Other than Oahu Island which has one of the best bus systems in North America, visitors on other Hawaii islands will discover they need a rental vehicle to get around. On Oahu renting a car will assure you greater freedom and flexibility enabling you to take in more of Oahu's popular attractions.
To begin your search for the best deal for a Hawaii car rental collect your travel itinerary and decide on the vehicle. If price is an issue select the smallest rental category that will fill your requirements as there is always the chance of a free upgrade on pickup.
Your Hawaii Car Rental Vehicle
Selecting the correct vehicle that meets your requirements can be difficult considering the variety of models available.
If price is a paramount consideration select the smallest rental class that will accommodate your party and their luggage.
All the car rental companies reserve the right to substitute an equivalent or higher rental class if the model you have reserved is not available. During peak seasons the economy and compact rental classes will have been overbooked. As a result the rental company will upgrade you to a higher class without any additional charges.
If you are traveling with a larger party it is important to consider their accompanying luggage. You may need a large vehicle, such as a large SUV or van, to transport everything to and from the airport. For a party of 7 even the minivan may prove too small when you consider the accompanying luggage and gear. You may even want to consider reserving a Large 12 or 15 passenger van, a second vehicle for one day or use a taxi to transport the luggage from the airport and back again.
Many of the Hawaii guide books recommend a 4x4 Jeep Wrangler citing rough and unpaved roads. Though the Wranglers are great fun to tour in they are not required. All of the large national rental companies have road restrictions; no driving off-road or on remote paved roads. Even an economy will get you anywhere you are allowed to travel to under the terms of your rental contract, excepting perhaps very steep driveways.
If you do decide to drive off-road, as many do, to get to some of the more secluded beaches and you get stuck or break down realize that you are responsible for the vehicle retrieval and any damages even if you have purchased their protection plans as you will have broken your contract.
Booking Your Hawaii Car Rental
Car rental pricing in Hawaii is like all other tourist pricing. The best deals are found if you travel during off-peak periods and book well in advance.
Do a lot of comparison shopping to find which car rental company has the cheapest rate. Book as early as possible and continue to check for lower rates periodically and again just before your travel dates.
Search for Discount Codes, pre-negotiated and special contracted rates from the car rental web sites and their licensed resellers as some offer the benefit of including optional services.
If you find a low rate and don't have to give your credit card number, BOOK THE CAR, it may not be available later. In any case you can cancel without any penalty. Quoted prices are always subject to change until you receive a confirmation number.
Hawaii Car Rental Rate Periods
Industry common rate periods are by the day and week and to a lesser degree by the month.
The rental day is 24 hours and that rate applies for rentals up to 5 days.
The weekly rate is charged for 6-7 consecutive rental days, this rate is less than or equal to 6 times the daily rate giving you 1 to 2 free days.
The monthly rate varies by rental company from a low of 28 days to the actual number of days in that month. For rentals over a weekly period, 1 or more weeks, the higher daily rate applies for any additional days.
To minimize rental charges you will want to return on or before your checkout time as listed on your checkout sheet in order to avoid additional overtime charges. Returning your vehicle as little as 1 1/2 hours after your checkout time can add one whole day's rental charges.
Almost all car rentals in Hawaii include unlimited mileage.
Hawaii Car Rental Pickup
Avoid any complications regarding your confirmed rental rate by presenting your confirmation notice on pickup.
If you are flying in or arriving via a cruise ship be prepared for a lineup once you go to pickup your vehicle. It can take a bit of time to process all the current arrivals. If possible it is a good idea for someone to head to the car rental shuttle bus while their partner looks after the luggage.
On pickup the counter agent will try to sell you all the optional services and protection packages they can. The only optional services that might be necessary would be insurance protection and child safety seats if you are unable to provide your own. You may be able to provide insurance coverage at much cheaper costs through your insurance provider, auto club or credit card. You are never required to accept their protection policies or any other optional service.
You may be tired from your travels but before you checkout, take the time to go over your checkout sheet carefully. You may save yourself a lot of grief by inspecting your rental vehicle before leaving the rental location as you may be held responsible for any un-recorded damage. Do a slow walk around the vehicle and pay close attention that all vehicle damage is listed on the checkout sheet. You may even want to go as far as to inspect the undercarriage on SUV models. Also verify that the vehicle has a full tank of gas and your checkout time is correct.
Driving Your Rental Car in Hawaii
All major rental companies prohibit all rental models, including 4x4 SUVs, from driving off of paved roads. If the vehicle breaks down in an off-road location the renter is responsible for vehicle recovery and repairs.
There are also restrictions for driving on certain remote and rough roads. The restrictions vary somewhat by rental company. For example There are restrictions on Saddle Road on the Big Island Hawai'i.
Driving is permitted on Saddle Road but not past the Mauna Kea visitor center (9,300 foot level) since it is not paved with Thrifty, Alamo, Enterprise and Dollar. Avis and Budget will allow you on Saddle Road to cross the Island but not to the Visitors Center.
See http://www.hawaiiinfoguide.com/hawaii_stargazing.htm for tours and info. To access the summit you are best to book a tour. For a vehicle try www.harpershawaii.com
For general road restrictions on rental vehicles in Hawaii please see the island maps on http://www.hawaiidriveguides.com/. Maps and more concise information will be available at the counter.
Rental cars attract thieves. Do not leave valuables in the vehicle unattended. Even the trunk is not a safe place.