Renting a car in Hawaii with Turo during rental ‘apocalypse’
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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.
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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.
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
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.
There was lots of availability, but it was also very expensive. Here’s a look at what you can expect.
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).
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.
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.
I paid $895.62 for my four-day rental in Maui. Ouch.
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.
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 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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 interior was nice, the air conditioning was excellent and the seats were comfortable.
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.
I loved driving this Honda, and I would rent it again in a heartbeat, especially if I could get a better deal.
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.
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).
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.
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.
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.
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.
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