Rental Cars in Hawaii
A rental car gives you the ability to sightsee when and how you want. Except on Oahu, where Honolulu is located, you will be very restricted if you don't rent a car. Alternatives abound in Honolulu because many competing tour operators offer packages for you to see almost every sight and activity on the island. But, even on Oahu many people prefer to rent a car rather than be bound to the fixed schedules of package tours.
Rental cars are relatively inexpensive in Hawaii although they are more expensive on Molokai and Lanai. It is almost always less expensive to rent at the airport than at your hotel. Watch your local newspaper for advertised specials before leaving home and ask for that specific rate or you will normally be quoted the standard rate. If you don't see a good advertised rate, always ask for discounts for organizations to which you belong such as belonging to the auto club, AARP, and frequent flier programs. Of course you should always check internet sites such as our link below, Travelocity, or Expedia to compare rates. Also pay attention to mailings you receive from various organizations because you can often find free upgrade certificates that will give you a larger car at no extra charge.
In addition to the rate you are quoted, you will be charged additional state required fees and taxes that quickly add up. There is the standard 4.166% sales tax, a vehicle surcharge of $3.00 a day, a concession fee that seems to vary by airport but is 8-10%, and a couple of other small fees/taxes. On a recent trip to Oahu, the taxes and fees added 28% to the cost of the rental and on the Big Island it added 32%.
Optional insurance charges must also be considered. If you have auto insurance at home, you may be covered for rental cars so be sure to check with your insurance company before leaving and you may be able to save more than ten dollars a day. Be sure to take your auto insurance identification card with you. Some credit cards pay the deductible not covered by your own automobile insurance so check on this too and use the right card when paying for the rental.
An added cost of car rentals in Hawaii is parking fees charged by resorts and hotels. In Honolulu, even if you self-park, you will be charged a fee of $10 to $20 per night, and valet parking is higher. Even on the neighbor islands, parking fees are becoming common with self-parking fees ranging from $5 to $10 per night.
Although most of the islands are small enough that you will not put a lot of miles on the car, be sure to check that your rental includes unlimited mileage.
The rental car companies provide drive guides that contain excellent maps so there is little need to take maps on the trip, unless during planning you have marked sites on a map you want to be sure to see. You can also pick up copies of This Week magazine on all the major islands which have good maps and suggested things to see (just remember that much of the contents is paid for by advertisers). A AAA office and service are only available on Oahu but your AAA office at home can provide maps and a tour book.
Contact information for the major rental companies that operate in Hawaii is listed below for
those who want to contact a specific firm. To research and compare rates for all rental
companies and make reservations
Note that on Molokai and Lanai, rental car companies are limited so it is strongly recommended that you make reservations ahead of time.