LIHU‘E — A California visitor was frustrated on Tuesday when he didn’t get a rental car upon landing on Kauai, where rental cars on all traveling platforms are currently sold out until early August.
Kellin Hopkins is staying on Kaua‘i for a week, and he had to wait for a full day before he could get an upgrade and drive a car he got from Avis Car Rental, whose facility is temporarily closed. He said it was kind of a gamble.
“The major problem I would say, which was the customer service as far as we had to wait in line for 30 to 40 minutes and nobody told us there were no cars there,” Hopkins said. “So it was like kind of a wasted chance like they could have been like ‘Hey, we’re really sorry. We have no cars’ — instead of having everyone wait. Which would have been better, I came back and got my car today, but I couldn’t get a hold of anyone at the Avis desk.”
Like Hopkins, people renting cars from Kaua‘i are on a waiting list, or cars are all sold out until the end of the summer. Yet some get creative and have their parents make their car arrangements for them ahead of time.
Zane Pearson and his family from Tucson Arizona said he had no problems with renting a car when he arrived to Kaua‘i a week ago.
“It was easy for us, my father took care of it,” Pearson said. “Previously he did before all the random car stuff. It probably cost a little more.”
Meanwhile, residents have seen over a thousand rental cars parked in random places like on an old golf course near Hokuala Golf Course, or places like Ahukini’s grass lots throughout the pandemic.
A car rental manager from Honolulu on Wednesday, who requested anonymity because of his company’s protocols, said 70% of his rental cars had to be sent back to their mainland warehouse because they were getting charged $8 a day for each car. He also said they are currently operating on 30% or over 200 cars on their lot and are expecting to receive 100 cars back from the mainland by next week Wednesday.
The manager said like the other car rental companies statewide, his company were sitting on cars all pandemic, paying tons of money to store them. He said his company couldn’t afford to keep the cars on their lot and so he had to send the cars back to the mainland.
He concluded and said when inter-island started to open up, the other islands started to get busy, but Hawaii was behind in the states. So they didn’t need cars. They were still down 90% in business, they moved a lot of cars, and then when Kaua‘i opened up, the pent-up demand decided to come in for them.
Lisa Martini from Enterprise Holdings which operates Alamo, Enterprise, and National echoed the anonymous manager from the other rental car company in Lihu‘e said Enterprise like the rest of the industry, is seeing increased demand for vehicles for spring and summer travel-especially in popular vacation destinations.
“If you’re planning travel, we encourage you to reserve a vehicle as early as possible. Providing flexible travel dates and branch pick-up locations in your search may also help increase your options,” Martini said.
Martini said a key contributor to the challenge right now is the global chip shortage, which has impacted new vehicle availability across the industry at a time when demand is already high.
“We continue to work closely with our manufacturing partners to secure additional vehicles to meet the ongoing increase in demand,” Martini said. “Our teams will continue to do everything we can to help customers with their transportation needs.”
Currently, on Expedia’s website, all rental cars on Kaua‘i are sold out from now until early August of 2021. Rental cars in August are starting at $150 to $300 a day, depending on how early it is booked.
Sue Kanoho, executive director of Kaua‘i Visitors Bureau said KVB provided a heads up to the visitor industry a few weeks ago to let them know the car rental shortage is a serious situation and it appears it will not be resolved anytime soon.
“We asked them to reach out to their reservations and remind their guests that they should secure their car first before making airline reservations to see if cars are available for that specific time,” Kanoho said. “We are hearing that rental car agencies are booked as far as two months in advance.”
Konoho said until the computer chip situation gets resolved, we could be facing this car rental shortage for the remainder of the year.
“We also think this could be a good time to revisit the concept of shuttles from Lihue Airport to the key resort areas,” Konoho said. “We certainly think having more Uber or Lyft drivers could really help the situation, while residents could earn some extra income.”
If residents are looking for an opportunity to make extra cash, Lyft, right now on their website — guarantees drivers could make $1900 in their first 30 days of driving if they give 100 Lyft rides.
Stephanie Shinno, business and education reporter, can be reached at 245-0424 or firstname.lastname@example.org.