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Registering your vehicle in Hawaii allows you to legally drive your car in the state. It also proves ownership in case the vehicle gets stolen or you need to sell it. If you just moved to Hawaii or bought a used car, you’ll need to transfer the registration and title into your name.

If you’re short on time, here’s the quick answer: To register a car in Hawaii, you’ll need to visit your local DMV office with proof of ownership, get your car inspected, show proof of insurance, and pay registration fees. The whole process usually takes 1-2 weeks.

In this comprehensive guide, we’ll walk through all the steps and requirements for registering your car in Hawaii step-by-step, from acquiring the necessary paperwork to getting new license plates.

Determine the Necessary Documents

Proof of Ownership

The most critical document required to register a car in Hawaii is proof that you own the vehicle. Acceptable proof includes a valid car title or registration certificate from another state. The title or registration must have your name listed as the legal owner.

If buying from a dealership, bring the purchase agreement showing transfer of ownership. For private sales, you’ll need a bill of sale along with the properly signed-over title from the previous owner.

Safety Check Certificate

Hawaii requires all vehicles to pass an annual safety check before registration. You’ll need to take your car to a certified safety check station to have a 19-point inspection performed. If the car passes, you’ll get a safety check certificate that must be presented when registering the vehicle.

Proof of Insurance

You must carry a minimum level of liability insurance to operate a motor vehicle in Hawaii. Acceptable proof is an insurance card or policy declaration page showing the vehicle and effective coverage dates. Hawaii requires insurance with the following minimum liability limits:

  • $20,000 bodily injury liability per person
  • $40,000 total bodily injury liability per accident
  • $10,000 property damage liability per accident

Having valid insurance is mandatory, so don’t try registering a car without it.

Personal Identification

To register a car with the DMV, you must confirm your identity by presenting an approved form of identification. This includes any valid driver’s license, state-issued ID card, passport, or military ID.

If the vehicle is being registered in more than one person’s name, all owners need to be physically present with their IDs.

Document Details
Title or Registration Must list owner’s name, valid in any state
Safety Check Certificate Annual inspection from certified station
Insurance Card Proves minimum liability coverage in place
Driver’s License or State ID Confirms identity, required for all owners

Having these four key items readily available will ensure you can successfully register your vehicle in Hawaii. Allow several weeks for processing if titles need transferred between states. Contact your local DMV office or insurance agent with any other registration questions.

Get Your Vehicle Inspected

Getting your vehicle inspected is an important step when registering a car in Hawaii. Here is a detailed overview of the vehicle inspection process:

Emissions Testing

All vehicles in Hawaii must pass an emissions test before they can be registered. Emissions testing examines the exhaust from your vehicle to ensure it meets environmental standards for pollutant levels. Most vehicles less than 25 years old need to undergo emissions testing.

You can get an emissions test done at authorized emissions testing stations across Hawaii. The test typically costs around $25-$35. Make sure to bring your valid insurance card and driver’s license when you go for emissions testing.

Safety Inspection

In addition to emissions testing, your vehicle also needs to pass a safety inspection. Safety inspections examine various vehicle components like the brakes, lights, turn signals, seat belts, tires, etc. to verify they meet the state’s operating standards.

Safety inspections typically cost $10-$20 and can be conducted at most auto repair shops or state-approved inspection stations. Items that may cause your vehicle to fail include:

  • Worn out or missing brakes
  • Cracked or damaged glass
  • Broken or missing lights/turn signals
  • Damaged or bald tires
  • Missing or inoperable seat belts

If your vehicle fails either the emissions or safety inspection, you will need to make the necessary repairs before you can complete the registration process.

Timeframe for Inspection

Keep in mind that inspection certificates are only valid for 30 days. So you need to complete your vehicle registration within 30 days of passing inspection. If the registration process takes longer for some reason, you may need to get your vehicle reinspected.

Visit the DMV to Register Your Car

An essential step when registering a car in Hawaii is to physically visit your local DMV office. This allows you to complete all the necessary paperwork and pay the required fees to officially register your vehicle with the state. Follow these key steps during your DMV visit:

Fill Out the Vehicle Registration Form

The Hawaii DMV provides a vehicle registration application form that must be filled out. This comprehensive form will ask for details like your name, address, vehicle details (VIN, year, make, model etc. ), insurance information, and whether you’ll be registering the car for personal or business use.

Take your time and fill out the form completely and accurately. Around 97% of all vehicle registrations in Hawaii are now processed online, so double check you have not missed anything before submission.

Show Your Documents

In addition to the registration form, the DMV will also need to verify your identity and ownership of the car. Be sure to carry documents like your driver’s license or state ID, your vehicle’s title or proof of ownership, safety check certificates, bill of sales, and current insurance cards.

Showing these documents is mandatory during the Hawaii vehicle registration process at the DMV office. You may even need additional paperwork if you are registering the car under a business name.

Pay Fees

There are registration fees that must be paid during the new car registration process, which vary based on the vehicle type, registered gross weight, county registered in etc. For a standard passenger vehicle, you’ll have to pay around $45 as the base registration fee plus weight taxes.

Additional fees also include $5 for reflectorization, $10 for motor vehicle registration, and county registration taxes. Payment can be made via cash, check or money order. Debit/Credit card payment may be accepted at certain locations.

Get License Plates

Finally, once registration payment has been completed, you will get your official Hawaii license plates along with a registration sticker to affix on your vehicle’s plate(s). This signifies you have successfully completed the vehicle registration process for your car in Hawaii.

You must properly display these plates on your car before legally driving it on public roads per state laws.

By taking the time to visit your local DMV branch and following these registration steps, you can ensure your car is properly registered with all documentation in order in the state database. This registration then has to be renewed each year.

Registering When Moving from Another State

Acquire Out-of-State Title

When moving to Hawaii from another state, you’ll need to bring your out-of-state title with you. This proof of ownership allows you to register your car in Hawaii. Make sure the title is current and matches the vehicle identification number (VIN).

Lost titles can be replaced by contacting your previous state’s DMV.

Pass Safety Inspection

Your vehicle must pass a safety inspection at an approved inspection station in Hawaii before registering. Safety requirements include working brakes, horns, wipers, defrosters, gauges, and functional lighting. Tires, glazing, mirrors, emissions controls, and seat belts are checked too.

Inspections typically cost around $25-$35.

Apply for Hawaii Title

Within 30 days after moving, visit your local DMV office or Hawaii DMV website to apply for a Hawaii title. You’ll need to provide the out-of-state title, bill of sale, safety inspection certificate, old license plates, and payment for title, registration and plate fees.

Standard plates cost $45/year while special plates start at $25 plus registration fees.

Register Your Car

When your Hawaii title application is approved, you’ll be issued new license plates and registration. Place the rear plate on your vehicle exterior with the registration document and safety check inside the car. Now you can legally drive your car in Hawaii. Remember to renew registration annually.

By following these key steps, moving a car to Hawaii doesn’t have to be difficult. Just be diligent with documentation and meet all requirements on time. Then you can cruise along Hawaii’s beautiful highways worry-free.

Renewing Your Car Registration

Registration Renewal Notice

The Hawaii DMV will mail you a registration renewal notice 45-60 days before your current registration expires. This notice will have details on the renewal fees owed and any other required documentation.

Pay close attention to the due date on your notice so you can complete the renewal on time and avoid late fees or lapses in coverage.

Complete Renewal Application

You can renew your registration in several convenient ways in Hawaii:

Gather any required information like your license plate number, vehicle identification number (VIN), mileage, insurance documentation, and safety check certificates before starting the application.

Pay Renewal Fees

Typical registration renewal fees in Hawaii range from $20-45 depending on your vehicle type. Fees can be paid:

  • Online by credit/debit card if renewing online.
  • By check or money order if renewing by mail.
  • In cash if renewing in person.

You’ll also need to pay for a periodic motor vehicle inspection (safety check) performed by an approved inspection station. The fees for safety checks average around $15-30.

Look into discount renewal options if you qualify, like Hawaii’s Disabled Parking Placard Program which offers reduced registration fees.

Vehicle Type Standard Renewal Fee
Passenger vehicle $45
Motorcycle $20
Trailer $7.50 plus weight fees

Following this renewal process ensures your vehicle stays properly registered in Hawaii. 👍 Renewing on time prevents citations for driving an unregistered vehicle too. Let us know if you have any other questions!


Registering your car is essential to legally drive in Hawaii. By following the step-by-step process, you’ll get through it smoothly. Be sure to have all the required paperwork ready beforehand. Properly registering your vehicle protects you in case issues like theft arise down the road.

We covered all the key steps for initial registration, including the safety check, DMV paperwork, and fees. We also went over important details for transferring existing out-of-state registration and renewing tags. Now you have a full guide to walk you through registering a car in Hawaii.

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