Tag: car rentals

Where are all the rental cars?

Remember a year ago when all the tourists left? Beside empty condos and empty hotels, empty restaurants, stores and streets and insane unemployment, Maui had another problem. Empty rental cars. Empty rentals cars all needing to be stored and no place to put them. Most of those rental cars ended up being stored in fields surrounding the airport. For months we had cars sitting in fields, and it got to the point where they closed and guarded the road by the heliport overnight to prevent theft, gas syphoning and car part picking. From time to time you would notice windshield wipers raised on some cars – I am told this was to indicate that a car had been checked.

a not-so-temporary rental car parking lot at the intersection of Airport Road and Hana Hwy in Kahului (March 2020)

Eventually the rental car fields emptied. Rumor has it many were loaded onto ships and sent back to the mainland to be sold or integrated into the mainland rental car fleet.

In mid-October tourism slowly restarted with the pre-travel test option. There were plenty of rental cars available for the demand. Here on Maui we are used to car lots running out of cars around Christmas and the early January PGA golf tournament, but we didn’t hear anything about shortages.

Until now! It’s been spring break this month and Maui has been BUSY. Arrival numbers have skyrocketed and guess what – there are no rental cars to be had. HawaiiNewNow reports today that on Oahu you are hard pressed to find a car, and those businesses with cars available are reaping the benefit of supply and demand. $1000/day for a car anyone? Yikes.

What to do?

Well, spring break should be coming to a close with Easter this weekend, so hopefully things will slow down a bit again. And hopefully rental companies will start shipping inventory back to the islands. In the mean time, taxis and ride-shares will have to fill the gaps. If you can get one.

Do you love statistics?

I track the Hawaii Tourism Authority daily arrivals logs, looking at how many people are arriving on Maui on a daily basis.

But today I stumbled across this arrivals compilation on the Hawaii Covid website, showing where people are coming from, airlines etc. You can look at all of Hawaii, or break it down by County, play with dates etc. Fascinating. For example, one of my neighbors flew back to Calgary (Canada) by direct flight on Sunday (March 28) where she is currently languishing in quarantine (another story). So I knew there must have been a flight coming from Canada – I found it on March 27th – a Westjet flight with 28 passengers (yes – 28!!). Apparently they fly once week. Who knew?

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Kahului Airport rental car tram

Just under a year ago the new rental car facility opened at Kahului Airport. I’ve been admiring it and the new rental car tram every time I drive to and from the airport, but to date I’ve not had the opportunity to check it out. When I arrive on Maui, I’m coming home – and as such I haven’t rented a car on Maui in nearly ten years.

Yesterday I had to pick my husband Sig up from the airport. I left home early with intention of going for a tram ride. Unfortunately the kids are too old to want to go, but once a boy mom, always a boy mom 🙂 It’s a train ride after all!!

You can check out my blog post from last year for info on the car rental facility. But here’s my report from last night.

I parked near the train house and since I had just missed the tram, I opted to walk to the rental car facility. The signs said ‘8 minutes’, but it seemed shorter. Of course, I didn’t have any luggage in tow and I was the only one walking. It’s a nice partially covered walk which will be handy for shade in the daytime and should it be raining.

As you get close to the facility, the ramp goes uphill – not a problem if riding the tram.

The lobby sure is nice. And I particularly like the old fashioned clock. The tram is reminiscent of Maui’s sugar cane train history.

the car rental arrivals facility

Here’s a short video I took getting into the tram at the car rental facility

How was it?

Ok, it was fun. I enjoyed my little adventure. The ride itself isn’t terribly smooth, the cars jiggle and swing around a bit, but totally fine. The car was empty, I think I had just beat the rush as there were both an Alaska Airlines and Westjet flight arriving when I got back to the terminal. If our kids were still little, I’d pick a quiet time, park in airport parking and take them for a tram ride. I got off the tram with a big smile on my face. Yes, several people were hanging out at the OGG arrivals station – they clearly thought I was a little crazy. No matter.

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New Car Rental Facility at OGG

It’s finally time – time to unveil the new car rental facility at Kahului Airport (OGG) here on Maui! Work began 3 years ago in April 2016 and according to the Maui News article construction is now complete. The new facility is scheduled to open May 15th. It’s been a long time coming.

Most airports I’ve traveled to have those handy car rental facilities that you walk to directly from the terminal. Currently here on Maui you catch a shuttle which then takes you to an off-site rental car location – it’s just a short 2 minute drive at most. It’s been fine. But on the off chance you can’t get the car you want at your agency, you then have to walk a ways to the next car rental company to see if they have one.

The new car rental facility is very lovely looking. Honestly, they have added some neat Hawaiian features to the building, I think it looks great. But the best part about the new facility are the two old-style sugar cane train trams that take you from the arrivals area to the new rental car facility. The old sugar cane plantation days may have come and gone here on Maui, but it’s a neat nod to the island’s history. I’ve also seen an old-style clock at the rental car terminal. I just may need to check it out next time I pick up friends/family from the airport.

By the way, no, you don’t have to take the tram. If you’re going to departures, it’s not that far a walk – just across the street. And you could just walk from arrivals too. In fact, after the long flight, it may feel great to get out and stretch a bit. Depending on the time of day, sleepy kids and amount of luggage you have with you.

Kahului car rental
the new ‘sugar cane train’-style tram cars (photo taken in September 2018)

Maui’s sugar cane history

Sugar Cane plays a significant role in Maui’s history since it’s commercial introduction to the island in 1848. Several sugar cane plantations and mills popped up around the island. Owners brought in workers from China, Japan, Puerto Rico, Korea, the Philippines, Portugal, Russia and Scandinavia. It was a hard life, but these people settled, started families and their descendants make up a significant portion of the island’s population today. Check out the Maui Sugar Museum across from the last remaining (now abandoned) Sugar Factory in Kahului. The last sugar cane crop was harvested in December 2016.

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Frequently asked security questions

I thought it might be helpful to address some of your security questions. If you have any others you’d like me to address, or if you have first hand experience with any of these (and better answers), please let me know.

This post is not to scare you. Maui is a very safe place to visit. But, please use common sense, just as you would at home.

What do you do with your phone and keys when you go to the beach?

I love sunset at the beach!

Is it safe to just leave them with your towel? Honestly, don’t take anything of value to the beach. If you must bring your phone (I know, it doubles as our camera, book, etc), make sure someone stays with your stuff when you go in the water. Or, pick up a water proof case, either at home or at the ABC store. I know of people who have used ziploc bags to protect their phones when going paddle boarding. Would I? Probably not… If you are staying at one of our condos, we have keyless entry, so it’s just the car key you need to worry about.

Is it safe to leave valuables in the rental car?

Would you leave valuables in the car where you live? Probably not. If you must, maybe because you can’t check into the condo til 3 or 4pm or because you have a late flight and couldn’t get a late check-out, place everything in the trunk of the car and do not open the trunk to get things out (in case anyone is casing your vehicle). If you are renting a jeep, there is no trunk, everything is visible (and accessible if it’s a soft-top). In six years of living here, we haven’t had a vehicle break-in, but that doesn’t mean it can’t happen.

A few years ago I wrote this post on ‘What to do about late check-out at your condo?‘ Have a read. Did you know, most flights to Canada and a surprising number of flights back to the mainland leave in the evening? Check-out at our condos is at 11 AM.

Is it safe to leave valuables in the condo?

Generally yes. But, know that there are others who by necessity have access to the condo. The owner, the property manager (in the case of our condos, we are the owner and property manager), the cleaning lady and the manager of the complex you are staying at (they need to have access in case of emergencies and for the quarterly pest-control treatments). If you are staying at our condos, we have personal safes for you to use (I have an override key should you forget the code or the battery randomly dies). Otherwise, I recommend just placing your valuables in a drawer or at least out of sight. It’s happened a few times where I’ve had to go into one of our ground-floor condos (with guest consent) to repair something, and seen the blinds wide open and laptops, ipads, phones and once even a wallet just laying out. When staying in a ground floor condo especially, please don’t do that. It’s asking for a break-in. At minimum close the blinds when you leave.

Is it safe to walk at night?

You may have noticed, it is really dark on Maui at night. Why is this? Power is super expensive here and street lighting isn’t cheap. On the plus side, it makes for some great star viewing. Generally the tourist areas especially are quite safe to be walking at night. But use common sense. I also strongly recommend taking a flashlight. A few years ago I didn’t see the edge of the sidewalk – ouch. I was walking with crutches for over a month.

All in all, Maui is a pretty safe place to be. But like most places, we also have drug and homeless problems and crimes of opportunity do happen. A little common sense will help you have a great vacation – I’d hate for you to have a negative experience because of something preventable.

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What side of the rental car is the gas tank?

It happens to me every time I rent a car – I pull up to the gas station and then…. what side of the rental car is the gas tank? I always check my mirrors, but I can never spot the gas tank in the mirrors. Then I get out of the car, and look a bit like a fool, checking out my own rental car! Please tell me I’m not the only one!

gas tank on rental car

Here’s a little-realized fact for you: if you look at the fuel gauge on the dashboard, there is a little arrow pointing to the side of your car that the gas tank is on. Look closely, it’s right next to the fuel pump symbol. Apparently it’s done by all car manufacturers.

Who knew? I just checked both our vehicles, one of them nine years old, and they both have it (I had never noticed).

Now I just need to remember on our next trip!

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Kahului Runway Repair Project begins April 30th

One of Maui’s newspapers MauiNow reports that the Department of Transportation will begin an $18 million resurfacing project on Kahului Airport’s main runway. The project will be worked on from 12am-8am 6 days a week. Flights will temporarily be redirected to another runway.

In other exciting news, Mauinow also reports that there are plans underway for a new consolidated rental car facility at Kahului Airport. I am not sure when that project is due to start.

Maui’s Kahului Airport (OGG) is the second-busiest airport in the Hawaiian Islands (after Honolulu HNL on Oahu). This is the airport that you fly into when arriving from the mainland. Other (smaller) airports on Maui which are used for inter-island flights only are Kapalua Airport (JHM) in West Maui and Hana Airport (HNM).

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Have you driven the new Dairy Road Bypass yet?

If you’ve been to Maui before, you know how congested Dairy Road in Kahului can be. That is the main road that connects from the airport (just past the Costco turn-off) to the Kihei turn-off (Pu’unene).

If you are merely driving through Kahului to go upcountry, or Pa’ia or the Road to Hana, check out the newly extended Ho’okele Street ‘bypass road’ that goes through the new Maui Business Park (though there are currently no buildings there). Turn right at Zippy’s onto Ho’okele Street like you’re going to Walmart, but instead of turning left to Walmart, follow the brand new four lane road. There’s a set of lights where it connects with the Hana Hwy so you can turn left to go into town or right to miss Kahului altogether. This road is also a nice alternative to narrow and bumpy Hansen Road (by the Sugar Cane Factory).

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Traveling with young kids? What are the child seat laws in Hawaii?

Hawaii’s Child Passenger Restraint Law requires children under 4 years of age to ride in a child safety seat. Children 4 through 7 years old must ride in a child passenger restraint or booster seat. The only exemption is if the child is over 4’9, weighs more than 80 lbs, or if the vehicle has only lap belts in the rear seat.
Violators are required to appear in court. If convicted, violators are required to attend a 4 hour class and may be assessed a penalty of $100-$500 depending on the number of offenses.
Of course, the most compelling reason for using a child passenger restraint is the safety of your child.
By the way, it is mandatory for all passengers to wear seat belts, front and back seats. And, sitting in the back of a pickup truck is technically legal but only if all seats in the truck cab are filled with passengers and only for passengers aged 13 and older. I personally think it’s a really bad idea, but it’s ‘survival of the fittest’, I guess.
Some car rental companies offer child safety seats and booster seats for rent. I personally have never rented one. There are just too many what-ifs, such as – has it been in an accident, and when was it most recently cleaned?
Yes, you can pick up booster seats for cheap at Kmart and Walmart, but… how are you going to get there without car seats? Dairy Road is a pretty busy road, at least by Maui standards. Your best bet is to just bring your car seats from home. Airlines will check car seats (and strollers/playpens) for free (up to three items per child). 
A few years ago I was at an intersection in Kahului when a convertible (yes, one of those popular blue Ford Mustangs) with the top down pulled up next to me. The car was completely full of passengers, the trunk full of luggage. One of the adults in the back seat had a two year-old sitting on her lap. No car seat, not even a seat belt. Yikes. Don’t do that, please.
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Car rental negotiating

How do you rent a car? Do you go online, scope out the best price and book it? Or do you then check back and pick up better deals along the way (not forgetting to cancel the previous bookings, of course)? Some people I know just wing it and hope there’s a car to rent when you get there.

I am a planner – we always have a car lined up way in advance. When I get to the counter, I just say no, no and no to all the up-sells, get my car and go. I never realized you can negotiate an upgrade with the car-lot guys in the parking lot. Who knew? On a recent trip my hubby randomly asked the car lot guy if we could have one of the suburbans (instead of our full-size car). The guy said ‘sure’. Oh really? I was not interested in a gas-guzzling suburban, but Sig kept talking, how much more? Well, normally an extra $30/day, but we could do $20/day… a little more talking and the deal got sweeter as it went. What? According to the car lot guy, they have leeway to negotiate… who knew? Did we go for it? No. I was tired and grumpy and really just wanted to get out of there and get to our destination.

But it was food for thought… I’d be curious to hear how you rent cars… write me a comment!

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Would you rent an electric car?

It’s Sunday and it’s my ‘sit on the couch and read the local paper’ time of the day. The Maui Weekly has an article about an experiment to drive an electric car to Hana.

Have you ever rented an electric car? Would you try it? I guess it would depend a lot on the availability of charging stations… On that note, according to my March power bill, energy on Maui is currently at 38.4 cents/kwh (compared to the US national residential average of 11.47 cents/kwh). Please don’t plug in at our condos!

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