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Renting a Car in Hawaii: What to Know Before You Go

Thinking about renting a car for your Hawaiian vacation? Scroll to find out everything you need to know about rental cars in Hawaii.
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You all know how much I love Hawaii. When it was just me and my hubby, I was ok with just “winging it.”

Now that we have our two amazing little boys, I find that the more I plan in advance, the better things turn out. Leaving things up to chance usually ends up with a crying toddler, a grouchy preschooler, or both.

“Planner” has practically become my middle name!

One of the questions I get most often on travel in Hawaii is about transportation on the islands.

Travelers want to know what the public transportation scene looks like, how far away the must-do activities are, and whether or not they will need a Hawaii rental car.

In an effort to answer those questions, here is What to Know Before You Go: Renting a Car in Hawaii!

Find out how to budget for a trip to Hawaii!

Want to skip all the planning and just access my detailed Hawaii Itineraries complete with daily schedules, kid-friendly activities, and travel hacks? Click the button below.

Tips for Renting a Car in Hawaii featured by top Hawaii blog, Hawaii Travel With Kids

A Complete Guide to Renting a Car in Hawaii

The first thing you need to consider about Hawaii rental cars is which island you are traveling to. This will really affect your options when it comes to rental car availability.

Most well-known rental companies will be found on Oahu, Maui, Kauai, or the Big Island of Hawaii.

Discount Hawaii Car Rentals

We all like to save money while we travel, right? Well, we’ve found that we can usually save a lot of money by booking through Discount Hawaii Car Rentals.

Basically, they get screaming deals on rental cars from top companies like Alamo, Dollar Car Rental, Avis, Thrifty, Enterprise, Budget, and Payless.

And then they pass the savings onto you.

Plus, they can often get free extra drivers or reduce the young driver rate. It’s definitely the way to go. Check out the latest prices and more details.

Renting a Car in Honolulu

If you’re a first-time visitor, it’s very likely you’re going to end up on Oahu. Honolulu’s Daniel K. Inouye International Airport is the most-visited of all the airports in Hawaii.

It is the gateway to Oahu, Waikiki beach, and connections to other islands that have smaller airports. Oahu also has the most options for rental cars.

If you are looking for something you can hop right into after your arrival flight, you will want to stick with one of the six companies available “on-airport” grounds.

This means a shorter (or no!) shuttle ride and less chance for grouchy kiddos and parents!

Advantage, Avis, Budget, Enterprise, Hertz, and National Rent-a-car are all available, with differences in price being minimal.

There are, of course, other options as well. Alamo, Dollar, Payless, and Thrifty all run shuttles from various places near the baggage claim at Honolulu’s Airport.

Check out the latest prices and more details.

Find out how to save money on your Hawaii car rental by top Hawaii blog Hawaii Travel with Kids. Image of a dashboard hula doll in a car.

Waikiki Car Rentals

Waikiki is about 9 miles down the road, and there are rental companies where you can rent a car in Waikiki Beach.

This would be a wonderful option if you don’t need a car the whole visit but want to drive around the island a bit without being tethered to a bus or tourist company schedule.

Check out the latest prices and more details.

Saving Money when Renting a Car in Hawaii

The prices are similar between the two sites but can range depending on the time of year and the length of your stay. Renting a car for more days can mean a lower per-day cost to you.

Paying ahead of time is another way to lower your costs, sometimes by as much as 25%! That would certainly be something I would take advantage of!

When thinking about options, I would consult as many travel companies as possible to compare prices. kayak.com, Expedia, and Travelocity are all good places to start.

Depending on several factors, I have seen prices as low as $29/day on one of these sites. More often, though, prices are between $40 and $60 for an “Economy” or “Compact” vehicle.

Obviously, a bigger or nicer vehicle will be more. If you want a 12-passenger van, expect to be shelling out $80 or more per day.

Boeing Employee?

If someone in your party works for Boeing, be sure to check out their car rental rates. We’ve scored some amazing deals over the years!

Find out how to rent a car in Hawaii by top Hawaii blog Hawaii Travel wth Kids. Image of a surfboard in a convertible.

Kona Car Rentals

If you are going somewhere other than Oahu, you have a few options.

In Kona on the big island of Hawaii, Ellison Onizuka Kona International Airport at Keāhole hosts rentals from Alamo, Avis, Budget, Dollar, Enterprise, Hertz, National, and Thrifty Hawaii Island car rental companies.

The prices here are about 20-30% higher depending on the choices you have made. The airport has recommended calling ahead for ADA-accessible vehicles, as some companies don’t keep them on-hand. Check out the latest prices and more details.

Renting a Car in Hilo

The big island of Hawaii is also home to another airport in Hilo.

Hilo International Airport has several “on-airport” rental car companies. You can choose from Advantage, Alamo, Avis, Budget, Dollar, Hertz, and National Rent-a-car. They also offer shuttles to Harper’s and Enterprise car rentals.

Make sure you note the open and closing times, some companies (Like Enterprise) are not open as long here as at other locations.

Most of the time, you can count on car rental companies being open from around 5am to around 10pm – but be sure to double-check! Check out the latest prices and more details.

Renting a car in Hawaii is a smart idea. Image of a tourist on Hawaii taking photo with camera phone during car road trip on the famous Road to Hana

Maui Car Rentals

Maui has had the reputation of being the “Romantic” island for so long, it’s hard to remember that there are wonderful activities for the whole family – if you can get to them!

Of the three airports on the island, Kahului Airport is the only one with on-site car rental companies.

There are eight options for car rental companies located “on-ground” at the airport. Alamo, Avis, Budget, Dollar, Enterprise, Hertz, National, and Thrifty Rent-a-car companies are all available easily.

There is also another company called Sixt located off airport property. From what I can tell, their prices are a bit higher, but the miles are unlimited. If you plan on driving around a bunch, that might be a great deal for you! Check out the latest prices and more details.

Renting a Car on Kauai

If you are headed to Kauai, you may be flying into Lihue.

Lihue’s Airport is similar to other airports in Hawaii, and has eight car rental companies visitors can choose from.

Advantage, Alamo, Avis, Budget, Dollar, Enterprise, Hertz, and National Rent-a-car companies all have options directly from the airport.

There is also another option in the city of Lihue – Island Cars LLC. I haven’t personally used them, but they look like they have great rates and good reviews. Sometimes getting away from the airport can be beneficial for your wallet! Check out the latest prices and more details.

Lanai Car Rentals

If you are lucky enough to be spending some time on Lanai, you will probably have to get there via an interisland flight.

Lanai airport is probably the smallest you will fly in to, with only four gates. It makes sense – because Lanai is probably the smallest island you would visit as a tourist in Hawaii!

Due to its size, there are no national car rental chains, but there is a local rental you can call! Lanai City Service is pretty much your only option, so give them a call if you need to rent a car on Lanai!

Hawaii Car Rental Alternatives

Now, there are reasons you might want a car that has nothing to do with getting to or from airports.

Most hotels have shuttles, and if they don’t, there is a high likelihood that you will be able to take an Uber, Lyft, or taxi to your “home-away-from-home.”

So you’re probably thinking “what could I need a car for if I have another transport option?” Great question!

Why You Should Rent a Car in Hawaii

On many of the islands, you will find options for day-trips and tours geared specifically towards tourists.

Tips for Renting a Car in Hawaii featured by top Hawaii blog, Hawaii Travel With Kids: Nothing is more iconic that this Haleiwa sign as you enter North Shore Oahu
Photo credit: Hawaii Tourism Authority (HTA) / Daeja Faris

For example, if you want to tour North Shore Oahu, there are plenty of tour buses you could jump on. Personally, I would MUCH rather rent a car for a trip like that.

With little ones, potty breaks can need to happen pretty frequently, and I would be worried about upsetting fellow tourists.

On other islands like Kauai and Maui, there are national parks that you can tour. Having your own car allows you to spend as much time as you want hiking or to explore without being tied to a schedule.

Depending on how much freedom you are looking for, having a car of your own can be very much worth the cost.

Wherever you are planning on visiting in Hawaii, having a rental car can be a really nice perk.

Here are some short answers to many of the most common questions I hear about car rentals in Hawaii. Hopefully, they will help you make a decision!

Top Questions about Renting a Car in Hawaii

Do I need a car for my entire visit?

Nope! Check to make sure you have a way from your airport to your hotel/vacation rental, but then you can decide from there.

If you are staying in Waikiki, you can walk pretty much anywhere you need to go. If you are staying somewhere more remote, you might want to consider renting a car the whole time so you can get around.

Do I have to rent from a company at the airport?

No, but you might find the best prices there. Check out other options, but be sure to shop around.

How can I find the best deals on a rental car?

Shop around! Look at multiple travel reservation sites, ask your hotel if they offer a discount, and look at Groupon!

Remember that if you pay in full upfront, it might save you as much as 25%!

What do I need to know when renting a car in Hawaii?

Will you need a car seat? If so, you will want to ask for one when you set up your reservation.

You will also want to ask about whether the gas tank will need to be filled before returning the car, and what the cost for mileage looks like.

The difference in these might change which company has the best deal!

Is a convertible worth it?

Totally a personal choice! I don’t particularly care for messy hair, and my boys complain about the wind so much that it’s not for us.

If it’s your honeymoon and you want nothing more than to cruise the North Shore with the wind in your hair, go for it!

I hope this has answered some of your more burning questions! Let me know how else I can help below! What else do you need to be prepared for What to Know Before You Go – Rental Cars in Hawaii?

Love this post about Hawaii Car Rental Tips? Find out how to get around Oahu without a car, how to get around Maui without a car, and check out my Hawaii Scenic Drives posts about Hawaii Volcanoes National Park, the Road to Hana, and North Shore Oahu!