Ten Ways to Score a Discount Hawaii Car Rental | 2018/2019
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.
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. 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.