How to rent a car in Japan

Many of you are looking forward to a trip to Japan.
In that case, now’s the time to read up on how to safely rent a car and use a gas station.
Renting a car is a great way to make the most of your trip for a more fulfilling time.

What are the requirements to drive in Japan?

According to Japanese law, you must be at least 18 years old to rent a car. So if you are over 18 and have a valid driver’s license and passport, you’re good to go.
For Japan residents, a license issued in Japan is fine, for visitors to the country, an international driver’s license issued by the automobile association of your home country before entering Japan is acceptable, and for those coming from Switzerland, Germany, France, Taiwan, Belgium, Slovenia, or Monaco, you need your driver’s license with a Japanese translation. These are the three ways people can rent a car here.

How to rent a car

When renting a car, apply online or at the car rental shop.
During this process, you’ll have to decide the following details:
〇When to pick up the car
〇When to return it
〇The type of vehicle needed / desired
〇Whether you’d like to return the car at a different shop
〇Options such as car navigation, ETC (electronic toll collection) card, child seat
Availability may be limited if applying the same day, so we recommend making reservations as early as possible.
On the day of your reservation, try to arrive at the store earlier than the scheduled time to go through various necessary procedures.


【When returning a rental car】

You must fill up the tank before returning the rental vehicle.
Usually, drivers are asked to fill up the tank at a designated gas station near the shop where you will return the car.
When returning the car, you will be asked to show the receipt from the gas station, so be sure not to discard it.
If the gas station is far from the rental car shop or if the gas station is closed, the fuel cost can be paid at the rental car shop.
However, please be aware that in such cases the cost will be higher.
In some cases, depending on the rental car shop, there may be an optional plan to return the vehicle without filling the gas tank, so please check the requirements of your specific plan carefully when applying.


【Rental car fee】

A rental car for four to five people usually costs around 5,000 to 10,000 yen per day.
However, be aware that the larger the vehicle, the higher the fee, and that rates will also change depending on the region and time of year.


【About insurance】

In Japan, automobile insurance is compulsory. Vehicle insurance is usually already included when renting a car, covering the cost of repairing the vehicle in the event of an accident.
In addition, a deductible amount is set, and in the event of an accident, you may have to pay the deductible amount yourself. The deductible amount varies depending on the rental car company, so be sure to check before making a contract.

How about renting a car in Tokyo?

When renting a car in Tokyo, the procedures are basically the same as outlined above.
However, Tokyo is a big city with a lot of traffic, so getting around by car can sometimes be a hassle.
In Tokyo, it may be easier to get around using public transportation such as trains, subways, buses, and taxis.

Using gas stations in Japan

Finally, let’s talk about how to use gas stations in Japan.
Petrol stations basically can be found everywhere, and the price per liter of fuel is clearly displayed.
There are two types of gas stations in Japan: full service where staff pump the gas and wipe the windows, and self-service where drivers fill the tank themselves. Self-service stations are cheaper than full-service ones but the price difference is not very large.
If you feel uncertain about using self-service gas stations in Japan, full service is probably the easiest option.
There are mainly two types of gasoline: regular (for ordinary cars) and high-octane (for high-octane cars).
If you want a regular car to be filled with regular gasoline, try to say in Japanese “reh gyu rah, mann tann kudasai,” meaning “regular, full tank, please.”

The information herein is as of May 2023
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