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Renting Car in Japan

Renting Car in Japan

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Old Sep 22, 19, 10:59 am   -   Wikipost
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Miscellaneous points regarding car rental (for rental insurance / waiver tips, scroll further down):
- 3 items you must have when picking up the car: Passport; Driver's License; International Driving Permit.
- If you're going to waive the agency's CDW, then I highly suggest you carry with you your credit card company's Proof of Coverage letter. Call your card company's insurance/claim department and ask to email you such document.
- There are 3 types of rental car agencies in Jpn: Legacy agencies (大手 [oh-te] agencies); Budget chains (格安 [kakuyasu] agencies); independent places some of which are kakuyasu.
- In general, try to go with legacy places. Those include: Nissan; Nippon; Toyota; Times; Orix; Budget; Eki.
- Try to avoid kakuyasu places. Those include: Ones; Niconico. I have firsthand experience with Ones. They were terrible, and they gave me a jalopy with dents and rusts everywhere, >200k km on it, on the verge of breaking down. Even then, they still dared to inspect the vehicle upon return with fine tooth comb to look for any new damage they could ding me for. Even if the vehicle comes with Navi, it will probably be outdated and unreliable.
- In Sapporo / CTS, there are 3 agencies that specialize in Honda cars, and they all contain the name "Honda." But each one is actually a local independent operation. I've rented from Honda Rent-a-Lease, and they were fine. I still would've preferred renting from one of the legacy agencies. Honda Rent-a-Lease's insurance and waiver programs had a lot of restrictions, higher deductibles and loopholes not seen with companies like Orix.
- Because the 3 agencies in Sapporo/CTS featuring Honda cars have similar names, this creates much confusion. For example, Honda Rent-a-Lease (ホンダレンタレース北海道)has website www.hondarentacar.jp, while Honda Rent-a-Car (ホンダレンタカー) has website www.hondarent.com. To avoid confusion, always match the agency's phone # on your reservation with the phone # listed on the website you're looking at.
- Japanese agencies are very particular about noting any little scratches and dents. Make sure you inspect the vehicle carefully and document every little thing at the time of pick-up.

Booking rental cars in English:
- For information regarding booking rental cars in English, refer to these posts in this thread: 30, 34, 37-38, 40, 105. [This will need to be updated continuously.]
- English versions of Japanese rental car company websites will often show higher rates than Japanese versions, or Japanese OTA sites such as Rakuten Travel (Japanese version). But you can use translator tools to navigate through and book on Japanese website. Post 105 has good tips.

Car Navigation system ("Navi"):
- Ask staff to set up GPS for English interface, though not all options or display will be in English. In some cases certain options would be completely inaccessible through English interface, such as searching for the closest gas station.
- Phone look up doesn't always work with in-car system as new hotels and businesses wouldn't be in there.
- Google Maps works quite well overall, but it doesn't offer Map Code or phone lookup.
- Japanese language mapping sites and apps offers the best and most up-to-date lookup.

Important Driving Tips:
- You cannot turn on red.
- You always have to come to a complete stop before proceeding at any railroad crossing, even when the arm is up and there are no trains nearby.
- Some green lights look blue.
- Speed limits may be lower than what you're used to.
- Road signs: http://www.ajetniigata.com/wp-conten...eroadsigns.pdf

Tolls:
- Toll fees can be estimated in English using the JapanTravel app by Navitime for free. Match the route visually to Google Maps.
- Tolls can be paid in cash or with "Electronic Toll Collection" ETC Card. Some agencies offer ETC card for rent and regional ETC X-day passes. Cash vs ETC toll fee can be a little different. https://en.driveplaza.com/expressways/toll.html
- Credit cards are accepted on national toll roads but usually not city toll roads.
- There are expressway passes for foreigners (similar in concept to the JR Pass); for a fixed fee based on duration, unlimited toll usage
- for the Central tokyo area, CEP pass: https://hayatabi.c-nexco.co.jp/cep/en/ Brochure link: https://hayatabi.c-nexco.co.jp/img/c...324727528.pdf
- for Hokkaido: https://www.driveplaza.com/trip/draw...expass/en.html
- for other regions, here's a good read up: https://www.japan-guide.com/e/e2354.html
- key to getting the expressway pass is that you have to reserve it direct with the car rental agency when you make your reservation, not all rental offices offers the expressway pass, so do check when making the reservation

Parking Tips:
- Pay parking lots take cash and some take IC Card.
- Parking meters which operate from XX-YY hours are closed outside those hours. It doesn't mean the parking spot is free outside those hours.

Insurance / Waiver:
General issues - Japanese car rental insurance/waiver
- Jpn car rentals generally automatically comes with insurances included.
- Those coverages include:
a).Third-party injury/death (対人補償; Jpn rental agencies seem to translate it as "bodily injury/damage")
b).Third-party damage (対物補償; Jpn rental agencies seem to translate it as "property damage")
c).Rental car damage (車両補償; Jpn rental agencies seem to translate it as "car damage" or "rented vehicle damage")
d).Renter's injury/death (人身障害補償; "personal injury", "physical injury", etc)
- The word 補償 literally means compensation but, in this case, it means insurance coverage.
- From my experiences, usually (a) coverage has no limit and (c) coverage is up to the value of the car at the time.
- Coverage amounts for (b) and (d) tend to vary amongst different agencies.
- From my experiences, usually (b) & (c) have deductibles, whereas (a) & (d) do not. Deductibles (=excess) are called 免責 (menseki) in Jpnese.
- CDW (免責保証制度) in Jpn actually waives any deductibles associated with above coverages (including what is essentially liability coverage in US). This is different from US where CDW only applies to rental car damage.
- In addition, there is what's called NOC (non-operation charge), which is the penalty assessed to you for the loss of rental car agency's revenue associated with the time that the car needs to be taken out of service for repair.
- Expect that any damage, no matter how minor, will invariably result in some type of NOC.
- NOC fee schedule/policies vary greatly by agencies.
- Most car agencies also offer NOC waiver for a fee.
- Many rental car companies stipulate that you must contact both the rental car agency and the police immediately upon any incident (including even minor damages to the rental car) that might invoke insurance coverage; failure to do may make the coverage null and void. In addition, some even stipulate that the rental is terminated at the point of the incident/accident. Some even go on to stipulate that you will not get any money back from the remaining portion of the rental.

Understanding your credit card coverage
- US credit card coverage is almost always only for your rented vehicle and does not apply to third-party damages (liability).
- Make sure you call and talk to your credit card company's insurance/claim specialist.
- Some of the key questions to ask:
* Any restrictions as to the country, car type, length of rental?
* Any limit on coverage, or does it cover up to the entire value of the car?
* Is the coverage primary, or secondary to your personal auto insurance?
* Any deductible?
* Does it cover NOC?
* If you have to file a claim, what's the required time frame and do you have to file a police report?
* Is it okay if the rental contract is not in English?
- In addition, it may be helpful to understand what your personal auto insurance covers in terms of liability (3rd party property/vehicle damage) in Jpn.

Example 1:
My credit card coverage: Primary full coverage of rental car damage with zero deductible; NOC included; all coverages null & void if I accept any relevant coverage waiver from the rental car.
My Japanese rental car policy:
* (a) unlimited coverage w/ no deductible
* (b) 30mill yen coverage w/ 150k yen deductible
* (c) up to full value of car w/ 100k yen deductible
* (d) 20mill yen per person coverage w/ no deductible
* coverages void for any windshield or tire/hubcap damage and any damage involving animal
* NOC 50k yen regardless of extent of damage
* CDW 1300y per day
* NOCW (NOC waiver): 600y per day
Decision-making:
1). Decline both CDW & NOCW --> risk responsibility for 3rd party damage deductible (150k yen).
2). Buy CDW & NOCW (1900y/day) --> risk responsibility for rental vehicle damage in case of windshield/tire/hubcap damage or animal collision (these would have been covered by my credit card).
3). Buy CDW only (1300y/day) --> risk responsibility for all items under (2) + NOC.
For me, (1) is almost the no-brainer choice, as it meant saving 1900y / day without measurable net loss of benefits.

Example 2:
My credit card coverage: Primary full coverage of rental car damage with zero deductible; NOC included; all coverages null & void if I accept any relevant coverage waiver from the rental car.
Toyota Rental car policy:
* (a) unlimited coverage w/ no deductible
* (b) unlimited coverage w/ 50k yen deductible
* (c) up to full value of car w/ 50k yen deductible
* (d) 30mill yen per person coverage w/ no deductible
* NOC 20~50k yen
* CDW 1080y per day
* DPP (Double Protection Package) = CDW + NOCW: 1620y per day
* Coverages void for any tire/hubcap damage, but such repair will be covered if you enroll in their DPP.
Decision-making:
1). Decline CDW/DPP --> risk responsibility for 3rd party damage deductible (50k yen).
2). Buy DPP --> eliminates virtually all risks, plus gain benefit of free roadside service for flats, etc.
3). Buy CDW only --> risk responsibility for rental vehicle damage in case of tire/hubcap damage (these would have been covered by my credit card or DPP) + NOC.
In this instance, I'd probably go with (2).
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Old May 4, 18, 2:16 pm
  #16  
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To be honest, no one seems to really care what the date on an IDP is, certainly not in Japan. If it does have a date, when it expires, just put a sticker over it and either stamp or write in a new date -- hey presto, you have an IDP good for another year for free!

This whole IDP thing is surely regarded as a profit center by the AAA.
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Old May 4, 18, 5:27 pm
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Originally Posted by RichardInSF View Post
To be honest, no one seems to really care what the date on an IDP is, certainly not in Japan. If it does have a date, when it expires, just put a sticker over it and either stamp or write in a new date -- hey presto, you have an IDP good for another year for free!
That doesn't strike me as a sensible way to save 5. YMMV.
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Old May 4, 18, 11:13 pm
  #18  
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Originally Posted by RichardInSF View Post
To be honest, no one seems to really care what the date on an IDP is, certainly not in Japan. If it does have a date, when it expires, just put a sticker over it and either stamp or write in a new date -- hey presto, you have an IDP good for another year for free!

This whole IDP thing is surely regarded as a profit center by the AAA.
I have ones effective 2015, 2016 and 2017 (each one hand-written). Might be able to change 6->8, 7->9 lol.
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Old May 7, 18, 9:02 pm
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Thought I'd add a quick heads up for something I only learnt very recently. Just like JR passes it's possible to buy an ETC pass for different regions. This is only open to foreign visitors and gives you the chance to pay a flat daily rate which covers all tolls. Given the cost of tolls in Japan it can easily save hundreds of dollars in just a few days. Here's an example for Kyushu

KEP Kyushu Expressway Pass - West Nippon Expressway Company Limited.
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Old May 8, 18, 9:04 am
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Originally Posted by IMOA View Post
ETC pass for different regions. This is only open to foreign visitors and gives you the chance to pay a flat daily rate which covers all tolls. Given the cost of tolls in Japan it can easily save hundreds of dollars in just a few days.
Some more information on tolls and passes here:
https://www.japan-guide.com/e/e2354.html
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Old May 8, 18, 1:00 pm
  #21  
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Originally Posted by jib71 View Post
That doesn't strike me as a sensible way to save 5. YMMV.
AAA in the USA is charging $20, but anyway, that's not the main reason -- it's saving the hassle of having to get it. And ir really is irrelevant. No one keeps a database of these international driving permits, their sole purpose is to give information in multiple languages, so who cares about expiration dates? No one, except that at $20 they are a wonderful profit center for AAA.
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Old Jun 13, 18, 2:22 pm
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Thanks a ton for this very useful information.

Fiance and I are going to be honeymooning in Japan for 2 weeks at end of July/beginiing of August.

We are staying in Osaka and Tokyo for about 1 week each. We are thinking of doing a mid-stop to hike Fuji, and were planning to rent a 1-way car from Osaka to Tokyo with a stop at Mt Fuji so we can hike to the top - question is....is there parking at those Fuji base stations? We're looking to do rental car since are are trying to get a very early start to try to do a sunrise...and it will be more convenient if we can drive ourselves from Osaka to Fuji.

Thanks for any help!!
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Old Jun 13, 18, 7:35 pm
  #23  
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Originally Posted by ginmqi View Post
We are staying in Osaka and Tokyo for about 1 week each. We are thinking of doing a mid-stop to hike Fuji, and were planning to rent a 1-way car from Osaka to Tokyo with a stop at Mt Fuji so we can hike to the top - question is....is there parking at those Fuji base stations? We're looking to do rental car since are are trying to get a very early start to try to do a sunrise...and it will be more convenient if we can drive ourselves from Osaka to Fuji.
If it were me, I'd rent the car somewhere near Mt.Fuji along/near the bullet train route from Osaka to Tokyo. Like Mishima or Gotenba. That way, you can avoid city driving (esp if you're renting from Gotenba). The bullet train kodama stops at Mishima. Regardless of where you rent, make sure you rent from a place that's right near the JR train station so that you get off the train and it's an easy walk to it. Driving in Osaka and Tokyo would be really difficult and intimidating for me personally, even though I read Japanese. On the other hand, I think it would be nice to have a car to tour around the Fuji area. I don't remember the parking situation at Mt.Fuji too well, except I know that there is a fair amount of parking available at the 5th station.
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Old Jun 14, 18, 6:12 pm
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Be aware that there are restrictions on private vehicle traffic on the routes to the 5th stations, with the exception of the Gotemba route.
Access / Vehicle Restrictions | Read before climbing | Official Web Site for Mt. Fuji Climbing
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Old Jun 14, 18, 6:22 pm
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Dang, ok that is VERY useful to know. Thanks a ton for the word of caution!
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Old Jun 21, 18, 2:18 pm
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Has anyone rented a car using a third party booking site like Tabirai or Jalan/Rakuten (JP versions)?

Tabirai's price for an Orix rental beats booking direct for a similar car for some sample dates. English Tabirai indicates CDW is included, but prices are higher and state they include an English navi. JP Tabirai has something along 免責補償込み which translates an indemnity compensation and which Orix offers as an add-on CDW.

An ETC reader would be helpful if I wanted a freeway pass or ETC rental card, but as far as I can tell, a 2-day pass in Kyushu starts at 3,500 yen while I just need the segment between Oita/Beppu which is < 3,000 yen. Could I just pay the tolls using US credit card or cash?

Last edited by freecia; Jun 21, 18 at 3:52 pm
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Old Jun 22, 18, 7:57 am
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Ive used tabarai without problem, its what I used on my last rental in April because the rates were quite good. For the tolls you can pay with cash, not sure about credit card (iirc I did use an international card 10 years back but I could be getting mixed up with Europe somewhere) but if you weren’t using an ETC card I’d make sure that I had the cash and given that its only 3000 you’d certainly never be walking around with less than that in your pocket.
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Old Jun 22, 18, 11:46 pm
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Originally Posted by freecia View Post
Has anyone rented a car using a third party booking site like Tabirai or Jalan/Rakuten (JP versions)?

Tabirai's price for an Orix rental beats booking direct for a similar car for some sample dates. English Tabirai indicates CDW is included, but prices are higher and state they include an English navi. JP Tabirai has something along 免責補償込み which translates an indemnity compensation and which Orix offers as an add-on CDW.

An ETC reader would be helpful if I wanted a freeway pass or ETC rental card, but as far as I can tell, a 2-day pass in Kyushu starts at 3,500 yen while I just need the segment between Oita/Beppu which is < 3,000 yen. Could I just pay the tolls using US credit card or cash?
I think every single rental that I've done in the last few years has been through Rakuten (Jpn version). Although I haven't checked every single time, it just seems like Rakuten offers same or better rates and availability than booking direct. Plus I don't have to deal with having to go to different websites and signing up for different username/password, etc. When I book cars through Rakuten, I don't pay Rakuten but rather pay the rental agency directly at the counter and I'm bound by that agency's rules as far as rental terms, insurance waivers, deductibles, etc (although that will also depend on the type of plan you choose). Rakuten is merely a platform for securing the reservation in that regard, as opposed to booking a car in the US through a third-party site. Yet you still collect Rakuten points. So as of now, I see no downside to using Rakuten for rental car bookings.

You can pay expressway toll via credit card... at least you're supposed to be able to. But, for some reason, my Chase VISA was declined ONLY at Jpnese expressway toll booth the last two trips that I rented a car (the same card worked everywhere else in Jpn). Each time I had to then present another card (AMEx) and that worked. Expect to be able to pay by card. But I agree that it's a good idea to have some cash on hand just in case.

Last edited by evergrn; Jun 23, 18 at 2:50 am Reason: typo
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Old Jun 22, 18, 11:59 pm
  #29  
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Most people on FT would not be comfortable booking cars in Japanese and may find it more feasible to go through an English website such as Tocoo. But since I'm Japanese, I've never used those websites before.

I think it'd be helpful if someone who's familiar could post some details about the easiest way for a non-Japanese person to book a rental in Jpn, how Tocoo (or another equivalent website) works as far as the rental terms and who processes the payment, its pros & cons, etc.
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Old Jun 23, 18, 12:53 am
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I used Tocoo last time I was in Nagano. The staff at the rental office doesn't speak English and called Tocoo customer service and have a guy do live translation for me. If I recall correctly, all I did was book & pay through Tocoo, print out the confirmation email, show up at the rental office with my passport, Canadian driver license, international driver permit, and the credit card I used to make the booking and that's it. I don't recall getting dinged for service charges but some people online did say they do sneak in stuff like that. Read the fine print.
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