Hawaii Car Rental Cost Up 400%

HNL car rentalLack of cars (and accommodations) at the holidays is a long-standing tradition in Hawaii. Here’s the current rental car status for the 2009 holidays and what I recommend you do for next year.

In Honolulu

The holidays won’t be too jolly, at least in terms of car rentals. The price for a compact car at Honolulu during Christmas week (12/24-31) has skyrocketed to $641 total (or more).  Last week I rented the same car in Honolulu at a weekly rate of only $150 total (with dollar.com, using no codes).

On The Neighbor Islands

There is simply no availability (at least at this time) for rental cars.

What made matters worse than ever, car rental companies have downsized their fleets in Hawaii.  With the reduced number of travelers, there has been no reason to have more cars here than can be rented regularly.  Their cost to ship cars to and from the mainland, and to maintain them here, is very high.

What I recommend this season and next.

1.  2009 Strategy:

  • Keep checking online for last minute availability.uhaul
  • Try calling and showing up in person as well.
  • If all else fails, consider a U-Haul pickup truck for $19.95/day plus $.79/mile.  I’ve done this before at HNL, when I was desperate. Because their locations aren’t on-airport however, you’ll need to take cab or bus to get to them.

Here’s what I suggest for the 2010 holiday season (and what I do for all of my travels):

1.  Check car rentals and hotels for availability and pricing prior to purchasing airline tickets so you’ll have some idea what to expect.

2.  Once you have airline tickets, immediately book the best cancellable car and hotel you can.  That way you’ll assure yourself a workable fall-back situation.

3.  Continue to check for better cars and accommodations up until your trip, to the point where you can no longer cancel.  Very often, deals will become available at or near the last minute.  That may even happen here in Hawaii over Christmas and New Year’s week.

Thanks for your comments and suggestions.

Mahalo to Beat of Hawaii’s friend Dodge, for reminding us about this issue.


  1. Lance (5 years ago)

    I was looking at prices for 1 week starting at 1/08/10 at LIH. I was shocked at the lowest price of $471 for the week pre taxes. I changed the pickup time from 11am to 12pm and the price dropped to $167!!

    Just wanted to pass this info on that changeing the pickup time of day can greatly change the prices. I think that I am towards the end of the holiday season helped me.


  2. Beat of Hawaii and Beyond: Travel Deals, Tips, Culture and Analysis » Top Posts of 2009 (5 years ago)

    [...] As you just saw, car rentals in Hawaii can be very expensive and even unavailable.  On the other hand, at times they can be extremely reasonable.  Here are our best suggestions on how to get a good deal. [...]