Renting a Car on Kauai
Tips and Recommendations
To get the most out of your vacation on Kauai, I strongly recommend renting a car. Here are some tips and opinions to help you find the best value and get the best experience.
My husband likes to say, “It pays to spend,” and I will say that this really applies to car rentals in Hawaii. Personally, I find that the lower-end companies like Budget and Thrifty have dirty cars with fleas and other undesirables. Middle of the road rentals are a bit better. Hertz, at the top, has been very reliable.
My go-to company right now for price and value is Enterprise. They also (mercifully) do NOT have the single painfully long check-in line. (I’m not kidding, I’ve waiting in some lines for over an hour.) They have computer kiosks with attendants that help you, then escort you to the car. That is when they pitch you on insurance and gas programs, GPS, etc. But you can resist because you read my whole article, including the bits about insurance and gas (below)! I’ve found that Enterprise is fast, friendly, helpful and professional. Things can always change.
Another rental agency I’ve used frequently is Discount Hawaiian Car Rental at 1-800-292-1930. I’ve used them several times and have been very happy with their service and cars. Even though the daily rate might look higher than Hotwire or Priceline the total always comes out lower (see below for details on Priceline). You don’t have to put in your credit card when you make the initial reservation, you just reserve and they give you a set price. Then you pay when you arrive. So if you find something you like better then you can always cancel. When I rented, they also did NOT charge for extra drivers, which can add up!
Hotwire is a good alternative and I would definitely check out pricing there as well. They don’t require you to pay up front, but check the TOTAL vs. Discount Hawaiian because the daily rate they quote you may not include everything.
Another option is Island Cars. I personally have never used them, although I haven’t heard horror stories, so maybe no news is good news? Let’s hope!
Beware of Priceline! They have some fine print that says that in spite of the daily price they quoted you, they reserve the right to charge ‘supplemental fees’ in certain areas. I was furious when I found this out after thinking I was getting one price, putting in my cc # and then getting charged more – and you can’t do anything about it!
Location of Car Rental Agencies
Most of the car rental companies are right at the airport, although they shuttle you about the 500 yards over to the rental counter. There are 2 companies that are off-site, Enterprise/National and Thrifty.
If you are about efficiency and speed so you can hit the beach ASAP, here is what I suggest: Leave someone with all the luggage at the airport and then have only the driver(s) go over in the van to the counter, get registered and come back with the car. It is SO much easier than dragging all your loved ones and stuff into the van and over to the car rental agency, etc. All the rental companies will let you add other drivers if you need to. When you get back, you can sit at the airport curb and load stuff into the car as long as you don’t leave your car for very long — they are super mellow at the airport.
IMPORTANT: Be aware at busy times, such as Christmas and New Years, as they CAN AND DO run out of cars! Reserve, confirm and then confirm again if you’re traveling during this busy time.
If you have an American Express card, sign up for the optional $15-$25 insurance fee that 100% covers you for every car rental. Even if you have your own car insurance, this small price is definitely worth it. I had a small accident once in a rental vehicle but since I had the insurance, all I had to do was point out the dent when I turned in the car and American Express took care of everything. No hassles, and no surcharges or increased rates on my own car insurance!
I love it! No feeling bad about not taking their insurance at the counter.
Pre-paid gas. Do the math on this – you will probably find it pretty hard to use an entire tank of gas in a normal 1 week trip! There is a Costco gas station on your way to the airport for best gas prices. (Also, Costco is a great place to shop for food if you’re planning on doing your own cooking. I had some friends who got a Costco membership just so they could use it for their trip to Hawaii!)
By Cynthia Haines