Cheap car rentals in Hawaii?
September 12, 2011 8:10 PM   Subscribe

Cheap car rentals in Hawaii?

We're doing a family trip to Hawaii (4 adults and a child) in January 2012 for two weeks, spending one week on Kauai and one week on Maui.

We'd like to rent a car for one week on each island but after some initial web surfing, I'm a bit overwhelmed by the options.

We could book direct with any of the major rental chains, use sites like Expedia or Hotwire, try one of the many specialty sites that claim to offer wholesale deals like or which say they give you the "best deal available" but don't even quote you a company or a price when you submit your request or book as part of a package when we book our flights via our airline.

Any tips or thoughts on renting cars in Hawaii?

PS - I'm also wondering about that other vital question - is a convertible *really* worth it in Hawaii?
posted by Jaybo to Travel & Transportation around Hawaii (22 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
A convertible would not fit four adults and a kid.

Why don't you just go to the assorted major car rental web sites (Hertz, Avis, etc.) and price it out?
posted by dfriedman at 8:15 PM on September 12, 2011

Just price it out with the major people. I think you will find yourself pleasantly surprised. Everyone needs a car when coming to Hawaii so there is ample supply and lots of competition to keep down prices on your typical sized cars.
posted by mmascolino at 8:23 PM on September 12, 2011

Response by poster: I've done some pricing and most are coming in fairly close to each other. I guess I'm mostly wondering if anyone's found any site that's going to be hugely different in terms of price and also if the ones that claim to offer huge discounts are legit since they don't give you much info up front.

As for the convertible, I didn't make this clear but I was wondering if it would be worth it to rent one for a day or two to tour around in just for the experience (the kid could be left at the beach with grandpa & grandma for the day!)
posted by Jaybo at 8:23 PM on September 12, 2011

When my family went to Hawaii (almost ten years ago now), it turned out to be cheaper on Oahu to walk everywhere and just take the occasional cab. (We stayed mostly in Honolulu.) We rented a car when we went to the big island (for a day), but I have no idea what company we used. But unless things have changed since then, or you all can't/prefer not to walk, you may find you don't need the car on Oahu.
posted by phunniemee at 8:24 PM on September 12, 2011

We rented a number of cars in Hawaii (Oahu, Maui, Big Island) and they were are all pretty cheap for a few days, when compared to the same kind of rental in the mainland US. Anything 20 - 25 dollars a day is actually a pretty good deal. I don't think you're going to find an awesome deal unless Hotwire or Priceline has something. You could also check the car rental boards on Flyertalk in case someone has an awesome coupon that you can take advantage of.

That said if you are staying in Honolulu and doing the Waikiki thing, I agree with phunniemee to not even bother with a car.
posted by cabingirl at 8:40 PM on September 12, 2011

I have had good experiences with Avis in Hawaii. They'll want to sell you a larger or more expensive car than you booked, but ignore that, then decline their insurance and pay with a credit card that has car rental insurance coverage. I would never expose myself, let alone my kids, to all-day Hawaiian sun by driving a convertible. You get a double dose in the water with the reflection. Bring the car back full of gas; if it's a quarter empty you'll pay for the whole tank.
posted by weapons-grade pandemonium at 8:42 PM on September 12, 2011

Best answer: If you are a Costco member, going through their car rental site is inevitably the cheapest way I've found to rent a car in Hawaii. (The best deals tend to be Alamo via Costco.)

You certainly should rent a car to travel on Kauai and Maui; public transit and cabs will not cut it.

re: convertible.

I love convertibles and always rent one on Hawaiian jaunts. For the most part, the convertibles available are Ford Mustangs, Chrysler Seabrings, and Jeeps with removable tops. The current Mustang is my favorite of the options; it's both zippier and more comfortable than it was in previous years. (The Jeep seems cool, and is cool if you plan to do any four-wheeling or off-roading, but the hassle of getting the top off and on meant that we didn't often take it off.)

Since I am pasty white, convertibles mean extra sunscreen and hats with chinstraps, which starts to feel annoying after a while. Your melanin may vary. For one day, it should be no big deal, though.

If I were you, I would rent a convertible to drive on the road to Hana on Maui as a day trip. Alternately, I love driving a convertible around the north shore of Kauai (up to Hanalei and beyond, where it's incredibly lush and jungly.) Or (this is fairly short) driving through the tree tunnel on Kauai is ten times more awesome in a convertible.
posted by purpleclover at 9:00 PM on September 12, 2011 [1 favorite]

Worth mentioning that weapons-grade pandemonium states a common misconception, one that could lead to a very costly mistake.

Your credit card very likely carries rental car coverage; however, that is only for damage you do to *the rental car itself.* The maximum coverage any credit card provides is the retail value of the car you total.

In no way does a credit card cover *liability* -- your risk of harming someone else when you drive a car, by far the bigger risk for anyone, certainly anyone with any sort of wealth. In some states, rental car companies are required to carry minimum liability on the car, but that is truly minimum and wouldn't cover your ass in a minor fender bender with a little whiplash.

If you have your own car, then your insurance on that car probably covers you in rentals to the same liability limits that you have on your own vehicle. But make sure that is the case before you rent and decline coverage, and find out if there are any limitations (may not cover some types of vehicles, for example, or drivers who are not on your policy).

Otherwise, and even if you *do* have your own solid liability coverage (minimally, 100K per incident, and I mean minimally), you should consider the "Extended Protection" (or similar) portion of the supplemental coverage, which can add 10-12 bucks a day on most rentals. (And can be taken separately from the "CDW" portion, which duplicates your credit card's coverage in most cases and is just a ripoff.) For the majors, in most states, this buys you $100K in liability coverage, which is really enough for only a moderate accident with any sort of injury or property damage involved. You can get more in a personal policy or as a supplement to your own collision coverage to be safe. But do not ever drive without liability coverage. It's insane. The $100 you might save in a week will seem like the best investment you ever made if you do even $5000 worth of damage, which you can do backing up in a parking lot.
posted by spitbull at 9:05 PM on September 12, 2011 [1 favorite]

Convertible pro tip: If you have long hair, tie it back with a rubber band and wear a kerchief over your hair to keep it from blowing around. (I wear a hat over the whole thing.) Looks mildly dorky, but works well for keeping your hair from whipping into your face.
posted by purpleclover at 9:05 PM on September 12, 2011

We've had great luck with Maui Vans. It is owned by a local family and they've been there forever. Many friends use them each and every year! They're not the sexiest cars, but you can get them with roof-racks, which is great for the stand-up paddleboards or regular surf boards. Make sure you're getting one *with* A/C - they rent some older models for much cheaper, but they don't have reliable air conditioning.

Call to ask about rates, or email them; their website never seems to be up-to-date.

Rent a convertible for the day, if you really want one. They're kind of a pain in the butt and get broken into a fair amount.
posted by barnone at 10:16 PM on September 12, 2011 [1 favorite]

Enterprise in Waikiki has always been really helpful to us. We've had mishaps, but with the full insurance, they've never batted an eyelash. They seem to be cheaper than other Waikiki places.

If you're getting out of Waikiki, a car can be nice, especially to go to the north shore and other areas around the island. Be careful, though, as theft is a big problem in Hawaii. Don't leave any bags visible in the car, as smash and grabs aren't uncommon.

As for the convertible, unless you're used to one, I'd avoid it. It's hot, and there's a lot of sun. The one time we rented one, we had the top down for about an hour before it got too hot. That, and there are a lot of sudden rain showers in Hawaii, and it's a pain to pull over and put the top up.
posted by Ghidorah at 10:26 PM on September 12, 2011

I agree with the others who said to go with the big companies, as they tend to be cheaper and less sketchy than smaller companies specializing in car rentals only in Hawaii.

As for the convertible, it might be fun for the road to Hana on Maui, but remember that winter tends to be our rainy season, so you might not get the top down much.
posted by killjoy at 1:52 AM on September 13, 2011

I like a Jeep Wrangler for Hawaii much better than the convertible. It also drains/dries out quickly if you happen to go through a quick rain shower.
posted by olinerd at 3:00 AM on September 13, 2011

I would also recommend sticking with a big legitimate company. When my wife and I went to Hawaii last year, we had a reservation through Hertz; for some particular reason it was a very busy weekend on the Big Island, and there were absolutely 0 rental cars available. After a late flight arrival and the Hertz counter being closed, we had to deal with extensive customer service and go to a different location to pick up our car the next day. After a lot of work by my wife, we did get our car, but we witnessed numerous people being turned away with no car.
posted by shinynewnick at 7:18 AM on September 13, 2011

I'll chime to second purpleclover . In April, we were on the Big Island and Oahu and used Costco's rental program for a cheap rental. Only 2 of us, so we didn't need anything big, but were quite happy with the cars we got and the price.
posted by k5.user at 7:27 AM on September 13, 2011

I agree with the others who said to go with the big companies, as they tend to be cheaper and less sketchy than smaller companies specializing in car rentals only in Hawaii.

I'm a bit confused. Was that part of the question or discussion here? Just because they're not a multinational corporation, it doesn't mean they're sketchy. In fact, many multinational companies have fairly sketchy policies and procedures. I wouldn't go with some dude renting a car out of his house, but there are still a few locally owned car rental places that have provided very affordable and reliable service. I am not affiliated with Maui Vans, and they are nowhere near "sketchy."
posted by barnone at 8:45 AM on September 13, 2011

Best answer: We used for our trip last year and were satisfied. They act as a bucket shop of sorts, so you make your reservation through them but pick the car up at a national chain (ours was Alamo). No problems at all, and they beat Hotwire by a good $100 for our rental period. 'Course, that was a year ago, so who knows?
posted by milquetoast at 9:02 AM on September 13, 2011

Best answer: Be sure to check all of your memberships (AAA, Sam's Club, veterans' organizations, credit unions) and your employer for any discounts. We got 20% off from some racing club my husband belongs to. National was ridiculously cheaper (even before the discount) than any other company. (Note: this was in Seattle, not Hawaii.)
posted by desjardins at 9:23 AM on September 13, 2011

Also, I've never been in a convertible that would seat 4 adults and a child comfortably. Besides, the child will most likely end up in the middle of the back seat all the time and will hate you by the end of the trip. I'd definitely spring for a SUV or minivan for that many people. No need to be miserable for two weeks.
posted by desjardins at 9:26 AM on September 13, 2011

As the owner of my third convertible and previous short-term renter of at least four others, I can confidently say that convertibles are really only fun for the people who are riding in the front seat.
posted by LowellLarson at 12:15 PM on September 13, 2011

Popping in late to suggest Maui Cruisers, which, like Maui Vans, is a smaller operation that friends had great success with - the guy who runs it only rents Nissan Sentras.
posted by kickingthecrap at 6:38 AM on September 14, 2011

Response by poster: Just for the record, Hotwire ended up being the best deal we found. Thanks everyone!
posted by Jaybo at 12:19 AM on September 25, 2011

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