License Plates & Placards in Hawaii
Registering a car?
It's a good time to check car insurance rates
Find the lowest rate among top providers.Page Overview
Hawaii License Plates
Hawaii does have its share of specialized plates to choose from. Of course, you don't have to spruce up your set of license plates at all. You can opt to keep the extra change and stick with the standard version, which features a rainbow arcing above the words "Aloha State."
But even if you prefer to spend the money on a personalized or special interest plate, the look will never veer too far from the standard. Instead of transforming the entire look or actually offering multiple plate styles, Hawaii keeps it simple and just works around the rainbow. The state is able to do this and still offer a wealth of unique plates―by using fancy logo decals.
You generally pick out license plates when you register your vehicle for the first time at a county field office (see locations below). But you are not limited to that one occasion. If you change your mind later and want either personalized or special interest plates, you can change midstream for a fee.
Surrendering License Plates in Hawaii
Hawaii does not require residents to return their license plates after relocating to another state.
Adding a bit of style and character to a vehicle is as easy as creating a witty word or phrase for the license plates. You are allowed up to 6 letters, numbers, or a mix and match of both. Spaces count as characters, and the only punctuation mark available is the hyphen, which can be utilized only once.
Obviously, anything deemed objectionable, profane, or just slightly offensive will not make the cut. So keep that in mind when you are trying to craft letters and numbers to reflect an extension of your personality. Plus, considering every license plate in the state must be unique, you can figure plenty of obvious choices are long gone (i.e. surfer, dude, Hawaii, etc).
The City and County of Honolulu has an online site where you can not only order personalized plates, but also instantly check to see if your desired word or phrase is available. For the other counties, you will need to make a trip to a registration field office (see locations below). The fee for the plate is an additional $25 each year above your standard registration costs. Allow 60 to 90 days for the plate to be ready.
For information on how to apply for a handicap placard, please read our article about drivers with disabilities.
In an effort to boost the coffers of nonprofit institutions meeting a fixed set of guidelines, Hawaii's legislature enacted a license plate decal program. This produces a twofold benefit.
First, it gives these important organizations, many of which are constantly cash-strapped, an extra fundraising tool. Second, it allows you to spruce up your license plate with a decal while supporting a cause that may be important to you. The organization decals run the gamut and include the likes of:
- Bishop Museum
- Honolulu Symphony
- Planned Parenthood
- Hawaii Community Foundation
- Iolani School
- Kamehameha Schools
- Missouri Memorial
- Hawaii Pacific University
- Humane Society
- Hawaii Firefighter Fund
- Hawaii Red Cross
- Alliance for Arts and Education
The initial fee to replace your current license plate with a decal plate will be $30.50. Of that, $20.00 goes to the organization you are supporting. After that, each year a total of $25 will be added to your registration fees. Of that, $20.00 will also go to the organization.
If you can provide the evidence of service for the plate you are applying for, you can receive a special military plate. Proof can range from discharge papers to written verification from the Veterans Administration. Some of the license plates available include:
- Combat Wounded
- Purple Heart
- Former Prisoner of War
- WWII Veteran
- Korean War Veteran
- Vietnam Veteran
- Persian Gulf Veteran
- Pearl Harbor Survivor
- Combat Veteran
Those holding a valid amateur radio license from the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) can apply to have their call numbers placed on a license plate.
According to the Alternative Fuels Data Center, drivers of plug-in-electric vehicles (PEVs) can obtain special license plates that allow them to:Other Topics in This Section