HONOLULU — A recent surge of tourists has driven up the price of rental cars after fleets were thinned out during the pandemic.
Some companies in Honolulu had only large vans for $500 a day and convertibles for $1,000 a day or more.
Timo Lee, a part-time Honolulu resident, said some vendors she checked with were “completely out of stock.”
“Some companies have cars, but they are very expensive,” she added.
The pandemic resulted in limited rental inventory.
“Because of the pandemic, the car rental companies had nowhere to put all the cars. So what they had to do is they had to get rid of them. They had to sell them,” said Jerry Agrusa, a professor in the School of Travel Industry Management at the University of Hawaii.
Uncertainty about when tourism would return is another factor for the high prices, he said.
Rental car fees on Kauai remained under $100 per day, which Agrusa said is because the island still has stricter quarantine and testing rules in place until April 5.
The islands have seen a surge of visitors in recent weeks as local coronavirus restrictions ease and more people across the country begin to travel.
“It feels like we went back to 110 mph just in the last couple of weeks,” Lindsey Dymond, owner of Kalapawai Cafe, told Hawaii News Now. “I was over here at the Kailua town location over the weekend on Saturday, and it looked like Kailua from 2019.”
She said the the new arrivals also meant a return to gridlock on local roads. “Traffic was a nightmare,” Dymond said.
Some visitors agreed. “I wasn’t expecting Hawaii to have so much traffic,” said Daniela Hayek, who was visiting from Philadelphia.
On Maui, the cheapest rental car was $722 each day for a sedan, according to Hawaii News Now. There were more than 25,000 visitors to Maui from Friday to Sunday.
Maui has also seen a recent surge in COVID-19 cases, and the island’s mayor is warning visitors to follow local mandates.
“You see these people on the beach back here, they’re visitors and they’re not wearing masks,” Mayor Mike Victorino said. “If you can’t obey our rules, don’t come if you can’t wear a mask or do what is right.”
Hawaii still requires people to wear masks, including outdoors when social distancing is impossible.
“I don’t care if you come from Texas, I don’t care if you come from Mississippi, or any state that doesn’t require it,” Victorino said. “Here in Hawaii and Maui County, it is a mandate.”
The mayor said he is considering more options to help curb the spread of COVID-19, including a post-travel test for all travelers and tighter local restrictions.