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Maui car

Car Rentals in Maui

Tips for Renting a Car in Maui

Millions of travelers make their way to Maui each year from locations around the world, and one of the most frequent questions we receive is whether renting a car is really necessary, and our answer almost always remains the same - yes.

While Maui does have a decent bus system, the infrequent schedule (runs once every hour to hour and a half) and lack of late-night bus options, not to mention limited routes, leaves much to the imagination in terms of getting around while on vacation. In addition, taxis are very expensive and especially during peak seasons, holidays and special events, hard to come by. Hitchhiking can be great for small journeys, but is an unreliable option as far as timing and space for more than one traveler.

Renting a car in Maui shouldn't have to be one of the top expenses on your next vacation, but it could be if you don't know what to expect. We've gathered some of the best local tips about renting a car in Maui, and with our help, you'll be exploring before you know it.

Maui jeeps

#1 What Kind of Car Should I Rent?

There are many options for car rentals in Maui, from standard 4-door economy cars to Hummers and Porsches. First of all, you should know that off-roading in any rental vehicle on Maui is a violation of the rental agreement, so don't waste your money upgrading to a car with 4 wheel drive. Anywhere you (legally) want to drive on Maui, you can do without 4WD.

The most economical option, and our recommendation, is to go with a standard 4-door, fuel efficient car. Keep in mind that gas in Hawaii is among the highest in the country at any given time, and paired with the fact that you'll likely be doing lots of driving during your trip, renting a gas guzzler is not the best option.

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#2 Do I Need Insurance?

Insurance is always a good idea, but it may not be necessary for you to purchase additional insurance from your car rental company. Before you leave home, call your current car insurance carrier to ask about coverage while you're in Hawaii. You'll likely already be covered, and some rental companies use this tactic to scare you into buying additional coverage you don't really need.

Keep in mind that if you violate your rental agreement and have a problem, including off-roading, your insurance, both from your home state and with the car rental agency, may be entirely void. Hawaii also doesn't allow visitors to leave the state until all debt is settled, so save yourself a headache and ask about coverage before you leave home. Driving only where you're supposed to and staying off of forbidden roads is a good rule of thumb.

#3 What Kind of Additional Fees Should I Expect?

Good news! While you'll likely pay more for gas than you will back home, Hawaii falls somewhere in the middle in terms of taxes and fees for rental cars. The State of Hawaii charges a Motor Vehicle Surcharge of $4.50 per day for all rental cars (plus $3 at airport locations) in addition to a daily registration fee, general excise tax and an 11% recovery fee for airport locations.

There are likely additional fees to add extra drivers and for drivers ages 21 to 24. If you're in need of infant or child safety seats, ask about daily rental charges from your car rental company.

In any case, always make sure to ask about final charges like mileage, taxes, pick-up fees, etc. before giving anyone your credit card number over the phone. Most companies require a credit card to finalize the reservation, but may allow you to do so when you arrive. If your plane arrives before the rest of your party, make sure the reservation for the rental car was made in your name, otherwise you could be stuck waiting until the rest of your party arrives to hand over the correct credit card.

#4 I'm an International Driver. What Do I Need to Bring?

Most companies allow any driver with a valid drivers license, including those from a foreign country. Bring all the essentials you need to prove you're a licensed driver in your home country and you should be just fine.

Call the car rental company before you arrive to ask about specifics.

#5 Should I Fill Up the Car Myself or Let Them Do It?

If you don't mind paying way more for gas or are running behind on time, the easiest answer is to let them do it for you when you return the car at the end of your trip.

However, our suggestion is to fill up the car yourself at any of the surrounding gas stations near the airport. If you have a Costco card, the cheapest gas on the island is located at the Costco near Kahului Airport.

#6 How's the Driving on Maui?

In a word, slow. Most travelers from the mainland, and everywhere else for that matter, are surprised to find that Maui's highways have speed limits of 35 to 55mph. While some of this is for good reason, including the Pali Highway, a two-lane road that curves along steep ocean cliffs, other areas are not. Keep an eye out for speed traps and go with the flow.

The main question for travelers on Maui is about driving the Road to Hana. If you know you're prone to motion sickness, take Dramamine (or any number of related seasickness remedies) the day before and know what you're getting yourself into. You'll be driving no more than 15 to 20mph the whole day, but the 600 turns and 58 narrow, one-lane bridges are enough to scare some people off. Don't let it. Take your time, pull over to let the locals get pass you, and take frequent breaks to explore Maui's natural scenery. If all else fails, let Valley Isle Excursions do the driving.

If you're concerned about whether or not to drive the back road around Haleakala, keep in mind that it's partially unpaved and if you have an accident here, it would be a very difficult place to get help. That being said, we've seen countless rental cars on this road, so use your discretion.

Another important thing to remember is that there is lots of foot, scooter/moped, dirt bike/motorcycle and bicycle traffic on Maui. If you're staying in Kihei, Lahaina or Paia, make sure to drive slowly and keep an eye out for surrounding riders (who are allowed to drive in the bike lane) and pedestrians on the frequent crosswalks in these areas.

One last note about driving in Maui is remembering to drive with aloha. "Slow Down, This Ain't The Mainland" is a bumper sticker for a reason, so do just that - slow down, enjoy the scenery (which does not include whale watching or waterfall gazing from the driver's seat), let people in, refrain from honking unless absolutely necessary, and drive with a bit of aloha, at least while you're here. Save the road rage for home... you'll get there.

#7 What are the Chances of My Rental Car Being Broken Into?

Like anywhere else, there are good and bad seeds on Maui. Rental cars are almost always easy to differentiate from local cars and are sometimes targeted by thieves, so we suggest not carrying anything of high value in your car, including in the trunk. Take only what you need and don't leave anything valuable visibly out in your car.

#8 What Should I Do in the Case of An Accident?

If your car breaks down or you have an accident, call the number provided by the rental car company. If you try to handle the situation on your own, the result may be out-of-pocket expenses that are not covered by your insurance provider or rental car company.

#9 What's the Parking & Traffic Like on Maui?

You'll likely be pleased to find that most places in Maui offer free parking. While there are some paid lots around high traffic areas and resort neighborhoods like Lahaina and Ka'anapali, most places on Maui offer free lots and/or street parking.

Some of the roads here are one-lane, meaning if you're stuck behind a particularly slow driver, it could stay that way for a while. Traffic, however, unless you're trying to get to Costco at 5pm on a Friday, is typically few and far between, especially compared to Oahu and any big city on the mainland. Enjoy it while you can!

#10 What's the Best Thing about Driving on Maui?

We've found that generally the best thing about doing anything on Maui is the fact that you're on Maui. Aloha and drive safe!


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Take your time while in Maui, Hawaii. Enjoy the drive!