What is the best car to drive in Hawaii?

What is the best car to drive in Hawaii?


Whether you’re moving to Hawaii for the winter or making a more permanent change of location, being able to drive around is essential. The islands may be on the small side, compared with the mainland, but you still need to get around. There is a public transport system. But you’re limited to taking the bus, which is not the most convenient way to travel. 

In this article, we will look at the options for anyone who wants to drive a car around the islands. There are things you need to consider, and we don’t mean how stylish your vehicle is. Gas prices, parking spaces, sea air, traffic jams, safety, and security all play a role in deciding the best car to drive in Hawaii. 

To make sure you’ve got all the necessary information, we’ll also provide you with some driving tips, compare the cost of buying a vehicle with the mainland, and introduce an affordable way of shipping a car to Hawaii

Factors you should consider

If you want the best car to drive in Hawaii, there are a few essential factors to consider. The driving conditions are not the same as on the mainland. Fuel prices are higher, traffic is much heavier, and believe it or not, the parking spaces are smaller. Before you rush into buying a slick-looking car, bear the following points in mind because they’ll make driving in Hawaii a better experience.

Fuel efficiency

Gas prices may have fallen for the last four consecutive weeks, but that still doesn’t mean gas is cheaper in Hawaii. When writing this article, gas prices are around 60 cents more than on the mainland. Historically, Hawaii also lags behind the mainland when it comes to dropping gas prices. 

If you’re going to pay more for your gas in Hawaii, it makes sense to drive a fuel efficient car. The most fuel-efficient cars currently on the market include:

  • Toyota Camry L
  • Kia Forte FE
  • Nissan Versa
  • Toyota Yaris Hatchback
  • Toyota Corolla
  • Kia Rio
  • Honda Fit LX
  • Hyundai Elantra Eco  

Small and compact

Cars that are physically more compact are good to drive around the islands. The reason for this is that finding a good parking spot can be challenging. The smaller your car, the less time you’ll spend driving around looking for somewhere to park your car. 

Something else you might benefit from knowing is that parking spaces on Hawaii tend to be narrower than the average space on the mainland. 

The many benefits of owning an electric car

An electric car can be the right choice, depending on your needs. When it comes to charging, there are free and cheap charging stations everywhere. 

Another added benefit is that parking is free at all state-owned locations for owners of electric cars. That includes all parking meters (for up to two hours), all parking garages, and two weeks at the airport.

Because of the islands’ size, the range on an electric car is not something you need to stress about. It’s easily possible to do from end to end on a single charge.  

Are you looking for fun off-road?

Are you going to be spending a lot of time off-road? What are you going to use your car for? If you plan to spend your weekends at the beach surfing, make sure the car you drive has enough roof to fit a surfboard inside. 

A tow hitch might also come in handy if you want to carry bicycles or a trailer. And if this is your plan, make sure the engine is big enough to handle the extra work you need it to do. 

Damaging sun and salt spray

The sun and salt spray can be very damaging to vehicles. Leave it out in the sun or by the coast for long enough, and it destroys the paint job and interior. If you decide to spend a lot of money on a vehicle, make sure you keep it covered as much as possible, and wash and wax it regularly. 

Specialist mechanics

You’ll have no problems finding an expert mechanic to work on your car if you own a Toyota or Nissan. There are plenty of mechanics who specialize in these makes and many parts available if you need them. 

Another bonus with owning either of these makes is that they tend to hold their value pretty well. 

Ground clearance

On the whole, the weather in Hawaii is glorious. However, the islands do get their fair share of rain, over 70 inches on average. The wettest island is Kauai and has also earned the title of the wettest spot on the entire planet with an average rainfall of 486 inches. 

We mention the weather because there are specific locations on the islands that are prone to flooding. If you decide to live in the area between Kahaluú and Laie, for example, you might appreciate a car with higher ground clearance for those times when there’s a lot of rain. 

A particular area on the road from Kaneohe can flood very severely. When it happens, the only vehicles that can get through are those with adequate ground clearance. If your car hasn’t got high clearance, you could find yourself cut off from Honolulu. This is not the best position to find yourself in if you work in town.  

The top 5 best cars to drive in Hawaii

Now you know what to look for, let’s introduce 5 of the most popular cars to drive in Hawaii. 

1. Toyota Tacoma 

Toyota tahoma

This vehicle is a big favorite on the islands, many of whom call it their Taco. The truck is substantial and has 159-HP. First and foremost, it’s a pick-up truck, but it can also compete with the big guns off-road. Under the hood is a four-cylinder, V-6 engine and automatic transmission, both of which come into their own when tackling trails and playing in the mud.   

2. Mini cooper

Mini cooper

Size is the defining feature of this little baby. It’s incredibly stylish and nimble on its feet. Another benefit is its high-reliability rating. You can purchase models with 2-5 seats, and it boasts an impressive 134-301-HP. There are three body styles to choose from, the two- and four-door Mini Hardtop and the Mini Convertible. Thanks to its punchy engine and adept handling, it’s a fun car to drive.  

3. Smart car

Mercedes Smart

This tiny electric car has an impressive heritage. The Smart car brand is a subsidiary of Mercedes-Benz and parent company Daimler. The brand first arrived in the US in 2008 and sold almost 25,000 copies of the Fortwo in its first year. Sales have not been all that impressive since then, and it’s taken quite a sharp downturn. 

However, if you’re in the market for a second-hand car, you have to consider the benefits. Size is the most obvious one, plus all the benefits that come with owning an electric vehicle.  

4. Jeep Wrangler 

Jeep wrangler

If you want to drive around Hawaii in style, the Jeep Wrangler is worth considering. Just a couple of years ago, it was one of the most popular cars in Hawaii. 

It comes into its own when you take it off-road, and the unique cabin style provides optimum comfort. Jeep designed this beauty for freedom and fun and made sure it had all-weather capability and bags of off-road power. 

Those looking for a more open-air experience should look at the new Wrangler models as they include a removable top and doors.   

5. Lexus SC430 

Cruising along the coast road with the top down has to be the dream of many people who live in Hawaii, and you can do it in style if you’re driving a Lexus SC430. The leather interior and wood grain dash are always going to draw compliments, and its retractable convertible top gives this car excellent exterior lines. 

It’s exceptionally comfortable to drive, thanks to the bucket seats, and all the controls for the car are easily accessible to you don’t have to take your eyes off the road. 

Check the Lexus SC430

Buying a car in Hawaii vs. buying a car on the mainland

Many things in Hawaii are expensive, and the same applies to new vehicles. Many dealerships charge above and beyond what you’d expect to pay on the mainland. When it comes to buying a used car, you have to factor in the wear and tear and deterioration resulting from the sun and sea air. 

In both cases, you’re better off buying on the mainland and shipping the vehicle to Hawaii yourself. Shipping a car from the mainland to Hawaii is quick, easy, and more affordable than you think. 

Shipping a car from the mainland to Hawaii

Take advantage of Hawaii car transport, and you don’t have to worry about visiting all the dealerships on the island and negotiating a deal that suits your bank balance. Buy your car on the mainland or bring the one you’ve already got and save all the hassle. 

You can ship a car to Hawaii from several different ports. There’s San Diego, Oakland, and Long Beach in California. If Washington is more convenient, Hawaii car shipping is available from Seattle and Tacoma. 

SGT Auto Transport is an auto transport management company that offers a door-to-port service for anyone looking for Hawaii auto transport. We pick your car up from your chosen location, and we deliver it to a port on a Hawaii island of your choosing, ready for you to collect. 

The Hawaii auto transport process is a straightforward one. There are just a few steps.

1. Get a quote and book your order

If you want to know how much it costs to ship a car to Hawaii, use our instant quote calculator. If you’d rather speak directly to a representative, you can use the phone or Live Chat. If you’re happy with the price quotes, you book your Hawaii car transport. 

2. Get your vehicle ready for shipping

When you ship a vehicle to Hawaii, you need to provide the current title and registration, a notarized letter of authorization from any non-present part and a valid ID in order to pick up your car from the port in Hawaii. However, before your vehicle starts its journey, there are a few things you need to do to get your car ready. 

  • Clean the inside and outside of your vehicle
  • Make a record and photograph any dents, scratches, or dings
  • Check your vehicle has no leaking fluids, the brakes and emergency brake are working, the wheels move, and the windows are intact
  • Disconnect all alarms in the vehicle
  • Remove all personal items
  • Get permission to ship the car from the leasing company, if you’ve leased your vehicle

3. A Hawaii car shipping company picks up your vehicle

You get to choose the pick-up location, and it can be anywhere that is safe and legal for large trucks and trailers. The Hawaii auto transport company will contact you before the scheduled pick-up date to ensure the location has no restrictions, low-hanging power lines, or trees. If there are, an alternative location will have to be arranged. 

When the auto transport driver arrives to pick-up your vehicle, you both have to check over your vehicle and record any existing damage on the Bill of Lading. Once this formality is out of the way, the driver can load your vehicle and be on their way. 

4. They deliver your vehicle

The Hawaii car transport company will deliver your vehicle to a port of your choosing. When you collect it, you must first examine its condition to make sure everything is in order. If it is, you sign the Bill of Lading to accept your vehicle and pay any money due. 

Shipping a car to Hawaii: How much will it cost?

The price for shipping a car from the mainland to Hawaii depends on several factors. These include:

  • The distance between the pick-up and delivery locations
  • Whether your vehicle is being shipped from a rural or metropolitan location
  • The make, model, and year of your car
  • Whether your car is running or not
  • What type of auto transport service you choose
  • The time of the year
  • How popular your particular route is

How long does it take for a car to be shipped from the mainland to Hawaii?

The ocean leg of your vehicle’s journey can take anything from one to three weeks. Here is a table with some examples of various shipping timeframes. 

From city/stateTo city/stateShipping time in days
Miami, FLCity in Hawaii13-20
Houston, TXHillo9-16
New York, NYHonolulu13-20
Atlanta, GAKahului12-19
Cincinnati, OHKawaihae13-20

The Avg. Transit Times shown up above can be affected by weather conditions, road conditions, traffic, etc.

Driving in Hawaii: Top Tips

Contrary to what you might think, driving in Hawaii is not the same as driving on the mainland. The most significant difference is that the speed limits tend to be lower. However, that doesn’t seem to stop most resident drivers driving over the limit. Here are a few more essential things you need to know before hitting Hawaii’s highways.

  • Stick to the speed limits: They are low for a reason, and that’s because speeding is a big problem in Hawaii and the cause of many accidents. Speed detection is wide-spread, and if you get a ticket, it can work out to be very expensive. 
  • No U-turns on highways: You might find a particular view very tempting to stop and enjoy, but don’t let it distract you or prompt you to stop suddenly to take a photo. 
  • Be extra careful when it’s raining: When it’s raining, the visibility is limited, and the roads can get very slippery. Keep your speed low and remember it only takes a few minutes of rain for the roads to become very slick
  • Check for Hawaii weather, flood advisories, and potholes: For weather forecasts and advisories, check NOAA weather. You don’t want to get caught out by the weather, and driving through floods is not something you want to experience. Potholes are a problem in Hawaii. Some of them are so big they can seriously damage your car
  • Avoid the rush-hour: It’s much better to spend your time sitting on the beach or waiting at home between 6 am to 8.30 am and 3.30 pm to 6 pm. 
  • There’s no such thing as a hard shoulder: Most road shoulders are anything but bard. They are often soft and deep, and even non-existent in places. 
  • Useful directions to learn: Makai means towards the ocean and mauka means towards the mountains. 

If you ever need to ship a car to Hawaii, our shipping advisors will be more than happy to guide you through the process. Call on (864) 546-5038 or use our Live Chat option. They will answer any questions you might have, provide an instant free quote, make your booking, and keep you informed of your vehicle’s progress throughout the Hawaii auto transport process.

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