Kei-camping Cars are Small but Spacious - Tiny House Blog

Kei-camping Cars are Small but Spacious

Kei car

David Richoux sent me to this intriguing post about Kei-camping Cars. These are extremely tiny and as far as I can tell may only be available in Japan. However, I think we can check out the use of space and apply to our own tiny living arrangements or plans.

Here is what they say about the little camper…

Kei car is Japan’s unique vehicle standard, which is 3.4m in length, 1.48 in width, and 2m in height with 660cc engine.

Based on this Kei car, Kei-camper is developed by creating a space like a studio apartment, installing a bed and a table inside the vehicle. You might be surprised to see such a small camping car, but you will be even more amazed after hopping into the car. The equipments inside are full of Japanese unique mechanism and mastery techniques.

Apart from being a tool for hobbies and travel, owners ranging from 20s to 60s use the car for business, travel, or even as a mobile office.

With a major conversion of the luggage space, those camping-car style cars can be more expensive, but you will enjoy the luxury of being fully equipped, including high ceiling, sink with water tank, and cooking facilities. Curtains are also attached onto the aluminum window, and the car is spacious enough to be called a moving studio apartment which accommodates up to four adults. Many of these types have a pop-up roof structure, and are registered as standard-sized car as the size becomes bigger than other kei-campers. This type of kei-campers continue to be popular and are in short supply due to its reasonable price of two to three million yen [approximately $20,000 – $30,000]. These days, the delivery of the car takes six months after placing the order.


According to the distributor a fully-fledged kei-campers hasgood insulation, warm enough to survive in winter with only a the heater. The distributor also recommends 4WD type for those who intend to drive in snow to go skiing.

Link to original Tokyo Tomo Travel Guide Post.

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Ben Funk - June 6, 2013 Reply

I want one!

Anthony Rizzo - June 6, 2013 Reply

I’ve often seen conversion potential in used box trucks such as the 10’x8’ U-Haul moving box vans. A bit of drywall, insulation and some Ikea furniture and presto you have a portable room. That is what this reminds me of.

    Bob H - June 7, 2013 Reply

    Love your idea, the Americanized version. The small cube van would work excellent.

    ??NON??? - July 11, 2015 Reply

    Drywall??? In a vehicle that is prone to vibrations on various degrees???

    You’re kidding right?

Mo Hall - June 6, 2013 Reply

No Loo! Basic requirement has to be a loo and a shower to make it truly a tiny house. I lived in a demountable (truck camper) for 4 years and loved it. This is very similar to a lot of campers in the uk, just smaller presumably.

Walt Barrett - June 7, 2013 Reply

I agree. This would be an easy conversion job using a small American made van and if the economy does not get better soon it may be the future home of many Americans. I was thinking of doing one for camping in the Everglades when we film down there in the winter.

carol - June 7, 2013 Reply

This is brilliant. Really that is all the space you need and the 4WD is perfect. Plus the economy of such a small vehicle would make traveling with it way more affordable. The gas usage would probably be way better then the roadtrek and pleasureway.

Love it, would totally buy one if they were here in canada!!

    Kathy Parker - July 17, 2013 Reply

    I own a Roadtrek and when I bought it in ’99, 15-18mpg was wonderful by comparison to other larger units… today the range of a van conversion is 24-28 mpg.. but I’m still trying to get more bang for my buck. It’s time to trade my baby in, but not sure what I’m going to travel in next…

JT - June 7, 2013 Reply

I wish they would allow these in the U.S.
They save gas and it’s really all some people need for camping. Why doesn’t a U.S. Manufacture make a camper like these ??

alice h - June 7, 2013 Reply

Some people in BC import small vans from Japan, not sure of what’s involved in the way of paperwork. The steering wheel on the “wrong” side would drive me nuts but I love the practicality of the tiny things otherwise. Perhaps the same could be done with these? Surrey has some for sale and say they find the specific vehicle you want. There should be other dealers as well.

    alice h - June 7, 2013 Reply

    Oops, need to delete “in” from the end of that link, the space got missed.

Thomas Malkin - June 7, 2013 Reply

After a bit of googling, it seems one can get Kei vehicles *used* in the US and Canada, as Japan encourages frequent retirement of commercial trucks. However, they are not approved for use on US roads, excepting some states that permit them for rural use only. Louisiana seems to permit them anywhere but interstates.

I don’t know if the microcampers are available, tho. However, for the DIY crowd, they sell also flatbed trucks which could be useful for making your own rolling studio.

This ebook seems to be pertient:
Japanese Mini Truck: An Introduction to All Things Kei Truck (By Mark Roehrig)

This Wikipedia entry seems to apply:

This place was mentioned in the ebook as a place to buy Kei-trucks

This place seems to be a lead for many more:

Pahl Scharping - June 7, 2013 Reply

This has awesome possibilities as both a camper AND and EMERGENCY DWELLING/TRANSPORTATION in our coastal Tsunami Zone. I will be VERY interested in following the availability of this vehicle in the United States.
-Pahl Scharping

Coligny - June 8, 2013 Reply

Mitsubishi Has one model listed as factory build:

Not as ambitious but directly from the automaker…

Rick - June 8, 2013 Reply

The same challenge, in the US, applies here as it has with all portable Tiny houses: Where can you legally park it and for how long? In addition to exorbitant camping spot prices, lot space rental costs in mobile home-style areas have risen nearly as high as the bubble-home market and seem to be going higher as folks look for alternatives to the urban/suburban lifestyle. We are boxed in by the urban need to tax and license users, and the squatters that disregard the rights of land/homeowners. A conundrum!

Bryan - June 8, 2013 Reply

Fetch me a Ford Transit Connect an a sawsall. I want my own American version stat.

Thomas Malkin - June 10, 2013 Reply


We live in a country – a world now – in which the idea of public common spaces is now gone. A Rentier State, in which every blade of grass and every puff of air is owned by someone to rent to someone else, at ever increasing rates. This is a result of gigantic population growth, more than some moral transition. We’ve run out of new lands, so now the consolidation of property rights is intensifying. Pay him, pay her, pay me, never a moment’s peace.

Thomas Malkin - June 10, 2013 Reply

Well Rick, I think the answer is this: we’re set to be criminals. Don’t worry about it too much, as it’s almost impossible to not-be a criminal.

JCinCT - June 19, 2013 Reply

Does anyone know WHY these KEI Vehicles are not approved for use on U.S. roads?? What possible reason is there? Why do we just accept the govt telling us no, they are not approved. Where does it come from; the Commercial interests in the U.S., or what….just an arbitrary no? Whose govt is this anyhow….by the people, for the people? Lets start telling and informing these guys in Washington how WE the people want to live, how WE want our lives to be like….that’s what it is about. We’re all talking about downsizing, smaller homes even tiny mobile homes……but everywhere we turn, we cant make use of these structures, unless we’re out in the wilderness, maybe. Come on, I think we have to start petitioning and asking for what we want to be accommodated into our legal set up…….otherwise it will be just “sound and fury signifying nothing”

Abbie - September 4, 2013 Reply

Ok, so no one has asked yet: how feasible is something this tiny, for, say, a 6′ or taller human? I love these little things, but they’re just not realistic, are they, for the taller folk?

    Matt N - January 23, 2016 Reply

    I think the reason is they are super unsafe. I’ve got a daihatsu hijet and I’d really not like to get in any kind of a collision with it, there is nothing between the driver and the front end except 1/4″ of glass and a bit of 18ga steel, oh and the horn buzzer. When you hit a bug it sounds like it’s going to penetrate into the cab.

kenny - September 6, 2013 Reply

For overweight people these are likely not a great choice (i.e. many of the folks in RV’s on our soil). There has not been any efficient small campers in the USA since the Vanagon or Toyota motorhome, really.. and those still only managed about 15-19 mpg. I would love the Kei RV. It is a dream of mine. This would be perfect… over 35 MPG, easy to park, cheap to maintain, fun to drive, cute, ideal for my wife and future kid.. sing me UP!

Wendy - May 26, 2017 Reply

I’m really interested in ordering a kei camper,do you know who I can contact?

21 Tiny RVs You Must See to Believe - - June 21, 2018 Reply

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