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If you traveled lately or have an upcoming trip, you might have noticed some difficulty in renting a car. I sure have had quite a bit of difficulty with our upcoming trip to Maui.
I spoke with a representative from Enterprise Rent-a-Car on Maui, and I was told that their cars were sold during the pandemic. Some were sold locally, others were shipped off to the mainland. Now that travel is opening up, they are now feeling the pressure with their low availability. They’ve got new cars on order but there’s also a shortage on microprocessor chips needed for the computers inside these new cars. Another alternative is for these rental companies looking at buying certified used vehicles to add to their fleet of vehicles.
So I was stuck, in somewhat of a panic-mode. I kept finding enormously priced rentals over $2,000 up to$3,000 for a one-week rental. As always, I’ve come up with steps I’ve taken recently, and strategies I did in the past to care for my car rentals.
1. Rent offsite
Airport car rental locations are the ones that will typically get hit by demand. Be creative. Choose offsite rental locations. Preferably the ones that are not too far from the airport. It may require you to grab a cab or Uber to be taken to the offsite rental. If you can also find a number by calling the location directly vs. calling their national toll-free #, in my case, that strategy had worked.
2. Be flexible with your dates
Ask yourself, do you really need a rental for the entire stay? In some cases, you probably do. But in our case, we kept getting roadblocks after roadblocks where only certain days of our visit had rental availability. So we had to think fast and creatively. We were open to getting a rental for one day (arrival day) so we are guaranteed to have a vehicle to get us to the resort. Since we plan on being at the resort and the surrounding area, we could just go without a car for a couple of days. And then pick up another rental 3 days later when we venture off to another part of Maui. That was one of the alternatives. Fortunately, by renting offsite, we found a rental for the entire visit.
3. Let Autoslash track your rental booking
You can start your booking at Autoslash or with another website (Costco, and such). Save the confirmation # and plug that in using the Track a Rental section in Autoslash, and if Autoslash finds a lower rate, you will be alerted, and you have an option to rebook at the lower rate (it’s not automatic)
4. Checkout these platforms – Turo, Facebook Marketplace, Craigslist
Honestly, this was new to me as well. What is Turo. Think of Turo as the AirBNB for car rentals. You are renting vehicles from local owners. From my understanding, your credit card’s insurance coverage won’t cover Turo rentals. You could check with your own insurance company or purchase insurance from Turo. Some of these rentals DO NOT have unlimited mileage allowance(so be watchful for those). I’ve had to rent with Turo and had to cancel, and the refund was quick. If I’m not mistaken, booking with Turo means you have to pay in full in advance, and you can cancel and get a full refund if you cancel 24 hours before your trip.
Thanks to @thecredithacker on Instagram, I never thought of renting via Craigslist and Facebook Marketplace, but more, more are posting their vehicles for at those places. As with everything, go with caution, use your best judgment. Make sure there is a way for you to know the cancellation and refund policy.
About Turo – I’d be careful with Turo. Not all Turo hosts are bad but some have given Turo a bad name lately. The more you are dealing with “individuals”. Some are clearly and openly telling the renters they had to cancel and have to charge a higher price. Here’s a renter whose TWO hosts who are highly rated canceled on her. Not all hosts are bad, but the cancellation issue is real. So if you book with Turo, my suggestion is to have another back up plan. Again, not all Turo hosts are doing this. But it’s happening. Just be careful.
Google “Car Rentals in XXXXX” – XXXXX being the city you are visiting. You will find a list of “other” car rentals, there are the smaller agencies (other than your typical Avis, Hertz, Enterprise…). Give it your best judgment. Call them directly. Read the reviews. Get your booking reservation in writing.
6. Check out HUI on Oahu (only)
With Hui, you can rent a car for an hour or day. Reserve a date and time and unlock a car through the app – skip the rental counter and paperwork.
Included with each reservation:
Free parking at the station
Awesome customer support
24/7 roadside assistance
Discount Daily Pricing, starting Hourly Price $10.50 per hour
Starting Daily Price is $84.00 per day
If you reserve a car for 8-24 hours, the price is capped at 8x the hourly price.
Types of cars – Prius, Rav4, Tacoma, Sienna, and more. In other words, hybrid, sedan pick-up truck, minivan, SUV etc.
Locations: only on Oahu – Waikiki, Ala Moana, Ko’olina, Kakaako. Go to Hui.
7. Call local car dealerships
Yes, I’ve heard that calling the dealership might work as well. Some of them do have a rental program. Who do I have to thank for this tip?
8. Rent from U-haul
We’ve seen the news. People are renting from U-haul. Hopefully you do not end up with a U-haul truck…but U-haul also has passenger vans that you could use to drive around. In Hawaii though, I heard they are prohibiting “tourists” from renting U-haul vehicles. They will check your drivers license. So if you do not have a Hawaii license, you will not get a Uhaul rental.
9. Book with Costco and other online travel booking sites
Not many are aware but Costco does have a Travel section online, and you could book your rentals from Costco. Yes, membership is required. Try Expedia, Travelocity, Priceline – see what they have available. In Hawaii, try booking with DiscountHawaiiCarRental.com as well. According to @thecredithacker, he also suggested checking the lesser known rental sites such as EconomyBookings.
10. Book directly
Many have reported that it’s best to book directly, meaning you have to go directly to the rental agency’s website, or call them directly.
11. Use a corporate discount code
You might see a section for CDP when you book online. Ask your place of work if there is a corporate discount program. Be prepared to show proof of employment (in case you are asked)
12. Sign up for free loyalty membership with the rental agencies
We went to the Big Island in 2018. I rented with Budget Rent-A-Car. I was confident that I’d be going in and out of the rental office. Why? I had signed up for Budget Fastbreak which would allow me to bypass the long lines, go through a separate counter, and easily pick up my keys. Well, well, well. I had forgotten to link my Budget Fastbreak membership with my booking. Long story short – do you see the crowd on the left hand side of the picture…I had to go on that line, and waited over an hour to be assisted. Not a good way of beginning our trip to Hawaii. So besides signing up for loyalty memberships, make sure you link that with your booking and avoid the silent frustration.
13. Check your credit card for car rental membership status
Some credit cards give you rental status (i.e. Amex Platinum – Hertz Gold), for potential discounts or upgrade.
14. Call your hotel or condo property manager for other tips
You never know. Some of them might have a local connection, or a direct contact at the rental site, so it’s worth asking them for tips.
15. Does your credit card offer Collision Damage Waiver
Many of the rental companies offer Collision Damage Waiver, an added fee when renting a car. However, there are many credit cards out there that offer this protection. But what makes one different over the other. Check for the ones that offer primary coverage vs. secondary coverage. In a nutshell, if you have a card that offers primary coverage (such as the Chase Sapphire Preferred and the Chase Sapphire Reserve, should you get in to an accident, your car rental protection with your Chase card kicks in. Why is this important, this means that you do not need to submit any kind of claim involving your car insurance, thus it also eliminates the possibly of any kind of rate increase. But if your card offers secondary coverage, that means your primary insurance will have to be involved first, and then later engage your secondary insurance. You also need to make sure that you use the appropriate card for the booking in order for the coverage to kick in.
What about American Express cards? Most of the American Express cards come with complimentary secondary coverage. I happen to have quite a few American Express Credit cards, and when it comes to securing my car rental booking, in our family, we use our Chase Sapphire Preferred and the Chase Sapphire Reserve – this assures that our rental gets primary coverage.
Gotta think outside the box. There was simply no room for tunnel vision. Look at the different alternatives. Talk to other people. Pick up the phone. Make the phone calls, be flexible with your dates. Ask to be placed on a wait list. That’s really the takeaways here. Make sure to to exhaust all of your efforts before settling at a rental rate that you’re happy with.
Editorial Disclosure – The editorial content is not provided or commissioned by the credit card issuers. Opinions expressed here are the author’s alone, not those of the credit card issuers, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by the credit card issuers.