Rental Car Games

Do you ever feel like your a pawn in some big game when you’re trying to find a rental car?  This week has been extremely frustrating for me as I’ve been trying to find rental cars during the holidays in Hawaii. From entire islands with seemingly no cars available to vast differences in prices for the exact same vendor, finding a reasonable rental car can be a challenge sometimes.

Here are few examples of the craziness I saw this week.

Using Kayak and Expedia I found that Avis was the lowest priced rental in Maui, and by low I mean very high! For a three-day rental, prices ranged from $487 for a BMW to $676 for a Standard (Nissan Altima or similar) car (you try to figure that one out.)  I tried several different rate codes including AAA, Founders Card, Marriott and my Avis First rate. Prices were all above $450.

OGG Avis

After consulting my travel guru, I check the Chase Ultimate Rewards portal and found the exact same dates for a three-day rental available for $163.   So Chase is able to offer the same rental for over $250 less than Kayak, Priceline and Avis direct? Crazy.

OGG Ultimate rewrads

After booking Maui I started looking for rentals in Kauai. You’ll never guess what happened…okay, maybe you will. I found the same drastic range of prices. Again using Kayak and Priceline I found the lowest prices for an Intermediate car in Kauai was from National.  On Kayak the price for a five-day rental was $1,017!  Insanity.

LIH Kayak

Some further searching revealed a wide variety of prices.  After searching directly on the National Car site I found the car Kayak was offering for $1,017 for $330.  So why is Kayak so outrageous?  It feels like a game.

LIH National Emerald Club

After finally booking for Kauai, I moved onto Kona. Bigger island should be easy, right ? Wrong.  Now, I understand I’m looking somewhat last minute for a rental car during the holidays, but I did not expect to find this…

I searched Kayak, Hotwire, Expedia, Avis (both the UK and the US sites), National, Chase Ultimate Rewards portal and a few other sites.  Here’s what I found:

Kona KayakKona National Not Logged in  Kona Hotwire Kona Avis Kona Chase

Yikes! No cars at all available anywhere? I searched hotel locations, city locations, the airport location and there was nothing.  I searched for 4 days and finally, yesterday I happened to be logged into National Car’s site and voila, cars! Lesson here – make sure you’re logged in and don’t always assume that sites like Kayak and Priceline have the best deals.

Kona National Logged in

Now, cars are starting to add up for this vacation! $300 here, $300 there and before you know it I’m over $1,000 in rental car fees.   I started thinking about how I could reduce the cost of my rentals. Points? Miles? Well, I found the best way for me to reduce the cost was to use some Hilton Honors points to get gift coupons with no blackout dates that can be applied towards any rental.  The coupons do say “at participating locations,” so I called the locations to make sure they participate, and sure enough, they do.   So now I should only have to spend $300 out of pocket on rental cars vs the $1,100 it would have cost me otherwise.  (now, I’m sure some people will say it’s stupid to waste Hilton points on rental cars. I feel that the value is based on what your goals are.  My goal is to spend as little out of pocket on this trip as possible…so for me, it’s not a bad decision.)

At the end of the week I feel like I’ve been on a rental car roller coaster.  The prices variances are obscene.  How do these travel companies get away with this?


[Barclaycard Arrival™ World MasterCard® – Earn 2x on All Purchases]

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