Dear Dollar Rent A Car – Please Clean and Fumigate Your Cars

Dear Dollar Rent A Car,

The Dodge Caliber you rented to us from KOA (Kona Airport) was dirty and roach infested. The car hadn’t been cleaned in who knows how long. There were candy wrappers and other bits of trash that were in the car from prior rentals.

The worst part of our rental experience was that the car was infested with roaches. We didn’t discover the roaches until well into our trip. The first one popped out in broad daylight. As we became more aware, we would see many, many others both day and night. It was particularly disgusting to have to get into the car at night. At least a half a dozen roaches would scatter when the interior lights came on as we opened the door.

Dollar should implement a form of quality control with a decent standard of cleanliness. I have heard from others renting with Dollar from the Big Island that our experience is not an isolated incident. Apparently your employees know of this problem. When we returned the car and informed the Dollar representative that the car needed fumigating, the representative’s response was a nonchalant, “Oh, it was bad?” Our experience was completely disgusting.




Now a note to Go Visit Hawaii Readers –

When you are in a tropical environment, you’ll find tropical bugs. Sometimes you must take the good with the bad. We’ve rented cars plenty of other times in Hawaii and have only had one other incident of roaches in the car. (The other incident was a convertible in Kauai.) Please don’t let this incident put you off of a vacation to Hawaii. Use this letter and following advice to be more aware and prepared.

I hope that you find your rental car is cleaner than ours. The best way to check to see if your car has roaches is to look for them at night when you first open your car door. If roaches are roaming the shock of the interior car lights will cause them to scatter for a dark area. You’ll have to watch closely, once we started watching for roaches in our car, we were amazed at how many we spotted.

To avoid roaches in your rental car:

  • Avoid renting a convertible. Prior renters may have left the top down at night which welcomed bugs of all kinds to hitch a ride.
  • Ask for a low mileage car. The longer a car has been in service, the higher the chances that there will be roaches.
  • Avoid eating in the car and if you do, promptly remove all wrappers, left overs, drinks, etc. Don’t provide food for the roaches.
  • After multiple rentals from Avis, we have discovered their cars are regularly cleaned and treated to prevent bugs. We highly recommend renting from Avis in Hawaii.ย We have also had a roach-free car from Hertz.

If you do find you have roaches, here’s what I suggest you do:

  • Contact the local rental desk and tell them you want to exchange the car for a cleaner, newer model.
  • If it is not convenient to exchange the car, then fumigate the car overnight. Save your receipt and ask the rental car company to reimburse you when you return the car.
  • Keep all your luggage, backpacks, etc securely closed. It might be a good idea to bring some zip-lock baggies and trash bags to try to cover and seal off any bits of food and your luggage.

I hope you’ll find your rental car both clean and bug-free. The next time I’m in Hawaii, I’m going to take a proactive approach and fumigate the car early on during my stay.

  1. As I mentioned to you on Twitter, we had a similar problem with a Jeep Liberty rented in Hilo four weeks ago. We didn’t have roaches, or we didn’t see them, but we did have all manner of bugs roaming around. The situation didn’t get horrible until we left a drink in the car that they converged on. The car wasn’t terribly dirty persay, though the exterior was so beat up you could’ve kicked the door and the dent would not have appeared out of place, but there certainly were quite a few bugs.

    We rented cars from Dollar on Kauai and Oahu but didn’t notice any problems there though, seems like a Big Island thing.

  2. Jim – thank you so much for adding your rental bug experience. You bring up a good point that we should try as best we can to not leave anything like food or drink that would attract bugs. When you’re on vacation, it’s not always easy to remember that, though.

    I appreciate your visit here and first time comment. Sounds like you’ve been around to several of the islands, so I’d love for you to chime in with your thoughts and experiences more often. ๐Ÿ™‚ Mahalo!

  3. My wife and I went for two and a half weeks for our honeymoon a month ago, will definitely contribute more often. Anyone who goes to Hawaii always loves Hawaii and wants to go back. ๐Ÿ™‚

  4. “Anyone who goes to Hawaii always loves Hawaii and wants to go back.” Absolutely! I love blogging about Hawaii because it allows me to go there everyday at least in my mind.

  5. OMG! I think I’d FREAK if there was EVER a roach in my CAR!!!!

    I sure hope they wouldn’t hold me responsible for crashing the vehicle when I started going into convulsions!

  6. Nothing more distracting for a driver at night, than watching your wife do the “roach stomp” in the passenger seat. ๐Ÿ™‚

    The car was so bad, I ended up having to warn her with a “sweetheart, I’m about to touch your hand, so don’t freakout that a roach is crawling on it.” ๐Ÿ™‚

  7. @ Jim – You’ve definitely been bitten by the Hawaii bug…. not the roach ๐Ÿ™‚ but the bug that makes you want to return again and again. Please let me know if you decide to write a Hawaii blog. ๐Ÿ™‚
    @ Coach Deb – LOL – you should have seen me go into all out panic mode when a half inch roach crawled out of the glove box in the middle of the day.
    @ Andy – and don’t forget the part when I kept my feet elevated off the floor for 30 mins on the way to the airport because we knew for sure the roaches crawled there. Eww…getting the heebie jeebies all over again.

  8. We rented cars on 3 different islands(BI, Maui, Oahu). After hearing so many roach stories, I was a bit freaked out. We live in Florida, and I pay way too much for Orkin to maintain my house roach free. I HATE all types of creepy crawlies so it’s worth it! Although, the cars in Hawaii were the most beat up that we have ever rented, I was thrilled that none contained additional passengers!

  9. @Jim – If you’d ever be interested in writing a guest post, I’d really welcome that!
    @Lissete – I’m so glad you didn’t have to contend with “additional passengers”. I love how you describe them that way. It sounds so much nicer than the r-word. ๐Ÿ™‚ Which rental car company did you use?

  10. We had to rent a car on Maui years ago (I don’t remember the rental company), and although there were no roaches, there was a smell in the car that got fouler as time went on. What we found was a used baby diaper under the front passenger seat! Ugh!!

  11. Oh man! Yes, we’ve got some good roach stories from Dollar (the car rental company of choice with Pleasant Holidays which is who we use). Let me recall a few…

    1) Coming out with a gaggle of groceries from Safeway I get in the car and see about 10 roaches scatter. Well, not wanting to transport them in our groceries, we call Dollar at 9pm (after they’re closed) and thankfully 30 minutes someone was nice enough to come retrieve our car and swap us out. The funny part? It was a kid who brought his friends with him and when one of the girls got in, she let out a blood curdling scream and they made flame tracks outta that parking lot! LOL

    2) Brought our friend with us and she was creeped out and kept her feet up on the backseat. Every night we had to go fumigate the Jeep with Raid.

    3) On Maui there were these WHITE roaches (they looked like those sea animals that have always lived in darkness) everywhere. The outside of the Jeep was crawling with them. One crawled in the vent and we forgot about it the next morning and turned on the air full blast and it came at us at warp speed. I don’t know whose scream was more girly, mine or the man’s.

    4) There was sticky dried pop in the moveable cup holder one year and crumbs everywhere and we took it back and said clean it or switch out the car because we’ve always had problems with roaches, they switched out the car.

    Two good tips if you don’t want them coming around your legs/feet (in addition to not leaving food in there) is sprinkle some sand from your shoes on the floor. They don’t like to walk on it. (It’s sad I know this) Also, don’t hang up air fresheners in your car, it attracts them!

    Sorry, that was rather long winded! ๐Ÿ™‚

  12. Angie – Thanks for your sharing your experiences. It sounds like you can laugh about it even though at the time, the situations are far from laughable. I suppose that’s a pretty healthy attitude to have. I’m probably the biggest spider, bug, snake scaredy cat EVAH, and I have to condition myself to just get over it when I’m going to Hawaii. Even in 5-star hotels we’ve had roaches in our room. That being said, this Dollar roach mobile situation is totally ridiculous and unacceptable!

    I’m actually surprised and slightly impressed that Dollar came out to exchange the car with you.
    I had to laugh about your friend keeping her feet on the back seat, because we actually saw roaches crawling on the back seat and then scampering between the cushions when we opened the car door. Eww! It’s creepy to think we drove all the way from the lava viewing point past Hilo to Waikoloa in the dark!

    White roaches?! Sheesh!

    I’ll try your trick of putting sand on the floor mats. Thanks for that tip. Hmm….now I’m contemplating covering our next rental car in sand. ๐Ÿ˜‰

  13. This is hilarious! First of all, no excuse for the rental car company. If they want to keep their business, they better clean up their act. That being said, I have to tell this story…

    We were at the drive-inn… when we still had such a thing… and there was one of those big boys decided to make house in some old, used car my husband had back then. He’s mortified by them. I don’t care as long as they stay away from me. Those big guys are primarily outdoor germies that come out when it’s humid.

    Anyway, my husband caught sight of it and jumped in the back seat with his slipper in hand. I had to drive home with the light on all the way with him in the back seat with his legs crossed and his slipper in hand! It’s hilarious now! (It was then too… for me anyway.) I have other stories like that one but they don’t involve a car.

    I think they are Hawaii’s version of the sewer rat that other states have too many of.

    For a rental company, however, it is inexcusable! They do make for good stories though! Right Andy? LOL! Thanks for the visual you two! Been there, done that and it’s still hilarious!

  14. Hi Evelyn,

    That is a funny story! I think I’m like your husband. I freak out over those big boys. I know logically they’re not going to harm me, but they just give me the creeps.

    There’s no doubt that the renters are also at fault for leaving windows open, tops down, eating and drinking in the cars, leaving crumbs, etc. That being said, the rental car companies should do something to curtail the infestation. It really is disturbing to open the car door and see roaches scattering.

    Thanks for sharing your story and for laughing with us! ๐Ÿ™‚

  15. I rented a convertible from Hertz in Maui on my Honeymoon during the summer of 2003. I found the first roach 3 days in when I opened the glove compartment while driving to Hana. I yelled in surprise and my wife nearly had a heart attack. We took the car back and was told that they fumigate every 5000 Km and that the car must have been near the end of the schedule. Got another car that was supposedly โ€œjust cleanedโ€ and did the drive to Hana.

    That evening when we were coming back from dinner I opened the door and saw a half dozen roaches scatter. Called Hertz up and told them to come get the car and that I did not want a replacement. Luckily we had the sense to empty our bags in lobby of the hotel where we killed four or five roaches that had crawled into our camera bag and my wifeโ€™s purse.

    When I returned home I did an internet search on Hawaii rental car roach problems and was surprised that I couldnโ€™t find anyone mentioning this problem before. I suspect the problem is rampant but most people just donโ€™t notice.

  16. Hi Dave –

    Oh my goodness, what a nightmare! I can just picture you and your wife going through your bags in the lobby. It’s scary how many you found. Yuck!

    My husband and I decided to go through our backpacks that we had in the car. At times we had the backpacks half zipped. My husband found one roach crawling around in his bag. Luckily I didn’t find any. When you’re on vacation, you’d rather be spending your time doing something pleasant rather than searching through your bags with one hand and holding your shoe ready to smash with your other hand.

    Thanks for letting us know you rented through Hertz. I suspected that the roach problem wasn’t isolated to Dollar and Alamo.

    That’s interesting that Hertz told you they had a process for trying to control the roaches. Apparently, it’s not effective enough, unfortunately. Next time, ask for the newest model you can get.

    Thank you, Dave, for sharing your experience and your first time comment at Go Visit Hawaii.

  17. Ewwww!!!!! My husband and I are planning to go to Hawaii for our honeymoon and will be renting a car from Dollar while in Maui. I hope we don’t find any roaches in the car. I don’t think I’ll put my feet on the floor now!

  18. Miye – I hope you don’t have any problems. I don’t think there are roaches in every car, especially the newer ones.

    Here’s my advice –
    1 – When you pick up the car, ask for a car with the lowest mileage possible.
    2 – Check for roaches while you are still at the rental car place. Start by opening the doors quickly and look to see if you see any roaches scampering along the door seal. Next, open up the truck quickly to see if you see roaches.
    3 – If you see roaches, tell them to get you a clean car.

    Have a wonderful time on your honeymoon! Maui is fantastic!

  19. I’ve had 2 roach-free experiences with Avis in Honolulu: once with a convertible and once with a Jeep no less. The convertible had less than 8,000 miles on it, and we were only the second renters of the Jeep. In fact, they promised to refund 10% to us if we returned it clean, with no sand, no food crumbs or spills, etc. (and did). I think it also helped that a lot of people in Oahu aren’t doing a lot of driving into the country at night. We still knew we were really lucky!

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