Moving to Hawaii : Getting Your Car Registered

Considering a move to Hawaii and wondering if you should bring your car?

There is a LOT to consider and perhaps in a future post, I’ll talk about the pro’s and cons of doing so.

For me…it was more cost effective to ship my 2002 Toyota 4Runner for $1500 from Las Vegas than attempt to find something to buy here.

This is something you’ll have to research from where you are moving from and see how cost effective it is for you. 

I have heard of people driving their car from East Cost to California and shipping from there so that is an option. I’ve heard of prices ranging around $900 from a California port.

 My car is paid off and I wasn’t interested in acquiring a car payment.

If you do plan on bringing your car to Hawaii, know your work doesn’t stop when the car lands in the harbor.

There are some hoops to jump through and they might be different than what you are used to on the mainland.

My experience in getting my Toyota 4runner registered once I landed in Kauai

1. Be comfortable with sticking out in the crowd

One thing they do when your car is shipped is hand it over with a white X on a window.  

I thought nothing of this and didn’t even bother cleaning it off until I went to a 7-11 and walked in at the same time as another guy that had apparently gotten his car too.  He asked me where I was from and commented he saw the X on the window and his car had the same. 

I also felt like I was on display driving around the island with Nevada plates on my car. Obviously, very different plate than a Hawaii plate. I was already painfully aware it might be very obvious I wasn’t local, the car with Nevada plates didn’t help. 

2. Safety Check ~ I come from Nevada where a safety inspection wasn’t required annually but a smog check was (unless you have a brand new car)

When I researched what I had to do to register my car, I soon discovered I would need to find some place to do a safety inspection as well as figure out how to get the weight of my vehicle.

Fortunately, I asked a really cool new friend I made while looking at homes and she referred me to a mechanic /garage in my area

but I also wanted to see if I could find a reputable Toyota dealer in Kauai.

Found one, but couldn’t get in to have my vehicle checked until July 21st which technically makes me illegal in driving around on Nevada plates for longer than 30 days after moving here.

As I dug around a bit, I found a link showing all the places I could get this done by zip code.

Decided to find one near me and go there instead in hopes of not having to wait so long

Happy to report that as a retired Law Enforcement Officer – I remained legal and all registered within 30 day time frame.

3. Paperwork Needed ~  I also had to make sure I have the paperwork received when I shipped my car over.  This can be a challenge if you don’t organize your paperwork well, or like me, find yourself living out of a suitcase in temporary housing with limited space to keep track of everything.

This paperwork was the shipping manifest I got when I picked up my car. 

Thankfully, I kept this and it was HUGE when registering and here is why….

They wanted to know the weight of my car! 

4. What’s this going to cost me? 

One of my biggest concerns when shipping my car was the fact my registration was due while my car would be on the boat.  I wasn’t sure if I should renew my Nevada registration and see what happens in Hawaii or let my car expire and find out how to get a temporary when in Hawaii. 

I opted to pay for my registration in Nevada and I’m sure glad I did. 

I ended up driving around the island for almost the entire 30 days and since my plate likely REALLY stuck out among all the Hawaii plates, it was active. 

good-news when moving to hawaii

5. Good news if your car is registered when you ship it

 When I finally got all my paperwork together, headed off to the Department of Motor Vehicles here, I was pleased to find out that my entire registration amount transferred here to Hawaii (Kauai). 

I had to pay a little bit, but no where near the $240-270 it would have cost me had I not already paid for this back home. 

I’m not sure, but I suspect that registering in Nevada was the cheapest route to go. 

6. Finding the Department of Motor Vehicles in Kauai

So here is where things really got interesting. 

Finding the DMV was an adventure to say the least. 

I did my research and went to the Kauai County website to find out what was needed as well as where to go to get my car registered in Hawaii. 

Might just be me, but I found it a bit challenging to get through but I was able to obtain all the information I needed. 

Next came the hard part – finding the office. 

Now…I didn’t believe it was going to be hard to find the office when I set out to find it.  I had the address, I had GPS on my phone and had a good working knowledge of Lihue where I had to go to get this done.

Warning: GPS is NOT always accurate

If you ask my daughter, she might start laughing because we drove around and around, we walked around and around, and we even asked a live person where to go. 

Eventually, we got back in the car and drove to a whole other building that I thought just might house the DMV. 

Fortunately, an awesome employee there pointed me back to where I REALLY needed to go which was back tot he original building I wandered ALL around. 

Turns out…

you just have to KNOW where the DMV is because it isn’t very well labeled outside. 

Once you do find it, all is good, but the challenge is to find it. 

For anyone coming to Kauai and planning on registering a car or getting a Hawaii Drivers License

When you go to the address you have for this location….do all the way around to the back. Parking and this office is located off Hardy street.  🙂 

You are welcome ! 

Keep Calm It doesn't end here

The fun didn’t end here

Earlier in this post, I mentioned where I had to get a safety inspection and I ended up going to Union 76 station directly across the street from the DMV.  This is one of the best places to go and you can go without an appointment, although if they are busy, you may have to wait a bit. 

After my vehicle was inspected and passed (thank goodness), I was given a temporary paper for the inspection, but NO sticker yet that MUST be on my vehicles back bumper. 

Once I was done with getting new registration, I had to go back to the 76 station to show them and allow them to take a picture of my plates on my car AND place the sticker on my car. 

and there’s MORE

because I went to DMV without any tools, I wasn’t able to take my plates off my car but knew 76 Station would put them on for me when they put the sticker on. 

Only thing was…

The DMV lady wanted my plates back (yea yea, I could have just ignored this – they just want to be sure my plates aren’t used by another in the commission of a crime).  This meant, after going to the 76 station, going to DMV, going back to 76 station, I had to go back to DMV. 

Fortunately, I just handed my plates over the counter without getting a long line again for a 2 second transaction. 

NOTE:  Be prepared to take your plates off so you can avoid having to come back unless you want to pay for postage to send plates back to your local DMV (or keep them for memories etc) 

 So there you have it… 

If you’ve gotten some value from this post (especially if you are moving to Hawaii) let me know! 

What else would you like to read about to prepare for your move to Hawaii?  Let me know in the comments below



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Got something you want to share with others?  LOOK, I blog about moving to Hawaii and living in Kauai and have found a way to provide value to others. 

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