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Why Do Japanese Rent Cars? For Napping, Rapping and Dressing Up For Halloween

Car-sharing and renting is more widely supported in Japan than most parts of the world. One would think the obvious purpose of these services is merely to find a way to get to a certain destination. Yet these days, some Japanese people have other ideas in mind.

As reported by The Asahi Shimbun, car-sharing operator Orix Auto Corp. couldn't understand why so many of its rental cars read “traveled no distance” after reviewing their mileage records once customers returned them. A similar report was made by leading automobile-sharing service provider Times24.Co. 

To solve the mystery, both companies conducted customer surveys. The results revealed how changing attitudes towards private space has changed the way Japanese people make use of their rented cars and electronic devices, The Verge reports. 

The Asahi Shimbun reported that customers first started to use rental cars to charge their phones in the aftermath of the 2011 Great East Japan Earthquake and tsunami. 

Rented vehicles are also commonly used for napping and working as "renting a car to sleep in is just a few hundred yen (several dollars)," a businessman living close to Tokyo told the news source. He also mentioned that he used to rent cars to have lunch in because it was easier than eating anywhere else.

Car-sharing services are convenient, cheap and can be accessed via smartphones. These factors make car-sharing easy for customers. It only costs around JPY400 (less than US$4) per 30 minutes to rent a vehicle, which can be picked up at more than 12,000 parking places across Japan.

Another vehicle-sharing service, called NTT Docomo Inc., found in a 2018 survey that "people also rented vehicles to watch TV in, get dressed up for Halloween, practice singing, rapping and English conversation." Though these findings sound fascinating, they raise the question of how companies will react to how customers are now using their vehicles. 

According to The Asahi Shimbun, some service providers felt embarrassed upon learning their rental cars are being used for non-traveling purposes. The companies also lose cash as customers pay less when they don't travel.

Another issue is that some users leave the engine running so they can use air conditioning, which can be harmful to the environment. 

[Top photo via Spoon & Tamago]

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