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A number of factors have converged to create a dearth of rental cars. Especially in Hawaii, the problem is rampant because when tourism was down due to the pandemic, rental agencies sold off a lot of rental cars. Now that tourists are coming back to the islands there are severe rental car shortages and rental companies are finding new replacement vehicles are not easy to come by.

One of the reasons for rental car shortages is the microchip shortage which has caused assembly line shutdowns around the world. Another reason is slow shipping as that industry slowly ramps back up. But savvy tourists have a workaround; they’re renting U-Haul trucks to get around.

Rental car agencies are substantially charging more to rent vehicles

Loading a baot into a U-Haul boxtruck
Hauling a boat in a U-Haul box truck | Photo by Shawn Patrick Ouellette/Portland Press Herald via Getty Images

With rental car agencies having depleted their car inventories because of the pandemic, what few cars they have they’re substantially charging more to rent. Hawaii News Now recently reported that renting a Toyota Camry costs customers $722 a day. And that’s the cheapest car you can rent on the islands. 

Enterprising tourists are renting U-Haul trucks to see the islands

U-Haul box trucks in a parking lot
A U-Haul truck rental facility | Photo by Stephen Hilger/Bloomberg via Getty Images

But enterprising tourists are renting U-Haul trucks to see the islands. “The uptick from tourism, the uptick from companies opening back up, from the economy restarting — everybody seems to need a vehicle,” says U-Haul Marketing President Kaleo Alau. “Most of the time they’re saying that they can’t get a vehicle from any of the rental spots. They’re all sold out.”

Everything from pickups to cargo vans and even box trucks is being rented by sightseeing tourists. And they’re finding them far cheaper than a $722-a-day Camry. And while the truck rental agencies suggest you use your rented truck for hauling, they’re not concerned about their rental’s end-use.

But Islanders are. They’re afraid that there won’t be enough trucks to rent for what they’re there for; which is for moving Islander’s stuff. And the proliferation of these larger trucks is causing parking lots to fill up making parking difficult. 

The proliferation of rental trucks is a problem for locals, too

tipped over U-Haul box truck
A U-Haul truck sits on turned over after Hurricane Michael hit in Panama City, Florida | Luke Sharrett/Bloomberg via Getty Images

Squeezing into a space surrounded by box trucks leaves little space to get in and out of your car. Or to park for that matter. And some of the winding roads and more isolated areas of the islands can have very narrow paths to start with. 

Rental car shortages are not isolated to only Hawaii. The New York Times reported that a number of rental agencies at different airports in Florida ran out of rental cars during Presidents Day weekend. And rental car prices around the US have seen substantial increases in prices. 

The other concern is that tourism is only now just barely starting to ramp up after a year of pandemic isolation. How will it be once the summer rush begins, which is expected to be especially busy this year? Or will rental agencies have their normal allotment of cars by then? 


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