I was pleasantly surprised how many people enjoyed my LAX to Maui trip report. The story was picked up by Google so I received a lot of comments and emails and all were positive. I will have to write more of these detailed trip reports because there’s no doubt that when I travel, I learn or refresh my memory of a plethora of tips. Today’s tip is an extension of that trip report, all about what I learned about renting a car in Maui. RELATED: An Ex-Cop Has Pulled Over Vehicles For This Reason: Save Yourself Headaches and Hassles With This Car Rental Tip

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It’s been a while since I’ve rented a car at an airport and this was my first time renting one in Maui in five years. As you can see from the photo above, a lot has changed. Here are my tips so far (yep, it’s a work in progress since I haven’t returned the car yet).

Don’t prepay
If you don’t book cars often then here’s my advice: Don’t book a non-refundable pre-paid vehicle, even if the price seems great. Because things happen. Once, I was flying from Washington DC to Miami and I was in such a rush that I forgot to put my driver’s license back in my wallet. I was wearing some stupid shorts that had shallow pockets so I dropped my ID, I’m guessing while sitting on the plane. I learned real quick that my prepaid reservation, that I thought was such a great deal, wasn’t because you can’t rent a car if you don’t have a valid ID. I couldn’t get a refund since I’d prepaid so always make sure your rental is refundable or don’t prepay. Hopefully with technology, that will all change. For instance, in some states, the TSA is accepting copies in Apple Pay.

Reserve early and keep checking prices
I mainly use Costco when I book car rentals. I usually check all the sites first, like AvisEnterpriseHertzAuto EuropeBooking.comExpediaPricelineRentalCars.com and Autoslash. What I like about Costco is that they give you four different companies and you don’t have to pre-pay. The trick is to reserve a car when you book your plane tickets and then keep checking to see if the price goes down. Often, the price drops as it did on this trip to Maui. Originally, Avis quoted $547 for a weekly rental for an intermediate size car and the price dropped multiple times, including the day before arrival, so I rebooked for $379.

Sign up to the car rental company’s rewards program and use the app
I always recommend signing up to any travel provider’s rewards program because you never know when you will fly, stay, drive or cruise with them again. What I like about Avis is that their app allows you to skip the counter (at least it did for me and I don’t have any special perks unless one of my credit cards gives me their Avis Preferred status). In the past, the worst part about renting a car, especially in Hawaii, was waiting in a long, slow, hot line after a transpacific flight. No bueno. With the app, there are no lines.

They assign you a car and if you don’t like it, you can change it. I should have changed ours as it took me 15 minutes to set the car seat up since I couldn’t get one of the hooks to take. But I had already loaded the luggage in the trunk and my son in his booster seater so I just kept pushing. My rookie mistake was not putting the hook on the far side on first and then doing the one by the door … but I have stubborn Italian blood in me.

Don’t rent a car seat or booster
Speaking of car seats and boosters … Don’t rent a car seat or booster from the car rental company because what it costs to rent for a week will cover the cost of a brand new one that you can take home. For example, a booster or car seat rental for the week cost $69.95 but the Graco booster seat we bought for my son cost about $30. And the car seat we bought last-minute for our daughter was $79.99. Also, the rented boosters and car seats are pretty disgusting.

Organize a week ahead
If you have little kids like we do (ages 3 and 6), then get organized a week ahead of schedule. We used to have a WAYB car seat for our toddler; for babies and up to 30lbs, you want a Doona car seat and stroller, which was a GAME CHANGER for travel. But I somehow misplaced our old WAYB car seat (I think I left it at my mother-in-law’s, thinking we would get it at Christmas, but we were unable to go thanks to Covid), which was a serious mistake since they are expensive (but so easy to travel with!) But fortunately, we started organizing everything for our trip a few days before and noticed it was missing. So we ordered an inexpensive car seat on Amazon, which arrived in two days, and checked it.

Renting at Maui Airport
Maui Airport hasn’t changed much from what I could see when we landed except that there were a lot more planes on the tarmac. We were stuck there in no man’s land for at least 10 minutes waiting for traffic to clear. But what has changed is their new car rental center. It’s now state-of-the-art and there’s a tram, which is designed to pay homage to the old plantation-style trains of Hawaii. The tram takes passengers to the new facility, which is beautiful and reminded me of the one in Phoenix. I later realized that if you don’t want to wait the two minutes the tram takes to come, you can also just walk, which the sign says is a three-minute jaunt.

Plenty of cars
I’m happy to report that the car rental shortage from 2021, which was billed as The Car Rental Apocalypse, seems to be over. At least in Maui. During the pandemic, car rental companies sold off their fleets and then there was a chip shortage so they couldn’t replenish them in time for the strong demand. But Maui now has plenty of cars and that was confirmed to me by multiple people. But that doesn’t mean you should wait until the last minute to book, especially over holidays and the summer.

Inspect your vehicle
Always inspect your vehicle for scratches, dents and cracks in the windshield. Check the tires, pop the trunk and look for a spare tire and check to see if the registration sticker is valid. Take video and photos with timestamps so you can prove the scratches or dents were already there and report them before leaving.

Have your ID ready
Again, it’s been a while since I rented a car from an airport so I forgot how easy it is. Just find your car, show your ID to the attendant at the exit and you’re good to go.

What are your tips?
Please leave a comment below if you have more car rental tips, including for Maui specifically. I have more including one from a friend of mine who used to work at a major car rental company. Here’s how to save and avoid headaches.


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16 Comments On "Car Rental Tips I Learned from Renting a Car in Maui"
  1. R Johnson|

    What are your thoughts about renting a ez pass or whatever it’s called in a state for paying tolls along the way in a rental?

  2. Lori Parolini|

    I would like to know how to get “LOSS OF USE” car rental coverage reasonably. Through Allianz or the car rental company it is at least $11-14 per day. I have read that some Visa and American Express credit cards offer this coverage, but which ones? Are there any with a low annual fee? Also, we often rent cars for over 14 days and many credit cars only cover “LOSS OF USE” for 14 days. Please help if you have the info I am looking for or direct me to an article or resource. Thanks much.

    1. Johnny Jet|

      Hi Lori

      We have this post: https://johnnyjet.com/best-credit-cards-with-rental-car-perks/
      It doesn’t answer everything but it’s a start that might help.

  3. George Keller|

    My wife and I travel to Hawaii every year. In the past I have booked my cars through Costco like many people I know. Then I check rates every month. This past November I checked Budget. Their rates were lower than Costco. The secret was I used my Amazon.com sign in. The rate was lower plus I received a 10%, of the base fare, credit to my Amazon account.

  4. Ivy Pascal|

    You mentioned you like to rent a car through Costco and then you recommended using the rental car company’s app to book a rental. They are mutually exclusive events, aren’t they? We have been happy with autoslash.

  5. Mike O'Connor|

    My advise is specifically for Ireland, tell your travel agent you want the super insurance. The roads in Ireland are lined with bramble bushes covering stone walls. It’s not if the car will be scratched but when and many roads are much narrower than US drivers are used to, and trucks and construction vehicles seem to be coming at you all the time and they don’t slow down!

  6. Herb K|

    I’m in Honolulu now – rented with Hertz. My car – Full size was a Ford Edge 2019 model with 40,000+ miles! I asked about it – they said they are getting more new cars in slowly. Imagine that many miles on a tiny island! Also – they must’ve saved some of their cars here during the peak of the pandemic…

  7. G Keller|

    Regarding the “LOSS OF USE” car rental coverage. Since my personal car insurance covers the car rental in Hawaii I added the coverage loss of use to my personal policy. The is very minable, something like $10-15 every 6 months.

  8. Arleen|

    Try Kihei Rent a Car. They pick you up at the airport, drive you to their office in Kihei, where you get your car. They are not new cars. At least give them a try.

  9. Mike Sternfeld|

    Hi Johnny,

    Before my wife and I took our October trip to Kauai, I rented a car with Costco and picked Avis as the best price for a “standard” car at the airport when I booked the airline tickets. This was over $750.00. About a month before our trip, I found a company called AutoSlash. Their Avis price for the same car category was about $375.00 for offsite pickup and $550.00 for airport pickup, both refundable fares. I chose the airport pickup because the offsite location was in town at a hotel and had limited hours of operation. I also got an upgrade because there were no available cars in the category I chose.

    I would definitely recommend AutoSlash again as the sign up was easy and the prices were better than the travel sites, Costco or AAA.

  10. Cathy|

    I learned this on my last few trips – book the cheapest car you can live with it. In Kona, they asked if we wanted a bigger car, we said no, they upgraded us to a 3 row SUV. In Austin, they asked us the type of car we drive and tried that as an upsell. We said no we want the tiny 3-cylinder car. They said ok – you get a free upgrade today. We rarely need to take the tiny car.

  11. Beccca|

    Thanks for your weekly tips and trip reports!!

    Re Maui rental cars…
    By far the best price we found last month—cheaper than using Costco —was via Discount Hawaii Car Rental.

    Also, using some memberships such as AAA, there is no additional fee for a booster seat.

  12. Dougie|

    Autoslash is definitely the way to go. I have used them for probably 8 years mainly for travel to the 3 NY area airports put other cities too. U must go into map view to make sure that off airport rate is reasonably close to the airport. With aitoslash, u can indicate u are a Costco member and it also searches and provides the same rates as at costcotravel.com. While Costco can and does have the lowest rates that is not always the case. I do agree that prepaid reservations is almost always a bad idea unless maybe u book a really low prepaid rate the day before travel.

  13. Lori Parolini|

    G KELLER – Who is your car insurance carrier? We checked with ours, and they do not offer LOSS OF USE – even for an extra charge.

  14. Tom Ellison|

    Like another poster, I recommend Kihei Rent a Car in Maui. Really nice people. If you don’t mind driving a somewhat older–but well maintained–car, you can save 40% or so. Best of all, they pick you up and return you to the airport.

  15. Scott McMurren|

    Nice wrap, Johnny. I also shop at Costco for cars.

    Another important plus for Costco: FREE additional driver. My friend went to Kauai and they wanted to charge an extra $20 per day. **BS**.

    I’ve also used TURO several times…primarily when no “real” rental cars are available.

    Turo can be handy, but there are NO GRACE PERIODS for insurance. That means you cannot be late bringing the car back.

    Also, Turo has discovered how to add rip-off fees to the rentals. It’s called “trip fee” and it’s just an add’l shakedown.

    This summer I paid $116/day for a 2011 Ford Fiesta. I mean the car was fine but RIDICULOUS price. But there were NO OTHER CARS available. HA

    sm in ANC

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