Salvaged Vehicles in Hawaii

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Is your car wrecked to the point you think it’s a total loss? Don’t’ give up on it yet!

You might be able to junk the car and sell it for parts or even rebuild it and apply for a salvaged title, meaning you can keep it or sell it. We’re here to offer you “kokua” for your salvaged vehicle—read on for more! 

What Is a Salvaged Car in Hawaii?

Generally, your insurance company is responsible for declaring your vehicle a total loss (also called a “salvaged car”).

In Hawaii, a total loss vehicle is one with damage:

  • To its supporting structure, external frame, and/or suspension system.
    AND
  • That would cost more to repair than the car is worth (i.e. it’s fair market value) at the time of the accident.

If you aren’t sure whether your car qualifies as a salvage/total loss, call your local motor vehicle agency for clarification. 

To Keep or Not to Keep a Salvage Car in HI

 Remember, you cannot operate your salvage vehicle until you have it repaired, properly titled, and registered.

 Depending on your specific situation (such as the extent of your vehicle’s damage), there may be different routes you can take in dealing with your salvaged car. A few of the most common options include:

  • Assigning ownership to your insurance company.
    • Generally, this happens when you accept the full settlement of a total loss claim.
    • Your insurance company will explain all required steps, including lien satisfaction, if applicable.
  • Retaining ownership of the vehicle.
    • Sometimes, this means you accept a partial payment from your insurance provider as part of a total loss claim.
    • You can have the vehicle repaired AND inspected by an approved repair salvage dealer (RDS) in Hawaii.
      • You cannot repair the vehicle yourself; an RDS must repair it.
    • If you:
      • DO have the salvaged car repaired and inspected, you might choose to obtain a salvage certificate. Then, you can keep the vehicle for yourself or sell it.
      • DON’T have the salvaged car inspected and repaired*, you might choose to sell the vehicle for parts or sell it to a business that deals with junking, scrapping, or dismantling vehicles.

*NOTE: Each Hawaiian county has its own process for junking a total loss vehicle including how to complete the most recent title, junking forms, and applicable fees. Your county’s vehicle services division can explain its specific process. 

HI Salvaged Title & Registration

For the most part, the Hawaii Director of Finance in your county handles salvage certificates and rebuilt titles. However, your auto insurance provider can also explain the steps you’ll need to take to title and register your salvage vehicle. 

Here's a general outline of what to do:

  • Contact an approved repair salvaged dealer (RDS) to repair and inspect your vehicle.
    • Hawaii requires you to go through an approved RDS for salvaged and rebuilt titles—you cannot repair the vehicle on your own to qualify.
    • Each county has its own specific vehicle inspection fees.
  • Provide your county’s Director of Finance with all required salvaged title paperwork.
    • For the specifics on what you’ll need, talk to your insurance provider and/or call your county’s Director of Finance:
      • Hawaii County: (808) 961-8234.
      • Maui County: (808) 270-7363.
      • Kauai County: (808) 241-4200.
      • Honolulu County: (808) 768-3901.
  • Pay the applicable fees for titling and registering your vehicle.

When everything’s said and done, your vehicle’s “new” Hawaii title will read “Rebuilt Vehicle.”

For more hands-on assistance, consider calling your local motor vehicle office

Sell or Buy a Rebuilt Vehicle in Hawaii

Unfortunately, some people try to pass off salvaged and rebuilt vehicles as if they’ve never had more than a scratch. If a salvaged car hasn’t been properly repaired, inspected, and titled before you sell (or buy) it, you could face a whirlwind of expensive legal trouble.

Whether you’re selling or buying the rebuilt vehicle in Hawaii, consider these tips to keep yourself safe:

  • Order a vehicle history report:
    • As a seller, ordering a vehicle history report can confirm the car’s salvaged title information is correct.
    • As a buyer, ordering a vehicle history report should be standard practice before buying any vehicle via a private sale—you’ll find peace of mind and avoid any shady purchases.
  • Make sure you’re familiar with all Hawaii’s required paperwork for buying and selling used vehicles, including the state’s bill of sale regulations.
  • Check that the car meets all smog and vehicle inspection requirements.
    • Be able to provide proof of passing all inspections if you’re the seller; don’t leave without proof if you’re the buyer.

For more information, visit our guides on selling used cars and buying used cars.

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