Last week, Dale Moyen went shopping for a rental car for a five-day holiday in Hilo over New Year's. The price quote gave him sticker shock.
"Everybody was out except for two companies. And the two companies that still had cars were over $100 a day," he said.
He searched more but the lowest price he found for a mid–size Toyota was $93 a day. In Kona the quote was $1,100 for one week.
"It seems like they are taking advantage of supply and demand," he said.
Travel experts said rental car companies operate on a simple formula. When inventory goes down, prices go up. Demand for rental cars peaks during certain times of the year. Late December is one of them.
"Over the last year rental car prices have increased. It is not uncommon to pay $100 a day or more. Of course it depends on where you are and the time of year. But it's no longer the bargain it once was," Elizabeth Harryman said.
Rental car firms set their own prices. None of the companies we contacted would comment on camera. Off-camera we were told the holiday factor is one reason for higher prices. And in Moyen's case, he was dealing with a neighbor Island where car rental fleets are smaller.
"I'm in IT and I figure that with all of the analytics tools and IT measuring that we have nowadays, they should be able to predict their peak periods and adjust their inventory accordingly," Moyen said.
Consumer experts advise that if you plan to travel during the holidays, book your car rental six months to a year in advance. Moyen said he rented cars during the holidays before but never paid more than $60 a day.
"I checked Young Brothers to see what it would cost roundtrip. It was actually $50 cheaper to ship my own car to Hilo and back versus renting a car at those rates," he said.
After a day of searching, Moyen eventually found a deal at $49 a day.