Best Car Rental In Japan

Best Car Rental In Japan

Best Car Rental In Japan: Your Gateway to Safe and Exciting Travel

Darlene Aberin
PUBLISHED ONDecember 14, 2023

Japan is a land of rich cultural heritage, stunning landscapes, and exciting travel adventures. To make the most of your journey, having the right car rental service is crucial.

This comprehensive guide will help you choose the best car rental in Japan, providing expert recommendations, safety tips, and essential considerations to make your self-driven exploration seamless and memorable.

Navigating through rental companies, understanding fees, knowing your vehicle options, and staying well-informed about Japan's driving etiquette will empower you to make the perfect choice for your travel needs.

How to Choose the Right Car Rental Company in Japan

Navigating Japan's vast cultural heritage and thrilling landscapes becomes a breeze with the right car rental service. Rental companies, agencies, and services in Japan are known for their efficiency, diverse fleet, and customer-friendly services. The key, however, lies in choosing the right fit for your travel needs, itinerary, and budget.

Varied Options: Rental Companies in Japan

Japan houses a rich array of car rental companies, each with a unique offering of its own. To name a few:

  • Nippon Rent-A-Car is a trusted name, offering a wide range of vehicles to suit different travel needs.
  • Nissan Rent-A-Car Japan is acclaimed for its robust cars and detailed road assistance.
  • Hertz Japan provides international rental services and offers a seamless booking process.
  • ORIX Rent is known for its customer experience and diverse car range.
  • Budget Rent A Car delivers affordability without compromising the quality of its cars.
  • SKY Rent-A-Car is admired for its premium services and luxury car rental options.
  • Tabirai Car Rental sets itself apart by offering a comparison platform where you can find the best prices for your rental needs.

Key Factors to Consider in Selection

When choosing the right car rental company for your trip around Japan, consider these key factors:

  • Price: Look for clear and transparent pricing. Some companies may appear cheaper but have hidden costs.
  • Vehicle Selection: Ensure the company provides a car suitable for your specific needs, whether you're solo or with family.
  • Insurance Options: Check if the rental includes insurance coverage or if it's available at an additional cost.
  • Customer Support: Look for companies that offer 24/7 roadside assistance or support in a language you're comfortable with.
  • Location and Convenience: Select a rental service with pickup and drop-off points that align conveniently with your travel plans.

Understanding Car Rental Fees in Japan

Renting a car enables the freedom needed to explore Japan at your own pace. However, it's paramount that you fully understand the financial dimension of the rental process, specifically rental fees, charges, and costs, and how they contribute to your total expenditure.

Deciphering the Rental Costs

Rental costs widely vary based on the car size, rental duration, and the company you choose. While most of these fees are straightforward, understanding the makeup of the rental costs helps in budget planning.

Here's the usual makeup:

  • Base Rental Fee: This is the cost of renting the vehicle itself and typically dictates the lion's share of your total rental fee. This depends on the size and class of the car and the rental duration.
  • Additional Fees: These are extra charges, which might include a non-operation charge (costs incurred due to repairs not covered by insurance), one-way fee (for one-way rentals), fuel charge (if you didn't refuel before returning), and fee by credit card.
  • Insurance Costs: Most rentals include a basic insurance cost in the rental fee. However, you might consider additional insurance coverage for more protection, which will add to your total cost.

Checking Prices and Reservation

Renting a car involves checking prices across multiple platforms. Most companies have user-friendly websites with an efficient booking system. Websites often provide an estimate of the total rental fee based on your input (rental duration, car type). Booking online can avail you of discounts in some cases, thus making reservations further user-friendly and economical.

Payment Methods

The rental industry in Japan has embraced multiple payment methods. This includes payment through credit cards and debit cards. While cash payments are rare, specific services accept bank transfers. It's always advisable to check the acceptable payment methods with the rental service in advance.

Types of Rental Cars Available in Japan

Navigating Japan's breathtaking landscapes and bustling city life becomes a unique experience with the right car. Understanding the types of vehicles available for rental is a crucial step in planning your Japanese adventure.

A Closer Look at the Vehicle Types

Diversity is the keyword when it comes to the type of vehicles available for rent in Japan. Based on one's needs and preferences, one can choose from:

  • Average Cars: These are usually compact or medium-sized vehicles perfect for city driving or small-group travel.
  • Luxury Cars: For those seeking comfort and class, luxury vehicles can provide a smooth, superior driving experience. Examples might include models from Land Rover or Mercedes-Benz.
  • Light Vehicles or Kei Cars: These are smaller, fuel-efficient vehicles well suited for solo or couple travelers. Typical examples include the Suzuki Alto or Daihatsu Move.

Special Categories

For those who have particular preferences, car rental companies in Japan also have special categories:

  • Non-smoking Vehicles: For non-smokers or those who are allergic, many rental services offer an entire fleet of non-smoking vehicles.
  • Land Rover: For off-road adventures or large families, powerful SUVs like the Land Rover provide comfortable and versatile travel.
  • Winter Tires Fitted Cars: For winter travels, especially in the snowy regions of Hokkaido or Tohoku, winter tire-fitted vehicles are available to ensure a safe and comfortable journey.

Types of Rental Services

Car rental services in Japan are categorized based on the duration and the kind of vehicles:

  • Daily Rentals: Ideal for short trips or city tours.
  • Monthly Rentals: Perfect for longer stays and extensive road trips.
  • Luxury Car Rentals: For a plush experience or business travels.
  • Medium Car Rentals: For family vacations or group travels.

Reservation Details

While making a reservation, you need to provide specific details, including:

  • Booking Details: Your personal details, rental duration, desired pickup, and drop-off locations.
  • Original Booking Details: If you are making changes to an existing reservation, you need your original booking details.

Staying informed about the variety of vehicles available and understanding the rental services helps in making the optimal choice for your Japanese journey.

Picking Up and Returning Your Rental Car in Japan

Renting a car in Japan is a straightforward process once you understand the logistics involved with picking up and returning your vehicle. Critical points like rental locations, driver type, timing, and additional parameters play an essential role in this process.

Picking Up Locations

Japan offers a detailed network of picking-up locations for rental cars, usually at:

  • Rental Locations: These are dedicated car rental locations within the city, often within walking distance from major public transport hubs.
  • Rental Offices: Some rental services have their offices where you can pick up and return the rental cars.
  • Airports: Many services offer airport pickups, which can be very convenient. Major airports like Narita International Airport usually have multiple car rental services on-site.

Booking Details

When booking, you will need to specify the type of driver, which would either be:

  • Japanese Driver: For drivers with a valid Japanese Driving License.
  • International Driver: This is for drivers with an International Driving Permit (IDP) along with their foreign driving license.

Rental Time and Costs

While rental rates can vary significantly based on the season, type of car, and additional services:

  • Available Rental Time: Most companies allow rentals from periods as short as a few hours to multiple months.
  • Cheapest Time/Month: Generally, non-peak seasons like late autumn or early spring tend to be the cheapest times to rent.

Additional Drivers & Extended Rental Period

  • Additional Driver: If another person will be driving the rented vehicle, they must also be specified at the time of booking. Their type (Japanese or International driver) will need to be mentioned.
  • Extended Rental Period: Should you need to keep the car for longer than initially booked, you can usually extend your rental period either online or by contacting your rental service. Do keep in mind that this might incur extra charges.

Driving in Japan

Self-driving in Japan opens a new and thrilling chapter of your far-east adventure. With your rental car in your control, all you need is an understanding of the local road rules, Google Maps for navigation, and a love for the open road.

On the Road with Google Maps and Understanding of Road Rules

While the charm of unexpected, off-beat destinations is genuine, knowing your route is crucial to not getting lost:

  • Google Maps: This is an invaluable tool for navigation. With the majority of signage in Japan being in Japanese, Google Maps can help you interpret your route easily and efficiently.
  • Understanding of Road Rules: It's essential to familiarize yourself with Japanese road rules, which might differ from those in your country. For instance, in Japan, driving is on the left-hand side of the road.

Japan's diverse landscapes and vibrant cities offer a delightful driving experience:

  • Popular Cities: Exploring cities like Tokyo, Kyoto, and Osaka by car offers a unique perspective on their urban style.
  • Scenic Drives: Longer road trips could include drives along the romantic coastline of Shikoku or the tranquil beauty of the historic Nikko region.

Paying heed to fuel and toll costs helps with budget planning:

  • Fuel Costs: The gasoline costs in Japan are quite manageable but fluctuate based on global oil prices. Most gas stations offer both self-service and full-service options.
  • Toll Gates and Electronic Toll Collection (ETC): Expressways in Japan are toll-based, and fees depend on the distance traveled. Renting an ETC card can expedite travel and often offers discounts on tolls.

Driving Etiquettes in Japan

Japan is strict about observing driving protocols:

  • Drug-Use Driving: Any kind of drug consumption is prohibited when driving. If caught, it could warrant severe penalties.
  • Drunk Driving: Japan has stringent rules against drunk driving, with zero tolerance towards it. It is illegal to drive with a Blood Alcohol Content (BAC) of 0.03% and above.

Understanding and respecting Japan's driving norms can go a long way toward ensuring a hassle-free, mesmerizing road trip through the Land of the Rising Sun.

At the Gas Station in Japan

An integral part of self-driving in Japan is the experience of refueling at a Japanese gas station. Understanding gas prices, selecting the correct fuel, and knowing the locations of easily accessible gas stations are key to a seamless journey.

Understanding Gas Prices and Correct Fuel

Fuel prices in Japan are prominently displayed at all gas stations and are standardized across the country:

  • Gas Prices: The prices are typically mentioned per liter. As of 2021, prices tend to fluctuate between 130 to 150 yen per liter.
  • Selecting Correct Fuel: Japanese gas stations offer three types of fuel – regular gasoline, high-octane gasoline, and diesel. Ensure that you fill up your vehicle with the right fuel, often indicated in the car or within the car's manual.

Gas Station Locations

One of the benefits of driving in Japan is the vast network of gas stations:

  • Major Cities and City Centers: Gas stations are conveniently located across major cities and city centers. You're never too far from a refill.
  • Near Japan Rail Pass Stations: Strategically positioned gas stations near JR Pass stations cater immensely to self-drivers. For instance, there are multiple gas stations near South Kusatsu Station.

To ensure a smooth trip, plan your route with periodic gas station stops. Also, remember to have some change on hand as not all gas stations may accept credit cards. With all these checkmarks, buckle up and enjoy a smooth drive across the alluring landscapes of Japan!

Things to Note When Renting a Car in Japan

Armed with the right information, renting a car in Japan can be a breeze. Important considerations include comprehension of age restrictions, the position of the steering wheel, and taking appropriate steps should you encounter any possible damages or unexpected occurrences.

General Car Rental Requirements

Certain fundamental conditions apply when renting a vehicle:

  • Age Restriction: In Japan, car rental companies require drivers to be at least 18 years old. Some companies may also have an upper age limit.
  • Steering Wheel Position: In Japan, cars are right-hand drive. If you come from a country with left-hand drive vehicles, it may take some time to adjust.
  • Subscription Fee: Most rental companies require an upfront subscription fee during the booking process.

Handling Possible Damages

Incidents with the car's exterior, like tires or chains, should be addressed immediately:

  • Tires or Chains: If you notice any damage to the tires or chains, contact the rental company as soon as possible. They generally offer quick solutions or substitutes. Ignoring such damages might lead to serious accidents.

Dealing with Abnormal Odor

Unexpected situations could arise during your rental period, including an abnormal odor from the car:

  • Abnormal Odor: Should you detect an unusual odor in your rental car, it might indicate a potential problem. Make sure to contact your rental company promptly to discuss the issue.

Taking into account such factors will ensure you have a safe and enjoyable trip on the road. By being informed and prepared, you can make the most of your Japanese car rental experience.


Finding the best car rental in Japan is your gateway to a world of safe and exciting travel experiences. Ensuring you make well-informed decisions regarding your rental car and driving in Japan allows you to embark on your adventures confidently, be it on bustling city streets or serene countryside roads.

Equipped with the knowledge from this guide, you'll be able to efficiently choose the right rental agency, select the perfect vehicle, and navigate Japan's road rules and etiquette like a pro. So, buckle up and get ready to create unforgettable memories as you journey through this mesmerizing country.

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