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Please help

Discussion in 'Introductions' started by bmwr71, Oct 16, 2019.

  1. bmwr71

    bmwr71 New Member

    Hello boys and girls. I have a problem. For years I have wanted a Kei truck. I first saw them at a National Farm Machinery Show 20 years or more ago and I was impressed, especially by the custom ones displayed. Over the years, I have watched them on fleabay and on Craig's list and looked at different dealers and such and just couldn't justify buying one in my mind because they were not allowed to be licensed in my state, Kentucky.

    Eventually, there was a specific law passed in Kentucky that treats the Kei trucks like ATVs. It specifies that the only way a Kei truck can be used on public roads is if it is being used for farm or construction work or for snow removal and must have one of those slow moving vehicle triangles on it. Believe if I remember correctly that local county clerk offices can decide to license them.

    Not long ago, found a vendor claiming that their trucks could be licensed all around the country (but check with your local government masters) and that their trucks were titled as pickups and not mini trucks. I had already in the past been in contact with the county clerk's office director regarding the mini trucks and was told no way to license them, but I decided to try again with the new information with the title and the historic age. This time she said there may be a way. After supplying her info and a copy of an example title, she said she could license one for me because there was authority given to local governments for exceptions. Soooo, hopefully one hurdle past to get to a licensed mini. And also called my insurance company and was told no problem insuring one. Second barrier breached.

    I am still afraid of spending the money on one of these trucks. I own some old Chinese army motorcycles (knockoffs of a BMW R71, the name I used here) and some Russian ones and I well know the problems of owning oddball vehicles. I fear buying a mini truck and finding that parts are difficult to get, information is difficult to get, and they aren't really practical to use as a long term daily driver. I need to know if they are easy or difficult to work on, parts are not difficult to get and will be available in the future, and in general they are fine for daily driving and therefore are practical to own and depend on?????

    I know several businesses sell these trucks. There is one maybe a 45 minute drive from where I live, but they say their trucks are not able to be licensed. As I have jumped through the hoops with the info and title from this one vendor, it seems the safe way to go is to buy from them????? But like the seller not far from me suggested I look to Tennessee as they title the kei trucks, but that just may mean new hurdles to jump. So the seller I worked with has the trucks and vans coming and going and I want to figure out if one of these is really for me so when the right one is in their inventory, I can jump and buy it. And that is where you friends come in, please make me knowledgeable and confident in a decision.

    I have tried looking through this site to get the info I need. Have seen several warnings with the skull and cross bones about searching before asking, and at least I can comment that I think the practicality of owning one of these trucks can change over time as say people find new parts sources or parts sources close or dry up. I saw one post about buying info and when I looked, all I saw where the comments about how good the post was, but the original post was just dots. I did notice that the Suzuki Carry seemed to have the most participants and the most posts and that makes me wonder if that indicates that the Carry is the one to buy?????? But like that seller I have dealt with claimed that the Carry is popular due to ignorance and not what is best to own. At this moment, the salesman is pushing me towards a Mitsubishi mini cab.

    So please inform me so I can make a decision and get on with my life. Which one is the best to own???? Which one is easy to work on, has great parts availability, is durable and reliable, good gas mileage, easy to find info and help on, and is all around the most practical to own and drive and maintain?

    I have also considered the van. I must wonder if the Kentucky law on mini trucks would be claimed to apply to the mini van? After talking with the state answer woman on tech issues like that, seems she is the kind that "no" is the easiest answer to give and that is what she does versus taking the time to research the questions.

  2. Nutcracker

    Nutcracker New Member

    First, make sure that you can easily source out the parts for your chosen vehicle - carry truck or minivan. Second before buying you should have somewhat a crash course on engine troubleshooting so you don't end up buying a vehicle with an engine that needs to be overhauled in the first place for it to run smoothly. What I mean is that you should know how to pick the good ones out. I'm from the Philippines and we refer to them as multicab/kei truck/scrum van etc and it is very popular in my country because it is practical to use. I already own a minivan for business and family use. Bought it at 69k in pesos or around 1k $ more or less and I think I already spent around 1k $ more to replace all the bad parts including engine overhaul, tires/magwheels, cooling system, headlight bulbs. Mine comes without power steering so I bought one and have it installed for 10$. Also the airconditioning system is old and planning to replace it that will cost around 350$. At around 2k $ I have learned a lot from my experience and now have a minivan that at the most can last another 10 years or so. Mine was a carb type with manual tranny btw because I think this is much easier to maintain if you know how it works compared to computer based with lot of sensors that breaks down easily.
  3. bmwr71

    bmwr71 New Member

    Thanks for the advice. I asked the dealer about parts supplies and was told parts are no problem for any of the trucks they sell. I asked what if they went out of business if parts would be a problem and he replied that they were not going out of business. So I said to pretend they went out of business if I would have trouble getting parts and he said getting parts is no problem. He is also trying to sell a truck to me. Would expect he wouldn't say parts are a problem so don't buy.

  4. Ohkei Dohkei

    Ohkei Dohkei Active Member

    Working on one is not really any different than working on a Honda civic or Toyota Corolla. Room is tight, but just about everything makes sense. Most parts can be found either by cross referencing on this site, or by several regional suppliers. In rare cases you might have to wait 10-12 days if you have to order from Japan. As far as the best to own, it really comes down to what you want to do with it.
  5. bmwr71

    bmwr71 New Member

    Thanks for your comments. My plan is to use the truck as a daily driver, haul some stuff, and also do some off roading, especially as a utility vehicle. I am not too worried about comfort, but don't want one that is too uncomfortable to the point of bordering on painful. And I pretty much do everything on vehicles myself except say a front end alignment. So does any of this narrow down the choices?
  6. Ohkei Dohkei

    Ohkei Dohkei Active Member

    Well I'm biased, but the Sambar is really quiet with the engine in the rear, has 4 wheel independent suspension and I think if I had to daily drive it, it would be one of the best. Off road is decent (better with diff lock), but if you want big lifts and tires, then a solid axle carry or hi jet might be a better option for you. My $0.02 and I only have driven the hi jet and Sambar. There are some good threads stickied on these type decisions, and I'd recommend you read as many as you can before making a decision.
  7. bmwr71

    bmwr71 New Member

    Thanks again for the advice. Any advice on finding the threads you mentioned?

    The dealer guy from the place that I have been talking with says that on the Sambar there is a possibility of say a rock hitting the engine and maybe busting the crankcase if like one went in a rocky hole and the rear end bottomed out and hit the rocks so they went past some mounting bar. And I can't call them anti-Sambar as they sell them.

    One attraction of these trucks is the 4wd for snow driving. Perhaps it would be an advantage to have the engine near the drive wheels just like an old air cooled V Dub.

    I was thinking on a truck like the Mitsubishi Mini Cab that I was told that one accesses the engine under the seats about some problems with that. I remember the old days of riding around with my partying buddies in old vans that had a hump that opened to the engine between the seats. Meant some heat getting in and also gas and oil smells if there were any leaks. Wondered if that was possible with that Mini Cab?

    One temptation with this Mini Cab is that it is very low miles according to the dealer.
  8. Ohkei Dohkei

    Ohkei Dohkei Active Member

    I know the rear engine really helps with 2wd traction. I've heard good things about the Mitsubishi, but I've never seen one in person. All those threads are usually stickied at the top of each subject like this one.
  9. bmwr71

    bmwr71 New Member

    Seems I got very few responses of sage advice. Does that mean that there aren't very many people that actually use this board, not really very many people who drive the trucks, my question is boring, or what?

    So I saw one Sambar here, what other trucks are you guys driving? Do you think they make good daily drivers? Are yours easy to work on and get parts for? What do you like and dislike about your trucks?
  10. Ohkei Dohkei

    Ohkei Dohkei Active Member

    While there aren't a ton of people active on this board, the ones that are have been very helpful to me. Some check in regularly, some pop in every once in a while. All the questions you are asking have been discussed in previous threads and an hour or so of reading will really catch you up to speed. Of course you will get arguments for and against just about every one of them. My dislikes - Constantly being asked about my truck or being photographed, needs 10 more hp. My likes - great turning radius, bed space, fuel economy, and quiet. There are people that love to daily drive them, but I prefer having a crumple zone in front of me.
  11. bmwr71

    bmwr71 New Member

    So does that mean you do not use yours much for street driving? Do you think any are safer than others?

    I have spent quite a bit of time looking at this site and others to get to know what my opinion should be. Very time consuming, and like asking which oil is best, seems many opinions. Like I watched a video from a dealer who said he did not sell cab overs because that made the cab too hot. Hope when I buy that I don't realize I could have done better.

    I was told my a Canadian dealer that he thought the trucks were too slow for road use, especially the automatic vans. Your comment on the 10 more horse power, are these really too slow for road use?

    Regarding the being asked and such, I do dread that. Used to drive VW Things as daily drivers and was even pulled over by cop and told how his father had one when he was a kid and such. And even one day, had a police copter hovering around it in a parking lot while passengers were checking that one out. Also rode a Harley chopper with similar experiences. Hated being told I only rode it to get recognition when I only built it and rode it because I liked it.
  12. Reese Allen

    Reese Allen Member

    American ownership of kei cars remains extremely rare, and kei trucks/vans are a smaller subset of that. So if you are used to there being a huge, thriving online community of fellow English-speaking enthusiasts who all drive the same kind of car, you are going to have to adjust to a different reality. Sometimes you're going to post about something and not get the responses you'd hoped for.

    My Sambar does highway speeds without issue. 120 km/hr. The engine revs very high but it doesn't overheat.

    They are fundamentally not very safe vehicles, at least the 1980's and early 1990's models that can be street legal in the US right now. No airbags, no crumple zones. Super thin walls. The manufacturers were given dimensional limitations and they had to work within those. If they had made them super safe they would have been super cramped inside and not useful for anything. I'm told modern kei cars now have to conform to all the same safety regulations as regular cars, so they have become significantly more expensive. But it'll be a decade before you can drive those in the US. Having said all that, mine is pretty much my daily driver. I choose to live with the risk because the van makes me happy and you only live once.

    Availability of parts seems to be quite a bit better than you might think. There are numerous websites dedicated to supplying JDM and kei car parts.

    You should check if there is an import broker in this state. They can shepherd you through the process of getting the car legally registered. My local DMV was worse than useless when I showed up with my big stack of paperwork. They had never tried to register a car imported from Japan and were not only clueless but very unpleasant and uncooperative. I gave the same paperwork to my broker and it was all sorted out within a week.

    Another potential option if your state's laws are unfavorable could be to import the car in a neighboring state with better laws, then transfer it to your state. Again, an import broker will greatly lubricate this process.

    I can sympathize with Ohkei's comment about constantly being asked about it. I'm getting pretty tired of explaining what it is. I catch people photographing and taking videos of me on a regular basis which I don't mind too much honestly. Still, it's fun to drive something really unusual. A whole school bus of kids drove by me the other day and every one of the kids' faces was in the window looking at me and waving and smiling. I made those kids' day and they made mine. Plus, you get good at giving people the quick 10-second cliff notes explanation and politely excusing yourself if you aren't in the mood to talk about it all day.
  13. Ohkei Dohkei

    Ohkei Dohkei Active Member

    I drove mine on the road in the city for about a month, and it was fun as long as I was under 50mph. I didn't feel comfortable about hitting anything and surviving over that. The 10 more hp really was just having to downshift on hills that I thought I could make, again my perspective but I could go 70mph if I didn't feel like I was going to die (but if you ride a Harley, you might be immuned to that fear). My goal was to make mine a hunting truck that would be kind to the camp trails and stay enclosed from the weather. I drove an International Scout from the time I was 18 until I was in my early 40's. When I was 18, hell yeah it was a great daily driver (when gas was $1/gallon). I'm now an old guy, so no, it's not a daily driver, you feel every bump in those leaf springs.. Again, everyone has their own perspective and just because one person says it is, another can say it isn't, and they could both be 100% correct. If you are primarily highway, I'd recommend a Sambar. Supercharged if you can get it.
    Reese Allen likes this.
  14. bmwr71

    bmwr71 New Member

    Thanks again for the information.

    I was going to comment that these little trucks had to at least be safer than riding a motorcycle. At least not being as invisible as riding a bike. And if one wanted to, they could still wear a brain bucket and drive a little truck.

    The dealer I was most likely going to buy from is in Florida and sells the trucks with a Florida title. He says they are classified as pickup trucks, PT, and not mini trucks, MT, as that is the way they were imported. That all sounded like a better way of getting past the license dictators. In my state, there is a specific law on mini trucks that treats them like they treat ATVs, only can be driven on the road for farm, construction, or snow removal. Must have a slow moving triangle, can't use at night except for snow removal, can't drive on the expressway (but the local police use them as they please). I had asked in the past about trying to get around that and was turned down. But then when I saw the over 25 year thing and the titled as a pickup, I emailed the local county clerk's office and after the director saw an example title, she said I could license one. So I was about to buy a Mitsubishi mini cab with 5100 miles on it from them and figured I had better ask the state if they agreed that she could give me permission to license one. They said no, wouldn't even listen to any other details. So I emailed back to the director and told her what they said and also asked her what they consider a mini truck as the law has no definition. She asked how fast they would go, which we had already discussed in the past, and I told her the dealer said 73 mph and have not heard back from her. And the Mini Cab has already sold. But they still have more trucks.

    I imported 2 Chinese army motorcycles from China. One was disassembled before shipping and was imported as parts. The other was imported with the over 25 years old thing. Supposedly an individual can do the paperwork themselves but the local Customs would not allow me to do it. Wondered if they rely on the broker to do the correct process. Never got around to licensing either one. I asked at one point about what paperwork I needed and was told a title from China. I said I had one for the bike brought in over 25 yrs old and obviously it was in Chinese and was told I needed to bring an interpreter with me. I showed the Chinese document to some Chinese guys that worked at a Chinese restaurant and they said what I had was a registration and not a title. Anyway, guess they are still around, but at lest used to be title services in some states where titles are easy to get. Spect if I ever get a chance to fool with those bikes again, will just try to find a title service to get a title.

    I have been told that Tennessee titles these trucks. Would be tempting to look there as it is closer, but I was hoping that the Florida title with the truck designated as a pickup would get past hurdles. Not giving up yet.
  15. Reese Allen

    Reese Allen Member

    Yeah, definitely see if you can get a broker. They will know how to deal with foreign language documents and all the other mundane details.
  16. trktrd

    trktrd New Member

    I have two registered daily drivers. Acty truck and Sambar van. Definitely use an import broker. Small price to pay for all the red tape they have to go through. Keep in mind that the import duty is 25 percent on trucks and 2.5 on cars. Makes a big difference on the bottom line. My van cost more than the Acty but ended up costing less than the truck once all was said and done.
    Reese Allen likes this.
  17. bmwr71

    bmwr71 New Member

    I have seen places that are supposedly selling the trucks out of Japan. Seems cheap, but know there is shipping involved and who knows what other fees. The first Chinese army motorcycle I bought from China was from the aircraft factory that was still making them at the time. I had no trouble at all and don't remember using a broker, it just showed up at the customs house, Forward Air, and I hauled it off. The second one was a nightmare with unforeseen fees and delays. It was sent to me by an American guy who lived in China and had a shop selling the bikes. I had some great luck before buying parts from him and he would come to visit family in the US a couple times a year and he would bring parts with him saving on shipping. On the motorcycle, too long a time and it was bounced around to various warehouses, which each had a fee, and then had to get the broker. Found out that one of the big delays was that this guy didn't have an export license and he was using a port to ship out of that let people export illegally for a price and that port was closed for a while due to some local civil unrest. And then when I got the motorcycle home, my bike that was supposedly rebuilt and was ready for miles of happy riding didn't run and had several mechanical problems and a sidecar full of cracked Bondo. So buying straight from Japan is somewhat scary. I also still wonder if the Florida company importing them as pickups and not mini trucks will make a difference.

    I assume you are not saying to use a broker for vehicles already imported?
  18. Reese Allen

    Reese Allen Member

    Use the broker to facilitate getting the vehicle from the port to your driveway and a title and registration into your hands. If the car is already in the US and someone has successfully registered it that is the easiest option but probably the most expensive, and you'll have fewer options to choose from.

    When you find the car you are interested in on a Japanese dealer's website, you arrange for them to ship it to a port in the vicinity of your import broker, and have the Japanese dealer get in touch with your broker. Your broker can pick the car up for you when it arrives and then handle the paperwork. You may need to go to the port city or the import broker's lot to pick up the car and drive it home, or you could have it trucked out to where you live. I'm not sure exactly how the logistics would work with you being in the middle of the country. I live an hour from a busy port so it was a non-issue for me.
  19. bmwr71

    bmwr71 New Member

    Living near the Ohio River, there is a Port of Louisville where there is a customs house at Forward Air near the airport. I saw that the one dealer in Japan was way cheaper than buying from US sellers, but I sent them an email and got no response. Might need to call a broker and see what they have to say. Would still need to figure out the whole buying from Japan thing. And still no word back from the county clerk's office. Perhpas the director lady just hopes I go away.
  20. Reese Allen

    Reese Allen Member

    You'll likely have to do a wire transfer to the Japanese dealer. There are many that specialize in exporting to the US so they will know what to do. The first thing I would do is get a broker, they can help you make bids at Japanese auctions or find reputable dealers you can buy from. I tried to win one at auction first but got outbid really badly. A few weeks later I saw my van on a dealer's site and bought it from them directly.

    Keep in mind that the majority of your costs are going to come from the actual importation process. The vehicle itself is usually cheap. I posted the breakdown in another thread in this forum but to summarize, the sticker price on mine was only $1,750 but I had to spend an additional $3,500 on shipping, broker fees, and registration. The cost of the car was almost exactly 1/3 of the total cost.

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