By Léo Azambuja

Rent-A-Wreck owners Clayton and Adele Robbertze, with Lava and Gizmo. Photo by Léo Azambuja

Rent-A-Wreck is a family-owned rental car business offering island cars for visitors and locals. Their whole fleet is made of compact Toyotas, which the owners say are fantastic cars with engines that last forever.

“You can sum up the business as clean, reliable cars with transparent prices and friendly service,” owner Adele Robbertze said. “Don’t expect anything fancy, just good old-school, mechanically sound cars with a true island look and feel.”

The story of Rent-A-Wreck is a love story. South Africans Clayton and Adele Robbertze visited Kaua‘i separately more than 10 years ago. Back home, they met each other, fell in love and got married. They returned here as a couple for the first time in August 2019, and went back to South Africa as the new owners of Rent-A-Wreck.

“We had an unexpected opportunity to purchase the business while we were on holiday last year,” said Adele, adding because she and Clayton had both fallen in love with the island before knowing each other, the dream of living here had always existed.

“Kaua‘i is partly why we are a married couple today,” she said. “In an odd sequence of events, it is a dream-come-true for us. Individually, we both experienced an incredible sense of belonging to this ancient land. There is nowhere else we would rather be than right here.”

Rent-A-Wreck originally opened as a scooter rental business in 2014. About three years ago, the former owner changed the business name to Rent-A-Wreck, focusing on car rentals. Clayton and Adele bought the business in August last year. In November, Clayton came back to operate their new business, and Adele arrived here for good in January.

Clayton first visited Kaua‘i in 2009. He said as soon as his feet touched the ground, he felt more at home than in any other place in the world. Adele first came in 2010, and had a similar experience. At that time, they didn’t know each other yet.

“Kaua‘i is a very special place for us — it’s home for us,” Clayton said.

As a foreigner, he said, it has been “exceptionally challenging” to open a business in the United States. There was a lot to deal with, from getting the proper visas to opening a bank account or even getting a tax number, he said.

Adele said living here means working hard.

“We are learning that you have to make time to live, or else it would all be for nothing,” she said. So, for now, they take weekends off, and have set up arrangements for their customers to pick up and drop off cars.

Since the pandemic shut down the visitor industry, Rent-A-Wreck lost the bulk of their customers. They still rent to locals who may need a car while theirs is at the shop, or for families visiting from other islands. Because Clayton and Adele have been here for only a few months and are still going through the initial stages of the immigration process, they are not eligible for any government relief funds. But they have been able to keep their heads above the water along with an optimistic attitude.

“We are positive about the future, and can see how people support ‘ohana. We do what we can to help others, and many have knocked on our doors to show up with a friendly word or two,” Adele said.

Rent-A-Wreck is at 3148 Oihana Street, Unit 15 in Līhu‘e. They operate seven days a week, but their office hours are Monday to Friday from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Visit www.rentawreckkauai.com or call (808) 245-7177 or email rentawreckkauai@gmail.com  for bookings or more information.


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