Renting a car in Hawaii with Turo during rental ‘apocalypse’

Jul 31, 2021

This post contains references to products from one or more of our advertisers. We may receive compensation when you click on links to those products. Terms apply to the offers listed on this page. For an explanation of our Advertising Policy, visit this page.

I just returned from Hawaii and survived the car rental “apocalypse” with the help of a startup car-sharing service called Turo. We’ve written about the service before, but TPG wanted a full review of what it’s like to rent with Turo. And the shortage of car rentals in Hawaii made it the perfect opportunity to test it out.

Overall, I can recommend the service, though there are definitely some growing pains you should be aware of before you go this route on your next trip.

For more TPG travel news and tips delivered each morning to your inbox, sign up for our free daily newsletter

In This Post

Background

I started my search for a rental car for Maui in June — more than a month before my trip. I knew I’d pay through the teeth because of the well-documented shortage of rental cars, but I wasn’t expecting to see “sold out” everywhere.

Related: How I avoided rental car chaos

There was literally nothing available from any of the main rental car companies. I tried to find cars for both Kauai and Maui and everything was sold out.

I even tried a trick of checking out a local company that a colleague told me about, Discount Hawaii Car Rental, but they didn’t have anything available either.

Screenshot from discounthawaiicarrental.com showing sold out cars on Kauai.
(Screenshot courtesy of discounthawaiicarrental.com)

I had heard about Turo before, but I knew from writing about renting “green cars” that it was expensive. It was time to bite the bullet on price, though. I was desperate. Turo is available in all 50 states, and there’s limited international availability now as well, with the company already operating in 56 countries.

Related: Here’s how to rent an electric car

(Screenshot courtesy of Turo)

The company allows you to rent regular consumers’ cars when they aren’t using them. I signed up for the service (it’s an app like Uber) back in May, and I returned to the app for Hawaii in June.

Related: How to never pay full price for a rental car

There was lots of availability, but it was also very expensive. Here’s a look at what you can expect.

(Image courtesy of Turo)
(Screenshot courtesy of Turo)

I decided to search by cheapest option available. Prices have definitely come down since I booked but be aware that when you search by price, you’ll often get vehicles that no one has rented yet. This is a little risky since both you and the owner will be experiencing the Turo process for the first time.

Related: Complete guide to renting with Turo

Unlike rental cars, there’s plenty of availability, with prices beginning as low as $55 per day (not including insurance and fees).

Filter options on Turo. (Screenshot courtesy Turo)
Filter options on Turo. (Screenshot courtesy of Turo)

I searched for my same trip in August and September and prices were lower, so I’m not sure if more people are listing or things have calmed down a bit in the market. Either way, you’ll get a better deal than I did.

Related: Fair warning: Hawaii is crowded again

Turo August options in Maui. (Screenshot courtesy Turo)
Turo options in Maui for August. (Screenshot courtesy of Turo)

Booking

(Screenshot courtesy of Turo)

I ended up renting a Honda CR-V hybrid vehicle that was among the lowest priced I could find for my dates at $200 a day. I didn’t choose the cheapest options since those didn’t have enough reviews for me to be comfortable with the owner’s experience level.

Related: Everything you need to know about traveling to Hawaii while fully vaccinated

(Screenshot courtesy of Turo)

I paid $895.62 for my four-day rental in Maui. Ouch.

(Screenshot courtesy of Turo)

That included a rate of $200 a day, $129 for insurance ($32.40 a day), a $15 “trip fee,” a $25 “delivery fee” and $6.02 in sales tax. I did get $40 off as an “early-bird discount” and another $40 off for renting three or more days.

I used my Chase Sapphire Preferred Card and earned 2x Chase Ultimate Rewards points for a total of 1,791 points. That’s worth $35.82, according to TPG valuations.

Screenshot from Chase Bank showing how many points I got for my Turo rental car.
(Screenshot courtesy of Chase)

Related: From sold out to $700-plus daily rates, where the car rental shortage is worse than you think

Insurance

Unfortunately, it doesn’t appear most credit card coverage applies to Turo.

Many credit cards offer rental car coverage, but Turo is not a traditional car rental company. My colleague Katie Genter wrote the definitive guide here, but most car insurance, including the coverage benefit from Chase and American Express, doesn’t cover your Turo rental.

Related: Rental insurance with Turo

Turo offers three protection plans. The “premier plan” is a whopping 100% of the trip price with liability and primary coverage. Their “standard plan” is 40% of the trip price with minimum liability and primary coverage for your car, and the “minimum plan” is 15%-25% of the trip price and covers “minimum” liability insurance and just $3,000 in primary coverage.

Because I’m cheap, I chose the minimum plan, which still dramatically increased the cost of my rental. As I mentioned above, I paid $129 at just over $32 a day. That was a bit risky on my part since if I’d gotten in an accident, not much would have been covered. My luck held, though, and I didn’t have any issues.

Communication

Communication is key when it comes to Turo. You’ll need to get clear directions from the car’s owner to make sure your pickup and drop-off run smoothly, and with some airports cracking down on car shares, you’ll need to be in constant contact.

I was very lucky. Steven, or “WoJo” as his friends call him, was awesome. He messaged me early and often and was quick to answer all my questions.

(Screenshot courtesy of Turo)

Of course, you never know how good an individual owner may be. That’s why I recommend using drivers like Steven with a five-star rating and 10 trips under his belt.

Pickup process

(Screenshot by Clint Henderson/The Points Guy)

I got plenty of advance notice about my trip. You’ll need to take a selfie with your driver’s license and upload it into the app, and then another close-up picture of your driver’s license to confirm you are legal to drive.

I got multiple notifications about my upcoming trip both via the app on my phone and by email.

Steven gave me a heads-up that the car might not be spotless because of how windy it was, and he also warned me to be extra careful of airport security.

Related: Traveling between Hawaiian Islands during COVID-19

Apparently, the airport has been cracking down on Turo and stalking customers. I guess the airport is unhappy that they are missing out on a cut of potential business, so they are taking names and license numbers and issuing citations to some drivers. Be aware! That certainly added some stress to the pickup process that is unlike anything I’ve ever experienced.

It’s something that those who rent a lot of Airbnbs no doubt have to deal with as well.

(Screenshot courtesy of Turo)
Turo airport warning. (Screenshot courtesy Turo)
(Screenshot courtesy of Turo)

It turned out I had nothing to worry about aside from a little trouble finding the car in the airport parking lot. It was my first time using a lockbox, so that was a process, but Steven walked me through it via text and I was in and out in less than 10 minutes.

I did have to pay $3 for airport parking for the brief period between when he dropped the car off and I picked it up.

Turo Honda Cr-X Hybrid in Hawaii.
(Photo by Clint Henderson/The Points Guy)

Once I got out of the airport parking lot unscathed, I pulled over to take pictures of the vehicle inside and out to make sure that there was no damage when I picked it up. You then upload those pictures directly into the Turo app.

The car: A Honda CR-V

(Photo by Clint Henderson/The Points Guy)

I really loved the Honda CR-V I borrowed. It was my first time driving a hybrid vehicle. I got a remarkable 44 miles per gallon, which was great since gas was more than $4.25 a gallon in Hawaii.

The car was much bigger than I was expecting, but it was spotless when I picked it up. It handled really well on the roads in Hawaii, including the treacherous Road to Hana.

The Road to Hana. (Photo by Clint Henderson/The Points Guy)
(Photo by Clint Henderson/The Points Guy)

The interior was nice, the air conditioning was excellent and the seats were comfortable.

(Photo by Clint Henderson/The Points Guy)

 

I forgot to record how many miles I drove, but it was a lot less than the included 800 miles that came with the rental, even with my partial drive of the curvy and sometimes one-lane Road to Hana.

Driving my Turo rental on the Road to Hana. (Photo by Clint Henderson/The Points Guy)

I loved driving this Honda, and I would rent it again in a heartbeat, especially if I could get a better deal.

The drop-off

There was more drama with the drop-off, but Steven handled it like a total pro. The day before my drop-off, he messaged me that “We have been hearing from other hosts that airport security has been a little crazy these past few days.” He asked to meet me for drop-off at the local Costco instead of dropping it off at the airport parking lot.

Turo Airport warning. (Screenshot courtesy Turo)
(Screenshot courtesy of Turo)

I ended up getting fuel across the street from the Costco, and I saw that the U-Haul parking lot was much less crowded than Costco’s. Steven offered to pick me up there instead (ironic considering some people are resorting to renting U-Haul trucks and vans during the car rental shortage).

(Photo by Clint Henderson/The Points Guy)

The great thing about the airport drama was that it meant I got to meet WoJo in person. He told me about the bumps in the road to renting his car but said it had been a lucrative side business for him and his family. He also said they were going to figure out an alternative to using the airport parking lot since it had become such a sore point.

He dropped me off curbside at Maui’s Kahului Airport (OGG) and we did a fist bump to say goodbye.

Overall it was an awesome experience and I would definitely try Turo again.

 

 

(Screenshot by Clint Henderson/The Points Guy)

I even got some thank-you messages, and I got to leave a review (five stars, of course). They also ask you to document the car’s condition as you drop it off by uploading more pictures to the app.

(Screenshot courtesy of Turo)
(Screenshot courtesy of Turo)
(Screenshot courtesy of Turo)
(Screenshot courtesy of Turo)
(Photo by Clint Henderson/The Points Guy)

Earning points and miles

Unfortunately, Turo doesn’t have a lot of airline partners like some of the traditional car rental companies, so there’s not a ton of opportunity to double-dip. However, Turo has occasionally partnered with airlines like Southwest to offer bonus miles, so keep an eye out for that.

There is good news, however. Turo does code as travel. As mentioned above, I used my Chase Sapphire Preferred Card and earned 2 points per dollar. You could also use a Chase Sapphire Reserve to earn 3 points per dollar or a Capital One Venture Rewards Credit Card to earn 2 miles per dollar.

Bottom line

I loved my experience with Turo despite a few wrinkles and my own anxiety around trying something totally new. The wild shortage of rental cars means that Turo is a great alternative for consumers … at least where it’s currently available.

Be aware that you’ll need to purchase insurance, which adds to the price tag. Also, know that some airports and other localities may not like you using their property to pick up your rental. Hopefully, you will have a great owner like I did to make it smooth no matter how many obstacles in the road you may find.

We’ve covered the full run-down of what you need to know prior to visiting Hawaii here.

Visit TPG’s Hawaii destination hub for more stories about getting to the islands, staying on the islands and what to do while you’re there.

Featured photo by Clint Henderson/The Points Guy. 

Delta SkyMiles® Platinum American Express Card

Earn 90,000 bonus miles and 10,000 Medallion® Qualification Miles (MQMs) after you spend $3,000 in purchases on your new card in the first three months of card membership. Offer ends 11/10/2021.

With Status Boost™, earn 10,000 Medallion Qualification Miles (MQMs) after you spend $25,000 in purchases on your Card in a calendar year, up to two times per year getting you closer to Medallion Status. Earn 3X Miles on Delta purchases and purchases made directly with hotels, 2X Miles at restaurants and at U.S. supermarkets and earn 1X Mile on all other eligible purchases. Terms Apply.

Apply Now
More Things to Know
  • Limited Time Offer: Earn 90,000 Bonus Miles and 10,000 Medallion® Qualification Miles (MQMs) after you spend $3,000 in purchases on your new Card in your first 3 months. Offer expires 11/10/2021.
  • Earn up to 20,000 Medallion® Qualification Miles (MQMs) with Status Boost® per year. After you spend $25,000 in purchases on your Card in a calendar year, you can earn 10,000 MQMs two times per year, getting you closer to Medallion® Status. MQMs are used to determine Medallion® Status and are different than miles you earn toward flights.
  • Earn 3X Miles on Delta purchases and purchases made directly with hotels.
  • Earn 2X Miles at restaurants worldwide, including takeout and delivery and at U.S. supermarkets.
  • Earn 1X Miles on all other eligible purchases.
  • Receive a Domestic Main Cabin round-trip companion certificate each year upon renewal of your Card. *Payment of the government imposed taxes and fees of no more than $75 for roundtrip domestic flights (for itineraries with up to four flight segments) is required. Baggage charges and other restrictions apply. See terms and conditions for details.
  • Enjoy your first checked bag free on Delta flights.
  • Fee Credit for Global Entry or TSA Pre✓®.
  • Enjoy an exclusive rate of $39 per person per visit to enter the Delta Sky Club® for you and up to two guests when traveling on a Delta flight.
  • No Foreign Transaction Fees.
  • $250 Annual Fee.
  • Terms Apply.
  • See Rates & Fees
Regular APR
15.74%-24.74% Variable
Annual Fee
$250
Balance Transfer Fee
N/A
Recommended Credit
Excellent/Good
Terms and restrictions apply. See rates & fees.

Editorial Disclaimer: Opinions expressed here are the author’s alone, not those of any bank, credit card issuer, airlines or hotel chain, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities.

Disclaimer: The responses below are not provided or commissioned by the bank advertiser. Responses have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by the bank advertiser. It is not the bank advertiser’s responsibility to ensure all posts and/or questions are answered.