In traveling around the Hawaiian Islands this summer, a challenge greater than finding cheap airfare deals is finding any form of reasonable car rental without a catch. Last week we rented a compact car in Honolulu for six days. The cheapest price we originally found was about $80 per day, all-inclusive for a compact car. On checking further as the dates of travel approached, however, we found two better-priced options.
In the end, the best-priced option we could find was Thrifty Car Rental. That deal appeared following repeated scouring of sources, including Discount Hawaii Car Rental, AutoSlash, Kayak, and others.
It was impossible, however, to sign into their Thrifty Blue Chip program. Their website kept giving errors. Jeff called twice to talk with agents about the problem. They were unable to resolve it, and ended up resetting his password to no avail.
When renting a car, the frequent renter program will, in almost all circumstances, let you skip the long line and get to a shorter one, or in many cases, like ours, have no line at all.
At that point, out of sheer frustration, and fearing a very long line at Thrifty, Jeff decided to simply retain the Thrifty reservation for $224 while making another reservation. The next best-priced option was from Avis, where he is a preferred member. That was significantly more and cost a total of $310. Jeff’s strategy was to check the line at Thrifty Car Rental first. If it was workable, he would then cancel Avis. Jeff hoped to not encounter what he actually did, which is shown in the lead photo above.
Sometimes it comes down to how much your limited Hawaii time is worth.
The line at Thrifty was literally out the door and beyond at the Thrifty Honolulu Airport RAC facility. It appeared to be a multi-hour wait with limited staff and perhaps 100 people in front of him. The decision became easy. Wait in line for several hours or go to Avis Preferred and pay more. On arriving at Avis, there was no line at all, and in fact, because he used his Avis Wizard number when making the reservation, his name appeared on a board, and he headed directly to the car.
Here are our own rules for Hawaii car rentals that we offer to you:
Rule #1. Don’t rent until you set up a free frequent renter account with the car rental company and are able to apply it to your reservation. This will significantly reduce your wait time at the airport.
Rule #2. Do not pay in advance for car rentals. If you do, you won’t be able to make changes or take advantage of lower prices.
Rule #3. Keep checking up until the last day to see if you have the best possible car at the best possible price.
Rule #4. Don’t assume that the best deal is always found at the same source. That simply isn’t the case. Each time you make a reservation, check multiple sources instead, such as the ones above. Also, Costco Travel, “sometimes” provides car rentals at low cost as part of Hawaii packages.
Rule #5. If you are staying in Waikiki, for example, decide if you need a car rental the entire time. If you don’t, you can save on the high cost of parking too, plus reduce how many days you pay for a car rental. Also check into the cost of a city rental vs. an airport one. Use TheBus in Honolulu for covering closer distances on days you don’t have a car. On all other islands, we typically suggest renting during your entire stay.