When we last wrote about Hawaii car rental prices, we were happy to report that after continually sharing just how bad the situation was for months, things had shifted favorably in terms of both pricing and availability.
As we get ready for the ultra-busy holiday season here in Hawaii, we are sorry to report that it won’t be smooth sailing ahead, as Hawaii car rentals remain plagued by some very real pricing and availability problems.
There is still a glimmer of hope that include a week’s rental including all taxes and fees for about $200. So read on for at least one sweet spot.
Kauai car rentals second highest priced in US.
Kayak says that the cost of car rentals on at least one Hawaiian Island, Kauai, is the second-highest in the US, following Bozeman. From what you’re about to see below, unfortunately, the other islands don’t fare much better at the moment.
The cost of Hawaii car rentals started to drop from ridiculously high rates experienced this summer. That price decline came as we encountered the latest wave of Covid and the governor asking visitors to stay away through October. It was also due to normally less seasonal demand.
Hawaii car rental price examples as of October 20, 2021.
We just checked again online for all major car rental companies and compared that with our last check, which took place on September 29. We did not include minor companies or alternative rental sources. Vendors included are Alamo, Avis, Budget, Dollar, Enterprise, Hertz, National, and Thrifty. We also did not check Craigslist Hawaii car rentals due to ongoing concerns you should read about. On the other hand, Turo is a viable alternative with insurance options and is frequently the best-priced option that we have used successfully.
Note that the prices below are intended as guidelines only and can fluctuate rapidly. They vary greatly both by island, by season, and by dates within each season. Prices are before any discounts and include taxes. We avoided pre-paid rates in the comparison.
Late-October to December (except Thanksgiving). Honolulu starts from $206/week (previously $206/no change). Maui starts from $458/week (previously $206). Big Island starts from $354/week (previously $232). Kauai $802 (previously $592) although largely unavailable.`
Christmas/New Year. Honolulu starts from $971/week (previously $547). Maui starts from $1237/week (previously $1405). Big Island starts from $1147/week (previously $1185). Kauai starts from $1149 (previously $1409).
January 2022 and beyond. Honolulu starts from $731/week (previously $560). Maui starts from $734/week (previously $569). Big Island starts from $758/week (previously $588). Kauai starts from $550/week (was $681).
What is the new normal going to be now for Hawaii car rentals in 2022?
Based on our latest checking today, it appears that in most cases, we can continue to expect to pay just under $100 per day for car rentals for the foreseeable future. And at the holidays and in peak of summer, agencies are hoping to keep prices about double that. So it looks like car rentals will continue to cost significantly more than your Cheap Flights to Hawaii.
We have updated tips to reduce prices on car rentals below.
Plan for Hawaii car rental the same way and at the same time as flights to Hawaii and accommodations.
Car rentals have now become the second-largest expense for most Hawaii vacations. The first is accommodations, and the third is now airfare to Hawaii.
Following are our just updated suggestions, from a local Hawaii perspective. Also read comments for great ideas from our visitors.
Alternative Hawaii car rental sources remain popular.
Hawaii car rentals remain a topic of widespread discussion, and visitors are often forced to rent cars from alternative sources. But before trying that, keep these in mind. First, the state has now said it frowns on visitors’ rental of non-traditional vehicles like U-Haul trucks for example. Second, for any alternative rental, please check to see how insurance would work in the event of a problem. See more on that below.
We know of people in Hawaii buying cars, sometimes dozens of cars, to rent them to visitors. This, however, brings up questions that need to be answered before driving off.
Is the primary cause of the problem Hawaii car rental company consolidation?
Hawaii car rental prices were already escalating even prior to inventory, chip, other issues beginning. Nearly 95% of the car rental market is controlled by just three companies, even though they market cars through multiple brands, giving the illusion of competition. Enterprise includes National and Alamo, Hertz includes Thrifty and Dollar, and Avis includes Budget.
Then too, the car rental agencies sold off their cars early in the pandemic. They are having a hard time replacing those now for a variety of reasons, including a computer-chip shortage that is limiting new car production.
What other factors contributed to the crisis in Hawaii car rentals?
Demand for Hawaii car rentals continues to exceed capacity at peak periods. That’s true at both holidays and mid-summer and has been the case for decades. That pattern is not changing.
Hawaii car rental taxes and fees.
In addition to high base rates, there are the following additional mandatory fees and taxes. General excise tax (varies by island) up to 4.71%. State motor vehicle $5/day. Vehicle registration up to $1.45/day. Customer facility charge $4.50/day. Airport concession fee 11.1%.
Updated Tips to Get a Discount Hawaii Car Rental in through 2022.
Alternative car rental sources and discounts.
- Plan to rebook your car rental, perhaps even multiple times, within the last 90 days before travel. That will be true for all but the most in-demand weeks. The current trend is for prices to be significantly higher until it within the final 90 days. As you can see, rentals for this fall are as low as $206 per week, but when you look out to another typically lower-priced season, after the holidays, the rate nearly triples.
- Check several sources and compare rates and availability before booking. Look at both airport and city locations for pickup and drop-off. To get a feel for prices, you can try working with online travel agencies and other sites. Check the actual car rental company sites as well as those below.
- Discount Hawaii Car Rental (our advertiser we learned from our readers) is an excellent resource we frequently used. We’ve found their rates can save significantly compared with competitors at peak times. We just used them twice ourselves for rentals. If you ask a question on this post for them, they may well comment.
- Try Turo. Their rates are frequently the lowest we found. That’s the giant peer-to-peer car rental service that is similar to Airbnb for cars. Jeff tried a Turo rental once, and it went largely without a hitch. It went so well that Rob now has one planned. We did have to figure out where to meet the person, but other than that, it was simple. Remember that Turo has been experiencing unprecedented demand, and clearly, it isn’t always easy to find availability. Nor is it always cheap. Check options, including premium insurance coverage.
- Check AutoSlash, which our readers have also recommended. They too frequently comment here. Autoshash applies your loyalty programs to see if they can get a better deal. They also let you know when a price drop occurrs.
- Look at discounts available through AAA, AARP, and Costco, although those may be challenging at this time.
- For periods when there are no car rentals, many visitors are turning to Craigslist. Unfortunately, we cannot recommend that route as we have heard of way too many problems, including insurance protection and breakdowns. However, we suggest checking multiple car rental sources frequently for sold-out dates that could subsequently become available.
Continue to protect yourself against damage, dirt, and other fees.
- Damage Protection Tip: Consider using your cell phone to photograph the car before driving it off the lot. Our good friend and Beat of Hawaii reader, Colleen, take the photos with her husband standing next to the car holding that day’s paper. It’s also a good idea to do the same thing on return, such as when you drop the car before or after office hours. Dollar once accused us of not returning their car at Oakland Airport. When we got back to Hawaii, there was an urgent call from them. We had dropped the car off early that day before they opened, and it was sitting in their lot.
- Hawaii Dirt Tip: Hawaii car rental agencies can charge a fee of $50-$100 or more for excess dirt. It is effortless in our environment to end up with mud inside or outside of the car. If this happens to you, get to a car wash before returning it to the agency. Consider having newspapers or other floor protection if you’re hiking or when it is muddy.
- Get a Final Receipt Before Leaving: We’ve learned this one too the hard way. Be sure the contract is closed out, and you have a complete and final receipt/accounting before leaving the car rental facility at the end of your trip.
Timing is everything.
- Make your car reservation far in advance for travel not only during high seasons but year-round. For now, book car rentals in advance of other reservations. We’ll let you know if that changes.
- Once you make a reservation, be sure to check back several times to see if better deals arise before your trip. Even now, availability and the price are moving targets. This has saved us untold hundreds of dollars in car rental charges. Frequently (and more so all the time), prepaid can become the best deal (but not always). We rented a car from Hertz not long ago, where the total on first checking was $1,600. In the end, we paid $600 for the same rental by checking, canceling, and remaking the reservation, then finally asking the counter agent if they could do better (which they did). You’ve reported the same phenomenon in many comments.
- Set a reminder to recheck car rental prices a day or two before you travel for any last-minute offers.
Know your insurance needs before you get to the car rental counter.
- Additional coverage may or may not be necessary. Before your trip, check your own insurance policy and your credit card company to determine what coverage may be offered at no cost. Don’t just blindly fork over an extra $10-$30/day when you show up unprepared at the rental counter. Agents may have a strong incentive to sell insurance and other upgrades.
- Reader Oliver’s advice: “Many credit cards offer secondary insurance, i.e., they will pay if you don’t have any other insurance such as your own car insurance. But you may not want to use your car insurance, as a claim will likely drive the rates up. Some cards offer primary rental car insurance. Note that credit card car rental coverage is in a state of flux, resulting in frequently less or no coverage. Be sure to check and not assume.
- Check Priceline.
Additional driver and underage fees add up and can be confusing.
Fees vary widely by company and rental location. If more than one driver is on the rental agreement, inquire when making the reservation. Costco rentals include a second driver. Many companies include spouses or business partners automatically. But work through this in advance to avoid a surprise of perhaps $10/day. We recently saw a couple with a 24-year-old driver assessed a $25/day fee for being under 25, so it pays to check and be prepared.
Car sizes, upgrades, and pre-payment options.
- Car rental prices are based on demand, not size. Research different size rental cars to see what offers the best deal. Larger cars are often cheaper than smaller cars, especially now.
- Many of us prefer somewhat smaller cars that are fuel-efficient, and equally important, are easy to maneuver in Hawaii. In Honolulu, a compact car will be far more nimble in tight parking lots and generally.
- Do you really need GPS when you already have it on your phone?
- Check into pre-payment options, but consider those carefully as 1) you will be locked in and 2) it doesn’t guarantee the best rate.
- Pre-paying gas generally comes with a much higher price per gallon. So check that before you drive off.
Join the rental company’s frequent renter program.
- It doesn’t often save you money, but it will certainly save you considerable time when picking up your car. After a long flight to Hawaii, that will seem as good as cash. Many of you have reported that as well.
Determine the grace period of the contract.
- Previously this was 59 minutes. So if the car was due back at noon and you had it in by 12:59, there was no charge. Now, however, some companies have no grace period whatsoever. So be careful with this one, as the excess rate on car rentals can be up to $15/hour plus taxes.
Is the price the total price?
- Hawaii airport surcharges on car rentals have gone up. Often, car rental quotes don’t at first show taxes and other fees. That can add up fast, so click on through to see the total bill first. And prepare for a bit of sticker shock.
Can you share your plans for Hawaii car rentals?