Shipping Cars To Hawaii

Posted Jan 5, 2012 at 3:46pm

If you’re planning a move to Hawaii, you might wonder if it’s worth shipping your current car, motorcycle, or boat overseas, or if you should get rid of it and replace it once you’re living in Hawaii.

The answer depends on several factors:

  • Where would you be shipping your vehicle from?
    • If you live on the West Coast of the U.S. mainland: It costs a little over $1,000 to ship an average-sized car from Washington, Oregon, or California to Hawaii.
    • If you don’t live on the West Coast: You’ll need to factor in the additional costs of driving your vehicle to a West Coast port, or paying the shipping company to transport the car to the port for you. For example, Pasha charges $2,247 if you drop off your car at its Edison, New Jersey terminal and pick it up on Oahu, Maui, or the Big Island.
    • If you live outside the U.S.: You must follow the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration’s rules for importing cars to the U.S. International vehicle shipments can be prohibitively expensive. For example, Matson charges $4,567 to ship a car from Guam to Honolulu.
  • How big is your vehicle? If your vehicle is over 21 feet 8 inches long, or 8 feet wide, or 7 feet high (e.g., a large truck, SUV, RV, or boat), expect to pay more than the standard shipping rate. Some shipping companies also require the vehicle to have 4-5 inches of ground clearance underneath it.
  • What is your vehicle currently worth? Check Kelley Blue Book to determine its current market value. Is your vehicle worth the cost of shipping it?
  • Are you leasing the vehicle? If a lien holder is named on your vehicle registration (i.e., you’re financing or leasing your vehicle), you might be required to get a letter from the lien holder granting permission to ship the vehicle to Hawaii — whether this is required depends on the shipping company you use and where you’re shipping the vehicle from. If you are leasing your vehicle, you might have a difficult time getting permission from your lien holder, and you might have to buy the vehicle in order to ship it to Hawaii. (One exception: If you are a military member, you shouldn’t have any problem getting permission.) NOTE: If you are financing your vehicle toward eventual ownership, you should have no problem getting permission, as long as you’re up-to-date on your payments.
  • How much would a replacement vehicle cost in Hawaii? New cars are generally more expensive to buy in Hawaii than on the U.S. mainland. Used cars can be gotten inxpensively but must be selected carefully, as they can suffer damage from exposure to saltwater, intense sunlight, and humidity.

If you decide to ship your vehicle…

A large ship sits next to a dock, where lots of cars wait to be loaded.

Pasha Hawaii's ship, the Jean Anne.

There are only 3 shipping carriers that transport vehicles overseas from the U.S. mainland to Hawaii: Pasha Hawaii, Horizon Lines, and Matson (see comparison table below).

You may run across other companies offering vehicle shipping services to Hawaii — they are brokers who act as middlemen, and your vehicle will end up getting shipped by Pasha, Horizon, or Matson anyway. WARNING: If you do decide to book your shipment through a broker, first check their record with the Better Business Bureau, otherwise you risk having your money and vehicle stolen by a scam artist posing as shipping broker.

If you need only interisland shipping (from one Hawaiian Island to another) there are only 2 carriers that offer this: Pasha Hawaii and Young Brothers (see comparison table below).

No matter which carrier you choose, the general procedure for shipping your vehicle is the same:

  1. Make a reservation (usually required) to drop off your vehicle at the port.
  2. Before you bring your vehicle to the port, make sure it’s clean and not leaking any fluids, otherwise the carrier might refuse to ship it. It’s also a good idea to wax your vehicle’s exterior, to prevent any rust damage from exposure to salty air and water.
  3. Remove everything from the vehicle that wasn’t factory installed, including any after-market roof rack or stereo/speakers. The only things allowed to remain in the vehicle are child car seats and a spare tire/jack.
  4. Disconnect your car alarm (if you have one) to prevent your car battery from draining during shipment.
  5. When dropping off your vehicle at the port, bring:
    1. Proof of booking reservation (whatever your carrier requires)
    2. Valid drivers license
    3. Vehicle registration (must still be current)
    4. Title or bill of sale, or other proof of ownership (check with your carrier to see if they require this)
    5. Lien holder’s permission to ship vehicle, if you’re leasing or financing the vehicle (check with your carrier to see if they require this)
    6. Proof of insurance (required by Young Brothers only)
    7. Copies of your keys to all parts of the vehicle (ignition, trunk, glove compartment, gas cap, etc.) — it’s recommended that you keep your original set of keys
    8. Contact info for consignee (the person who will be picking up the vehicle)
  6. Make a reservation (usually required) to pick up your vehicle at the port.
  7. When picking up your vehicle at the port, bring:
    1. Proof of vehicle’s arrival (whatever your carrier requires)
    2. Valid drivers license
  8. Save your shipping receipt (also known as a “bill of lading”), which shows the date your picked up your vehicle. You’ll need this to register your vehicle in Hawaii.
  9. Purchase no-fault insurance (required in Hawaii) for your vehicle.
  10. Take your vehicle to a Periodic Motor Vehicle Inspection (PMVI) station (usually found at Hawaii gas stations and auto repair shops) for a state-required safety inspection. (NOTE: You will need proof of Hawaii vehicle insurance before you can do this.) Here’s a list of PMVI stations on Oahu.
  11. Within 30 days of picking up your vehicle from the port, register it with the county that you now live in.

Comparing the Carriers

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Mahalo to Kristal from Horizon Lines for their price estimates above. If you’d like an exact quote for Horizon Lines, she can be reached Monday-Friday until 4:30pm Hawaii Time at 1-877-512-2227 x 1412 (international: +1-972-813-5706 x 1412).