Are you in the process of planning a Maui vacation? And do you have your flights and accommodation booked? Then now is the time to decide how you’ll get around Maui. Do you need a rental car in Maui?
The answer to that question varies according to your travel plans. For most Maui travel itineraries, it’s strongly recommended to have a rental car. However, some travelers might manage just fine without a rental car on Maui. Find out in this article which situation applies to you.
Plus, discover which car rental companies are worth your time, what type of car you should rent, where to pick up your rental car in Maui, and the best way to get around Maui without a car.
I’ll also share the extra costs to consider when renting a car on Maui, the driving times to and from the most popular places to stay in Maui, and my best money-saving tips.
So, are you ready whether you need to rent a car in Maui, and, if so, how do go about it? Then let’s dive in!
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Do you need a rental car in Maui?
As mentioned in the intro, whether you need a car in Maui or not depends on your travel plans. Have a look at the following situations to determine if a rental car is recommended for your Maui trip or not.
Yes, you do need a rental car in Maui if…
You want to maximize your time on the Valley Isle and look forward to spending the mornings by the pool or on the beach and the afternoons exploring Maui’s many attractions or vice versa. Your Maui itinerary includes road trips, beach hops, waterfall hikes, sunrise experiences, and more. Whether or not you’re staying in a vacation rental, you’ll probably do some grocery shopping too, if only for lunchtime.
If that’s you, then you most definitely should rent a car on Maui. It’s the only way to explore all of Maui’s landmarks and attractions at your own pace.
Scroll directly to Renting a car in Maui like a pro and find out everything you need to know about renting a car in Maui.
No, you don’t need a rental car in Maui if…
You booked an amazing resort, plan on eating out and living the good life every day, enjoy the beach in front of your accommodation, and stay within the boundaries of your resort community except for one or maybe two tours to the top must-sees.
If that’s you, then you’ll manage just fine without a rental car. The complimentary resort shuttle or coastal trail will get you where you need to be. Just book your transportation from and to the airport and reserve the tours that you want to take on Viator.
Or, you’re a budget traveler who booked a cheap place to stay and is determined to stick to your budget by enjoying the beach, doing some hiking, and indulging in local eats.
If you’re a budget traveler, then you don’t need a rental car. Just book your transportation from and to the airport, rely on the bus for most days, and maybe take an Uber for that occasional trip beyond the bus route.
Scroll directly to Getting around Maui without a car and discover all the ways of getting around Maui without renting a car.
If you’re still in dubio, then how about a compromise? After all, needing a car to get around Maui doesn’t necessarily imply that you need it every day of your trip.
Depending on where you’re traveling from and how long you’ll be staying in Maui, you might need a few days to shake off the stress of daily life and relax before crisscrossing the island. In that case, it might make sense to book your car for part of your trip only. This will also save you unnecessary parking fees. If you plan 4 beach days and 3 exploration days, this makes for an excellent plan.
Then again, do take into account that a weekly rate can be lower than the daily rate multiplied by 5 or 6 days. So, play around with an extra day or two when booking to determine the cheapest option based on your travel dates.
Renting a car in Maui like a pro
Whether you look forward to enjoying the fabulous beaches, the mouth-watering seafood, the legendary Road to Hana, the most amazing snorkeling spots, and spectacular hikes, or that epic whale-watching trip you’ve always wanted to take, a rental car will get you there.
But when do you book your car to lock in the best rate? Which company do you choose? Where do you pick up your rental car in Maui? What type of car should you rent? How much driving do you need to factor in?
I’ve got all the answers for you in this ultimate guide to renting a car on Maui.
How much is the average car rental per day?
That depends on some variables but, on average, for a standard-sized car during mid-season with pick up from and drop off at the main airport, you’ll be paying anywhere between $60 and $100 per day.
Peak season prices for Maui rental cars can skyrocket, increasingly so the later you secure your booking.
When to book your rental car in Maui?
I always recommend booking your rental car in Maui right after booking your flights and accommodation. This is especially important when you travel during the high season (school holidays). That way you lock in a good base rate. When you book on my go-to booking platform – Discount Hawaii Car Rental – you don’t need to pay anything upon booking.
What’s great about this platform, is that it also allows you to modify your booking at any time. And it usually pays off to keep an eye on the rates up to a week before your departure. As soon as you see a better deal pop up on their platform, simply modify your existing reservation. It’s as simple as that.
The only time when you might get the best deal by booking just a week beforehand and not need to worry about availability is during the low season (May, September, and October). I personally never take the risk of booking last minute outside of these months.
Where to rent a car in Maui?
Here’s an overview of the most popular car rental locations in Maui.
Comparison sites allow you to see the offers of the mainstream car rental providers side-by-side. Booking your car through a comparison site might save you money.
As mentioned, I love the no-strings-attached booking, free cancelation, and excellent customer service of Discount Hawaii Car Rental.
Another similar comparison site that I used before, albeit not in Maui, is Discover Cars. Click the pay later option to pick a Maui rental car with free cancelation.
Alternatively, you might want to check out the Expedia travel packages. Combining flights, hotels, and your rental car in one booking might save you money.
There are three options when it comes to picking up your rental car in Maui Hawaii:
Local budget-rental companies
One type of local company focuses on rent-a-wreck vehicles, cars that have been previously owned by other rental car companies or by individuals. This makes them much more affordable.
Don’t let the term “wreck” put you off. These cars are not the latest models with all bells and whistles and come with some degree of exterior damage. A bonus is that these cars don’t scream “tourist” and that break-ins are less likely to occur.
Examples of reliable car rental companies in Maui are Kihei Rent A Car and Makoa Car Rental Maui. In the unlikely event that your car does break down, it’ll be replaced. It’s important to check reviews for this type of service because there are cowboy rent-a-wreck companies out there that prioritize profit over safety. So, look for a company that only rents out clean, reliable running vehicles.
Then there are local companies that offer the same level of quality but with stellar service and competitive prices. Cruisin’ Maui is such a car rental company. I haven’t used their services yet myself but I do plan on doing so in the future.
As mentioned, the service that you get from local companies is usually much better compared to that of the main players. Plus, you’ll support a local, often family-owned, business.
Depending on the company of your choice, there are three options to pick up your rental car:
Turo is the Airbnb of the car rental industry where locals lend you their vehicle. This peer-to-peer platform is usually a bit cheaper than booking your car through a comparison site.
However, last-minute cancelations by the owners occur regularly. And since an individual usually doesn’t have an inventory to fall back on, chances are that you’ll be left without a replacement.
This is what’s keeping me from trying it myself but maybe you have a positive experience with Turo?
What type of car should you rent?
As long as you stay on paved roads you don’t need an SUV. A regular car will do. Most roads in Maui, especially the ones leading to the most popular attractions, are paved and in good condition. By the way, even with 4WD rentals you’re not allowed to drive on some of the unpaved roads.
When taking a family trip to Maui, you need to make sure that all passengers can sit comfortably and safely. It’s more important to opt for a car that’s large enough to fit all travelers and their luggage than it is to worry about the drivetrain. The downside of prioritizing space is that it’s harder to find parking. In some places, like in Paia town or along the Hana Highway, that can prove to be a real pain.
Then again, you’re in Maui! Chances are that you’ll prefer one of the signature road trip cars – a convertible or a Jeep Wrangler with a soft top – over the cheapest car or spacious minivan. I certainly do! Since these are the most popular Maui rental car models, they sell out fast.
Driving times on Maui
For your convenience, I’ve put together a table with driving times from all major tourist areas to the most popular sights on Maui. These times apply during low-traffic times. Do note that, since only a few main roads meander Maui’s volcanic landscape, there’s no escaping traffic.
How to save money on rental cars in Maui?
The cost of your rental car is one thing but it comes with other, indirect costs to budget for. Here are some ways to keep your budget in check.
Tip #1: Compare prices
Comparing rental car rates pays off. Instead of browsing the sites of all mainstream providers, head over to Discount Hawaii Car Rental to compare prices at a glance. There’s no credit card required.
Tip #2: Book early and monitor prices
Booking early helps you to lock in a good rate. Then, monitor the rates up to a week before your departure. Modify your existing reservation as soon as you see a better deal pop up on the platform.
Tip #3: Rent a not-so-new yet reliable car
Do you need a shiny new-ish car to drive around the island? Probably not. Why not opt for one of the cheap Maui car rentals from local companies? Who cares if it has a dent or a scratch? It’s still a well-maintained, reliable, and clean car. Plus, blending in with the locals means you’ll attract less unwanted attention.
Tip #4: Avoid airport pick-ups
Picking up your car at Kahului airport involves an extra charge per day of your rental. It’s up to you to decide if you need to rent a car every day of your trip or just for part of your trip.
Do note that renting a car on Maui for 7 days can be cheaper than renting it for 5 or 6 days depending on the weekly discount.
Plus, if you’re a family of four staying at an accommodation with free parking then you’ll probably be cheaper off getting a car as soon as you land. Costs for airport transportation for a family do add up too. The estimated cost per person for a shared one-way airport transfer is $50 to Kihei, $55 to Wailea, $80 to Kaanapali, and $90 to Napili and Kapalua.
Tip #5: Book an accommodation with free parking
All popular Maui resorts have a car park but parking costs vary greatly. That’s because parking is limited in the town centers and overnight parking on the island is forbidden in many places.
Some hotels and resorts strictly offer valet parking while others may have a self-parking option. The latter is usually a bit cheaper and, most of all, much quicker. That’s especially true in high season.
If you plan on spending your nights at one of the Maui condos or villas, then it’s important to confirm whether your accommodation includes parking. They may offer it complimentary or as part of the ever-increasing resort fee.
In addition to the overnight parking at your accommodation, take into account that you’ll need to pay to park at some other points of interest as well. There’s a $10 parking fee at ‘Iao Valley State Park and Makena State Park, and a $30 entrance fee for Haleakala National Park.
Tip #6: Fill up the tank yourself
Be sure to save yourself some money by filling up the gas tank yourself instead of paying the rental car company to do it for you. Renting a car with a near-empty tank and returning it with a full tank will cost you less.
Tip #7: Refill your tank at the best price
It’s no secret that gas prices in Hawaii are among the highest in the country. This is a direct result of the state’s remote location.
It can pay off to do your homework by checking which gas stations offer the best rates. This website might be helpful. The general rule of thumb is the more competition in the direct area, the more competitive the rates.
Tip #8: Don’t overpay for insurance
This is an issue most travelers are uncertain about. Many car rental providers exploit that insecurity. Don’t let them sweet-talk you into insurance you don’t need but do make sure to cover your bases.
Check your own car rental insurance policy as well as your credit card insurance policy before your trip to Maui. You might be pleasantly surprised… or not.
Either way, insurance is optional. The main types of insurance cover the vehicle (Collision Damage Waiver or CDW) and the people that may be injured (Supplemental Liability Insurance or SLI). Other insurance options cover the cost to the car rental company in case of flat tires, towing, or lost keys.
Always do a damage check before driving your Maui rental car off the lot. Just walk around the car and check for possible damage. Feel free to take photos of scratches or small dents as evidence (I always do) just to be on the safe side. Repeat this process once you’re inside the car.
Getting around Maui without a car
If you’re still not sold on the idea of renting a car on Maui or if you’re planning to relax and stay put most of the time, then here’s how to travel in Maui without renting a car:
Psst… Make sure to book your rental car well ahead of time. My go-to partner is Discount Hawaii Car Rental. Their booking process is effortless, with no booking fees, prepayment, or cancellation penalties!