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One vehicle popular overseas is the mini truck, classified as the “Kei truck” by Japanese automakers. These tiny cab-over pickups are capable and maneuverable and thus becoming increasingly popular to import to the U.S. But they only have room for two passengers, and most cannot maintain highway speeds. Some states won’t even register them to drive on public roads. So would you pay almost $8k for one?

What is a Kei truck?

The kei-class is a compact-sized truck or van built by one of several Japanese automakers. These mini trucks and tiny vans are popular in many countries. While they were never sold in the U.S. new, you can import used ones and register them in many states.

A tan Suzuki Carry "Kei-Class" mini truck parked in a field, trees visible in the background.
1995 Suzuki Carry “Kei-class” mini truck | Cars & Bids

Kei-class trucks include the Daihatsu Hijet, Subaru Sambar, Carry, Mazda/Autozam Scrum, and Mitsubishi Mini Cab. As they are basic utilitarian vehicles, few of them have unique sheet metal, and are often indistinguishable apart from badges.

Kei-class vehicles must be less than 134 inches long, 58 inches wide, and 79 inches tall. Most manufacturers have settled on a “cab-over” design to make the most efficient use of space. This means these mini trucks and vans have a small engine beneath the passenger seats and the driver sits in front of the wheels.

Your writer testing a Suzuki mini truck

Most Kei trucks weigh in around 1,500 pounds and can carry about 770 pounds. But they cannot do this especially quickly. A select few models built for import have larger engines and a top speed of up to 75 mph.

What are Japanese mini trucks good for?

Mini trucks are excellent at hauling small loads, especially around cities or off-road. They are available with 4WD. In addition, they have a very tight turning radius.

Promo photo of the bed of a Suzuki Carry "Kei-Class" mini truck with its sideboards folded down.
1995 Suzuki Carry “Kei-class” mini truck | Cars & Bids

Many Kei-class mini trucks have a utility bed with fold-flat sides. This means that they can carry items wider than their bed if tied down. Some even have a dump bed. This makes them helpful for farmers or landscapers, especially in places where a large truck or tractor would damage the ground.

Kei-class mini trucks are also very unique. Some enthusiasts just like driving them because they are quirky. The older Subaru Sambar vans are especially popular to import and daily drive. Some owners even convert them to look like tiny VW buses.

How much are Japanese mini trucks worth?

This depends on the vehicle’s condition and how many people want it. A 4WD Suzuki Cary with 60,000 miles and some desirable modification recently sold on Cars & Bids for $8,100.

Interior of a Suzuki Carry "Kei-Class" mini truck, its doors open and a field visible in the background.
1995 Suzuki Carry “Kei-class” mini truck | Cars & Bids

The 1995 Suzuki Carry truck in question has a clean U.S. title. That is because it is more than 25 years old, so it can be legally registered in the U.S. This legal loophole is how all mini trucks in the states are registered. Therefore, even the highest dollar Kei-class vehicles on the market are used.

Some states, such as Maine, Rhode Island, and Vermont, have made it difficult to register mini trucks. With their miniature cab-over design, they would have never passed a U.S. crash test. Normally, older imported vehicles don’t need to earn a crash rating, but mini trucks may be pushing this loophole too far. We’ll have to wait and see how the current legal battle plays out.

In the meantime, you can see a video of the 1995 Suzuki Carry starting up below:

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