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Harpers Car Truck Rentals

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Harpers Car Truck Rentals

Renting a 4x4 to visit the summit of Mauna Kea?

BEWARE HARPERS CAR & TRUCK RENTALS!!

Be sure to take a close look at the tread thickness on all 4 tires of your Harpers 4x4 rental vehicle - your life may depend on it, and Harpers is not concerned about that fact!

In early September 2012, I rented a 4x4 vehicle from Harpers to take my wife and another couple who reside on the Big Island to the summit of Mauna Kea. Harpers’ painstaking inspection and photographing of the vehicle prior to my departure should have been a red flag for me, but I assumed they were just protecting themselves against negligent renters who might abuse their property. I had only one purpose for the day- to drive up the unpaved, volcanic gravel road to the summit observatory at 14,000 ft. elevation, and then to return the vehicle to Harpers, a 4x4 being recommended on many tourist planning websites, and Harpers being mentioned as the only 4x4 vendor in Hilo.

However, I should have checked the tire tread before taking the vehicle, given the importance of it for driving Mauna Kea. Upon arriving at the summit, the park ranger told me that my right rear tire was dangerously soft, and it was clear that it had a slow leak. I changed the tire, but also noted that all four tires had very little tread on them.

Back at Harpers, I told the desk attendant about the soft tire, and pointed out that all the tires were lacking sufficient tread for such a rugged trip. He said that an inspection would be made of the vehicle, and assuming there was no other discernable damage, everything would be fine. Again, I should have remembered his having had me sign off on a clause in the rental contract that said I would take full responsibility for “any damage regardless of fault” to the vehicle, which included the worn tires.

A full month later, after returning home to Connecticut, I received an email report and bill for $190. Harpers sent a photograph that showed a thinly treaded tire with a barely discernable .5 inch line on it, purportedly a cut, perhaps the result of my trip on volcanic gravel, but perhaps not – How could I prove otherwise? The bill credited me $40 for depreciation, and Harpers’ “administrative fee” of $25 was waved because I paid the bill promptly- in effect I was buying Harpers a brand new tire to replace one that should never had been on that road in the first place; or at least that is what I said to their agent over the telephone, and especially questioning the legality of the thin tread.

She told me that the tread of the tire measured “9/32” (that’s a hair over ¼ of an inch!), and that “2/32” of tread is the legal limit in Hawaii, which is, incredibly correct, despite any consideration for the primary conditions under which a tire are used. In this case, the tire was on a vehicle that Harpers knowingly rents to people who are going to visit the summit Mauna Kea at an elevation of 14,000 ft. on an unpaved, volcanic gravel road with no guard rail for its entire length!

Legality aside, if I had known I was driving on such thin tread, I would never have made that trip! Harpers Car Rental seems rto have a clear conscience- and they also have a new tire paid for by me! This practice is apparently by deliberate design- a good percentage of their equipment replacement budget must be paid for by their unwitting customers- and they sleep soundly knowing it is “legal”! Mauna Kea is worth the trip, but you can do it in any type of standard SUV- we saw plenty of them going up and down the volcano just fine. Don’t do it on low tread though, and DON’T DO IT IN A HARPERS RENTAL!!!! They couldn’t care less!

Honokaa, Hawaii
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1. Re: Harpers Car Truck Rentals

Harpers does have a reputation of being a bunch of ash holes. Know you know you don't really need 4x4 to go up the hill. Live and learn!

Chicago's North...
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2. Re: Harpers Car Truck Rentals

i did it in a 4X4 Jeep rented from a regular car rental joint.... worked just fine...

Honokaa, Hawaii
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3. Re: Harpers Car Truck Rentals

My wife's 2 wheel drive Tacoma has done it with no problems or wheel spin.

Pepeekeo, Hawaii
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4. Re: Harpers Car Truck Rentals

That's all fine, but if you think the bill for the tires was bad, the other companies can bill you up to the full price of the vehicle if you screw it up, as your insurance is voided taking their cars up there, even the 4WD.

At least Harper's insures you, right?

I've rented from Harper's. Yes they are hard line. Yes there are others who have been billed ... sucks what you went through.

I would have disputed it with the credit card company. Always use a credit card, not cash or check.

Honokaa, Hawaii
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5. Re: Harpers Car Truck Rentals

Can you even rent a car with cash or check?

Edited: 10:29 am, November 16, 2012
Pepeekeo, Hawaii
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6. Re: Harpers Car Truck Rentals

You have to put a credit card on file when you take the car, but you have the right to pay off the bill with cash when you return it. Check you probably would need to be local, but if they bill you by letter and you send a check what can they do?

I don't know if debit cards with VISA or MC logo allow one to dispute.

Honolulu, Hi
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7. Re: Harpers Car Truck Rentals

I just rented from Harper's because every other vendor is sold out. I'm paying $70/day for a mid-size for 4 days from 12/21. I never pay more than $50. Ugh . . . I'm dreading dealing with Harper's. Just trying to reserve it was not pleasant - gives Hilo people a bad name. I didn't think I was coming home this season, until a few weeks ago when my cousin decided to get married.

In this situation, I would chance it and try to find a vehicle when I get there. Avis always takes care of me. This time, however, I've got the family with me, so I had to bite the bullet and reserve with Harper's.

Pepeekeo, Hawaii
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8. Re: Harpers Car Truck Rentals

If it helps, there are more complaints about the Kona office than the Hilo office customer service!

I think of Harper's as a truck rental business first and foremost. Rental vehicles very secondary. People use their trucks to move, and you know how roads and driveways can be here. People can be very flaky too. They deal with people who try to rent trucks and don't have insurance, or money, or valid credit cards, you know they do.

Then the tourists rent and drive over lava boulders and scrape up the bottoms.

So I can somewhat understand their attitude -- which is very proactive about protecting themselves each step of the way. But I agree they are not at all pleasant to deal with.

Hey, I still remember dealing with them by phone in 2004, EIGHT years ago. A phone call has to be pretty bad for me to remember it after all that time!

Yorktown Heights...
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9. Re: Harpers Car Truck Rentals

Neg experience with Kona office.

The rental was paid for before we even arrived in Hawaii and my husband called a couple of days before pick up to comfirm. On the day of pick up my husband took a shuttle from our waikoloa hotel to the airport, where a Harper van picked him up. I didn't accompany him because I was a little under the weather.

Harpers would not release the car to him because I had paid for the vehicle even though my husband called and confirmed that he would be picking up the vehicle. I then had to go to the airport. A shuttle was not available and a cab cost $70 dollars. I was lucky enough to find a couple to share the ride with. So I spent $35 and several hours of our day were wasted.

Once there I had to pay extra for my husband to be an "additional driver" even though he was the only driver. I as the "renter" became a driver automatically. This is a ridiculous policy.

The car itself was fine. We returned the car without issue. But as we were leaving there was a family with a similar situation. The father of the family was a senior gentlman who was footing the bill but wanted his daughter to do the driving. I dont know what happened to them but I assume they were charged extra too.

Pepeekeo, Hawaii
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10. Re: Harpers Car Truck Rentals

Yes, Harper is entirely rigid on its policies. I we t through the same thing years ago when I reserved a truck that my husband was going to drive.

They did tell me this policy at the time I first called, so I had my husband do the reservation and payment so that I wouldn't run into the problem.

They didn't tell you when you reserved that the person paying has to be the principal driver and the one who receives the vehicle?