Freedom on Wheels

Renting a car in Hawaii will allow your clients to explore at their own pace

By: Renting a car on Hawaii will allow your clients to explore at th

Several Hawaii car rental companies are subscribing to the theory that “getting there is half the fun,” and they’re promoting specialty vehicles as a way of staying competitive in these challenging times.

Big Island Exotic Cars, which opened in Kona in February 2003, is the only exotic car rental company on Big Island. “Our cars are the ultimate way to see the island,” said Tim Kuglin, who calls himself the company’s “director of fun.” “Our products are for the discriminating traveler, who wants only the best, and who can afford it.”

Travel agents who visit Big Island can spend a day in a 1957 Porsche Speedster at 50 percent off the regular daily rate of $299. Along with Speedsters, Big Island Exotic Cars rents 2003 Hummer H2s, which can handle terrain inaccessible to regular rental cars. “Our Hummers are the only way to get to some of the island’s most beautiful attractions, like South Point, Waipio Valley and the summit of Mauna Kea volcano,” Kuglin said. The one-day rate for a Hummer is $499, commissionable at 10 percent. The fleet will soon add a 1966 Cobra, late-’40s Woody and ’60s GTO, he said.

808-331-1997; www.bigislandexotic

Dollar Rent A Car’s most popular products in Hawaii are higher-priced, fun-in-the-sun vehicles like Jeeps and convertibles, said Dollar Thrifty Automotive Group’s Jim Bowen. “Our SUVs and PT Cruisers also do very well,” he said. Specialty vehicles comprise 25 percent of Dollar’s Hawaii fleet, he said.

To help agents book its products, Dollar is offering free upgrades and waived overtime. “Sixty-five percent of our business comes from tour operators,” said Bowen, “who pass our promotions on to the travel agents.” Such marketing initiatives help to combat the challenges faced by all of Hawaii’s car rental companies. “Due to the current economy, our local airlines have reduced the number of flights and raised rates on interisland travel,” Bowen said, which adversely affects the demand for rental cars. But Hawaii does enjoy advantages over mainland companies, Bowen said: “Clients can’t drive to Hawaii, and there’s no public transportation, except on Oahu.”


Budget Rent A Car sales and marketing director Gordon Kai said that the high cost of shipping cars to the islands creates an additional challenge for rental companies in Hawaii. “We’re weighing higher vehicle acquisition costs against the competitive rental rates, which affect profitability margins,” Kai said.

On the other hand, “because of the gentle climate in the islands, we can carry a wider selection of vehicles than many destinations on the mainland,” said Kai. “Our Mustang convertible and Jeep Wrangler are the most fun and popular cars to drive in Hawaii’s warm weather. They can really enhance a vacation experience for customers.” Budget’s Hawaii fleet is also heavy on SUVs, sports cars and minivans.

To streamline reservations, Budget Rent A Car provides wholesalers and agents with calendars that indicate Budget’s peak periods at its Hawaii rental locations. Through its Unlimited Budget loyalty program, agents can accrue points on a debit card, when they make actualized bookings. The points can be redeemed for awards like free car rentals and merchandise.