While booking our plane tickets for our upcoming trip to Hawaii was really pretty straightforward since we only have one airline rewards credit card, renting a car affordably was anything but simple.
Since I have a goal to spend only $400 per person for a week in Hawaii, I’ve had to be really diligent to make sure no one item completely blew our budget. Since we only spent $94.80 on the four airplane tickets, the two costliest items were lodging and the car rental.
I had heard that renting a car in Hawaii is pretty expensive, so I wanted to make sure I found the best deal. At the same time, I didn’t want to wait too long – as Hawaii is an island, it’s not easy to just drive in extra cars if they’re all rented, and apparently the prices tend to skyrocket the last week before a trip.
I only looked at car rental options on the Big Island, since that’s where we’re staying, so you may have better luck elsewhere if you’re headed to another island. We are also traveling at a non-peak time, so prices were better in general as compared to Thanksgiving or Christmas week.
We also went for a standard size car (newer Camry size). While we could have gone for an economy or compact car, the upgrade was only a few dollars a day, and since we will be driving around with a stroller and spending a decent time in the car exploring the whole island, it was worth the extra $25 for the trip.
That said, I spent a ton of hours looking all over the Internet, but apparently I could have just gone straight to Costco and saved myself a bunch of time.
Our total cost (including taxes and fees and additional drivers) was $216, or $36/day.
Dollar Rent A Car / Thrifty Rental Cars
Dollar and Thrifty were both pretty comparable at about $190 for the trip, but that was before the “additional driver” discount. I actually had to call them directly because their site doesn’t make it clear, but they have a $13.99/day additional driver fee, which caps at $65 for the entire rental. Since there will be three of us who might drive during this trip, Costco beats this price hands down.
A note though, if you don’t have Costco or you will only have one driver, Dollar or Thrifty might be your best option. If you go to Groupon, there’s usually a 10-20% discount code as well. And like much other online shopping, go through Ebates to get an additional 2-5% on your rental. I was pretty surprised that even with all those discounts and rebates, Costco came in at the lowest cost, but that is true for a lot of what they do.
I also checked out all the standard travel search engines, but they weren’t any cheaper than booking directly with a car rental place. I’m not sure why that is, as they tend to have pretty good prices for flights and hotels.
This is a website I heard about from the Travel Miles 101 Facebook group as having some of the very best car rental deals. Other than Costco, this was true. They came in at $237, including extra drivers.
This is another website I heard about through a number of different blogs, but I couldn’t seem to figure out where exactly they were located in Kona (maybe the airport?). This was also one of the few things I’m wary on with just a little information online – once you’re on the island, you don’t have a ton of car rental options, and I didn’t want to get stuck in case they didn’t pan out. Regardless, they came in about the same as Autoslash, and I wasn’t sure about the extra driver charge.
Hopefully this will save you a ton of research time, especially if you have a Costco membership. While I can’t speak to the other Hawaiian islands, if you’re flying into Kona, rent your car through Costco. Plus, if you find a better deal down the line, you can either cancel your Costco rental, or they’ll match it.