Saturday, March 3, 2012

Car Rental Horror Story

Getting stuff stolen, having bad lodging, being sick, or having car troubles. These are all things no tourist wants to deal with while being on vacation. 

There are several car rental agencies on Maui - all the big ones at the airport, plus a few locally owned operators. The smaller places are generally good, including No Ka Oi, Al West, Maui Cruisers... But a newer shop opened near Cash and Carry, and has only been in business about a year. It rents older cars that don't scream "I'm a tourist." 

No Ka Oi Motors is a place that friends have rented from and have had no problems. 

Some friends of ours rented from this smaller car rental agency and are undergoing a car rental nightmare.  I haven't divulged the name of this agency...yet. Let's see what happens first. 

The problem?
The older car broke down just past Ulupalakua, on a paved road. The radiator broke. The car needed to be towed back into town. Our friends hitchhiked back into town.  FYI, never leave your car abandoned on the side of a road on Maui! It will get torched or damaged by bored teenagers. 

The damage?
The radiator and possibly other parts broke, and are being repaired.  The owner of the rental agency says they have a small ding in the windshield, which means the windshield has to be fixed in order to pass safety to be rentable. The owner claims that the car was driven outside of the rental agreement territory, since it was past Ulupalakua, even though it was on a paved road, and says that the renters have broken the rental agreement and must now pay the $300 towing bill and another $300 for the windshield replacement. 

Our friends say they did not ding the windshield, and it could have happened while the car was sitting along the highway, or while it was being towed back into town. Hard to prove when the car was dinged. The owner says he can submit the windshield replacement to the renter's car insurance, for about $600, or they can pay for it themselves for about $300. The owner also says he can charge them for loss of the rental vehicle while it is being fixed. 

Most normal rental companies would simply replace this car with another car, but the owner doesn't want to give them a second car until the bills are paid for the first car. The renters also don't have a copy of the rental agreement, which they signed at the time of pick up but did not receive a copy! And being good tourists, they totally spaced it. 

Was the car really outside of "proper car rental territory?"  Most, if not all, of the car rental agencies do prohibit driving the unpaved rough, south side road from Hana to Ulupalakua, and other unpaved rough roads on the West Side and elsewhere, but almost everyone does it anyhow.  The car broke down on a paved section of road, but the rental owner claims the car was driven outside of rental territory, thus making the renter responsible for any damages. What does the rental agreement say? The renters need to get a copy of this agreement. 

Now what? 
Our friends prepaid for the car rental with cash, so the owner has the money for their second week, although they've now been out of a car for 3 days. Their belongings were also left in the car, including things borrowed from other friends, so they are anxious to get their stuff back, about $300 worth of merchandise. They don't want to pay another $600 on top of what they've already paid for their second week (and they still don't have a car yet).

What would you do?
  • We've suggested that they contact the Better Business Bureau, although that has to wait till Monday. 

  • We've suggested trying to talk with the owner, to see if some other solution can be reached, and to get their stuff back, since that would seem to be a legal issue.  If the owner won't return their stuff, then it may require contacting the police to get their stuff back. 

  • There is a Department of Commerce and Consumer Affairs at the State level.

  • There is also the Maui Mediation Society and Small Claims Court.  But what a way to spend a vacation!

  • They still need to rent a car - so will the owner give them a car to rent, or will they end up going somewhere else? I've made a back up car reservation for them with Alamo. 

  • We've also suggested that they review this car rental agency on sites like,, or
Buyer beware!
Most car rental agencies are perfectly legit, and even the smaller ones are quite fine. We've recommended No Ka Oi for years, without incident. But is this a good way to do business? 

What do you think, and what would you do?
Please add your comments since it's quite a pickle.  Depending on what happens, I will mention the name of the agency. 


Post a Comment

Comments are important to me, so mahalo for adding a comment! I will try to follow up when I receive one.