Japanese people no longer into owning cars? Car sharing in Japan


photo by TAKA@P.P.R.S

It’s been a while since the downturn of car sales to Japanese youngsters became a frequent topic on news. According to those articles, young Japanese nowadays are not so interested in purchasing cars compared to older generations used to at their age. But it doesn’t seem that older generations of Japanese people are buying that many cars comparing to young ones. Then why so many congestions occur on Japanese roads? Well, no one knows. But anyway, the number of people who choose not to own cars is moderately increasing, and more people are shifting their life styles from owing cars to “Sharing cars”. Car sharing is somewhat similar to renting a car, but it is more cost efficient than ordinary car rental. Car sharing is one of the businesses that is rapidly growing lately in Japan.


Leading car sharing providers in Japan

Car sharing is a model of car rental that commonly used in Europe and US. In Japan, over 800,000 users are registered to car sharing systems to use more than 10000 car sharing stations. Japanese car sharing businesses are commonly operated by rental car agents as represented by Times Car PLUS, the largest car sharing provider with the largest number of stations across Japan. The second largest agents ORIX CarShare and Careco operate within relatively limited areas, though they have plenty of stations in major cities. The following table shows summary of those car sharing providers’ services.



Times Car PLUS


ORIX CarShare



Startup cost
(Initial fee etc) 

(Membership issuance fee) 

(Membership issuance fee) 


Per-hour rate

206yen every 15minutes
(Basic plan)

200yen every 15minutes
(Standard class)

150yen every 10minutes
(Middle class)

Distance charge


15yen per ㎞

16yen per ㎞
Under 6hours free

Monthly fee









Injury・property damage・vehicle・self-injury 
*Passenger compensation NOT covered

Injury・property damage・vehicle・self-injury

Injury・property damage・vehicle・self-injury 

Number of stations

More than 8800 across 46 prefectures

More than 1600 stations in Kanto, Kansai, Tohoku, Tokai and Okinawa regions

More than 1600 stations in Tokyo, Kanagawa, Saitama, Chiba, Okayama, Aichi, Osaka, Kyoto, Hyogo and Okinawa

※Charge for usage is the sum of the total per-hour rate and the total distance charge.


Eligibility and registration


To become a member in a car sharing system, you must be of legal age and have a valid driver license to drive in Japan. Foreign driver license issued in specific countries and International Driving Permit can be accepted as well. Car sharing agents may apply their own requirements: for example, you must have more than 1 year driving experience. There are three types of driver license that are valid in Japan.

  • Japanese driver license 
  • International Driving Permit issued based on the 1949 Geneva Convention
  • Driver license issued in Switzerland, Slovenia, Germany, France, Belgium, Monaco, or Taiwan with Japanese translation attached

How to become a member

Each car sharing provider offer several ways to apply for a membership. The followings are examples of application tools of previously mentioned leading providers. Application typically takes 1 to 2 weeks to complete.

  • Online: Apply online and receive an IC membership card by mail
  • By mail: Send the application form by mail and receive an IC membership card
  • In person: Visit a shop to apply for a membership there
  • At information session: Visit one of regular information session held by car sharing provider to apply

What you need to be a member

  • Driver license valid in Japan
  • Credit card issued under the name of applicant
  • Email address and mobile phone number of the applicant him/herself

*You may be required to submit other documents depending on your situation
*International Driving Permit holder may be allowed to apply via website only


How to use it

Once you receive your membership card, you are ready to go. You follow similar steps to share a car for all providers. The below is one by one steps of Times Car PLUS.

  1. Check availability online for your preferred time slot and make a booking.
  2. Go to Times Car PLUS station before booking time, hold your membership card over a card reader to unlock the vehicle.
  3. Check for any damages and spoilages before getting in the car.
  4. Take a key from the box inside the car and move the car from parking space.
  5. Place a sign in front of the parking space to avoid other vehicle parked there.
  6. To return the car, park it on the parking space, turn off the vehicle, place the car key in the box and verify there is no personal belongings left inside.
  7. Place the sign back in front of the car and hold your membership card over the card reader to lock.

*Vehicles can be filled up at contracted petrol station by using petrol card kept in the car. Drivers who did filling up or cleaning can receive discount of charge.


Rules for car sharing

  • Car sharing is only for a short time usage, that is, from quarter of an hour up to 72hours. 
  • Unlike ordinary rental car, the vehicle is NOT cleaned every time it is returned. Make sure to keep the vehicle tidy and clean for next person. 
  • Verify that there is no damages on the vehicle BEFORE you take a drive. If any wear and tear detected, contact your car sharing provider immediately. 
  • Minor spoilages such as smoking odor and little scratch on the vehicle are subject to repair. In such a case, loss-of-use charge will be incurred. 
  • Car sharing vehicle must be returned to the original station. There is not one-way option.
  • Unfortunately, no car sharing agents provide multi-lingual service. To use car sharing in Japan, you must have adequate Japanese language skill to understand agent’s website, or have someone who can assist you.


Happy driving!

Car sharing is one of the most rapidly growing businesses in modern Japan. In fact, it is not very practical to privately own a car when you live in an urban area with good public transport network. But you also wouldn’t feel like renting a car every time you want to go out for quick shopping. Car sharing allows you to hire a car for very short period of time and there is no need to pay for car parking space or regular inspection. One downside is all the services are only in Japanese. But many rental car agents have already started providing multi-lingual services. It may not be so long before you will be able to use car sharing in Japan in your own language.


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あきらことほ Kotoho Akira

Living outside Japan for a good many years, I often rediscover nice little things about this country every time I return here. I would be more than happy if this column may help you find your "nice little things about Japan"!

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