Gouged By Hawaii Car Rentals? Fight Back!

Gouged By Hawaii Car Rentals? Fight Back.

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.

Avis's check-in line was quick compared to Thrifty.

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.

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36 thoughts on “Gouged By Hawaii Car Rentals? Fight Back.”

  1. Aloha,

    Why didnt you look up local places like Lucky Owl? For local renters they are the best and dont make you wait hours? I suggest them to all visitors as they are usually cheapest as well.

  2. Last time we stayed in Waikiki, we were able to rent a car for just the 2 days we planned to explore the rest of the island, and the pick up location was right on Kalakaua so it was very convenient and cost less because we didn’t rent a car for our entire stay.

  3. To Beat of Hawaii: You asked where I checked for car prices and I agree I didn’t like paying in advance for a better rate and have never done it before. We booked our trip only a month in advance and I wanted to make sure we had a car. In my experience the closer to your reservation the car prices seem to stay the same or go up. I checked for prices directly on all the car rental companies websites plus Expedia, Orbitz, Travelocity, kayak etc and Costco. Wisecars had the cheapest rate for a van and I could have cancelled my pre-paid car reservation but I never found a cheaper rate and I checked often. (I was imagining a bunch of charges and credits on my credit card when changing car reservations) I had never used Wisecars before and after booking through them I read a lot of bad reviews but it turned out fine for us.

    1. Hi Kathy.

      Glad it worked out. We are always leery of third parties like Wisecars as well.In addition to those you checked, we’d also suggest Discount Hawaii Car Rental and Autoslash.


  4. Thank you BOH!!!

    After reading this yesterday, remembered rule #3, and rebooked my standard SUV rental through Enterprise last night for over $600 less than my original booking three months ago. Now $1,030 for 17 days, which I think is outstanding for an SUV. This was $2,144 when I first reserved last year.

    The lower prices are absolutely wonderful, but for someone like me who likes to plan all the details, these ever-changing prices make budgeting tough. I would have visited sooner 😉

    1. Hi Jake.

      Great! Thanks for letting us know. We can’t even count how much we have saved by doing the same thing over the years.


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