- Bill of Lading - Very important, you will need this to do every other step in getting your car legal in Hawaii. If you ship a car here, the BoL documents it, and you should receive this when you pick up your car from a port.
- No-Fault Insurance - According to some paperwork my shipping company gave me when I picked up my car, your car insurance from the mainland may be valid in Hawaii, but you're still required to have a "Hawaii No-Fault Insurance Card". You'll need to call your car insurance company to let them know you moved and shipped your car here to find out what's required, and then receive the Hawaii Insurance Card in the mail (You must obtain the watermarked original document from your insurance company, you can't just print one off or anything). For the record, my insurance here is costing me 20% more than it did in Texas.
- Safety Check - Known as an "Inspection" in most other states where it's required, Hawaii's Safety Check is pretty straightforward - you're gonna need good tires and windshield wipers and all of your lights working properly of course. They are pretty strict on the safety aspects of the car though. For example, my car initially failed because the tint on the rear window was bubbly due to age/sun. I had to remove or replace the tint before my car could pass. Also they are strict on the darkness of the tint, and will check your car. My car has stock tint on it and barely passes, so if you have any darker tint that you did yourself, it probably won't pass here. Surprisingly though, there isn't a smog/emissions test at all; however if your car is puffing smoke out of the tailpipe or something, I doubt it will pass. NOTE: After you get insurance, this safety check is the second step. If your car passes, you will get a temporary document stating your car actually failed, but is due to registration. You have 30 days to then take all of your paperwork to a DMV and get the car registered. If not, you have to do the Safety Check over again. I've been to two places, and it was $20 for the check plus $5 to check the window tint. After you get registered, you'll bring your car back to where you got the Safety Check, and they will give you a sticker to be placed on the right rear of your vehicle (Google Hawaii Safety Check images to see examples). It's good for a year.
- Previous Registration - You will need the most recent registration from your former state in order to register the car in Hawaii.
- Power of Attorney - If the car is not legally in your name, you will need a Power of Attorney form signed by the registered owner and then notarized by a notary public. If the car is not going to be transferred into your name, you will need a specific or general power of attorney which states that the car owner is allowing you the power to register their car in the State of Hawaii. Be sure the owner of the car includes the vehicle's VIN on the form, do not be vague.
UPDATE: I was told conflicting information at the DMV I went to. At first, they gave me a pink Power of Attorney, called a Buyer Power of Attorney, which I mailed off, had signed and notarized by the car owner, and mailed back. But when I took it back up there, a different employee told me that one wasn't right, and that I needed the Specific or General PoA that I mentioned here. So again, mailed/signed/notarized/returned. When I took THAT one, yet another employee told me the last one was mistaken, and I did in fact need the pink Buyer PoA. She showed me where on the Buyer PoA it states the legal business about registering a car in a different state that is not in your name. I told her I already tried that one so I did have it, just not on me as I was told it wouldn't work. So I returned home to get it, but when I got back, I got a different employee once again. She acted like the Specific PoA was the correct one, and used that one to (finally) process my registration. So NOTE: you will probably need a Specific PoA, or maybe a pink Buyer PoA. You can get a Buyer PoA from the DMV, but we had to use outside sources to print off a Specific PoA.
- Lienholder's Name and Address - If there is a lien on the car, i.e. the car is not paid off from a bank loan, be aware that you'll need the name and address of that bank.
- YOU MUST PAY WITH CASH OR CHECK AT THE DMV! I cannot confirm this for all DMVs, but the one I went to was cash/check only; no debit or credit cards. To be safe I'd advise having one of those payment options ready. NOTE: Car registration in Hawaii is pricey, between $280-$300 for mid-size sedans, and expect more for trucks and SUVs.
My story, for those who may be curious, is I have a car that my stepdad paid for using a bank loan from his bank; so I pay him and he pays back his bank. So as far as I'm concerned, it is my car. Nobody else drives it, nobody else pays for the insurance, gas, maintenance etc, I do. Unfortunately, it legally-speaking is not my car, it's his with a lien from his bank. I either did not consider this fact before I had it shipped here, or I was naive enough to think it wouldn't be a big deal. Regardless, I've been back and forth several times to a DMV here as well as a service center for safety checks and maintenance to get the safety check (I needed four new tires, and had to remove the tint as I mentioned). At the DMV, first I was turned away because I noticed a sign saying "Cash/Check Only". I had planned on using a credit card, because registration in Hawaii is expensive - it's going to cost right under $300 for a year for my mid-size sedan. It cost me $60 a year in Texas. Not to mention I never had any problems passing inspection there, even with smog checks. The next time I was turned away because she realized the car wasn't in my name. So she said I needed a power of attorney, and gave me one which I then mailed back to my stepdad, had it signed, notarized, and returned. Took that up there, and was turned away again because it was an incorrect power of attorney form. Turns out she gave me a "Buyer's" power of attorney, so they asked if I had the title. Well, the bank still has the title! In Texas! If I could afford to buy the car outright, I would have done so before now. She couldn't even tell me where to get the correct PoA, much less give me the right one. My stepdad found one online though, printed, signed, notarized, mailed. I took that up there, and was amazingly turned away again, because he failed to put the vehicle's VIN on the form. I had noticed that myself, and wondered but really didn't want to have to wait to get him to sign/notarize/mail me another one or to mail this one back. Sure enough though, they said it wouldn't work. So he mailed me a third PoA, which finally worked in getting Hawaii license plates on my car.
By the way, in the process of all of that happening, I had to get two safety checks because the first one's 30 days ran out thanks to all the hiccups and work schedule. I also got a parking violation ticket because the DMV nearest me has a terrible parking lot which is always full, and a no parking zone right outside of it. It's only a $35 ticket, but I contested it and LOST, so I still had to pay that haha. Hawaii does not mess around when it comes to vehicles... not complaining though, at least I'm here!