Rental Car Tips on Kauai

On Kaua‘ i a rental car is an option for getting around the island and viewing all the sights, although many people are now using the Kauai Bus and just renting cars for a couple of days to see the sights the bus wont take you to. (see Public Transportation) The rental rates in Hawai‘ i are some of the cheapest anywhere in the world because the competition is fierce.

Mopeds and bikes can be a practical alternative for day excursions along the drier south shore and the east side where there is a brand new bike path along the coast, but are not as useful in other parts of the island, especially where steep inclines prevail such as on Waimea Canyon Drive in west Kaua‘ i .

Car Rental Tips:   Below are some tips when acquiring your rental car:

1.) It's recommend you book your rental online as many rental companies have online specials. Booking your rental together with a flight and/or accommodation will also save you money.

2.) Book as far in advance as possible. Depending on when you travel the rates may increase or decrease according to demand from other travelers.

3.) When possible, rent  2, 3, 5 day, or week long packages as these are generally priced lower than any other.

4.) When given the option to leave the rental office with a paid full tank of gas or having to fill it back up before you return it, take the first option. The rates that most rental agencies charge per gallon are typically only pennies cheaper than the going rate on the island, but it’s still a way to save some money. Otherwise, before you return the car you have to fill the car back up with gas yourself. If you don’t, the rental company will charge you a much higher rate to refuel the car once back in their possession.  If you plan to do a lot of driving, more than one tank of gas, then definitely pay for the gas up front when you acquire your rental. That way you can return the car with as much or little gas as you have left in the car at that time without having to worry about refueling on the last day of your trip.

5.) As far as insurance goes, expect to hear the sales pitch telling you it’s needed. You can almost hear the statistics now on Hawai‘ i roads and accident costs. Don’t let the rental folks talk you into anything you don’t need.  Consider the following: The rental insurance they want to sell you is temporary insurance, but the fact is, you might very well already have it. Check with your insurance agent for your personal vehicles to see if you’re covered. If you do already have rental insurance, you can save a bundle by avoiding this cost. Second, check with the credit card company you make the purchase with, as they may also provide you protection as a cardholder. Just be sure to clarify with your credit card company what they cover and what the limits are.

6.) Speaking of credit cards, expect to pay with one. Some companies may accept checks, but they definitely won’t accept cash. Also don’t just assume if you book ahead of time that you’ve paid all the fees associated with the rental. Occasionally additional fees will be charged at the time of the rental, one of which is detailed next.

7.) The “under age” curse of renting in Hawai‘ i . This is one of the biggest and most despised surprises to all renters under the age of 25. In Hawai‘ i you are obligated by law to pay an “underage” fee for the risk the rental companies must take to insure you to drive on the island. This fee can be as much as $25 a day or more and quickly adds up. If you’re under 21, you can’t even rent a vehicle on Kaua‘ i .

8.) If your car breaks down while on Kaua‘ i be sure to call the 800 number provided with your rental package. If you fail to call them first in the event of an emergency, your expenses may not be covered.

9.) If you arrive and are told the model you reserved is not available, or isn’t what you were looking for, you’ll have the opportunity to “upgrade/downgrade” accordingly. This could be a bait and switch tactic, or they may just be overstocked on larger models, so be careful. If you’re good at negotiating you might be able to get a larger vehicle at a really good rate, so don’t feel shy about pressing them for the better vehicle at the same rate you already paid. After all, it’s their fault for not having your model, not yours. Usually you’ll be given the upgrade at the same rate, but if not, definitely argue it. If all else fails, cancel your rental with them and go to a competitor. If they actually let you walk away from the desk empty-handed you’re probably better at another company anyway.

10.) Be prepared to wait once you arrive, the lines at most rental counters can be long and require patience.  Joining the companies preferred service (ie: Hertz #1-Gold or Avis Select Preferred) before you leave home is strongly advised.  This will greatly speed up your rental prcocess and allow you to spend more time in Kauai...and less time in-line at the rental counter