HONOLULU (KHON2) — Daily prices for rental cars in Hawaii are in the hundreds and the issue has caught the attention of state authorities.
Hawaii has seen car rental prices as high as $600 a day while some are even higher.
The state is looking at whether the dramatic increases in costs are legally justifiable. The state says it is extremely concerned about the current cost to rent a car.
“I don’t want to prejudge anyone or any company but I think it certainly deserves our attention. We are going to be investigating the underlying basis for charging such great amounts to rent a vehicle,” said Department of Commerce and Consumer Affairs executive director Stephen Levins.
Prices spiked after rental car companies found themselves trying to keep up with demand with a low supply. Hundreds of unused rentals sat at Aloha Stadium in 2020. They have been cleared out since late August. Many rental car companies had to sell or ship some of their vehicles back to the mainland when the industry was crushed due to the pandemic.
“For whatever reason the demand has driven up the price, but again, I want to emphasize that supply and demand is not the be all and end all. When we do an analysis on this, just because there is a diminished supply doesn’t necessarily mean that a company is justified in increasing the cost,” said Levins.
KHON2 has also learned some people are capitalizing on this demand by buying vehicles to rent out. Amy Weed and Jeremy Jones rent their vehicles through Turo, which is a peer-to-peer car-sharing service platform. They say they have seen new hosts pop up.
“Just in the last week and a half, I’ve seen several new hosts or current hosts that’s adding vehicles to their fleets,” said Jones of Weedrivetesla.
If folks can not get a rental or can not afford one, they look at other means of travel, like the Cab, which is overwhelmed with calls right now.
“Our businesses doubled, tripled and that’s a good thing. But the point is if you can’t service it, it doesn’t mean anything,” said The Cab president Howard Higa. “A lot of times we’ll have like 20, 30, 40 customers waiting for a ride and we can’t even handle through our dispatch. We can’t even handle with the drivers. We don’t have that many drivers to do that.”
Higa says taxi rates are regulated by the City Council so residents and visitors will not see them charge a penny more. He believes other transportation services should also have a price cap as well.
“I believe there’s got to be a cap. At least that’s easier to swallow than to just regulate an industry. The cab companies are all regulated and we’re struggling because of that. We haven’t had a price increase over 10 years,” said Higa.
Levins says if anyone is concerned about the cost, they can file a complaint with his office.
“We have a very robust law here in Hawaii where if you engage in unfair, deceptive trade practices the penalties can be $500 to $10-thousand per violation. So they’re very serious consequences for anyone who violate our laws,” said Levins.