Using the Anyca car-sharing service in Japan and how it compares to Times Car Share

I’ve used the Times car-sharing service for a number of years now. Times has the biggest network of stations (12,000+) and cars (27,000+) with the largest number of drivers (1.3m+) in Japan. I haven’t had any desire to purchase a car while living in Tokyo thanks to the amazing public transport and the vast network of Times cars. The competition for getting a car, however, has been heating up over the past year or two. In our area, it now feels more difficult to reserve a car, especially when you need something larger than a five seater. This has given me pause and making me rethink my no-car stance.

So it was great friend surprise when my friend told me about Anyca just before our recent ski trip. Like AirBnB or CouchSurfing or any other sharing economy services, this one connects owners directly with renters. The service isn’t new. It’s been around since 2015 and appears to have been gathering critical mass if it’s reaching my ears.

It provided some immediate benefits over Times when I gave it a go.

  • First, I could search for a car with “studless” tires, which allows you to drive on snowy roads in Japan. The alternative is to have chains. With Times, it’s just not an option you can find easily or at all. In general, you can search for all kinds of cars wih different kinds of specs that you won’t find in other sharing services.
  • Second, the number of seven or eight-seater cars was much higher in our area than what Times offers.
  • Third, there is no monthly fee. So signing up and reserving my first car was a breeze. That, however, doesn’t mean you’re going to pay less money in the end though. There is a standard insurance fee that gets tacked on above the base price and you have to fill up the gas tank, unlike Times.

There are some drawbacks compared to Times, though.

  • Paying for gas adds up.
  • Communication with the owner takes time. It’s not automatic like with Times, you’ll need to get approval from the owner first and that means writing a good request. Not sure how often people get rejected. You’ll also need to do everything in Japanese. You could get your way around the Times system without really needing a knowledge of Japanese, but communicating with the owner is a must with Anyca, so no way to get around that.
  • You also need to find cars that the owner has installed the AnycaKey. This allows you unlock the car with your phone and you never need to met the owner face to face. Many of the ca owners don’t yet use this system, so the times you can borrow the car will be more limited.
  • You are borrowing someone’s car rather than a company’s. Makes me a little nervous as I don’t want something to happen to someone’s primary mode of travel.

For a two-day trip to the snowy mountains, I ended up paying about 20,000 yen. A similar eight-seater would have cost around 35,000 yen from a standard rental car place. Both of these options would have included paying for gas. Times comes in around 13,000 for a base cost, but because we were driving over 200km one way, it would have added quite a bit of extra cost. I’m guessing around 20,000 to 23,000 yen in the end. No gas costs, though, so Times probably would have ended up the cheapest. Finding the studless car, however, would have been nearly impossible in our area.

Anyca will definitely be something I consider going forward for future trips. It was a lifesaver for this past trip.