If some of you were wondering why you hadn’t seen me post in a few days, I’ve just returned from a week-long vacation in Hawai’i. It was beautiful. What almost ruined the trip, however, was the annoying hassle of trying to get a rental car.
Hawai’i’s rental car troubles have been known for a some time now. And while it’s always better to try and get around by walking or biking on someplace like an island, if you want to go far or do some grocery shopping if you are there for an extended stay like I was, you need a vehicle. And with us wanting to go to the North Shore beaches of O’ahu, we needed a way to get there.
First, some may be wondering why I waited until I got to the island to try and rent a car. Our vacation was a package deal that for some reason wouldn’t let us include a rental car with the package. I suspect it had something to do with the fact that it already came with transportation in the form of shuttle service from the airport to our hotel and back on both of our flights. And the hotel we were staying at had pricey parking rates, rates I didn’t want to pay for with only needing a vehicle for two days. The hotel charged $8/hour for parking or $50/day flat rate if the vehicle stayed overnight.
My attempts to rent a car had me go through two major agencies, a few hole-in-the-wall spots, and then back to the major players before I was actually able to get a vehicle. I tired Hertz first. Yeah, I know I’ve covered all the bad crap they put people through, but when they actually do what they’re supposed to they’re pretty easy to rent from, especially when you’re a Gold Member like I am. I checked the main Hertz location at Honolulu Airport. I was surprised I was able to make a reservation. But this is where I got burned.
A huge loophole in Hertz’s rental reservation system is that it allows customers to reserve vehicles that they may not actually have. And while the system will stop you if vehicles are booked for whatever dates you have selected, it doesn’t stop you if the location you selected is out of the vehicle or vehicle classes you choose. It’s weird and doesn’t make sense how their system isn’t connected to some sort of vehicle inventory system. So because of all of this, I ended up taking a $25 Lyft to the airport for nothing. It was another $22 to take a Lyft back to my hotel. Hours wasted for nothing.
The next day, I decided to try my hand with Enterprise. And before looking to reserve, I called to make a reservation. The problem with this route is that calling means nothing. Like Hertz, if you call Enterprise to check anything, from vehicle inventory to rates, you’re not actually talking to someone at the location you’re trying to reserve at; you’re speaking to someone in a call center somewhere. This is annoying because there’s a disconnect between what the call center says and what actually happens at the location; they’ll tell you one thing that’s not necessarily the case once you get there.
With Enterprise, the issue wasn’t that they didn’t have a vehicle, they just didn’t have the vehicle I needed. Enterprise seemed to have more of an awareness of what vehicles were actually available at the airport. I needed a minivan, so I reserved one after I was told that the airport had some available. Another Lyft ride down to the airport, and I found out that the biggest vehicles they had available were “large sedans;” in their case that meant Chevy Malibus and Toyota Camrys. More time and money on Lyfts wasted.
I decided to try and rent from one of the few local places I saw around the city. While these places were locally owned and operated and had vehicles available, they were sketchy as hell. I found one place that was directly across from a hotel one of my family members was staying in. But its whole operation was run out of a gravel-covered lot surrounded by a chainlink fence with their “offices” being tent-covered picnic tables and a tool shed that looked like it came from Home Depot. And the cars were old. We’re talking last gen, early 2010s base Toyota Siennas, Camrys, Corollas, a random NC Miata that needed a wash, and what looked to be a 2016 Chevy Camaro RS convertible that had duct tape on one of the side mirrors.
Suffice to say we decided to bike that day. The other locally owned rental spot I found had cars just as old. One of my cousins actually rented a Sienna from one of these places. It nearly left her stranded after it struggled to start. Twice.
I decided to give Hertz one more go on the third or fourth day. I was actually able to get a vehicle. I was counting on a Chrysler Pacifica because of how good and comfortable they are. But my dreams were crushed. Unlike here on the mainland, where when you’re a Gold Member with Hertz you can choose the vehicle you want, my van was already assigned to me by Hertz.
“Your vehicle will be in space number 62, Mr. Hodge,” the Hertz rep told me. I was pissed when I walked out to space 62 and found a red Dodge Grand Caravan GT that was at least two to three years old. It had almost 43,000 miles, had pieces coming off the seats and some of the stow-and-go floor covers, and made noises when we went over bumps. It got us to the North Shore beaches, but I hated every minute of it.
Because of all of this though we ended up walking and biking nearly all of the time we were there. Which wasn’t a bad thing. Our hotel was centrally located near lots of bars and restaurants, etc. And all that walking and biking made me lose five pounds so that was a win. But just know, if you are planning to vacation in Hawai’i, either try and set up a rental way before you get there, or take the environmentally friendly and healthy route and walk or bike. If you don’t, you’re in for a headache.