“If the car rental search engine says the cars are all gone, get crafty,” said Leigh Rowan, the founder of Savanti Travel, a travel management service, who recommends using Google Maps to search for car rental locations near your hotel or vacation home rental. “In major tourist spots like Wailea in Maui, there are four different car rental spots walkable from hotels.”
For his own April break on the island of Hawaii, Mr. Rowan had made a reservation with Alamo through Costco — retail memberships often offer discounts on travel services such as rental cars — for a minivan to accommodate his group of seven. To ensure it would be there when he arrived, he called the local branch the day before his arrival, explained why he needed the guarantee of a large vehicle and asked for the name of the person who would be working when he arrived.
“These extra steps are annoying,” but essential, he said, especially in Hawaii, where the state’s Department of Commerce and Consumer Affairs told a local television station that it is launching an investigation into the high cost of rentals that have been listed for as much as $600 a day.
In lieu of hunting yourself, you can use AutoSlash, which uses rental car company coupons and discount codes to sort through search results that it says would take consumers considerable time. The free service also uses things like wholesale store and airline frequent flier program memberships and affiliations with organizations like the American Automobile Association and AARP to find deals.
The service then tracks the rental to ensure it remains the best value, emailing travelers to rebook in the event of a price drop.
Alternatives to traditional rental cars
There are, of course, transit alternatives to renting a car, including ride share services, bike share systems and public transportation.
For those seeking the privacy and control of an auto, Turo acts like Airbnb for cars, allowing individuals to list their vehicles for rent on the platform, where choices range from $20-a-day older subcompacts to luxury cars like a Lamborghini in Miami for more than $1,000 a day. Vehicle owners set the terms for things like daily mileage limits.
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