Car Rental in Hokkaido
Japan boasts one of the world’s best transportation network. Getting around the large cities like Tokyo and Osaka is never an issue. However, to fully enjoy Hokkaido, it is best to get your own rental car. Surely we can take public transportation around, since we are only heading to Niseko and Otaru before going back to Sapporo. However, because of the fact that we are staying in Niseko, we decided to rent a car. For one, it is snowing up there, and it is better to have your own flexibility in schedule than to be dependent on the bus timetables.
We’re also proud that we made it out in one piece, driving up in snow conditions. Of course, not to mention that we had loads of fun (and thrills) driving in through blizzard-y conditions and wiping snow off our cards.
Which Rental Company is The Best?
Car rental in Hokkaido, and Japan in general, is very competitive. There is really no true “best” company, but in terms of pricing, I found that these few well-known players in the industry had pretty similar rates.
I believe that so long as a Toyota or Nissan appears in their name they pretty much won’t go wrong. Furthermore, these companies have shops scattered all over Japan, usually near major train stations so I would decide by location. So don’t fret so much, take the nearest shop.
Things to Take Note for Car Rentals in Hokkaido
This is not an exhaustive guide about renting a car in Hokkaido, but it is our first time doing so. And after in-depth research, here are some of the findings that are pretty important.
1) Check for Scratches and Dents
Before driving off, you will want to check the exterior of the car. I’ve read horror stories on agencies charging exorbitant prices just because customers returned with a tiny scratch. They gave us a white car so it would be even more obvious if we caused any scratch. I shamelessly got the attendant to note down more than 10 thin lines, just to cover our own asses.
Fortunately on the day we returned the car, the shop attendant didn’t bother checking in detail. I’m also pretty sure we absolutely did not scratch the car.
2) Check The Fuel Meter
Make sure the fuel is at full tank before leaving the place. Fuel is also cheaper than what you’d find in Singapore. There’s no surprise for we are ranked the most expensive city in the world 6 years in a row. That said, it is proper etiquette to return it in original condition. Don’t be an ass, just top it back up to full.
3) Collision Damage Waiver and Non-Operating Charge
Honestly, as our first time renting a car (no kidding), we got no clue about the insurance coverage. However, advise given to me was to get both the Collision Damage Waiver (CDW) and Non-Operating Charge (NOC). These prices vary across different companies, but if you select both, it evens out across all the companies that I’ve shortlisted. They go by per-day coverage so your prices may differ depending on your journey.
4) ETC Card and Hokkaido Expressway Pass
If you are going to be driving around Hokkaido, do take note that you might need to pay for Hokkaido’s expressway toll fees. Much like Singapore’s very own ERP system, Japan has this ETC Card system too. Plan carefully if you will travel by expressway, it may be more cost effective to purchase a Hokkaido Expressway Pass. Rental companies usually sell them alongside the ETC Card rentals. I cannot give tips on these, because we bought neither of them as our journey does not require us to do so.
5) Right Hand Driving
It is also worthy to know that in Japan, cars drive on the left side of the road and have the driver’s seat and steering wheel on their right side. Fortunately for us Singaporeans, driving is similar to Singapore. Road signs are pretty much the same, though they may be in Japanese, but these symbols don’t deviate much. Drivers in Japan have got much more manners than Singaporean drivers too!
6) In-Car GPS vs Google Maps
The shop attendant explained the GPS to us, of which we only understood how to press the “start” button. The in-car GPS sucks big time and has the UX of a 1980s software. It’s absolutely confusing and badly translated. We found using Google Maps to be an easier option, given the amazing 4G connectivity in Japan. Driving outside of the city area is probably much simpler compared to the busy streets of town. So for us we didn’t have any issue, considering we had our phones and ample battery packs with us.
Information About Nippon-Rent-A-Car Susukino Hokkaido
Address: Japan, 〒064-0808 Hokkaido, Sapporo, Chuo Ward, Minami 8 Jonishi, 6 Chome−７−11
Opening Hours: 7 a.m. to 9 p.m. daily
Rental Costs: ¥35,310 for 4 days (Average ¥8,800 per day)
Winter Tires: Free!