Japan uses an Electronic Toll Collection (ETC) system for its highways. It is option, but provides several benefits:
- There is no need to come to a stop for most toll gates and then pay at the gate, but instead you can drive through with around 20-30 km/h.
- Some exits at the highway which can only be exited using a vehicle equipped with ETC.
- The charge for a toll road can be significantly cheaper. For normal highways it depends on the route, but on weekends and holidays there is normally a discount. But there are some other trajects which are always significantly cheaper with ETC. For example, the Aquatunnel between Kawasaki and Chiba is four times the ETC price for vehicles without ETC.
Even though a vehicle is equipped with an ETC device does not mean the ETC system is working. It is required to input an ETC card into the ETC device so that it is clear to whom the highway fee is charged to. So the convenience is that you can use one ETC vehicle with any ETC card. Below here will be described how to obtain a ETC card and how to get an ETC device in your car if you car is not equipped with it yet.
In Japan ETC cards are usually coupled to credit cards. In the occasion that you apply for a credit card, there is usually the option to also opt for an ETC card. Banks usually require to have a stable income and no debts in order to have a successful application. Once you have received your ETC card you can use it in vehicles that have an ETC system set up. The toll charge will work similar as your credit card, so a month later the toll charge will be directly charged to your bank account.
In the case your purchased vehicle or vehicle that your are using does not have ETC device, either you can get it installed at a car shop or you can do it yourself.
Doing it in the car shop will be expensive, usually there will be charged between 20,000 to 40,000 yen for it. Of course this includes the device, installation of the device and set-up of the device.
Doing it yourself is also doable if you are handy. Buying a device is possible from around 6,000 yen. Then on the internet there are many how-to’s on how to install in it your vehicle. Once installed successfully, the next step is to go to a car shop or dealership to to let them set-up the device, basically connecting the device to your car. This will cost around 3,000 yen.
Test that your card is working before actually using it at the toll gates.
In summary, the ETC device might require some investment cost but if you are regularly using the highway, you will soon retrieve return on investment.