Blog: A taste of what you may find on Maui

5 Car Rental Tips and Tricks

If you are like me, you’re always looking for a deal. So I thought I’d share my 5 car rental tips and tricks. Two years ago when I last blogged about car rentals, we were dealing with a shortage. Thankfully that has stabilized since.

Here are my 5 Car Rental Tips and Tricks.

Book early and check back

Once your flights are confirmed, book the best ‘pay later’ car rental deal you can find. Check what discounts you may be eligible for ~ memberships like AAA or Costco, discounts through work or using certain credit cards. You may have some miles or points you can redeem. Consider booking a local car rental, but only after carefully checking the reviews. Some are better than others.

Why pay later? Car rental rates fluctuate a fair bit. Sometimes it’s supply and demand (booking early is often a win), but other times it can seem a bit random. So, go back and check every now and then if there are better rates available. If you find a better rate, cancel and rebook. If you can’t find a better rate, congratulate yourself on planning so well!

Pick-up and Drop-off times

Keep an eye on pick-up and drop-off times. Did you know you are generally charged in 24-hour increments? If you say you’re dropping off an hour over, you will be charged an extra day’s rate. Also, renting by the week can be cheaper than 6 days. However, that can backfire if return the car a day early, as they may adjust to the daily rate instead. As a side note, always list your flight information on your car rental, just in case they adjust your flight times or your flight comes in late.

Consider your car insurance

Do you need the expensive insurance they offer at the counter? Are you covered elsewhere? My car insurance covers rentals within North America. Some premier credit cards offer rental coverage, others only secondary (after your primary coverage). You can also add car insurance as an option in your travel insurance package. Most options will be cheaper than the counter rate. Please do not travel without insurance. Especially here in Hawaii it is common to discover that the other driver didn’t have insurance coverage. Make sure you are protected.

Do you need an extra driver on the rental?

The extra driver charge can add up. However, sometimes you can get an extra driver included for free. Bookings at Costco Travel typically include ‘spouse drives free’ (though over the years I’ve had push-back from Budget). A quick look at Discount Hawaii Car Rentals (also an aggregator site) shows a few of the options that include two free drivers. As always, check the fine print carefully so there are no surprises.

Type of vehicle

Consider how large a vehicle you’ll need. How many people are you transporting and how much luggage do you need to fit? Smaller cars tend to be cheaper to rent, minivans and SUVs are almost always significantly more. You will also have a hard time parking large SUVs on island (with exception of Costco perhaps).

Remember that your luggage will be visible in a jeep, and convertibles have notoriously small trunks. Will your luggage need to sit in the car for a while before check-in or after check-out? If so, you’ll want it hidden away so as not to attract thieves.

Research renting an electric vehicle. Look especially at current EV charging options.

When the car rental facility if full, they park the overflow in the field by Kahului airport.
overflow rentals in the field by the airport

A couple bonus tips

  • Fill the car yourself ~ this goes without saying, but it is cheaper than the pre-pay option
  • Always document dings and scratches when you pick up and when you drop off. Best to take photos on your phone. This will come in handy should you be charged for damage or a stolen car.
  • Skip the car rental line ~ sign up with the car company’s reward program, check-in online and get them all the info they need (driver’s license, address, credit card) ahead of time. Then simply skip the counter and go directly to the pickup area to get your car. Check your car rental company for details!
  • At Kahului Airport you can take the tram, however it’s just a five-minute walk to the main car rental counter. That walk might feel good after your long flight.

I hope you enjoyed my 5 Car Rental Tips and Tricks. For more ideas, check out my blog post from a few years ago.