Buying and Selling FAQs in Hawaii

I just bought a used car and I have driven it once in 6 months because it's always in the shop. Does it count as a lemon?

Unfortunately, at this point in time, Hawaii's lemon law only applies to new vehicles. Used vehicles are not covered under the lemon law. The law does not apply to motor scooters, motorcycles, or mopeds either.

I bought a car on the mainland and am shipping it to my home. What's this "use tax" I have to pay?

The use tax is similar to an import tax. It is a protective measure the state has taken to amass funding from residents buying less expensive products from the mainland and having them shipped to the islands. Each county has its own process for handling imported cars from the mainland. Please check with the county of your residence to see what steps you may need to take to register an imported car.

Do I have to pay a use tax if I buy a car on Oahu and have it shipped to Maui?

No. Use tax is a state tax levied only when you import a vehicle from the mainland. Generally, vehicle purchases between islands are exempt from the use tax.

Can I keep my license plates for souvenirs when I sell my car?

Unless you transfer the plates to a new vehicle, you have to turn them into your local Hawaii DMV. However, if you are looking for a souvenir you can contact your county DMV office and request a sample plate. Fees for the sample plate vary from county to county.

If I buy a car from a neighbor, how can I get temporary tags?

Simply bring the bill of sale from the transaction and the transferred title to a local Hawaii DMV office. The DMV will take the title and begin the transfer process into your name. They will give you temporary tags in the meantime so you can still drive the car.

I heard you could find out about what a car has been through before buying it. How do I do that?

It is a good idea to always order a vehicle history report prior to handing over your money. The records are easily accessible and the results allow you to buy with confidence. Typically, vehicle history reports/VIN checks will provide information about the vehicle's:

  • Previous owners and locations of registration.
  • Past accidents.
  • Past repairs and maintenance.
  • Major damages.
  • Prior uses. (i.e. taxi, chauffeur, etc.)

To obtain a vehicle history report, you'll generally need to provide the vehicle inspection number (VIN) or a description of the vehicle's make, model, and year.

I bought a car with cash from an individual. The seller transferred the title but now I hear I need a bill of sale. Is this true?

In Hawaii, all vehicle transactions, including private deals, need to include a bill of sale. The document is necessary to register the vehicle with the state. It generally includes the following information:

  • The final sale price of the vehicle.
  • The county where the vehicle was purchased.
  • The date of the transaction.
  • The seller's name and contact information.
  • Your name.
  • The vehicle identification number (VIN).
  • The vehicle's odometer reading at the time of purchase.

For more information, please contact the Hawaii DMV in your county.

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