What’s Up With the Hawaii Car Rental Shortage?

What’s Up With the Hawaii Car Rental Shortage?

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Car rentals are usually part of any vacation. Being able to get around with ease is something that makes a vacation easy and stress-free. But the pandemic has put an unexpected strain on the rental car industry within Hawaii and in other parts of the world. The Hawaiian Tourism Agency stated that rental cars are hard to come by. With a lot of rental agencies booking out far, prices have risen to an average of at least a couple hundred dollars a day, and availability has become less and less accessible. 

What caused this shortage? The pandemic had a drastic effect on the car rental industry. In 2020 Aloha Stadium was packed full of hundreds and hundreds of unused rental cars, and with the lack of travelers and use for the cars, the vast majority of companies had to sell or ship their fleet of vehicles to stay afloat in the crash. By late August, the stadium was nearly empty. With the return of a healthy travel ecosystem, post-pandemic spikes in rental car prices have skyrocketed due to the almost 40% decrease in fleet sizes and high demand for vehicles. 

Department of Commerce and Consumer Affairs Executive Director Stephen Levins weighs in on the state of rental cars in Hawaii. 

“For whatever reason, the demand has driven up the price, but again, I want to emphasize that supply and demand is not the be-all and end-all. When we do an analysis on this, just because there is a diminished supply doesn’t necessarily mean that a company is justified in increasing the cost.” 

While it may not be justified that some companies are charging hundreds of dollars a day for a car, it is a plain fact that rentals themselves are still hard to secure. This problem is not exclusive to Hawaii but spans the entire country. Prices have gone up everywhere since companies sold off significant portions of their fleets during the pandemic. When planning your trip, it would be best to book as far in advance as possible to secure a vehicle. 

In addition, the pandemic impacted the production of new cars. Car rental companies looking to replenish their fleets cannot purchase vehicles quickly enough to meet the current demand. Although the prices are high and the market is selling out car lots, leaving them empty, the Hawaii Tourism Agency does not expect this to deter travelers from visiting the islands. 

Some options for travelers looking to rent on their upcoming vacation: 

  1. Rental Car Agencies: plan in advance book as far out as possible to secure the best price and a vehicle. 
  2. Rideshare Apps: book your vehicle through a peer-to-peer rental service like Turo, but since there is a shortage of rental cars, it is also recommended to book your trip with ample time to find a vehicle that works for your trip.

Uber and Lift also remain an option in many places, but prices for these previously widely available and well-priced travel options have also gone up. Prices post-pandemic are much higher and often wait times can be challenging. Still, they are an option if you are staying in a more urban area like Honolulu or visitor-centric areas such as Ka’anapali and Lahaina.

  1. Public Transit: On Oahu, you will be able to easily take “The Bus,” the island’s well-established and ubiquitous public transit system.

Although the recovering travel industry has sent the car rental industry skyrocketing, the travel demand has not been diminished. As long as travelers plan ahead, book in advance, and are prepared to spend more than average on their transportation, they will be able to have a leisurely Hawaiian vacation. 

Patience and a little Aloha Spirit can go a long way. At the end of the day, you will be in Hawaii, the land of rainbows, stunning natural beauty, and life-enhancing sunsets!!


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