People in a car by the ocean in Hawaii

Rules for shipping a car to/from Hawaii: Your go-to guide


It’s actually much easier than they imagine. There are, however, specific rules and regulations you should make yourself aware of before you make the move to or from Hawaii. 

The aim of this article is to share everything you need to know about those rules for shipping a car to/from Hawaii, so you can be better prepared. Not only that, but we’re also going to cover the basics and give you some tips when shipping your car to/from Hawaii. That way, you’ll appreciate how easy the process is.  

As we’ve already mentioned, the process of shipping a car to or from Hawaii is relatively uncomplicated, as long as you follow the rules. 

What are the rules for shipping a car from Hawaii to the mainland?

Before you ship a car from Hawaii to the mainland, you should clean it thoroughly, both inside and outside. Your vehicle must also be in good running order if you’ve chosen a roll-on and roll-off Hawaii car shipping service. 

It’s advisable to perform standard maintenance checks before you ship your car. These checks might include fluid levels and tire pressure, the battery has to be charged 45% to 65%, and there must be no fluid leaks. If your vehicle has a fluid leak, it may be refused entry onto the ship. 

The rules for shipping a car from Hawaii to the mainland include providing certain clearances and documentation. These include:

  • Valid license and current registration for the vehicle;
  • Proof of ownership, title, or bill of sale;
  • If you’ve leased your vehicle, you must provide authorization from the lien holder that you can ship the vehicle;
  • Information relating to the person who is responsible for picking up the vehicle;
  • Bill of Lading;
  • Certificate of safety inspection.

When you ship a car from Hawaii, you first have to get your car to the port. This is because the standard Hawaii auto transport service is port-to-door. Don’t stress if you can’t drive your car to the port yourself. You can appoint a representative to act on your behalf. There are a couple of requirements if this is the case. Your representative has to be aged 18 years or over. They also have to have a power of attorney, signed by you, that confirms the car can be shipped. 

After traveling across the ocean, your car will arrive at a port on the mainland. You can pick it up yourself if you live nearby. If you choose to do this, you’ll have to provide specific documentation before the port authorities release the car into your care. This documentation includes:

  • A copy of the title document and current registration, the name on it has to match the shipping order;
  • A copy of the authorization from the lien holder if you’ve leased your vehicle;
  • If you own your car jointly, both owners must be present. If this isn’t possible, the absent owner has to provide notarized consent;
  • Valid photo ID and proof of ownership.

You can avoid the need for all this paperwork by hiring an auto transport company to collect your car for you and deliver it to your home.

What are the rules for shipping a car to Hawaii from the mainland?

The rules for shipping a car to Hawaii from the mainland are much more straightforward. No extra paperwork is needed. However, if you’re not staying for an extended period, you must apply for an out-of-state permit. 

If you plan to become a permanent resident of one of the islands, you must register the vehicle within 30 days. We’ll look at this process a little further down the page. 

Whichever way you want to ship a car there are things you need to do to get your car ready. 

How to prepare your car for shipping

Once you’ve booked your Hawaii car shipping service, you’ve got to get your vehicle ready for shipping. 

  • Carefully clean the inside and outside of your car. This means it’ll be ready to drive straight away as soon as it’s delivered. It also allows you to check the condition of your vehicle. 
  • Photograph any damage. You can use these photos to compare your car upon delivery.
  • Perform some basic maintenance. Check the tires are correctly inflated, the battery on a standard car is charged 45% to 65%, and the fluids are topped up. 
  • Any removable parts must be secured or removed. This includes items such as custom stereos, after-market video and DVD players, your GPS, and a car charger.
  • Deactivate alarms, parking passes, and toll tags. The driver won’t need the passes and tags during the journey, and they won’t appreciate the alarm going off unexpectedly. 
  • Run the gas tank down to a maximum of a quarter full. This is because it’s not safe to transport a car with a full tank of gas. 

Once you’ve made all these preparations, your car will be ready for its journey.

Register your car within 30 days of its arrival

All vehicles must be registered through the Hawaii Department of Transportation. Hawaii is made up of islands, which means registration is a little different than other US states. Before you can fully register your car, you must obtain a safety inspection certificate. To complete the registration, you’ll also have to provide:

  • Completed application for registration of the motor vehicle
  • Recent out-of-state certificate of vehicle registration
  • Out-of-state title
  • Bill of lading or shipping receipt
  • Vehicle’s weight, as provided by the manufacturer
  • A motor vehicle use tax certification form
  • Registration  fees

If you are taking your vehicle to Hawaii but not staying long enough to register it, you can apply for an out-of-state permit. You must complete this within 30 days of arrival. To apply for this permit, you must provide:

  • Current registration card
  • Vehicle inspection certificate
  • Out-of-state vehicle permit application
  • Bill of lading or shipping receipt
  • $5 for the permit fee

Each county in Hawaii has a slightly different registration process. The process will also differ depending on whether you’ve moved from one county to another, purchased a vehicle from a private seller, or bought the vehicle from a dealership.  

Licensing requirements

The minimum (fully licensed) driving age in Hawaii is 17 years old. Hawaii has a three-stage graduated licensing program for drivers under the age of 18. There is the initial Instructional Permit phase, which is valid for 12 months. After which there is the Provisional License stage, followed by the Full Driver’s License.

You can drive in Hawaii using an International Driver’s License, but it depends on the type of foreign driver’s license you have. 

Hawaii Road Rules: Know them before you drive

Here’s a list of some of the basic rules you need to follow when you’re driving in Hawaii.

  • Hawaii’s speed limits and traffic rules are strictly enforced. The basic speed limit rule for the islands is that you have to drive reasonably and prudently, depending on the traffic and weather conditions. Hawaii has the lowest maximum speed limit of any state in the US. 
  • Signs are posted and easily visible across the islands.
  • You must wear seat belts at all times in private vehicles.
  • You must signal 100 feet before making a turn or stopping.
  • A right turn on a red light after stopping is permitted unless indicated otherwise.
  • Pedestrians have the right of way at any intersection.
  • Hawaii law requires the use of hands-free devices for talking on a cell phone while driving.
  • GPS or mapping services are permitted.
  • All children must wear seat belts, while those weighing less than 50 pounds must be secured in a child safety or booster seat.
  • If you find yourself driving too far below the minimum speed limit, you must pull over and let the traffic pass.
  • By driving a Hawaii vehicle, you have legally consented to blood, urine, or breath tests for alcohol.

You can find a full breakdown of the rules and regulations in the official Hawaii driver’s manual

How much does it cost to ship a car to Hawaii? And from Hawaii?

When a Hawaii car shipping company calculates the cost of shipping a car from the mainland to Hawaii or from Hawaii to the mainland, there are several factors they must take into account. They include:

  • The distance between the pick-up and delivery locations;
  • Whether they’re shipping your car from or to a rural or metropolitan area;
  • The type of car you want to ship and how old it is;
  • Whether the vehicle is operable or not running;
  • The time of year;
  • What type of auto transport you require, for example, open vs. enclosed auto transport;
  • Supply and demand for your chosen route.

How long does it take to ship a car to Hawaii from the mainland or vice versa?

There’s a vast amount of water between Hawaii and the mainland. There’s also the time it takes to transport a car across the country to add to the equation. The ocean leg of the journey can take between one and three weeks, and then you’ve got to add the time it takes to get to or from your chosen location on the mainland. To give you a rough guide as to the various shipping timeframes, here are a few examples. 

From city/stateTo city/stateShipping time in days
Miami, FLCity in Hawaii13-20
Houston, TXHillo9-16
HilloHouston, TX8-12
New York, NYHonolulu13-20
Atlanta, GAKahului12-19
KahuluiAtlanta, GA12-19
KawaihaeTampa, FL12-16
NawiliwiliMiami, FL12-16
Cincinnati, OHKawaihae13-20


These are just average transit times, and they can be affected by weather conditions, traffic , androad conditions, etc.  

Hawaii car shipping vs. renting or buying a car

Hawaii car interior

Some of you might be wondering whether it’s better to rent or buy a new car on the islands of Hawaii. Let’s look at these three options and help you decide which is the best for you. 

Choose Hawaii auto transport, and you can ship a car from various ports on the mainland. They include Long Beach, Oakland, and San Diego in California. Tacoma and Seattle are ports in Washington. Once your vehicle has left the mainland, you can collect it from one of the following ports:

  • Oahu, Honolulu
  • Honolulu, Big Island of Hawaii
  • Maui, Kahului
  • Kauai, Nawiliwili

If you want to ship a car to Hawaii, the service is a door-to-port one. Your vehicle is picked up from a location of your choosing and delivered to a port on a Hawaii island of your choice. There are several benefits of Hawaii car shipping, for example:

  • It’s typically the cheaper option;
  • There is no stress involved;
  • It saves time and effort;
  • You can ship more than one vehicle at the same time;
  • Choose enclosed auto transport, and you get extra protection for valuable vehicles.

Buying a car in Hawaii

You might like the idea of buying a new car in Hawaii, but one of the most significant disadvantages is that it might cost more. A new car will come with all the bells and whistles, but is it worth the extra expense? 

You’ll save money if you ship your trusty motor to Hawaii. You won’t have to pay for a brand-new or second-hand car. The only thing you’ll have to do is get a new license plate for your old vehicle, and you’re ready to hit the road and explore your new location. 

Renting a car in Hawaii

Renting a car might also seem appealing, but it’s really only viable if your plans are for a short stay on the islands. Stay for longer than a few weeks, and the cost of car rental will seriously eat into your budget. 

Ship a car to Hawaii, and you’ll save on the rental cost and enjoy peace of mind because you're familiar with the car you’re driving. 

How to ship a car to Hawaii in 3 easy steps

1. Get a quote and book your order

You can use our instant online quote calculator to find out how much it costs to ship a car to Hawaii. You must input a few details, for example:

You can also call or use Live Chat. Once you’ve got your quote, if you like the price, go ahead and book your Hawaii auto transport service. 

2. The car shipping company picks up your vehicle

The carrier will contact you before the pick-up date so they can schedule a convenient location and time. When the carrier arrives, you inspect your vehicle with the driver and note its condition on the Bill of Lading. You’ll get a copy of this document, so remember to take it with you when you collect it from the port in Hawaii. 

3. The car shipping company delivers your vehicle

The carrier will contact you to let you know your car is due to arrive at the port. This call is to make sure you’re going to be available to collect it. When you collect your car, inspect it carefully, and compare the condition with the Bill of Lading. If everything is in order, you sign the Bill of Lading to receive the car and drive it away. 

How to ship a car from Hawaii

When you ship a car from Hawaii the process is slightly different. Step 1 is just the same. For example, you get a quote and book your order. For the next step, you have to get your car to the port in Hawaii. 

Your car is picked up from a port in Hawaii

You can have your car shipped from a variety of ports on the Hawaiian islands. Whichever port you choose, whether it’s Honolulu, Kahului, Nawiliwili, or Hilo, you must take some things with you when you deliver your car. 

These items include:

  • Confirmation of your auto transport order
  • The remote or the keys for your car alarm and the keys for your car
  • The current registration documents for the car
  • The title for the car or a letter of authorization or power of attorney if the vehicle is leased or financed
  • A government-issued picture ID

If you can’t deliver the car to the port in Hawaii yourself, you can appoint a representative. They must be 18 years of age or older. You will also have to give them proof of a power of attorney that confirms the car can be shipped. 

The car shipping company delivers your vehicle

When your car arrives on the mainland, you can have it collected and delivered to your door by an auto transport company. The company will contact you a few hours before they are due to deliver your vehicle. This is to make sure you’re going to be available to receive the delivery. When your car arrives, inspect it carefully and compare its condition with the Bill of Lading. If everything is in order, you sign the Bill of Lading to receive the car. 

Why Is It Important To Follow The Rules For Shipping A Car To Hawaii?

It's important to follow the rules for shipping a car to Hawaii because neglecting to do so can result in your vehicle being held at the port or even seized by US Customs. It’s important to be aware of what is and isn’t allowed when shipping a car to Hawaii, so you don’t run into any problems.

If you're planning to ship your car to Hawaii, be sure to look up any customs or border rules that may impact your shipment.  For example, there are rules about the value of items that can be shipped duty-free. If your car's value exceeds this limit, you may have to pay duties and taxes on the car when it arrives in Hawaii.

You may also want to be aware of any proof of ownership requirements for the car. In some cases, US Customs may require you to provide proof that you are the legal owner of the car before it will be released to you.

Be sure to check with your shipping company and the Hawaii Department of Transportation (DOT) for more information on rules and regulations that may impact your shipment. There may be hidden costs, road rules, and border rules when shipping your car to Hawaii.

Frequently asked questions for shipping your car to/from Hawaii

Hawaii road drive

There are a few common questions asked by people who want to ship a car to/from Hawaii. Let’s give you the answers here on this page.

What do I need to arrange for my shipment to or from Hawaii? 

The auto transport company will need some basic information before you can arrange Hawaii car shipping. This information includes the year, make, and model of your vehicle, the color and VIN, and the license plate number. To pick up the car, the port requires a representative over the age of 18 who has a valid ID. 

How is payment made for Hawaii car shipping?

The only payment method for Hawaii car shipping is with a credit card, for which you pay the Regular Price. Payments made using a company check have to clear funding before we can make arrangements. 

Can I ship a modified vehicle to or from Hawaii?

There are restrictions in place when it comes to shipping a modified vehicle. If your vehicle exceeds 21’6” in length x 8’ width x 7’ height, you will have to make special arrangements. 

What if I want to ship a sport, vintage, or specialty car?

When you choose auto transport to ship a car, you have two options. You can select open car transport or enclosed auto transport. 

Open car transport is a budget-friendly option for those who want to ship a car from Hawaii to the mainland or vice versa. It’s the auto transport service of choice for many people, including car dealerships. This service is a very safe and affordable option. 

If, however, you’re the proud owner of a sports, vintage, specialty, luxury, or custom car, enclosed auto transport is a more suitable option. The trailers used for this service overland are enclosed on all four sides, thereby providing maximum protection. There is, however, a slightly higher cost of around 30% to 40%.   

Is it possible to track my vehicle electronically when I ship it to or from Hawaii? 

As long as you have a booking number, you can track your vehicle electronically when it is on an ocean freight vessel.

What if I’ve got a question you haven’t answered?

Here at SGT Auto Transport, we appreciate that everyone’s situation is unique. If you’ve got a question, don’t ever be afraid to ask. We have a team of professional shipping advisors who are always happy to talk to our customers about their specific situations. Our ultimate goal is to provide an auto transport service that’s just right for you.

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