This is no joke – rental cars are scarce and outrageously expensive in Hawaii and beyond

Today is April Fool’s Day and normally we post a silly joke, but unfortunately, this post is no joke. As more travelers are coming to Hawaii, they’re discovering that rental cars are scarce and outrageously expensive.

How expensive are rental cars now? According to a KHON segment, which we’ve embedded at the bottom of this article, they report finding rentals for $600 per day and some even higher! But, it get’s worse, as Hawaii News Now found cars going for $1,000 per day. Wow!

We did a quick search on Hawaii Discount Car Rental for a rental car picked up at the Kona Airport for random dates in April. It took us several date searches to even find availability. When we finally found available cars, we were shocked at the “least expensive” price — $239 per day for an economy car. Then, we checked for this same random April date on Maui to find the lowest rate is $325 per day for a compact car. These daily rates are more like weekly rates in pre-COVID times.

We also checked for cars from Costco Travel. Again, it was difficult to find availability. Here’s a screenshot of a search for a car on Maui for April 15, 2021.

The shortage of cars is due to rental car companies selling off approximately 40%  of their fleet when demand fell drastically in 2020. Rebuilding the fleet to meet demand is a slow process, especially with the global chip shortage for car manufacturers.

Normally, Expedia offers a pretty good deal if you book a hotel and rental car together. Of course, it’s generally more expensive to add the car to the hotel booking, but usually, by combining the two together, you end up with a better deal rather than booking independently. Wow, not so much with this car shortage! We did a quick search for a Maui hotel-only booking and a hotel plus car booking for the same date of April 15. For comparison sake only, we used The Westin Maui Resort & Spa, Ka’anapali for just one night arriving April 15, 2021. Here are the screenshots.

Hotel Only

Hotel + Car

The difference in adding the car increases the cost by $777 per night! That’s stunning!

What should you do in light of this Hawaii rental car shortage?

This rental car shortage may be around for a while as demand increases and rental car companies cannot quickly restock their fleet. Here’s some advice:

– Book a rental car for your vacation as soon as possible. Don’t wait until the last minute. Rental car bookings are generally very easy to cancel. So, book your car and continue to periodically check for lower rates and better options up until the time of your trip.

– Check vacation package pricing with travel agencies as they may have contracts/relationships for priority with car rental companies.

– If you have a Costco membership, check Costco Travel pricing. They tend to have the best rates for hotel and car packages. We have personally booked several Hawaii vacation packages with them. Friends and family have, too. If you recall, last week, we shared a great Costco Travel package for the Fairmont Orchid on Hawaii Island. Last week we crunched the numbers for a stay that worked out to be around $335 per night for a luxury hotel accommodation and full-sized rental car. We thought it was a bargain at the time. In light of these rental car shortages/rates, that’s an even bigger deal now.

– Consider non-traditional alternatives outside of the large, nationwide car rental companies. Some examples:

  • Turo is described as a VRBO or Airbnb for cars. (We have not personally used this option, but my sister has used this app for a car rental in Dallas and had a good experience with it.)
  • Hui car share (Oahu-only)

– Consider your options for public transportation in Hawaii. There is bus service for each of the four major islands, with Oahu’s bus system being the most extensive and conducive for sight seeing.

– A few hotels offer shuttle bus services to the airport, shops and restaurants. As you are choosing a hotel, that’s one amenity to search for and consider. A few hotels that come to mind are:

On June 8, the Hawaii Tourism Authority published a page with alternative transportation options listed by island. These alternatives are taxis, shuttles, rideshares (like Uber) and bikeshare/rentals.

KHON video segment on Hawaii rental car shortage:

  1. Thank you for sharing! I was just searching cars for my honeymoon and almost cancelled our trip cause of the rental car prices. I will be trying to the non-commercial route. I didn’t even know these existed!

  2. I was in Maui last week and the only car I could find was on Craig’s list – an old pick up truck, stick shift, no AC. $110 per day. U- Haul also had pick up trucks for rent by the day which we took to Hana. Turo was sold out.

  3. Wow! After reading this I went and checked to see what the car I rented on April 3rd, 2021 is going for now(4-11-21) at Lihue Airport. It went from $771.92 to $2037.68 for 13 days for a Chevy Malibu at Dollar from the same web site I originally rented one from. Ouch!

  4. I know Hawaii suffered as much as any destination with Covid in terms of tourism. However the rental car situation has to be stopping people now. Our family and two others were planning to come to Lihue but it makes no sense when you have to pay almost $200 a day for a rental car. When you are paying more for your car then your room…it’s a problem. I hope you solve it. I know they sold all their cars off but it’s impacting the Islands.

  5. Luckily I booked early thru Costco but what makes me nervous is actually having vehicles available when I arrive. There’s really no guarantee since it’s not prepaid, right?

    1. You might want to call the rental car company to verify that and determine if you have options to secure your booking.

  6. My parents are staying in our condo on Kauai and just arrived at the Lihue airport today. They have waited over 4 hours for a car and still not received one , after booking it over 6 months ago! This is ridiculous!

  7. I got lucky I guess, reserved mine before the jump. They better not try to charge me more now. Good article even tho I don’t believe they sold there fleet of cars. Just wait til state forces them to go full electric. You’ll see the same prices. All opinions tho.

  8. I am traveling to Lihue at the end of July for one week. do you think it will be better or worse in regards to renting a car? I have not been able to locate a car for rent. Are there other ways to effectively see the island without booking endless sightseeing trips? rethinking our trip. thank you!

    1. It’s difficult to say how quickly car rental companies will add back an ample supply of cars to meet demand. Summer months are some of the busiest in Hawaii, so there’s likely going to be more people seeking cars.

      Check out the alternatives to traditional rental cars that we mention in the article. All the major islands have their own bus (public transport) systems that, while not ideal, allow you to get around.

  9. This is crazy. We just booked our visit and then our host messaged us to make sure we had a car rental. Sure enough no cars available. YIKES. Someone in these car rental companies head is rolling right now I am sure. Anyone have any suggestions? I have 48 hours to cancel our airbnb if I don’t find now and NO I am not going to pay 750/day Turo LOL.

  10. One option to consider is shipping your car down there for your trip. If the costs are going to be about the same, better to use your own car then a rental you can’t find!

  11. Fortunately I booked early through Costco however what makes me apprehensive is really having vehicles accessible when I show up. There’s actually no assurance since it’s not paid ahead of time, isn’t that so?

    1. I believe that’s correct, Stefan. You might want to call Costco Travel and inquire about their confidence in securing your rental as well as possible options.

      Anecdotally, I have a friend who recently visited Hawaii Island. He booked via Costco and had no problem picking up his car upon arrival. Hopefully that bodes well.

  12. If you’re thinking about shipping your car to Hawaii think again the shipping companies have double the price to ship from mainland to Hawaii however if you ship from Hawaii to mainland it’s the regular price this is double pricing and should be prosecuted.

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