When it comes to car-sharing in Hawaii, the undisputed big names are Turo and Servco Pacific’s Hui Car Share, with others, like Zipcar, playing catch up. But now Getaround, the San Francisco-based company that recently went public, hopes to drive into Hawaii in a big way. 

A stated intention: to help mitigate Hawaii’s notoriously high cost of living by making it easier for people to get by without owning a car, something the company says is good for the environment as well as people’s pocketbooks.

“That’s our ultimate goal: to empower people to live car free,” said Nick Tenekedes, Getaround’s vice president for marketplace.

John Shriner owns a Cadillac and rents it out to locals and tourists at the Waikiki Sunset through the Turo app. The smaller player getaround is mounting a push on Oahu. David Croxford/Civil Beat/2022

Like Turo, Getaround is a peer-to-peer car sharing service, the auto equivalent of Airbnb. Owners known as hosts rent out their vehicles to people who need them for a short time. A difference between Turo and getaround is Turo hosts rent out by the day, while getaround cars can be rented by the hour.

Demonstrating just how interested Getaround is in Hawaii, high level executives — Andrew Byrnes, getaround’s deputy general counsel and global head of public policy, and public policy manager Soledad Roybal — were making the rounds in Honolulu earlier this month, introducing the company to policymakers and business leaders. 

  • 'Struggling To Get By' Special Series

While Getaround executives declined to share specifics of the company’s Hawaii strategy in interviews with Civil Beat, a spokesman said generally that Getaround is working to make deals with places like condominiums, shopping centers and other properties. The idea is to enable Getaround hosts to keep their vehicles in parking lots near potential customers without taking up parking spaces on city streets.

The company announced its expansion into Honolulu just over a year ago, so it’s not surprising Getaround’s presence is minuscule compared to Turo. Tenekedes declined to say how many vehicles the company has in Hawaii. But the Getaround app lists less than two dozen cars available on Oahu in December and January. Turo, by contrast, had 1,086 vehicles recently listed for sharing, with 54% of them on Oahu, according to a 2022 study commissioned by the company.

Tenekedes said Getaround’s strategy will focus on serving the community, working with state and local government officials to locate cars where they are most needed, including not just densely populated tourist spots like Waikiki but also “transportation deserts” where people have few options.

Competing For Prime Real Estate

It’s not unusual for car sharing companies to look for parking spaces in high-density neighborhoods. Kristine Wada, marketing manager for Servco Pacific’s Hui Car Share, said the company is continually seeking new locations for its fleet of 170 cars, trucks and SUVs, which Hui rents out by the hour.

For instance, the company recently expanded its presence at Ala Moana Center with spaces for eight cars near a bus stop just off Kapiolani Boulevard, Wada said.

And while Hui has a big presence in Waikiki, its 70 locations include residential neighborhoods like Manoa, Makiki, Pearl City ands Kaimuki. It’s no secret that Getaround is looking to expand, Wada said.

“They’re definitely looking at some of the same locations where we’re at,” she said.

Car share advocates say the services can significantly reduce household transportation costs, which are significant for families struggling with Hawaii’s high cost of living. In fact, studies show the cost of transportation in Hawaii represents the biggest monthly expense for many residents, after housing, child care and food. In addition, Hawaii’s vehicle registration laws, which charge based on on vehicle weight not value, often functions like a regressive tax, charging more to register an old pickup truck than a new luxury coupe.

Servco Pacific’s Hui Car Share has car stations not just in Waikiki but also in lots like this one on Waialae Avenue in Kaimuki. David Croxford/CivilBeat/2022

A 2021 study by the Ulupono Initiative, for instance, found the average cost to own a vehicle in Hawaii is $8,100 annually, or $675 per month, when factoring in costs including gas, maintenance and insurance. Ulupono used census data compiled by the accounting firm Deloitte, which shows 80% of Hawaii households own two or more cars, and thus calculated most households face a $16,200 annual expense, or about $1,350 a month for transportation. And that doesn’t count the cost of harm to the environment,

Combined with options like city buses, a critical mass of cars for rent short term, by the hour or day, could reduce those household costs by eliminating the need for families to own multiple cars, or any car at all. In addition, car sharing advocates say the services mitigate costs for car owners by letting people earn extra income from their vehicles.

For example, Turo’s February 2022 study of car sharing in Hawaii by economist Justin Hong found a typical Turo host can net $115 per four-day transaction, enough to cover average monthly insurance and registration costs. At two weeks of vehicle sharing, the entire cost of the vehicle, including the monthly car payment, is covered, the study found. While car sharing in theory can help take cars off the street as fewer people need them, the profit potential can cause people to buy more vehicles to build of rental fleets.

John Shriner, a Turo host who lives in Waikiki, bears out the study’s findings. He owns four cars: two Cadillac sedans, a Volvo sedan and a Dodge Journey SUV. Although Shriner said much of his business comes from tourists, about 20% to 30% of his business is from people who live here. His fleet provides a steady income, he said. And since he owns the cars outright, he said, he nets even more than the Turo study suggests the average operator makes.

Shriner said he usually offers all four of his vehicles for rent, although he might use one vehicle himself if Shriner’s other gig, as a television and movie extra, requires him to work in a remote area with scant bus service for a time. Otherwise, he said, he can get by with his electric scooter, a form of micro-mobility that he says is easier to get around on as Oahu’s network of bike lanes grows.

Making it easier to live without the expense of owning a car might seem anathema to a company like Servco Pacific, which is the state’s largest Toyota dealer, a 100-year-old company with deep roots in Hawaii. But Wada said the company years ago shifted from thinking of itself as a car dealer to being a “mobility company,” more about solving transportation problems than merely selling cars.

In that context, taking cars off the road makes sense, she said.

“It’s a question we had from the beginning,” she said of Servco’s decision to launch a car share business. “Why would a company that sells cars put something together that says you don’t really need to own a car.”

Struggling To Get By” is part of our series on “Hawaii’s Changing Economy” which is supported by a grant from the Hawaii Community Foundation as part of its CHANGE Framework project.

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