Do you Need a Car in Japan?

You have a few options when it comes to getting around in Japan. You can walk, take the subway, or take a taxi. But what about if you want to go on a road trip? Do you need a car in Japan?

The answer depends on your needs and where you’re going. 

in short:

If you’re only going to be in big cities like Tokyo or Osaka, you probably don’t need a car. The subway and taxis will be more than enough for getting around. But a car will be necessary if you travel to smaller towns or rural areas.

Another thing to remember is the cost of owning and driving a car in Japan.

Car ownership costs can get pretty expensive. For example, you’ll have to pay for car insurance and car payments. You also need an international or Japanese driver’s license, which can cost up to $300. 

The cost of gas in Japan is at least 45% more than the average price in the US so keep that in mind while planning out your budget!

Can you live without a car in Japan?


That is an important question to consider if you are moving to Japan for work or school.

Many people decide whether they need a car based on the cost of owning and maintaining a vehicle and how much money they will spend on public transportation.

First, you should know that commuting by public transportation in Japan is incredibly convenient.

Everything is very efficient and affordable prices, and your commute can be concise if you pick the right places to live.

Living in Japan without a car may even have some benefits! 

On the other hand, many ex-pats living in Tokyo miss having a car because it provides more freedom to explore the area, plus public transportation can often be inconvenient.

The decision whether or not to buy a car in Japan is personal, but here are some things you may want to consider before making your choice:

  • The price of owning and maintaining a car (insurance costs, gas, parking fees)
  • How much do you plan to use your car (daily commute, weekend trips)
  • How much do you want/need freedom and convenience?
  • Costs of commuting (how long your commute is, how often you use public transportation)

If you own a car but plan to move to Japan, you must realize that importing your vehicle will be costly and complicated. It also won’t increase your freedom since many toll roads and gas costs quickly increase.


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Is it worth having a car in Tokyo?


Many people wonder if the money and time spent owning a car in Tokyo are worth it since most don’t use it that much. Depending on your budget, you can quickly get around by train or subway for cheap-to-free.

There are several pros to having a car in Japan.

First, you’re free to drive anywhere you want whenever you want, which is not the case with trains. While many Japanese train lines have early morning and late-night services, they are often only every half hour at those times.

Also, going out of town on weekends or holidays for festivals or mountain hiking is easier since Japan does not have a comprehensive rail network outside the major cities.

Many households have at least one car because they are so convenient.

However, there are also many downsides to owning a car in Tokyo.

As said before, high gas prices, high parking fees, traffic jams, and difficulty in finding a spot to park your car.

Many people choose not to have a car for these reasons and instead use public transportation or bicycles.

I do not think owning a car in Tokyo is worth it.

It’s cheaper to use public transportation like the subway, buses, and taxis.

If you have a car in Tokyo, you will most likely use it for holidays or special occasions.

Whether or not to own a car in Tokyo is up to you and your family’s income, but if considering whether or not the time and money spent on owning a car in Tokyo are worth it, the answer is no.

Is it Expensive to Buy a Car in Japan?


In Tokyo, it can be pretty expensive to buy a car. For example, a Honda Jazz (Fit) costs around $17000 in Japan, whereas the same brand and model of vehicle is closer to $20000.

Driving Fees

Driving fees are still required every year, even after buying the car.

Generally, these expenses include ownership tax (which goes towards public transportation projects) and compulsory insurance (which covers other drivers’ medical expenses in case of an accident).

Many people feel these expenses are only increasing and that owning a car may not be worth it in the long run.

Driving Rules in Japan

In Tokyo, driving regulations are sophisticated, and mistakes frequently lead to traffic citations. Speeding is one of them; you’ll be fined if you exceed the speed limit. (Here is a table that shows how much it can cost you)

The driver’s license is based on points in Japan, like in many European nations. If you incur demerit points, your driving license can be revoked. (read more here).

This means the penalty is severe enough to scare most people into obeying traffic laws, resulting in safer roads.

Is it Hard to Find Parking in Tokyo?

When people own a car, they must also be mindful of where they park their vehicles. One issue is that public lots require monthly payments (which are even more expensive for non-residents).

Many residential areas of Tokyo require special permits to use parking lots.

As a result, some people claim that it is nearly impossible to find parking in some parts of Japan.

What About Renting a Car in Japan?

Renting a car for your vacation gives you the freedom to explore independently.

While taking a taxi or public transportation can be inconvenient since finding the right bus or train is challenging, renting a car is easier because you can drive wherever you want and park near restaurants or tourist spots.

Remember: If you don’t know how to drive or are uncomfortable driving on the left (like in England), you might feel unsafe driving around Japan.

Pros and Cons of Renting a Car in Japan

Renting a car in Japan has both pros and cons. As mentioned before, it’s convenient for exploring new areas because you can go wherever you want, when you want. Also, the roads are well-paved, so driving on them is not hard.

However, there still might be some places that you will have trouble finding since many roads in Japan aren’t well-marked. Furthermore, navigating and understanding the road rules and signs can be difficult, especially if you don’t know Japanese!

If you’re looking for a relaxing vacation without too much stress from figuring out how to get around or where to go, renting a car might not be that great.

However, if you want to get out of your comfort zone and like renting a car to make transportation more accessible, go for it!

If you don’t already own a car in Japan, we recommend renting one instead; there are many benefits to not owning one here.

If you’re a person who likes to go out more often and has less of a habit of taking the subway or bus everywhere, then renting a car for your vacation might be perfect for you!


How much does it cost to rent a car in Japan?

It depends on the company, and what type of car you want to rent out, but generally, it costs around $45 a day.

Using an International Driver’s Permit in Japan

If you plan to rent a car, consider using an International driver’s Permit (IDP). The IDP is an international driving permit that can be used in almost every country. It’s an alternative to your driver’s license if it isn’t accepted in the area you are visiting.

Do you need a car in Tokyo?

While Tokyo has an extensive and efficient public transportation system, owning a car is not essential for getting around the city. With its convenient train and subway networks, along with numerous taxis and buses, exploring Tokyo without a car is both practical and cost-effective.

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