People in Japan are Renting Cars and Not Driving Them Anywhere

We think of Uber as a substitute for renting a car, you pay someone to drive you in their car and you don’t have to worry about parking, gas, insurance or returning the vehicle. I rent cars less frequently than I used to, especially visiting a big city staying downtown.

Ridesharing is supposed to be a threat to the rental car business, and airports that have spend billions building off-airport rental car centers are worried about the exorbitant tax base from their car rental business declining.

But what if ridesharing isn’t a substitute for renting cars at all? It isn’t if the reason to rent a car isn’t actually to get anywhere as — apparently — is a trend in Japan?

One respondent to the company’s survey said they rented vehicles to nap in or use for a workspace. Another person stored bags and other personal belongings in the rental car when nearby coin lockers were full.

In the aftermath of the 2011 Great East Japan Earthquake and tsunami, rental cars were also used to recharge cellphones.

”I rented a car to eat a boxed meal that I bought at a convenience store because I couldn’t find anywhere else to have lunch,” said a 31-year-old male company employee who lives in Saitama Prefecture, close to Tokyo.

“Usually the only place I can take a nap while visiting my clients is a cybercafe in front of the station, but renting a car to sleep in is just a few hundred yen (several dollars), almost the same as staying in the cybercafe.”

Copyright: tupungato / 123RF Stock Photo

(HT: Marginal Revolution)

About Gary Leff

Gary Leff is one of the foremost experts in the field of miles, points, and frequent business travel - a topic he has covered since 2002. Co-founder of frequent flyer community, emcee of the Freddie Awards, and named one of the "World's Top Travel Experts" by Conde' Nast Traveler (2010-Present) Gary has been a guest on most major news media, profiled in several top print publications, and published broadly on the topic of consumer loyalty. More About Gary »

More articles by Gary Leff »


  1. I have a friend who when he was tight on cash during a summer rented out his Manhattan apartment for several hundred dollars per night.

    He then rented a U-Haul for $19.95/day and $1.99 per mile and parked the U-Haul a few blocks from the U-Haul Chelsea facility. He could store his belongings there and sleep in the back at night. Cheapest way to live in Manhattan! The plates are ‘Commercial’ so he could park in areas normal car rentals cannot.

    It might not be the Ritz but you won’t find a cheaper crashpad in Manhattan!

  2. Totally weird!

    Uber and Lyft must be crushing the rental car companies if my personal experience is any indication. I’ve almost completely eliminated renting cars in Italy and France on my business trips and relying on Uber instead and saving a lot of money. These companies renting cars in Europe have been gauging Americans for decades.

  3. @Donna Uber is basically nonexistent in Japan. Mass transit is a cheaper and better option in the cities, and not enough people wanr to go to the sticks to make being an Uber driver worthwhile. Taxi union is also quite strong.

  4. @Donna I think Uber is only in tokyo and it usually costs more than the taxis. The taxis themselves are incredibly expensive (I try to avoid them unless I am really late) and mass transit is much better for getting around. When people do want to take a taxi the taxi drivers usually have clean cabs and the drivers aren’t trying to rip you off the way they do in many countries. This is why a lot of people like Uber to avoid shady cab drivers but when you have decent drivers and nice taxis the incentive to pay extra for uber isn’t really there. Uber has really really struggled in Japan which is one of the most difficult markets in the world for them. but they are starting to make headway via their uber eats delivery service. People renting cars in Japan are likely doing so in areas where mass transit isn’t as connected and where there is likely to not be a significant taxi presence.

  5. Back in the US Air annual baseball promo, I rented a few cars without driving them but that’s old news.
    Actually renting a car and storing your luggage in it during a long layover is genius. The best I’ve ever done was use a free national car rental day to drive a car from FLL-MIA as I got off a cruise ship at port everglades and my MIA flight home wasn’t until late in the day and the free car rental was way cheaper than an Uber, shuttle, taxi, etc. from downtown FLL to the Miami airport.

  6. “practice rapping”

    Please God someone tell me there’s social media videos of THIS. Hahaha.

  7. @Donna,
    …”These companies renting cars in Europe have been gauging Americans for decades.”

    Remember these companies are mostly American, and also I have come across more non-American tourists in Europe than American; so Americans are their least-affected gaugees (is that a word? 🙂 ).

  8. rental cars in the us are too$$$$$$ to rent and eat or sleep in! esp near large cities last summer hertz and enterprise were charging over $140 a day for a compact car..nuts

  9. The price did feel too cheap so I looked some up…
    Orix’s rates start around $35 for a one hour kei-car rental outside of the cities.
    Times Car is a carsharing company, after a $10 monthly membership fee, you can actually rent in 15min increments for $2. 6 hour block is $40 with certain timeframes having a discount and only costing $20 for 6-8 hours.

  10. Car rentals used to be very cheap because local taxes were not highway robbery. In those days, I considered renting a car instead of sleeping at airports even though I never did.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.