HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) — Lawmakers are considering a bill that would ban peer-to-peer car-sharing programs like Turo, saying it’s unregulated and can lead to overtourism.
The app has saved the lives of tourists struggling to find traditional rental cars, especially during the pandemic when Hawaii has experienced a shortage of vehicles. Turo has enabled many locals to generate additional income by renting out their cars to visitors.
State Representative Sean Quinlan was one of the lawmakers who introduced the bill. He does not expect it to pass, but said it is a signal to the industry that a discussion on tax and regulation is needed.
“When people go to Enterprise or Hertz and they rent a car, they pay extra car rental and all these sorts of fees that we then use as tax dollars to improve our infrastructure,” Quinlan explained. “When they go to Turo, we just don’t get that.”
Quinlan represents the North Shore and said his district is most impacted by overtourism.
“The conversation we’ve had over the past two years is that we don’t want to go back to 11 million visitors a year, we don’t want to do high-volume, low-spend tourism,” Quinlan said. “And unfortunately, Turo makes vacationing in Hawaii less expensive.”
Meanwhile, those who use Turo disagree with the measure.
“You can’t really stop someone from coming here with their rental car,” Turo host Kaipo Cabanting said. “They’re going to come here whether they like it or not.”
Cabanting has been a Turo host for almost a year.
With the cost of living in Hawaii being so high, he said the extra income has been helpful.
“Also able to catch up on the bills and stay ahead of the bills and not have to worry and stress about that part,” Cabanting said.
The car-sharing program has also benefited Turo hosts like Aakara Wiegand in Kauai.
She said she had been booked all last year.
“I have been on social security disability for many years and entering the Turo platform has allowed me for the first time in many years to have a sustainable income without harming my body to make labor easier, ” said Wiegand.
Wiegand doesn’t want to see Turo completely banned in the state, but agrees with the need for taxation and regulation.
“It seems completely legitimate and appropriate,” Wiegand said. “And my experience with Turo, so far, is that they’ve been very professional and very committed to their communication response to make it work for everyone.”
In a statement, Turo said it has been working for several years with policymakers on how to establish a regulatory framework for peer-to-peer car sharing.
“We hope Hawaiian lawmakers see this bill for what it is – a blatant attempt to stifle innovation, economic opportunity and consumer choice for Aloha State residents.”
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