Why are Rental Cars so Expensive in Hawaii?

Greetings, dear reader! Have you ever planned a trip to Hawaii, only to be taken aback by the exorbitant prices of rental cars? Well, you’re not alone. Rental cars in Hawaii are notoriously expensive, and this article aims to explore the reasons behind this issue.

Firstly, it’s important to note that Hawaii is an archipelago, made up of eight main islands, with a total land area of 6,423 km². While this may seem small compared to other states, the vast majority of Hawaii’s tourist attractions are spread out across multiple islands. This means that tourists need to rent a car to explore the islands, leading to high demand for rental cars, and thus, making them more expensive.


Hawaii, located in the middle of the Pacific Ocean, is one of the most geographically isolated places on earth. The distance from the US mainland makes it more difficult to import goods, and this includes rental cars. As a result, rental car companies have to incur additional costs in transporting the vehicles to their location. These costs get passed onto the consumer, contributing to the high rental car rates in Hawaii.

Hawaii is Far from Mainland

Since Hawaii is situated thousands of miles away from the US mainland, importing vehicles for rental purposes is a logistical nightmare. Shipping cars across the Pacific Ocean is time-consuming, and transportation costs are high. The weather in the region can also impact shipping schedules, causing additional delays. All these factors add to the final cost of rental cars in Hawaii, making it more expensive compared to other parts of the US.

Limited Competition

As an island, Hawaii’s rental car industry is dominated by a handful of large companies. This lack of competition gives rental car companies the freedom to charge whatever rates they want. When demand for rental cars is high, as is typically the case in Hawaii, prices skyrocket. This allows rental car companies to increase their profits, despite an already high cost of operation in the region. Due to the lack of alternatives, consumers must pay these inflated prices or go without a rental car, making it challenging for visitors who need transportation to explore the island.

Expensive Gas

Hawaii has some of the highest gas prices in the United States due to its remote location. Rental car companies are not exempt from these high gas prices, and the cost of fuel is usually passed onto the consumer. Additionally, rental car companies need to stock up with gas to keep their cars running, and the cost of transporting fuel throughout the islands adds to the cost of operation. These additional expenses, coupled with high gas prices, make rental cars more expensive in Hawaii than in other parts of the US.

Tax Rate in Hawaii

Hawaii is a beautiful destination that attracts millions of visitors every year. Tourists come to experience the sunny beaches, scenic drives, and unique culture of the state. However, one thing that can put a damper on the vacation is the high cost of rental cars in Hawaii.

There are numerous factors that contribute to this increased expense, including the tax rate in Hawaii.

General Excise Tax

Hawaii has a General Excise Tax that applies to several things, including car rentals. The tax rate is 4.5%, which may seem reasonable at first, but it is much higher than this due to other taxes that are added onto the price of a rental.

In addition to the General Excise Tax, rental car companies are required to pay a Transient Accommodations Tax (TAT) of 10.25% in Hawaii. This tax rate is considerably higher than the tax rate in other U.S. states.

Additional Taxes

On top of the General Excise Tax and Transient Accommodations Tax, Hawaii also imposes a $1.00/day surcharge on rental cars. This surcharge is used to fund the construction and maintenance of highways in the state. While it may seem like a small amount, it can quickly add up over the course of a rental.

What’s more, rental car companies pay concession fees to airports, which are then passed on to the customers by the rental car companies. These fees are used to fund airport facilities, which means that customers are essentially paying for services that they may not even use.

Park Fees

Another factor that contributes to the high cost of rental cars in Hawaii is park fees. The state of Hawaii charges rental car companies park fees for operating in the parks. These fees are then passed on to the customer renting the car. The cost can range from a few dollars to over $30, depending on the park and the duration of the rental.

While park fees may seem like a small expense, they can add up quickly for customers who plan to explore multiple parks during their vacation.

In Conclusion

So why are rental cars so expensive in Hawaii? The answer lies in the state’s tax rate, which is considerably higher than the tax rate in other U.S. states. In addition to the General Excise Tax, rental car companies are required to pay the Transient Accommodations Tax, a daily surcharge, and concession fees to airports.

Furthermore, park fees are charged to rental car companies that operate in state parks, which are then passed on to the customer. All of these expenses can add up quickly, resulting in the high cost of rental cars in Hawaii.

It’s important for tourists to be aware of these additional expenses when planning their Hawaii vacation. While rental cars may be expensive, they are often necessary for exploring the island and getting around to the various tourist destinations. By planning ahead and budgeting for these expenses, tourists can enjoy their Hawaii vacation without breaking the bank.

Why Are Rental Cars So Expensive in Hawaii?

High Demand for Rental Cars

Hawaii is a tourist hot spot, with an abundance of natural beauty that attracts millions of visitors each year. The state’s tourism industry is the primary driver of its economy, and as a result, rental cars are in high demand. Tourists require transportation to explore the diverse activities and attractions scattered throughout the islands. Rental cars are their most convenient choice, allowing them to move around the islands at their leisure.

The significant demand for rental cars has a direct effect on the pricing of the service. As many tourists visit the islands every year, rental car companies are aware of the demand and adjust their prices accordingly. In peak seasons, such as during the summer or major holidays, rental car prices skyrocket due to the high demand.

Booking in Advance Can Be Less Expensive

As mentioned earlier, prices for rental cars can be incredibly high during peak season. The best way to avoid this is to book your rental car months in advance. By booking in advance, you can avoid the high prices that come with a last-minute booking. Also, booking in advance gives you the chance to compare prices from different rental car companies offering discounts or limited-time offers. This way, you can get a reasonable price without negatively affecting your travel plans.

On the other hand, waiting until the last minute can significantly increase the cost of renting a car. When rental car companies have fewer vehicles on hand, they may decide to charge higher prices to capitalize on the demand, as the need for rental cars increases. An unfortunate consequence of this is that you’ll end up paying a lot more than you would if you had booked your rental car much earlier.

Rental Insurance

Rental car insurance is essential, but it can increase the cost of renting a car by more than double the base price. Automotive insurance is required in Hawaii, so rental car companies pay a premium for comprehensive rental car insurance to protect their vehicles and customers. This additional cost is then passed on to the user who is renting the car.

It’s worth noting, however, that buying rental car insurance is still critical. When you rent a car, you are providing a legal obligation to return the car in the same condition it was when you first rented it. You are also responsible for any damage the car may experience while in your possession, including accidents. Without adequate insurance coverage, you could be responsible for paying expensive damages or replacing the car entirely out of pocket.


The high demand for rental cars in Hawaii, coupled with the cost of rental insurance and booking during peak season, make rental cars expensive on the islands. Booking in advance can save you money, and despite the extra cost, rental car insurance is necessary. Hawaii is a great destination to explore, and rental cars are an excellent way to see as much as possible; however, it’s crucial to budget accordingly to ensure you get the most out of your visit.

Ocean Wear and Tear on Cars

Renting a car is one of the most popular ways to explore Hawaii’s islands. Whether you’re a tourist or a local resident, you rely on rental cars to take you to breathtaking beaches, lush jungles, and winding mountain roads. However, rental car prices in Hawaii can be shockingly high, which may leave you wondering why. There are many reasons why the cost of rental cars is so high in Hawaii, and one of those is the ocean.

Cars are Exposed to Salt and Sunlight

The ocean can be both an alluring and a destructive force. While the warm waters and stunning views are a dream come true, they can also wreak havoc on rental cars. Salt air and sunlight can cause a lot of wear and tear on the vehicles, damaging even the most durable parts. As a result, rental car companies must invest a considerable amount of money into keeping their vehicles in good condition. They need to pay extra attention to fluids, paint, batteries, tires, and more to make sure that each vehicle is safe and reliable.

Hawaii has Treacherous Terrains

The natural beauty of Hawaii is undeniable, but it’s not always easy to access. Many of the roads and terrains are rough, which causes extra wear and tear on the vehicles. Even the most seasoned driver may struggle with the tight curves, steep inclines, and sudden drops. Navigating around potholes and broken asphalt can do a number on a car, especially if it’s not built for off-road adventures. This damage means that rental car companies have to repair vehicles more frequently, and they pass the cost down to the person renting the car.

Regular Maintenance

Renting a car in Hawaii is not just about picking up a set of keys and hitting the road. Rental cars must undergo regular maintenance to keep them in working order. In Hawaii, the cost of maintenance is higher due to the rough terrain and salt air, meaning higher rental prices. Every vehicle needs regular oil changes, tire rotations, brake inspections, and other preventative measures to keep it running smoothly. Sometimes, a car needs an unexpected repair that can further increase its operating costs. The rental car companies have to cover all these expenses, and that’s why the rental prices go up.

Overall, the high cost of rental cars in Hawaii is due to a combination of factors. While the ocean is a significant contributor to the wear and tear on rental cars, it’s not the only one. The treacherous terrains, regular maintenance, and other expenses are all part of the package. However, for most visitors, renting a car is still the most convenient way to see Hawaii’s incredible sights. Although the cost may be higher than expected, it’s worth paying for the freedom and flexibility that a rental car provides.

The Convenience Fee Structure

Renting a car in Hawaii can be quite expensive due to various factors. Car rental companies have a convenience fee structure in place that they utilize to cover several costs. This fee structure includes airport fees, additional driver fees, and drop off and pick up fees. Let’s explore each of these fees in detail and understand the reasons why rental cars are so expensive in Hawaii.

Airport Fees

Rental car companies located on airport property in Hawaii pay higher fees than rental car companies located or operating outside of the airport. They pass on this cost to customers in the form of higher rental prices. These fees are imposed on rental car companies as an access fee to the airport, a fee for the rental car parking area, and the cost of fueling the rental vehicles. Additionally, airport rental car companies need to maintain a large infrastructure to meet the increasing demand for rental cars. All these costs add up, and the rental car companies transfer the burden to the customer.

Additional Driver Fees

A rental car company charges an additional fee per day if you want to add an additional driver to the rental vehicle. When you add another driver to the rental car agreement, the rental company has to provide rental insurance for that driver. This additional driver is now authorized to drive the rental car outside of their primary agreement, which increases the rental company’s liability. To cover this liability, rental companies charge an additional driver fee, which can add up to a considerable amount over the total rental period.

Drop Off and Pick Up Fees

Picking up a rental car from one location and dropping it off at another location may result in extra fees. Rental car companies charge drop-off and pick-up fees to cover the cost of retrieving and returning the vehicle to the primary location. This also includes surcharges that cover overheads such as insurance costs and administrative expenses. Thus, instead of increasing the rental price, rental companies apply an additional fee to cover these expenses.

Overall, rental car companies in Hawaii charge higher prices due to the convenience fee structure they have in place. The companies need to cover various costs like airport fees, additional driver fees, and drop-off and pick-up fees that add up, requiring the customer to pay extra for the rental car. Always check the rental agreement carefully before signing the contract to avoid any additional surprise fees and make your Hawaii vacation a memorable one.

Why Are Rental Cars So Expensive in Hawaii: A Conclusion

In conclusion, it’s clear that the reasons for pricey rental cars in Hawaii are varied and complex. From high demand and limited inventory to taxes and fees, the costs can add up quickly. However, don’t let this dampen your spirits. There are still some strategies to save money on car rentals in Hawaii such as booking in advance, comparing prices, and utilizing loyalty programs. Additionally, consider other alternatives like public transportation, ride-sharing services, and even bicycles. Ultimately, Hawaii is a beautiful place to visit, and the high cost of rental cars shouldn’t stop you from enjoying all that the islands have to offer. Thank you, dear reader, for taking the time to learn about this topic. We hope you found this article informative and enjoyable. We look forward to having you visit again soon!


1. Why are rental cars so expensive in Hawaii?
A: Reasons include high demand, limited inventory, taxes and fees, and the high cost of doing business in the state.

2. Are there any ways to save money on car rentals in Hawaii?
A: Yes, strategies include booking in advance, comparing prices, and utilizing loyalty programs.

3. Should I consider alternatives to car rental in Hawaii?
A: Yes, public transportation, ride-sharing services, and bicycles can be good options depending on your needs.

4. Why is demand for rental cars so high in Hawaii?
A: There are many tourists visiting the state each year, creating a high demand for rental cars.

5. What fees are included in rental car prices in Hawaii?
A: Taxes, concession fees, and customer facility charges are some of the fees you may encounter.

6. Is there a best time of year to rent a car in Hawaii?
A: Prices may be lower during the off-season months of September through November and April through June.

7. Are rental car prices consistent across all islands in Hawaii?
A: No, prices can vary depending on the island and location.

8. Can I rent a car in Hawaii if I am under 25 years old?
A: Yes, but rental companies may charge additional fees for drivers under 25.

9. Do I need a special driver’s license to rent a car in Hawaii?
A: No, as long as you have a valid driver’s license from your home state or country.

10. Are there any insurance requirements for rental cars in Hawaii?
A: Rental companies are required to provide minimum liability insurance, but additional coverage can be purchased.

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About the Author: Eibar Schmidt

Eibar is a versatile journalist, copywriter and digital editor who's worked across the media in newspapers, magazines, TV, teletext, radio and online. Also He is a casual autocrosser and occasional track day participant who believes everybody should drive cars that make them happy.

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