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Transferring ownership of a vehicle is an important process when buying, selling, inheriting, or gifting a car in Hawaii. Doing it properly ensures you stay compliant with Hawaii’s motor vehicle regulations and avoids issues like fines or ownership disputes down the road.

If you’re short on time, here’s a quick answer to your question: Complete the vehicle title transfer documents properly, including the bill of sale and title application, and submit them along with the title transfer fee to the DMV within 30 days to transfer ownership.

This comprehensive guide will outline all the steps, requirements, documents, and tips you need to successfully transfer a car title in Hawaii, whether you are the buyer or seller.

Determine If You Need to Transfer the Car Title

Selling or gifting your vehicle

If you are selling or gifting your car to someone else, you will need to transfer the title. This legally transfers ownership to the new owner. To start the process, you need to locate your car’s title document and complete the “Transfer by Owner” section on the back.

This requires your signature and the buyer’s name and address. You will also need to notify your local DMV to update their records.

Inheriting a vehicle

If you inherit a car from a relative or friend who passes away, you will also need to transfer the title to legally claim ownership. The process starts by locating the title document. If you can’t find it, you can apply for a duplicate from the DMV.

Once you have the title, complete the “Transfer by Inheritance” section on the back. This requires the executor’s signature and your contact information. You must then bring proof of the death and your ID to the DMV to finalize the transfer.

Purchasing a new vehicle

When you buy a brand new car from a dealership, the dealer will handle submitting the title transfer paperwork for you. However, you should still receive the official title document by mail from the DMV within 30 days. This title will have your name listed as the legal owner.

If you don’t receive it on time, you can follow up with the dealership or contact the DMV directly. Having the updated title is important for insurance and registration purposes down the road.

Gather the Necessary Hawaii Title Transfer Documents

When preparing to transfer ownership of a vehicle in Hawaii, you’ll need to have certain documents in order. This ensures the process goes smoothly and complies with Hawaii’s titling and registration laws.

Odometer disclosure statement

Federal law requires the seller of a vehicle transfer title to provide a written odometer disclosure to the buyer. This verifies the vehicle’s mileage at the time of sale. Sellers must record the current odometer reading on the statement.

Odometer fraud is taken seriously, with steep penalties for providing false information.

Proof of valid insurance

To register a vehicle with the Hawaii DMV, you must show proof of valid auto insurance. Most insurers provide an insurance card you can present. Have this card handy before visiting the DMV to transfer the title into your name.

Sales tax clearance

Hawaii levies a tax on vehicle purchases, with rates varying by county.

When applying for a title transfer, you typically need to provide the DMV with a certificate showing any owed sales taxes are paid on the vehicle.

New residents bringing in a car from out of state also need a tax clearance form.

Safety check certificate

To register a used car in Hawaii, state law mandates you complete a safety inspection at an approved safety check station.

This comprehensive 21-point assessment verifies critical vehicle components like brakes, lights, steering, and emissions systems meet state requirements.

Bring this safety certificate when applying for the new title.

Bills of sale

The bill of sale documents the details of a vehicle purchase transaction, like the purchase price, condition of the car, and mileage. While technically not required, having a bill of sale protects both buyers and sellers.

It provides proof of payment and makes it harder for sellers to unlawfully retain ownership. The Hawaii DMV recommends attaching this to your title application.

Manufacturer’s certificate of origin (for brand new vehicles)

For brand new cars purchased from a dealer, you receive a Manufacturer’s Certificate of Origin (MCO) instead of a title.

The MCO verifies the vehicle identity and that no title exists. Present this certificate when applying for a Hawaii title in your name for the first time.

Following Hawaii’s vehicle title transfer guidelines ensures your ownership claim is legitimate. Taking these steps also guarantees you comply with regulations and don’t face registration issues down the road. If you have questions, be sure to contact the Hawaii DOT for guidance.

Complete the Title Transfer Paperwork Properly

Fill out vehicle title application

When transferring a car title in Hawaii, you must properly complete the vehicle title application form. This form can be obtained from the county’s Department of Motor Vehicles office or printed from their website.

Be sure to fill in all required information such as the vehicle identification number (VIN), model year, make, model, odometer reading, and both the buyer and seller’s details. Accurate and legible handwriting is critical to avoid processing delays.

Double check that all fields are filled before submission.

Bill of sale requirements

Hawaii requires a bill of sale when transferring ownership of a motor vehicle. This document formally records the sale between buyer and seller, including key details like the vehicle’s description, sales amount, date of sale, and both parties’ signatures.

Having a bill of sale proves you actually sold the car in case questions arise later. Keep the original for your records too. While there’s no standard Hawaii bill of sale form, make sure yours notes everything necessary to demonstrate a valid transaction occurred.

Signing over the title

The car title is signed over by the seller to legally transfer ownership to the buyer. Look on the title’s back for the “Assignment and Warranty of Title” section. The seller prints and signs their name, includes the sale’s date, then prints the buyer’s name and signs it over.

This signature from the title holder showing change of ownership is mandatory. Some counties require odometer statements as well. Notarization may be needed if banks are financing the purchase. Signing errors could delay new title issuance.

Fees for title transfers

When applying for a new title after a sale, expect to pay Hawaii’s standard title transfer fee. This covers the title application processing and issuance of the updated title in the buyer’s name. Costs vary by county but generally range from $20-$25.

Additional fees include conveyance tax and weight taxes. The conveyance tax is 0.1% of the vehicle’s value. Weight taxes apply for heavy vehicles. Research total costs beforehand so there’s no payment surprise. Have correct payment ready to finish the transfer promptly.

Submit Documents and Fees to the Hawaii DMV

Make an appointment at the DMV

Making an appointment at the Hawaii DMV ahead of time is highly recommended to avoid long wait times. You can easily schedule an appointment online through the DMV’s appointment system or by calling them.

When you go in for your appointment, be sure to bring all required paperwork to transfer the car title.

Bring all completed paperwork

To successfully transfer a car title in Hawaii, you’ll need to bring certain documents with you to the DMV. This includes the vehicle’s current title properly signed and dated by the seller, the bill of sale, any necessary tax forms, and the application for a new title.

Having all paperwork ready ahead of time will help ensure a smooth title transfer process.

Pay title transfer fees

Hawaii charges a title transfer fee to process the ownership change.

As of 2023, this fee is $20. You’ll need to pay this when submitting your paperwork to the DMV.

They accept payment by cash, check, or debit/credit card. There may also be registration and plate fees required.

Get license plates

Part of transferring a car title is getting new license plates issued under the new owner’s name. To get Hawaiian plates, you’ll need to provide proper ID and citizenship documents. The current cost for standard plates is $45. Personalized plates are $112.

Be sure to properly mount your new plates before driving the vehicle.

Following these steps correctly ensures you legally transfer ownership of the car in Hawaii. Allow several weeks after submitting paperwork to the DMV for the new title to arrive in the mail. Check the Hawaii DMV website or call them if you have any other questions.

Also read: Why Do Hawaii License Plates Start With L?

Helpful Tips for Smoother Hawaii Car Title Transfers

Meet at the DMV for the transfer

To ensure a smooth title transfer, it’s best for the buyer and seller to complete the paperwork in person at the Hawaii DMV. This allows both parties to sign the documents and confirm the VIN number, odometer reading, and other details on the spot.

Meeting at the DMV also reduces the risk of title fraud or mistakes on the paperwork that could delay the transfer.

Consider using power of attorney

If the seller can’t be present to sign over the title, the buyer can use a power of attorney form. This legally authorizes someone else to conduct the title transfer on the seller’s behalf.

Using power of attorney can make things easier if the seller moved out of state or can’t get to the DMV.

Watch out for title jumping scams

Unfortunately, some dishonest sellers attempt title jumping schemes in Hawaii. This is when a seller keeps possession of the title after the sale and later illegally sells the car again.

To avoid this, buyers should only purchase vehicles with titles signed over to them, never leave a title transfer incomplete, and register the vehicle immediately after purchase.

Transfer insurance properly

It’s crucial to contact your insurer and either transfer or acquire new coverage immediately when buying or selling a car. Driving without insurance in Hawaii can lead to fines, car impoundment, license suspension, and other penalties.

Allow 1-2 weeks for new insurance paperwork to arrive before the transaction.

Sellers Buyers
Cancel existing car insurance policy Obtain proof of new insurance before purchase
Inform insurer if obtaining new vehicle Contact insurer to add vehicle to policy

Also read: How Much Is Back Tax On A Car In Hawaii?


Transferring a Hawaii vehicle title properly is crucial for both buyers and sellers during ownership changes. By gathering the correct documents, filling out the title transfer application accurately, submitting paperwork on time, and following other tips in this guide, you can ensure a smooth title transfer process and avoid issues over the vehicle’s legal ownership.

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