iOn our recent trip to Kauai we got to experience firsthand what it is like trying to rent a car in this post COVID world. As you can see in the pictures below, the lines can be intimidating.
After finding what we thought was an overpriced rental for the 6 days needed the vehicle, we arrived to find a two-hour line at the rental counter. We were the lucky ones as we got off the plane early and were the first in line from our plane to join the queue. The 30 or so people from our plane lined up behind us. The key is to keep an Aloha spirt. Taking it out on the overworked counter people will only be counterproductive. Just remember the reasons you came to Hawaii will all be there once you drive off the rental lot.
How did it get like this you might ask. The rental companies sold off many of their cars during the pandemic to keep afloat. Rental companies cannot just buy replacement cars because new cars are in short supply; manufacturers have not fully ramped up and a semiconductor chip problem impacts car manufacturers like so many other industries. As we talked with the rental agent, their corporate division over-booked their location. In the Hawaiian airport locations, waits can be expected as there are fewer flights, so this causes surges at the rental desk. In addition, the incoming flight arrives about 4 hours before the plane is turned around to head back to where it came from. As people don’t return their cars until about 90 min before a flight, it makes it difficult to have a sufficient stock of cleaned cars ready when people arrive.
I suggest the following if you want to avoid much of the wait: 1) Join the preferred member club (Gold, Fastbreak, Plus, Insiders, Preferred, etc..) of whichever rental agency you are renting from. We saw so many people going to the preferred desk and avoiding two hours of waiting. Many of these memberships are free and allow you to skip the counter and go directly to your car. Note: you must join the club before you make your rental booking. 2) Leave others to pick up your luggage and go immediately to the rental location to join the queue. This will save a little time but not nearly as much as being a preferred member. 3) Before making your rental booking, see if the rental agency has a neighborhood location. This requires a ride into town, but you can usually save some on the rental price also.
How we typically save money on the price of a rental. 1) Deciding if you really need a rental car to begin with. Talking to a fellow passenger who just got back from Maui, she paid $1400 for four days of car rental and only used the car three times. Well, in hindsight, she could have had many Uber or taxi rides for that. Even private limos and day tours would have been cheaper. Really, when going to resorts, how often will you use your rental? 2) When making your booking check the neighborhood locations of the car rental companies. For our upcoming trip to Boston, we save $300 dollars by going the neighborhood rental route. Yes, it adds a taxi ride and inconvenience, but for significant saving it is worth it to us. We really don’t recommend number 3&4 but if you are stuck 3) A bit out on a limb but you can check the AirBnB of rental cars called Turo. If you don’t mind renting someone else’s car you can save big. 4) Really out on a limb but if all else fails and you can’t find a car anywhere and decide you need one, U-Haul and other self-move agencies rent vans and pickup trucks. Obviously, this would be a last resort as you don’t want to be manhandling a moving van around on your vacation.
One last point to consider, they look cool but beware of the Mustang convertible. We speak from experience of upgrading to a convertible only to find the luggage capacity extremely limited. These cars may be good if you are traveling with only one other person, but with three or four you will end up sitting on your luggage with the top down on your rides to and from the airport. Operation of the convertible top is one extra step every time you park and typically your valuables are less secure. In addition, you will not be able to carry on any conversations with the kids in the back seat. In some cases this might be a bonus!
As always, as your travel advisors, we are able to help you navigate the added complexities of travel during Covid-19.
Jon and Carol are owners of Vista Curated Travel specializing in small group tours to incredible places.