Buying a Car in Hawaii

When it comes to car buying, Hawaii has some regulations that are slightly different from what you find in other states. Take a look at some Hawaii-specific information here to help you through your vehicle purchasing experience in the Aloha State.

1. Title Information

The State of Hawaii requires all local vehicles to be titled in Hawaii. If you purchase a vehicle from a dealer there, they should handle the title and registration for you.

If you purchase a previously used vehicle from a private owner, you need to make certain that you get the title, a bill of sale and insurance already purchased for the vehicle. As soon as you get the vehicle, you will need to get it inspected and weighed. You will then have to take all of this information to a satellite city hall office in order to register and transfer the title. Hawaii requires this to be done in person.

2. Insurance Information

Hawaii requires car owners to carry insurance at all times on any vehicle in their name. There are no options to take out a bond with the state or any other choice to circumvent the insurance; all owners must have insurance, no exception.

The insurance requirements for Hawaii are somewhat stronger than in most states, thanks to the volcanic terrain and tight roads. The insurance minimums are as follows:

  • $20,000 individual bodily injury liability ($40,000 per accident)
  • $10,000 personal injury protection
  • $10,000 property damage liability
  • $20,000 underinsured motorist ($40,000 per accident)
  • $20,000 uninsured motorist ($40,000 per accident)

Hawaii requires insurance cards to be in vehicles at all times, and that potential owners get an insurance letter detailing planned insurance before purchasing a vehicle.

3. Emission Information

Hawaii has no emission standards or regulations, as the problems it has with air have everything to do with volcanic ash and little to do with vehicle pollution. However, the state does spend a great deal of effort on promoting greener vehicles — including by providing incentives to those who drive them — so if you are going to buy a vehicle in Hawaii, think about going electric.

4. Lemon Law Information

Hawaii has a somewhat complicated Lemon Law, thanks to the state’s choice of introducing the State Certified Arbitration Program (SCAP). This program is designed to help citizens of Hawaii understand and deal with a lemon vehicle situation. The state even has a handbook to help you follow every step of the process.

In general, Hawaii’s Lemon Law only covers new vehicles during the first 24,000 miles or two years (whichever happens first). For a vehicle to fall under the law, one of the following situations must apply:

  • There have been three unsuccessful attempts to repair a specific problem on the vehicle.
  • The vehicle has spent 30 cumulative days in the shop.
  • The vehicle has a problem so severe that it could cause death.

Once one of the above situations has come to pass, the vehicle owner must contact the manufacturer and give it one more attempt to fix the vehicle. If that does not remedy the problem, then the owner can choose to either hire a lawyer or request help from SCAP. Hawaii’s government suggests going through SCAP, as it is a streamlined program specifically designed to help consumers get their replacement or refund on an inherently problematic vehicle.

5. Special Information

One thing worth noting in Hawaii is that each county has slightly different rules on vehicle registrations and titles. So make sure that you check out each county’s Web page, in case there are some small differences in the county where you are buying the vehicle: