Although figures for the process have long been quoted online as something between 100,000 and 200,000 yen (hell, even we once did), these numbers were very different from my experience. For my car, a 2.6L, 1400 kg white plate in good working order, shaken through a big box store (e.g. Autobacs, Yellow Hat) cost 72,000 yen.
That price included:
- The base cost of shaken (the processing fee, weight tax, and mandatory insurance charged by the Land Transport Bureau)
- Replacement of a few parts, including brake fluid and two brake pads
- The service fee charged by the store who took care of my shaken
- I used a Super Autobacs, by the way, whose service fee was 12,000 yen. However, their website listed several promotionals, such as a printable coupon for 1,000 yen off and an additional 2,000 yen off if I made a reservation at least 30 days prior to my shaken expiration date.
The theoretical minimum shaken would have cost me, had I done it myself at the Land Transport Bureau on a weekday and chosen to not replace any parts or fluids, would have been about 50,000 yen.
So, does shaken at a business cost more than user shaken? Yes. But the disparity shouldn't be so great as to break your wallet. A few things to consider are the value of your weekday and the condition of your car.
Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Friday...
If there is no way you can take a weekday off to visit the bureau yourself, the big box store is there to handle your shaken needs even on a Saturday or Sunday. Alternatively, if taking a weekday off costs you 10,000 yen or more, take your car to a business. Your time at work is worth more than their fee. But, if you have a vacation day to spare or a weekday available anyway, a trip to do your own user shaken can be an interesting, educational, and hopefully non-frustrating experience.
You don't need extensive knowledge of and experience working with cars in order to do a user shaken. The trip to the bureau is more about your finesse in dealing with bureaucracy. I'd like to see it as a chance to try using Japanese in a new situation, but if filling in silly forms and taking them to a window where a person rubber stamps them and tells you to go stand in line at yet another window drives you crazy, by all means avoid the stress.
O, Beloved Jalopy
Before doing a user shaken, you're supposed to run a 60-point 点検整備記録簿 (tenken seibi kiroku bo) checklist over your car. This is so you can be reasonably sure it will pass when you take it through the bureau's testing shed.
If you're not confident enough to run that checklist yourself, you'd probably need to ask a local mechanic to do it for you. That alone would generate a fee.
However, most big box stores will offer a free inspection of your car before you commit to a shaken date. During this free inspection, their mechanic is really just running that same 60-point checklist, then coming back to you with the results and a cost estimate. If he doesn't think anything will need to be replaced, you could really just say, "Sorry, I'm waiting on another estimate" at this point, walk away, then schedule your own user shaken.
But, if something will need to be replaced on your car, and you don't have the equipment or experience to replace it yourself, why not have it done as part of a shaken package? Asking a mechanic to replace that part separately would still generate a fee, and afterwards scheduling a user shaken would mean twice the legwork for you. I think that's an economical angle to consider.
Some Final Thoughts
Nonetheless, if you have the option of doing a user shaken, I still say go for it. Take care of it yourself, and get that nice sense of accomplishment that comes with. I would have liked to, and intend to better plan for my next one, two years down the road, so that I'm able to.