While public transportation inside and between cities is usually efficient, there are some areas of the country where it is greatly beneficial to have a rental car—Hokkaido, for example, or the beaches of Okinawa (not to mention the Mt. Asu volcano) are all best accessed by road.
Japan has an extensive system of toll roads, which can be paid for in many different ways. Besides the regular cash and credit card payment booths, drivers who rent a car in Japan can add an Electronic Toll Collection (ETC) device on to their rental; some companies like Toyota Rent a Car even include them as standard. This allows you to pass through the toll system without paying on the spot. All tolls are added together and paid to the rental company when the car is returned.
The law in Japan states that children under 6 must be restrained in an age-appropriate car seat in the rear seats of the vehicle. Car hire agencies generally have baby and child seats for different age categories, which can be booked in advance for an additional fee. Nippon Rent-A-Car, for example, charges approximately ¥540 ($5) per seat per day.
While cross-border car rentals are not permitted in Japan, rental agencies have no problem with drivers visiting the different Japanese islands by car ferry. These ferries are a popular way of traveling from island to island but can be quite expensive. In the case of a very long sea journey (e.g., to Rebun or Sado), it may in fact be cheaper to drop off your car at the ferry port and pick up a new one on the other side.
25% of our users found rental cars in Japan for $85 or less
Book your rental car in Japan at least 1 day before your trip in order to get a below-average price
Off-airport rental car locations in Japan are around 5% more expensive than airport locations on average
Economy rental cars in Japan are around 42% cheaper than other car types, on average
FAQs about hiring a car in Japan
On average a car hire in Japan costs $128 per day.
Standard (Nissan X-Trail or similar) is the most frequently booked car hire type in Japan.
In the past 72 hours, the cheapest car hires were found at Budget ($81/day) and Nippon Rent-A-Car ($140/day).
Based on car searches on KAYAK, the most popular cities to hire a car in Japan are Miyazaki (45% of total searches of users looking to hire a car in Japan), Asahikawa (20%) and Akita (20%).
On average a car hire in Japan costs $606 per week ($87 per day).
On average a car hire in Japan costs $2,598 per month ($87 per day).
Driving conditions in Japan are generally very good, with roads well maintained and a large network of highways that crisscross the country. Roads are usually efficient and smooth. In Japan, traffic drives on the left, and it is important to note that there is a zero-tolerance policy on drinking and driving, with hefty fines or even deportation used to counter offenses.
To rent a car in Japan, drivers must be at least 18 years of age. With the exception of a few European countries like Germany and Belgium, whose citizens may submit their domestic driving license with an official Japanese translation, it is essential to have an International Driver’s Permit (IDP) to rent a car in Japan. A credit card will also be required.
Petrol prices in Japan are comparable to those in Europe but considerably higher than in the USA: expect to pay around ¥150 ($1.40) for a liter of gas, equivalent to around $5.29 for a gallon. Most petrol stations offer the option of self-service (menus in Japanese only) or full-service, in which case it may be helpful to know a few Japanese words. Payment is usually accepted in cash or credit card.
Several different speed limits are enforced in Japan, all of which are clearly posted. As a general rule, the limit in urban areas is 40 km/h (25 mph), while side streets are limited to 30 km/h (18 mph). Open roads are usually limited to 50 or 60 km/h (31 or 37 mph), while expressways and highways carry speed limits of 80 to 100 km/h (49 to 62 mph).
The rates displayed include all taxes and fees for hire cars for the class listed and were found by KAYAK users in the last 48 hours. Offers are subject to change and may not be available on all car hires listed or dates of travel. Some hire car providers charge additional fees for other services (GPS, infant car seats, etc.). Please check the website of the respective hire car provider.