Hawaii car rental shortage likely to continue through summer

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HONOLULU (KHON2) — Car rentals are still hard to come by, according to the Hawaii Tourism Authority (HTA).

Many cars at most major rental companies are booked through August and many rentals are going for hundreds of dollars per day.

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Travel experts recommend booking a car rental first before any other travel plans.

University of Hawaii School of Travel Industry Management professor Jerry Agrusa says demand for car rentals is going up, but supply remains low across the country.

“This is not just Hawaii, it’s affecting rental car companies throughout the United States,” Agrusa said. “I looked at prices in California they doubled what they usually are, same thing in Las Vegas.”

Agrusa says many car companies sold off their cars when travel grinded to a halt. The HTA said Hawaii’s rental car fleet decreased by more than 40%.

Agrusa says the pandemic also affected the production of new cars, so car rental companies are not able to restore their fleet quick enough. This created a domino effect that is now felt by people looking to rent a car during their travels.

Agrusa said, “The challenge now is for the rental cars to replenish. And they are having a tough time with that because the shortage of computer chips is affecting the automobile production market.”

A car rental lot in Waikiki sat nearly empty on Thursday, May 27. Neighboring business owner Roger Whitmarsh says he is benefiting from the lack of inventory. Whitmarsh is the owner of Waikiki Moped and Car Rental. He said people can rent one of his mopeds when cars are no longer available.

“This really boomed my business, especially this month and last month.” Whitmarsh said. “I started with ten bikes, now got about 30, and going to need 30 more for this summer, because they are here already.”  

The necessity for a car is also driving people to rent moving trucks for leisure, but the HTA said this should not be encouraged by the travel industry.

Officials say travelers should consider public transportation or ask if their lodging offers a shuttle service instead.

Agrusa said, “It’s a big challenge because the rent-a-car in the other islands were instrumental for the tourist experience.”  

Agrusa does not expect the lack of car rentals will deter people from visiting the neighbor islands.

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