‘You can’t keep cars on the lot’: Hawaii rental car prices soar amid shortage


HONOLULU (KHON) – Daily rates for a rental car in Hawaii are spiking to $600 and above amid a severe shortage of vehicles as people get vaccinated and start traveling to the islands.

Cars are even sold out at some rental dealerships.

“Seems like the island has gone from 0 to 100 overnight,” said Jay LeBaron of Paradise Rent-A-Car.

LeBaron says business just exploded when mid-March came around.

“You can’t keep cars on the lot right now. The phones never stop ringing. The people never stop coming in. For every car I rent, there’s another 50 or 60 people getting denied because there’s no cars. You can hear the stress in people’s voices,” said LeBaron.

Many rental car companies had to sell or ship some of their vehicles back to the mainland as the industry was crushed over the past 12 months. During the pandemic, hundreds of unused rentals were warehoused at Aloha Stadium.

“Nine months of no car rentals, you start getting rid of your cars. You try to cut your overhead down,” he said.

The industry now cannot keep up with the pent-up demand as companies are unable to rebuild a fleet of cars overnight.

“It’s just a long process because the lack of cars to buy on the island right now … everybody is buying cars,” LeBaron said

This is causing prices to skyrocket.

“We’ve been checking online – Expedia, Hertz, different rental companies – and the prices are just astronomical,” said Vill Hunter who is visiting from California. “Some of the prices are as high as $600 a day for [a] rental car.”

Hunter says despite the exorbitant prices they will probably pay for a rental car if they can find one.

“We are here on vacation so we want to be able to get around. So just have to pay the price,” said Hunter.

Hawaii Lodging and Tourism Association says there is tremendous demand but they are nowhere near full capacity.

“I think right now, there are bargain rates available. There are a lot of stay-cation packages for local travelers,” said HLTA President Mufi Hannemann.

“We already know and very much are aware of the fact that people have to pay more to get here because of the testing that’s required. But we incurred significant amount of losses in 2020, and in opening up there’s also a lot of expenses involved,” said Hannemann. “So I don’t think you are going to see price gouging at all.”

Hawaiian Airlines is seeing demand gradually improving. The company says:
“Our load factors are around 60%, and by next month we’ll have restored about 85% of our U.S. mainland flying and 49% of our Neighbor Island flying – compared to pre-pandemic levels.”

Hawaiian says their ticket prices are competitive and they have been selling all available seats in their cabins since mid-December.

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