Don Quixote de la Mancha, from Ciudad Real (España) and Pikachu, original from Tokio (Japan) just passed their driving tests. Congratulations to both of them! As they have told me, it has not been easy. They had to study and practice a lot, besides the big financial outlay, and finally, we can “celebrate” there are tow new trouble makers across the Spanish and Japanese roads.

After a little interview with these 2 new drivers, in today´s article, I would like to share with you the characteristics, requirements and economic cost of obtaining the driver´s license in these quite different countries: Spain and Japan. Who paid more, Don Quixote or Pikachu?

Don Quixote´s driving license, obtained in the Department of Motor Vehicles in Madrid. He wouldn´t get off his horse Rocinante, not even for the picture. Why would he get the license for?

And this is the funny driver´s license Pikachu will show the authorities when goes partying with his Pokémon friends. By the way, I did not remember Pikachu having such a big head!


In both Spain and the Land of the Rising Sun, the minimum age to get your driving license is 18 years old.


While in Spain the flywheel is on the left-hand side and vehicles drive on the right-hand side of the road, in Japan the steering wheel is on the right, and vehicles will drive on the left side of the road.


These two countries are quite different and so are the ways to obtain the driver´s license in each of them, as of August 2019 – as you know this kind of regulations are very changeable.

In Japan, the driver will have to choose whether obtaining the driving license to drive just automatic transmission (AT) cars or the manual transmission (MT) license, which will allow the driver to use both MT and AT cars. In Japan, just about 3% of all the cars in the country are automatic, so maybe drivers decide to get the “easy” license? Nevertheless, our friend Pikachu decided to pass the test for MT cars, showing us one more time how strong and electrifying he is.

And what if someone with the automatic license decided to drive a manual car? Well, obviously that would be illegal, and the driver would have to pay a fine. Another way to drive the manual cars legally would be converting the driver´s license for AT into the one for MT cars, which requires passing a test and driving lessons. Without counting the number of classes, the right to assessment fees would be around 23.-€.

In both countries, drivers must take a theory and practical driving test. In the theory test, the minimum score to pass is 90%: Spain: 30 questions. Max fails 3; Japan: 100 questions. Max fails 10. It seems more possible to fail the test in Japan, right? For the Japanese driver, the theory test will be the same, regardless he´s applying for the driver´s license for MT or AT.

The practical driving exam is the final part to obtain the driving license. In Spain, such a test will be assessed by driving examiners from the Spanish Department of Motorized Vehicles, who are public servants. In Japan, the person deciding the result of that practical test is also on a public servant, in this case, a police agent.

This process I explained above is the most common one followed by people from both countries willing to get their driving license, which is through a driving school. BUT, you have to know you can also try to get your driving license on your own. In Japan, as an alternative to Driving Schools, you can get a learner’s license, so you can practice driving, always with a person in the car that has a 3-year driving experience at least.


This might be the most interesting part of the article, and we will figure out who ended up paying more for their driver license. Was it Don Quixote getting his driving license in Spain or Pikachu getting his driving license in Japan? 

Before beginning, some facts to be considered:

  • Don Quixote and Pikachu were good students and passed both theory and practical test at their first attempt.
  • Pikachu decided to get the driver´s license for MT vehicles.
  • Both drivers got the same amount of theory classes and practice hours.
  • Since EUR is the currency in Spain and JPY in Japan, we will show the calculations in EUR according to the average exchange rate in 2019, approx. 1 € = ¥125 

For this cost comparison, I checked out prices of a few driving schools both in Tokyo and Madrid.

After a look at all the direct costs in Spain and Japan, we can clearly see the driver license is 840€ is more expensive in Japan.

As an interesting point, the theoretical classes are free in Spain, regardless of how many you take. In Japan, the 10-lessons package is 310€. Each additional lesson will be 30,90€ for each additional class.

Upon registration, in Japan, only the books are included (each practical lesson will be 47€ per hour), whereas in Spain books and practical classes are sold at the same time. In this case, 23 practical classes are included. Each class will be 45 min. long.

To be equal, the 25 practical lessons (1 hour each) in Japan, would be like 33 practical lessons (45 minutes each) in Spain. Since the registration in the Spanish Driving School already includes 23 classes, we will need to pay for 10 additional classes, which will be 299.90€ (10 classes x 29.90€ per class). On the other hand and just for your information, the extra practical class in Tokio would be around 47€/hour.

As I mentioned before, Pikachu decided to go for the manual driving license, valid for both transmissions, being 235€ more expensive than the just automatic license.


Thanks to this interview with Don Quixote and Pikachu, besides deep research in the market of Japanese and Spanish driving schools, it is shown how, on average, a Japanese driver would pay 81% more to get his/her Driver’s License

From my point of view, it makes sense the driver’s license is more expensive in Japan than it is in Spain if we consider the gross annual salaries are also higher in Japan. Also, Tokyo is in the top 3 most expensive cities in the world, whereas Madrid is on the 34th place.

As a personal opinion, getting the driver’s license in Spain is not as expensive as we thought if compared to other countries. Besides, out of the whole amount Don Quixote had to pay for the whole process, around 20% was just for taxes, which I consider too expensive, but as you might already know… We need to pay for our good friends’ salaries the driving examiners! 😛  Let’s keep them happy!! 

I hope you have enjoyed today´s article, at least as much as I did writing it for you! From my side, it is always a pleasure to share with you all my knowledge, ideas and investigations about important topics related to the wonderful automotive world. I would love to read your comments on this article and get your opinions. Please, also feel free to raise any other topic or suggestion 😊

Juan Carlos Hoyos Saez Administrator
Passionate about Cars, Driving and Business. My objective is to inspire more and more car lovers. Racing, Kickboxing, traveling, and healthy life. Sub-project leader as a Material Cost/Project Controller, Daimler Trucks Asia (Tokyo, Japan).
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