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Asia > Japan > Tokyo

See: Why rent a car in Tokyo ? | Why not? | Ratings | Summary | Comments

(All of these pages will look a lot nicer when they are tidied up later in the spring)

Your key questions for any destination:

Do I need a car in Tokyo?

Strictly speaking, there are very few travel destinations anywhere in the world where it's absolutely essential to rent a car in order to see the main points of interest.

That's why we give you loads of ratings scales from 1 to 10, rather than just yes or no answers!

  • The need question is generally answered by looking at public transport (transit) options. Is it good enough for visitors who are happy to consider using it?
  • How many public transport routes are there, and are they mainly rail or road (bus) based?
  • Is public transport fast, frequent, safe, reliable and cheap?
  • Does public transport actually take you to the places you'll probably want to see?

Is it worth hiring a car in Tokyo?

This question is usually more about value for money. For this, we look at Tokyo car hire options, and consider how rental costs compare with using transit.

How far are you likely to drive anyway, and how much might you expect to spend on fuel, road tolls, parking and any other charges. We compare Tokyo with other destinations locally and around the world.

This is obviously much more of an issue if you are planning a longer road trip than it is on a small island.

Should I rent a car in Tokyo? 

This is basically a merging of the two questions. Everything else might be about giving certain facts about the costs of car rental or using public transport in Tokyo, but answering this question is very much a matter of opinion.

Why would you even want to consider getting a hire car in Tokyo? What about for getting out of the city, for example for visiting Mount Fuji?

Please note that is currently being revised and updated in preparation for the Summer 2022 (northern hemisphere) tourist season. 

We do not intent to include detailed covid information, nor do we intend to suggest hiring a car, just because public transport might still have a mask requirement. Our advice will be based on the same criteria we've always used, ie whether or not you can get a better travel experience, or at least a better value one, by choosing not to hire a car.

Quick Ratings

Price band

Tokyo is in car rental price band: 7/10 (1 = cheapest car rental location)

General comment - based on price alone, is it worth renting a car in Tokyo? 

No. Car rental is expensive by global standards.


Can you expect big swings in car rental prices in Tokyo between the peak and the off peak season?

5/10 (0 = stable prices)

Driving score: 2/10

Non car score:10/10

Balance: 2

(0 = car hire not advised / 10 = rental car essential)

General comment -


Just because there might be a huge amount of cars which are made in Japan, this really doesn’t give the visitor any reason to want to hire one when they get here. Tokyo really is the world’s ultimate rail city, with a huge number of subway lines supplemented by local commuter lines, express services and of course the amazing high-speed Shinkansen trains. Needless to say, with Tokyo-Yokohama being one of the world’s largest urban areas, there’s no point whatsoever in having a hire car to go anywhere in this region.

So the question then turns to whether or not it’s worth looking at a hire car to go anywhere else, and our answer is still no. For example, the most iconic image of Japan might be that of Mount Fuji with a high-speed bullet train passing below. To visit Mount Fuji properly, it’s really best to go in July and August when the slopes are available for hiking. Even at any other time during the year, local trains will get you close enough, and then buses will take you up to the edge of the mountain, but there is simply no point at all in having a car.

Why? Visiting Tokyo using a hire car

Why do you need a car in Tokyo ?

  • Very few reasons to get a hire car in Tokyo.
  • Getting a hire car in Tokyo might be moderately useful for some sort of Japanese road trip. It really makes a lot more sense to look at doing this by train first, especially when various different Japan rail passes are available for your stay.
  • For suggested places for driving excursions further to the west, please see our Osaka car hire guide.
  • For a group of people travelling together, it will probably still be better value by car.
  • If you aren’t buying a Japan Rail pass of some kind, you will find the trains are prohibitively expensive.
  • Very limited long distance bus service in Japan. To go any distance, you will need to take a train.

Why not? Visiting Tokyo without a car

Why don't you need a car in Tokyo ?

  • Outstanding public transport – amongst the best in the world.
  • Huge range of options – from bus to light rail to monorail to subway and commuter rail.
  • An iconic trip by bullet train is an essential part of the Japanase visitor experience.
  • Buy a Japan rail pass to get the best value.

Ratings: How does Tokyo compare?

Is it worth hiring a car in Tokyo? TBC

This is based on a rough consideration of the costs of renting a car in Tokyo, and how this compares with the costs of using public transport. The answer to this varies hugely from one destination to the next, based on a wide range of factors. It's based on renting a car at the airport (TBC), and driving for an average of 2-3 hours on open roads on most days.

How does this compare if:

You are travelling:

Solo / As couple / small family / larger family / senior couple etc

Does car rental make sense on different budgets?



Do you need to hire a car in Tokyo? TBC

This is based strictly on whether or no we think it's possible to visit Tokyo (and the surrounding area) without using a car. Of the three key questions, this one is the most likely to be a "no".

Should you rent a car in Tokyo? TBC

This is a balance of all factors. Remember this is an answer to the question for people who are already asking it. That's why the answer might still be a "yes", even when public transport is good. 

See global comparisons

Hiring | Driving | Parking

Trains | Buses | Local travel


Car hire basics:


Public transportation basics:


Regular bus services: YES

Coach (inter-city): YES

Tram: NO

Metro: NO

Commuter Rail:

High Speed Rail:

Rail type (end stub / through / junction / hub):


As you start ....

Does Tokyo airport have a direct rail link?

(Yes - within terminal / adjacent / short walk) (Yes - bus transfer / other) No






Has our advice for Tokyo car rental changed over time, or has it been pretty constant?

2017 - 2

2019 - 2

2021 - 2

Average score - 2



Is it worth hiring a car in Tokyo? Verdict – no, strong no.


Do you or don't you need a car in Tokyo ?

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