Right now I am in the middle of putting the finishing touches on my own summer trip to Hawaii.  We have the hotel and the flights taken care of (on points!), but we still need to get a good deal on a rental car.  Since I am on the hunt anyway, I think it is a good time to share a few thoughts on the subject in my series on saving money and using points in Hawaii!  If you missed the first few installments, here they are below.

Plan a Hawaiian Vacation Using Miles and Points: Part 1 (Overview)

Strategic Airline Ticket Decisions

Airline Award Options

Intra-Hawaii Flights

Rental Car Deals in Hawaii (this post)

For most people, part of the fun of Hawaii is exploring beyond the hotel grounds.  Sure some hotels offer a shuttle service to selection locations, and in some areas you can walk around a bit or use public transportation, but for many having a rental car is the easiest mode of transportation while staying on one of the islands – especially if you are staying somewhere other than Waikiki in Honolulu.  I know when I was in Maui it was all but essential to have a rental car.  I’m going to cover several resources you can use to get a good deal on a rental car in Hawaii, but in reality much of this info isn’t really Hawaii-specific.  It is just the steps you would take almost any time you need a car rental.

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Hertz gave me this nice upgrade the last time I was on Maui!

  • Start with Hotwire: Hotwire makes it super easy to see some relatively low car rental prices without much work.  In some cases you can see who the car rental company is, and in other cases that information is not displayed.  Sometimes the type of car is displayed, but sometimes it is not.  I love to look at Hotwire to get a feel for the prices being offered, but I don’t often book with Hotwire because I like to know exactly what I am getting before I book, I don’t like to prepay, and I don’t like non-refundable reservations (unless the savings is very significant).  It is still useful to start there so you have some price reference when exploring the other options.
  • Compare with Costco:  Believe it or not Costco can also be a good resource for car rentals.  They have an online website that sometimes offers very competitive pricing for rental cars from Alamo, Avis, Enterprise, and Budget.  You can cancel or change these reservations without penalty, but you do need a Costco Membership to rent (though you can search for free).
  • Check your favorite car rental company directly + look for coupons: I am sometimes lazy/busy, so I really like to rent with the same company 99% of the time.  I will even pay a little more to keep my rental car points, benefits, etc. in one basket.  I also like to skip the rental car line and go straight to my car using a program like Hertz Gold.  So for me I will check Hertz out specifically, and also search for their coupon codes both on the internet in general as well as on the Hertz specific forum on Flyertalk.  I also often use my discount code via USAA in addition to any coupons.  This can lower the going rate dramatically (but can sometimes raise it so check both ways).  Personally, if I am in a hurry and find a rate that looks good based on comparing to the Hotwire and Costco rates I already know, I might just book and call it a day.  However, since this post is specific to Hawaii, and most people need longer rentals and plan way in advance for trips like this, it pays to keep searching.  Another option is to use your rental car points if the rates are coming back higher than you are comfortable with.
  • Use credit card points: Car rentals are a time when the conventional wisdom applied to some types of credit card points shifts.  I normally like to earn and use flexible credit card points by transferring to hotel and airline partners whenever possible, but there can be some good car rental deals as well.  Specifically, it pays to check Capital One, Ultimate Rewards, and Citi ThankYou points respective travel portals for car rental deals.  You must have one of those cards to access their portals, but can typically use points or a credit card charge to book.  Rapid Travel Chai has a good post on using Capital One points to book rentals. 
  •  Use airline miles: I’ve never personally found a deal worth using airline miles on via a site like www.useaamiles.com, but I know others that have, so that can be an option to search once you know what is a good deal versus isn’t a good deal for your dates.  You also need to know you value your airline miles.  A good rule of thumb is valuing your miles in the 1.5 – 2.0 cents per mile range.  Points Summary points out that the best deals seem to be reserved for those with AA Platinum or Executive Platinum status. 
  • Search a Hawaii-specific car rental company: I don’t have any personal experience with this, but have read some success stories with Hawaii-specific booking sites such as discounthawaiicarrental.com or aloharents.com. I’d love to hear if anyone has personal experience with these sites!
  • Priceline it: If you still haven’t found a price you like and/or just want to see if you can successfully “name your own price”, give Priceline a try.  Of course if  your reservation is accepted, it will be non-refundable and you don’t get to pick which company it is with.  Still can be a way to try to get some decent discounts if you are okay not knowing the details in advance, and are okay with non-refundable reservations.  Obviously I would bid lower than what you have found on other sites, otherwise there isn’t much point in going this route.  Million Mile Secrets has a post on this topic. 
  • Track your rental to see if it gets cheaper: I use Autoslash.com to track rentals to see if they get cheaper as the date gets closer.  They will automatically email you (once you give them your confirmation number) and if they find a better deal you have the chance to switch to the lower rate.  You can also choose to just keep your search on on your own as the date gets closer.  Assuming you made a refundable reservation you can just cancel and rebook to the new lower rate!
  • Free car seat(s): If you plan to rent a car seat, the costs can add up since it is often at least $10 per day (for a seat that often appears to only cost about $25 total!), but it is possible to get one free from Hertz via AAA discount code.  I’ve also heard you can get two free via a Car and Driver promo.  InACents has more details on these options, if they are useful for you.  I have not had any problems with the AAA code in the past.
  • Under 25 rentals: USAA is spectacular if you need multiple drivers in the same family or are a driver under 25 since those surcharges for those can also really add up.  Via USAA there are no young driver fees for USAA members ages 18-24 with Hertz and 21-24 with Avis, Budget or Enterprise.  Using the USAA discount code also allows for no additional driver fees for spouses or other USAA family members.

In most cases I think having a car rental is the smart thing to do for visits to the islands, but it pays to get the best deal possible using dollars, points, or miles.  Let me know if you have some other good car rental tips to share (whether they are Hawaii-specific or not)!

Posted by mommypoints | 37 Comments

37 Responses to “Hawaii Vacations on Points: Getting Rental Car Deals”

  1. Denise says:

    MP, I used discounthawaiicarrental.com in February when we went to Kauai. I had a car reserved for a long time, but needed to change the rental days when we had a last minute change of plans. That caused the price to skyrocket. That’s when discounthawaiicarrental.com came to the rescue. Their prices were extremely competative and much cheaper than Costco or USAA (my usual go-to discounts). I was a little concerned because the price was so much lower than anywhere else, but I had no problem and the price was exactly as quoted. The car ended up being through Alamo.

  2. AndrewC says:

    I recently used discounthawaiicarrental.com when I went to Maui. and was very satisfied. Got an economy car from Avis, and all rentals allow cancellation (unlike priceline) and allow a second driver for no additional charge. I looked around a few times for better prices from some of the other options you mentioned, and did not find any.

  3. Kathy C says:

    Maybe I am not looking very hard but I have always booked my car rentals thru Alamo and I generally used coupons from the entertainment books or entertainment.com. For example, we have a 4 day rental coming up starting this weekend. I went straight to Alamo.com, entered the coupon code for a free weekend day. My total for a fullsize car after taxes etc. is $80. DIdn’t think that was too bad for Las Vegas. I usually go back once or twice to make sure the rates haven’t dropped. I like to stick with Alamo because they have been lenient about drop off times, are always clean, reliable. No surprises.

  4. KateFromCA says:

    Make sure to take detailed pictures of your rental before you pick it up and when you turn it in, and make sure to charge it to a card that provides primary coverage. I travel to Hawai’i several times a year, and particularly for corporate rentals, the bogus damage claims abound (I suppose because the employee doesn’t care to fight it since it’s covered by corporate insurance). Happened to me personally (on O’ahu) and a coworker on Maui. We both had extensive photos as to the condition and won.

    Also take a picture of the receipt after you refuel the car before returning it, as they like claiming the car was returned empty (after marking 8/8 in the final bill).

    Aloha! :)

  5. Aarif says:

    Just came back from Hawaii and we used Citi TY points to pay for about 50% of the price of our rental cars. Not the best use of TY points, but I had a lot of points left over after buying positioning and inter-island flights.

  6. Jim says:

    I used autoslash on a trip to Maui last week. 5.5 days 58.00 all in. and I’m not kidding. I didn’t believe it until I returned the car and paid my bill.

  7. Bob says:

    I visited 3 islands on my Hawaiian trip in February and March, and discounthawaiicarrental.com had the best prices all three times. I compared with many other sites.

  8. Tim says:

    We’re going to Kauai in July, and rates are much higher than the last three Julys. I have never seen rates this high before. My corporate discount is the best option so far. I tend to watch the Hotwire rates via email. When those drop I start searching again.

    @Jim, you lucked out, most likely a mistake. Minimum taxes would be $45+~$4 for a six day rental. The base rate would have to be under $2/day.

  9. Jim says:

    @Tim, your right I did luck out, however I rented from Aadvantage and it seems they are located just far enough outside of the terminal therefor don’t have to charge airport taxes.
    I’m going to Kauai in Aug and the best I can do is 5.5 days at 187.50 all in.(Avis with autoslash)

  10. mommypoints says:

    Denise, thanks so much for sharing your experience!
    Andrew, great and thanks for sharing!
    Kathy, I don’t think that is a bad strategy at all – just try some of these other methods if you find that method doesn’t get you want on some trip in the future.
    KateFromCA, yikes!
    Aarif, sounds good to me.
    Jim, awesome!
    Bob, sounds like that site is pretty solid based on the comments here. Great to know!
    Tim, ugh, fingers crossed for you!

  11. Barb Shifty says:

    We are staying on Maui in July (4th – 19th) and booked using Delta’s link to Hertz for $377ai for an Economy car. Haven’t seen anything close to that rate so far, though I keep checking all of the usual sites (kayak, costco, orbitz).

  12. Daniel says:

    I actually just booked our rental through UR portal on my Sapphire Card. Got a Full Size through Enterprise for 25k points and $24. I thought this was a decent deal for our points/miles trip to Waikiki.

    Any options for free car seats via Enterprise? We are looking at about $75 for a week for renting one.

  13. Colleen says:

    In your point about Autoslash, I think you meant to say “Refundable”.

    “Assuming you made a non-refundable reservation you can just cancel and rebook to the new lower rate!”

  14. AAL says:

    MP, thanks for this timely post. It caused me to recheck an Enterprise reservation that I made 2 days ago, and the price for my rental had dropped $50! Hotwire is only a few dollars cheaper, so not enough difference to risk a nonrefundable rate. I always check rates on several sites, including AAA, before I book; it is amazing how rates vary between different companies for the same product.

  15. Seth Miller says:

    I’ve also used discounthawaiicarrental.com to realize some very good discounts on rental cars in Hawaii. They should be part of any search process for the islands IMO.

  16. mommypoints says:

    Barb, fingers crossed for you. Summer can lead to some higher rates for sure.
    Daniel, I don’t personally know of that option with Enterprise, but maybe someone else will chime in.
    Colleen, you got it. Fixed now, thanks!
    AAL, great and good job!
    Seth, yep that rec is in the list – I just didn’t have personal experience with it. Judging by yours and other comments it is a very solid option. Thanks for weighing in!

  17. Carrie says:

    We used discounthawaiicarrental.com last July on Kauai. I kept checking regularly from the time we booked until our trip and it was always the cheapest. Our rental ended up being with Avis, and I would NOT recommend them on Kauai. We normally rent through Enterprise whenever we travel and their service and condition of their vehicles has always been top-notch. Our van on Kauai was yuck. And, part way through our trip, an ant infestation, as in, ants crawling all over my daughters booster seat and her legs. Momma not happy! We returned it for another van. I like a good price for sure, but we’ve agreed as a family that Avis on Kauai will not get our business. We are renting through Costco Travel this July on Oahu. I liked the price so I reserved it, but plan to check out the other site when I finally get some time to focus on the rental car aspect of our trip! Thanks so much, MPs! Your message is very timely. :)

  18. Erik says:

    Does anyone have tips specifically for the big island? You can fly into Kona or Hilo. Checking car rental prices, it looks like Kona may have more selection and slightly cheaper prices. It is about 2-3 hours to drive across the island, so any savings might be offset by time/gas cost depending on your destination. The big resorts, of course, are located in the Waikoloa area.

  19. Charlie says:

    I have found some great deals using Skymiles (even if paying with almost entirely cash – still eliminates a huge portion of the cost). I outlined that here in a post – http://www.runningwithmiles.com/index.php/getting-cheap-car-rentals (if you do not want a link here, I totally understand!)

  20. Andrew D says:

    I’d also suggest trying the links through Island Airs website. For some reason when clicking through their website to Avis/Thrifty you get great deals on rates, basically half of what I saw elsewhere when I was in Hawaii.

  21. MCB says:

    Any advice on CDW/LDW coverage? My UsAir Barclays Mastercard has secondary coverage, but I didn’t know if it was worth it to pay for primary (rental car) coverage at protectyourbubble.com or with other travel insurance?

  22. Beware of the newest add on… a friend rented a car from budget on The Big Island…declined the breakdown service…. the car broke down… called budget….b said “you only rented a car from us”. The tow was $300.

  23. Have had great luck with AlohaRents.com myself. They aren’t always the cheapest, but on my last trip, I tried any and every discount trick I knew, and they were much lower than all other options.

  24. mommypoints says:

    MCB, I use the United MileagePlus Explorer card as it comes with primary coverage.

  25. WeddingSpend says:

    In regards to credit card points, don’t forget to use the Barclays Arrival card for the car rental and redeem the bonus 40k points against the rental giving you flexibility versus Citi TY and more along the lines of Capital One.

  26. Cindy says:

    This Hawaii series is great and I’m so glad you’re doing it! Can’t wait to see what you post about Hotels. After a lifetime of travel and (only) 5 months of churning, I already have a pretty significant base of airline points accumulated, but really haven’t ventured into collecting hotel points. I have 22,500 never-expiring Marriott points, but nothing else and no ideal business or personal needs to book stays. I do, however, expect that when we do go to Hawaii, having some hotel points will significantly cut the expenses. Please post soon so I know how to work some hotel cards into my upcoming churns!
    Thanks again,
    Cindy

  27. I have often had good luck booking my Hertz rentals directly on the AAA website (whether in Hawaii or elsewhere). They list a lot of coupon codes available for use, give you the free carseat options, and also include free spouses as additional drivers. I’ve found that a lot of the rental companies in Hawaii (and almost all of the major discount sites like Hotwire and Priceline) do not include spouses free as additional drivers. If you are there for a long visit, it is nice for more than one person to be able to drive the car!

  28. Consider this another vote for the Hawaii-specific sites. I got a great deal with Aloha Rents during my last trip!

  29. The cost of renting a car in Hawaii is pretty reasonable compared to most vacation areas in rest of the United States.

  30. Erik says:

    For what it’s worth, I just made car rental reservations on Maui and the Big Island for our July trip to Hawaii. I checked out all the sites mentioned above, plus several corporate codes that I know, and USAA came up with the best rate thru Budget. I believe that anyone can become a USAA member (they have a great travel-friendly bank that refunds ATM fees). Only their insurance is restricted to military members and their families. The nice thing about USAA is that their discount codes include spouses (no extra fee), liability (bodily injury/death, property damage), and fees are waived for young drivers and loss of use. You can get an extra 3.5% cash back for your Budget reservation by writing down the USAA discount code and then using http://www.befrugal.com to enter the Budget web site.

  31. Allen says:

    @Erik: My family and I went to Oahu 5 days and Big Island 5 days in March for spring break. I would suggest flying into Kona on the big island, as like you said, the large resorts are in the Waikoloa area where it is dry and sunny. Took a long day trip to Hilo, where it is wet and rainy, on the other side of the island to go the botanical gardens (highly recommend) and Hawaii Volcanoes National Park.

  32. PaulG says:

    I use discounthawaiicarrental.com last May for a 6 day trip to Maui using Thrifty and everything went well. I found them much cheaper than the big car rental companies and Costco. This year I made a 5 day reservation with them for a upcoming 5 day trip to Kauai using Avis costing $150.00 out the door. But cancelled it recently when I checked the price through the ultimate rewards portal which was $127.00 out the door. I did not check the ultimate rewards portal last year as I had not got my Bold credit card yet. I have friends who also used discounthawaiicarrental.com twice recently and were happy with the service on Kauai and the big isiand.

  33. Susan says:

    MP, I’m surprised you would still recommend people rent car seats after your debacle last year (getting a belt-positioning booster for a small child who should still be harnessed).

    We always take our car seats because our kids are more comfortable on the plane in them AND because I don’t want to gamble on what the rental agency provides. Not as convenient for Mom & Dad schlepping the seats through the airport, but hey – isn’t that what parenting is all about?

    We always book through Costco Travel and then check back weekly – then DAILY the week before the trip. I have saved hundreds of dollars every time.

    Always book your Hawaii rental cars early because inventory can get very tight, particularly during busy holiday seasons (especially on Kauai).

  34. mommypoints says:

    Susan, I’m not recommending anyone rent car seats, but I know that many do rent car seats so I want to share the most cost effective way to do so. I almost always bring C’s car seat, but I know that isn’t an option on the table for everyone.

  35. emily says:

    zalyn.com is a great tool for searching coupons and checking a bunch of them at once. also for young drivers, hertz family club waives the underage fee. be aware in hawaii there are a number of roads that your contract does not allow you to drive on but at least hertz does not tell you when you check in! you can find them all on the map that they provide though.

  36. Jay says:

    Hi
    I love your site and thanks to you and other points bloggers I’m taking my family on a trip to Vancouver next week with points I’m even flying cathway pacafic business which I hear is pretty amazing so thank you for that. I was looking for rental cars and the cheapest I found was for like $100 a day and i needed a car 4 days which is pretty high so I ended up booking using 30000 avios plus $95 now that I’m looking back I think it was foolish using so many miles … Do u think I could of done better ?? What’s done is done but good to know for the future..

  37. Kent C says:

    Thought I was the bomb with Costco. Used many years. Now I compare 3. Costco, Zalyn.com (which does a vast search for you with personalized coupons) and the Chase portal. Costco is always much more. Zalyn and Chase are always neck and neck. Will have to try a few others mentioned here.

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