Here are just updated tips and strategies for getting a discount Hawaii car rental on your 2019 Hawaii vacation. Be forewarned, car rental prices continue to see dramatic increases due in part to three factors.
1. Industry consolidation. About 95% of all Hawaii car rentals are managed by three companies. Those companies are Hertz (Hertz, Dollar and Thrifty), Avis (Avis and Budget) and Enterprise (Enterprise, National and Alamo).
2. Demand for Hawaii car rentals often exceeds capacity at peak periods. That as a result of ongoing increases in Hawaii’s visitor count, which is up about 25% over the past decade.
3. Exorbitant 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 highway surcharge $3/day. Vehicle registration up to $1.45/day. Customer facility charge $4.50/day. Airport concession fee 11.1%.
Did you know in fact that car rental prices are based on demand and not on size?
Larger cars are often cheaper than more coveted compact ones. Read more ideas below on how to keep money in your pocket.
It’s important to plan for your Hawaii car rental just like you do for flights to Hawaii and accommodations.
Case in point, most car rentals will either be sold out or priced sky high for Christmas holidays and around July 4 travel periods.
With more demand than availability during high seasons, it is not unusual to find rates starting at nearly $100 per day. But we’ve got tips that work even for the holidays and for summer, so keep reading.
Car rentals remain the third largest expense for most Hawaii vacations. First is accommodations and second is airfare to Hawaii. Are you still on the fence about a Hawaii vacation for 2019? If so, remember that it is going to be an unprecedented next year for cheap flights to Hawaii.
While many others have written about money saving tricks for car rentals, following are our suggestions, from a local Hawaii perspective:
Ten Ways to Score a Discount Hawaii Car Rental | 2019 Update
1. Alternative car rental sources and discounts.
- 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 who we learned of from our readers) is one excellent resource we frequently use ourselves. At peak times we’ve found their rates to be up to $20 per day less than competitors. Also check discount offers and coupons from Car Rental Momma and others. If you need a car during peak times when desperate and availability is limited, try Craigslist (by island) for non-traditional, buyer-beware rental opportunities.
- Have you tried Turo? That’s a peer to peer car rental service that is similar to Airbnb for cars. This Turo link will save you $25 on your first rental. If you try it, let us know your thoughts.
- Consider AutoSlash. Reader Lee from MI wrote: “I’ve been going to Kauai yearly for 12 years now and never spent more than $600 for 2 weeks on a convertible. Today all the sites were over $1400, more then double then what I spent last year. Then WOW!! I never heard of AutoSlash before reading this blog…AutoSlash beat them by $600 with Avis.”
- Check for discounts available through AAA, AARP and Costco.
- For periods when there are no car rentals available, some visitors have tried Craigslist. We cannot recommend that route as we have heard of way too many problems including those related to insurance protection. We would, however, suggest checking multiple sources frequently for sold out dates that could become available later.
2. Protect yourself against damage and dirt fees.
- Damage Protection Tip: Consider using your cell phone to photograph the car before driving it off the lot. Our friend and Beat of Hawaii reader Colleen, takes 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. We were once accused by Dollar of not returning their car due to inefficiency in processing the car when it was dropped before hours.
- Hawaii Dirt Tip: Hawaii car rental agencies can charge a fee of $50-$100 or more for excess dirt. It is very easy 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 going to be hiking or when it is muddy.
3. Airline frequent flyer points may increase your rate.
- It’s always good to ask about having them included in your rental. But do find out if there’s a daily charge for the accrual, what you’ll get and how much it will cost.
4. Timing is everything.
- Make your car reservation far in advance for travel during high seasons. This is similar to the strategy for buying airline tickets and reserving accommodations.
- Once you make a reservation, check back a number of times to see if better deals arise before your trip. The price is a moving target. This has saved us hundreds of dollars in car rental charges. Frequently (and more so all the time) prepaid can become the best deal (but it is not always).
- Set a reminder to check car rental prices again a day or two before you travel for any last minute offers.
5. 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: “Most 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. There are a some cards that offer primary rental car insurance. Another tip is to check Priceline. While I have never used them for flights, but for car rentals it usually doesn’t matter to me which major agency provides the car, and a loyalty program credit isn’t as important, so I use them occasionally.”
6. Additional driver and underage fees add up and can be confusing.
- Fees vary widely by company and rental location. If more than one driver will be on the rental agreement, inquire when making the reservation. Costco rentals include a second driver. Many companies include spouse or business partner 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 drive accessed a $25/day fee for being under 25, so it pays to check and be prepared.
7. 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.
- In Hawaii, many of us prefer somewhat smaller cars that are fuel efficient, and equally important, are easy to maneuver. 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 you the best rate.
8. Join the rental company’s frequent renter program.
- If it doesn’t save you money (such as credits towards a future free day), it will most likely save you considerable time when picking up your car. After a long flight to Hawaii, that will seem as good as cash.
9. 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. Be careful with this one, as the excess rate on car rentals can be up to $15/hour plus taxes.
10. Is the price the total price?
- Hawaii airport surcharges on car rentals have gone up. Most car rental quotes don’t at first show taxes and other fees. That can add up to perhaps 40% or so of the total cost, so click on through to see what the total bill will be first. And prepare for a bit of sticker shock.
Do you have any other tips? Please sound off in the comments below. Mahalo.