People in Japan are getting very creative with their car rentals habits. Orix Auto found that many of its 230,000 registers users weren’t driving their rented vehicles at all, with other rental companies in Japan reporting a similar phenomenon, explained The Guardian. Instead of actually going places using the rentals, they are returning cars with zero mileage, because, according to industry surveys, people are using their car rentals to take naps, have their lunch, as a home office for working and studying, or for storage.
One survey respondent said, “I rented a car to eat a boxed meal that I bought at a convenience store because I couldn’t find anywhere else to have lunch.”
Car rentals in Japan are actually incredibly cheap, making the phenomenon a little more understandable. Most cars are easily rented online, and some even cost as little as $4 for a half hour. According to a 2018 survey conducted by NTT Docomo, another rental company, one in eight customers did not rent their cars to drive, but rather to sleep or use the phone.
“Cars can be used as a private space,” said NTT Docomo. “People used our vehicles in more ways than we expected.”
Orix Auto, however, is less enthusiastic about people’s creative car use. “We do not recommend that our customers rent vehicles for purposes other than traveling,” said an Orix official. “We believe it’s best for our cars to be used for driving.”
As long as cars can be reserved online for cheap and unlocked with a prepaid card — as many companies in Japan offer — this trend doesn’t look like it’s going away, especially in a place as crowded as Tokyo, where personal space is a rarity.