The rental car business is a very competitive one in Hokkaido, because the majority of visitors to Hokkaido will rent a car. This means plenty of choices and relatively low prices. I booked a rental car for JPY 32120 (S$405) for 7 days, which is only S$58 per day. This is inclusive of a one way fee of JPY 1500 (S$19) for returning the car at a different location (pick up at Airport but return in Sapporo), but excluding CDW, which would have cost an additional S$100.
Here are some findings that may be of interest to you. I basically tried getting a quotation from all the rental companies that are listed that may offer the Hokkaido Expressway Pass. Not all of them worked. Some of them are aggregator sites for which i have no interest. Some of them don’t allow one way rental. Here is a summary of the quotation for a compact car:
Honda Rental and Nippon Rent a car were the most expensive, at 25-40% above the average. Nevertheless, Nippon Rent a car’s website was the most comprehensive – the only one that included the HEP option at the time of reservation. For the other websites, one would have to specify additional instructions in the reservation.
The average pricing was around JPY 45000 for 7 days of rental without CDW, or around S$80+ per day. Among them, Toyota was the most expensive of the lot (the others being Orix, Budget and Times). The excess liablity without taking up CDW varies a lot among the rental companies, going up to S$1800. The typical travel insurance doesn’t normally provide this much coverage, so do make an informed choice, whether to take up CDW coverage for the rental. It will set you back by JPY 1000 or more per day, which makes your overall rental much more costly.
I simply go for the cheapest quotation, given that this is Japan, and a car is a car, whoever you rent it from. Car Rental Hokkaido was the one offering this significantly cheaper rental. Rental of the ETC card, which is necessary for using HEP, is only JPY 100 per day.
In the reservation form, i was asked to provide my Sapporo hotel name since i will be returning the car in Sapporo. I am presuming that someone will come to the hotel to pick up the car, and if so, what convenience!
I was initially thinking of using the HEP only for the first few days of my itinerary, since for the subsequent days, i don’t really get to travel on toll roads, but apparently this is not possible. You either take up the HEP for the full rental period or not at all. Despite this, it is still worthwhile using the HEP, because the HEP will easily pay for itself within the first 3 days. Anyway, bumblebeemum, whose posting i have referenced, says that the HEP cannot be used if i were to return the car at a different location from where it is picked up. I think this is likely because they normally do not allow the ETC card to be returned to a different location.
For my rental, if someone is coming to Sapporo to collect the car, i’m guessing it is as good as returning the car to the Airport which is where i am picking up the car, so i might get to use the HEP afterall. Do look out for my post rental update if you are interested to find out.
Post Rental Update
Everything worked as expected. I took advantage of the HEP. I also took up additional insurance at 1080 Yen per day, because otherwise the excess seems to be 200,000 Yen which is beyond what my travel insurance covers.
Got a pretty old car (that’s how they make money) but it worked fine anyway. The built-in GPS had outdated data but anyway the display is too hard to read, so better use your own GPS, such as Google navigation.
I managed to pump petrol myself once and it’s not difficult after all. The self service kiosk would ask for inserting of loyalty card followed by credit card, as with petrol kiosks elsewhere in the world. Keep pressing the green button, choose regular petrol (red colour) and choose to pump full tank (满) and proceed.
The car rental staff came to pick up the car from my hotel, so that saved me two days of rental fee (and HEP fee too).
To conclude, if you’re reading this I assume you’re looking to rent a car in Hokkaido, and I suggest doing an exhaustive search to find the rental car that best suit your needs.
Do check out my posting on renting a car in Japan too.