, in the US, you can find the Japanese mini truck being used for activities like hunting, off-road tours, groundskeeping, load carrying, farming, etc. Even in countries like Canada, the Kei truck is converted into mini dump trucks. In some parts, you can see folks plowing snow with the Kei truck.

Why are Kei vehicles so popular in Japan? ›

Kei cars are not only popular with the elderly, but they are also popular with youths, especially younger families because of their affordability and ease of use.

How long do Kei trucks last? ›

Mini trucks will typically last around 150,000 miles when properly cared for. If the vehicle is mainly used for transportation and not carrying load it can often last close to 200,000 miles.

How long do kei cars last? ›

In 2021, the average lifespan of light motor passenger cars (kei cars) permanently returned in Japan was 15.57 years, increasing from 13.2 years a decade earlier. The average lifespan of regular passenger cars had increased as well over the last ten years.

How fast can Kei trucks go? ›

7 Examples (+ Rules To Know) For Japanese mini trucks, the speed could go up to 62-75 mph. You should bear in mind that these trucks, by vehicle class and by law, were only designed for a maximum speed of about 50 mph.

Can you drive a kei truck in the US? ›

A mini truck less than 25 years old cannot be legally imported into the U.S. as an on-road vehicle unless the vehicle is brought up to FMVSS compliance.

What gas mileage does a mini truck get? ›

Specifications. The Acty comes available in a RWD or Real Time 4WD drivetrain that can be paired with a 4 speed automatic or 5 speed manual transmission. Approximately 45 hp is put out through a fuel efficient 600cc engine that can achieve up to 45 mpg.

Can Kei trucks tow? ›

Mini trucks are better at towing. Due to the size and weight of a mini truck, it sure does tow better than a side by side vehicle. For example, the Suzuki carry mini truck has a towing capacity of almost 2000 Ibs while UTVs typically have a towing capacity of 1500- 2000 Ibs.

How much weight can a kei truck carry? ›

Typically, Kei trucks weigh no more than 1,800 pounds and have a payload capacity of 400 to 1,400 pounds.

How much can a kei truck hold? ›

Despite the size and engine displacement, most kei trucks have a bed load capacity of nearly 350 kg (770 lb). For export markets, kei trucks are usually fitted with bigger engines to allow them even more carrying capabilities.

Why do Japanese people like small cars? ›

The biggest reason that cars are often smaller in Japan is because tax incentives basically make it more appealing and affordable to own a small car. In Japan, roughly 30% of the domestic car market consists of Kei cars (ultra mini cars). Kei cars are popular because they cost less to tax and less to insure.

What is the purpose of Kei cars? ›

Most Kei cars are still made in Japan and built primarily for crowded urban Japanese roads and space-saving parking spaces. It might be helpful to understand them as the most basic individual transportation for the masses, sort of like compacts and subcompacts here in America.

Are Kei cars fuel efficient? ›

To meet kei car regulations, it is 3.4 metres long, 1.48 metres wide and 1.49 metres high and powered by a 660cc three-cylinder engine. Fuel economy, which is boosted by regenerative braking, is claimed to be 94.1mpg on the Japanese test cycle.

Are mini trucks good on gas? ›

With 45 mpg or more, the gas mileage is an advantage to the mini truck and makes it appealing for many purposes. This does not diminish the horsepower and they will climb a steep track even when carrying a load in four wheel drive.

Do mini trucks have AC? ›

Most mini trucks are fitted with air conditioning units, as well as heaters, while many alternatives do not have them. Keep yourself, or your team, cool with a mini truck that is capable and comfortable in all conditions and climates.

Is it hard to get parts for mini trucks? ›

Body panels and glass are some of the most difficult to find parts for mini trucks. We keep a steady supply of parts trucks that help us stock some of the more difficult parts to come by.

How much are mini semis? ›

The basic kits for these vehicles start at around $12,950 but there are a lot of options and accessories you can purchase for it.

How fast do mini trucks go? ›

For Japanese mini trucks, the speed could go up to 62-75 mph.
...
How Fast Are Mini Trucks? 7 Examples (+ Rules To Know)
ModelMax. Speed
Suzuki Carry75 mph
Subaru Sambar87 mph
Mazda Scrum49 mph
Tata Ace Mega50 mph
3 more rows
Sep 13, 2019

Can you drive a Kei truck in the US? ›

A mini truck less than 25 years old cannot be legally imported into the U.S. as an on-road vehicle unless the vehicle is brought up to FMVSS compliance.

How much does a Kei van cost? ›

Mini trucks are amazing go-anywhere machines that are fun, durable, easy to maintain and extremely affordable (starting at $800 for a good condition 25 year old one and up to more than $5000 for those around 10 years old with dump boxes).

What are small semi trucks called? ›

As the term may imply, a “running Bobtail” truck is a smaller semi-truck without a trailer. A semi-truck consists of two main components; a tractor unit and a trailer. A fifth-wheel type hitch attaches the trailer with the tractor unit.

How much is a mini Kenworth truck? ›

According to the write-up this min-kenworth truck toook 2,850 man hours of work, and cost $85,000. It is powered by a three cylinder diesel and was made by Transport Jacques Auger in conjunction wit Donald Gingras. Transport Jacques Auger is a Canadian oil transport company.

What is the smallest Peterbilt? ›

Alongside the Class 7 Model 340, Peterbilt introduced its smallest-ever conventional, the Class 5 Model 325 (the latter, not requiring a CDL to operate).

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