Drivers in the Military in Hawaii
A significant percentage of Hawaii's population is made up of those serving in the military and stationed on the various bases peppered across Oahu. A hefty portion of these men and women are not technically residents (at least not yet) of the Aloha State, but instead call another state home.
Thus, it makes sense that the state gives some leeway to these nonresidents and their vehicles and driver's licenses. The state is not going to force anyone to become a resident, but it does want to ensure that wherever you are from, your registration and license are at least current and valid.
Those on active military duty who are residents of the state but deployed overseas or stationed on the mainland also get a few breaks and extensions.
Your home-state driver's license is valid in Hawaii as long as it is current. Those wanting to change over their old license in favor of Hawaii's version will need to take the same steps as any other malihini (newcomer) to the islands.
A resident who is currently on active military duty elsewhere does not need to fret if their driver's license is set to expire.
Not to worry; there are no penalties. You simply have 90 days upon returning to Hawaii or after being discharged from duty to renew the document.
Not only are you lucky enough to get orders to ship out to Hawaii, but the government will pick up the tab for shipping one of your vehicles. Not bad, especially if you only own 1 vehicle. That is just one less worry when you are moving your entire life, literally, across the Pacific. When your vehicle does arrive at one of the ports in Oahu, you will have a couple of registration options from that point.
But before you even get to your choices, you will need to make sure you have taken the proper measures with your insurance coverage. Hawaii is a no-fault insurance state. If you happened to come from one of the other small minority of states that also have the no-fault system, then you may be OK. Simply find out if your current carrier does business in Hawaii and if they do, make them aware of your move.
If you are moving to the islands from a tort insurance state, you will need to change your coverage before you can drive or register your car. If your carrier does business in Hawaii, you may just want to stick with them and implement the new no-fault coverage.
If you were with a company that is not up and running in Hawaii, you will need to cancel that policy and shop around (quickly) for an acceptable rate and a new carrier. This must be accomplished in rather expedient fashion, considering you have a limited time in which you are required to register your vehicle.
Keeping Your Home State's Registration
Once the insurance situation is settled, you face different registration options. The first is holding onto your home-state registration. If you have every intention of returning to where you came from after your orders are complete, then this is not a bad way to go.
If you choose this route, you will be exempt from the annual weight tax and any excise taxes in Hawaii. You will, however, need to have a vehicle safety inspection. Not only will this confirm that your vehicle is in shape to be on the roads, but it will let the state know that you do in fact have valid insurance. You must keep the inspection certificate in your vehicle with your registration at all times while it is in operation.
Switching to Hawaii's Registration
Those aloha rainbow plates can get anybody in the spirit of the islands. So if you are ready to say good-bye to your old plates, then you will need register your car in Hawaii.
The Hawaii Driver's Handbook has more information about the registration requirements for those in the military who ship their vehicles to Hawaii.