Shipping a Car to Hawaii: Avoid These 12 Costly Mistakes

Harish Makam

28 Jul 2023 9 months ago

Are you dreaming of cruising along the beautiful Hawaiian coastline in your very own car? Shipping your car to Hawaii can be an exciting and convenient way to explore the islands at your own pace. However, the process of shipping a car overseas can be complex and fraught with potential pitfalls. To ensure a smooth and hassle-free experience, avoiding common mistakes that could cost you time, money, and unnecessary stress is crucial.

Because when it comes to auto transport, Hawaii presents unique challenges and options due to its location as an isolated archipelago in the Pacific Ocean. Since it is separated from the mainland United States, transporting vehicles to and from Hawaii requires specialized methods.

The most common way to transport a vehicle to Hawaii is by using a shipping service that specializes in car transportation. These services typically involve shipping the vehicle via cargo ships, either in enclosed containers or on open car decks. Vehicles are securely loaded onto the ship, and the shipping company takes care of the logistics and necessary paperwork. In this comprehensive guide, we will walk you through the intricacies of shipping a car to Hawaii, highlighting the 12 most critical mistakes you must avoid. Whether relocating to the islands or simply planning a long-term vacation, our expert advice will help you navigate the process easily and confidently.


Logistics of Car Shipping to Hawaii

Car shipping logistics to Hawaii involve various factors that need careful consideration. Here’s what you need to know:

  1. Shipping Methods: Two primary shipping methods for transporting your car to Hawaii are Roll-on/Roll-off (RORO) and container shipping.
  2. RORO Shipping: RORO is a popular and cost-effective method where vehicles are driven onto a specialized ship’s deck and securely stowed for transport.
  3. Container Shipping: Container shipping involves placing your vehicle inside a shipping container, offering enhanced protection from the elements.
  4. Pick-up and Delivery: Once your vehicle arrives in Hawaii, you must arrange for its pick-up from the port and delivery to your desired location.

Costs of Shipping a Car to Hawaii

Understanding the costs associated with shipping a car to Hawaii is essential for effective budget planning. Here are the key factors to consider:

  1. Distance: The distance between your current location and Hawaii significantly determines the car shipping costs. Longer distances generally result in higher transportation fees.
  2. Vehicle Specifications: Your vehicle’s size, weight, and dimensions can impact the shipping costs. Larger or heavier vehicles may incur higher fees due to the additional space or weight on the shipping vessel.
  3. Shipping Method: The chosen shipping method will have cost implications, whether Roll-on/Roll-off (RORO) or container shipping. RORO shipping is typically more affordable as vehicles are driven onto the ship’s deck, while container shipping provides additional protection but tends to be more expensive.
  4. Seasonal Variations: Shipping costs may fluctuate based on seasonal demand and availability. Prices may be higher during peak travel seasons or when demand for auto transport services is higher.

Additional Services: Additional services such as door-to-door car shipping, insurance coverage, and expedited shipping options may come with extra costs. Considering these services based on your specific needs and budget is important.

How long does it take to transport your vehicle to Hawaii?

The timelines for shipping a car to Hawaii can vary based on several factors. Here’s a more detailed overview:

  1. Preparation Time: Before shipping your car, you must allocate time for necessary preparations. This includes cleaning the vehicle inside and out, removing personal belongings, and documenting its current condition. Taking these steps ensures a smooth inspection process and helps protect your vehicle during transportation.
  2. Booking and Scheduling: Once you have chosen a car shipping company, you must book your shipment and coordinate a convenient schedule. It’s advisable to book in advance to secure your preferred shipping date and to allow time for any necessary paperwork or documentation.
  3. Transit Time: The transit time for shipping a car to Hawaii depends on several factors, including the shipping method chosen and the distance between your current location and Hawaii. Generally, it can take anywhere from 5 to 15 days for the journey. Roll-on/Roll-off (RORO) shipping tends to have shorter transit times compared to container shipping, as RORO vessels are specifically designed for vehicle transportation.
  4. Customs Clearance: Upon arrival in Hawaii, your vehicle will need to go through customs clearance procedures. This includes providing the necessary documentation, such as the vehicle’s title, registration, and proof of ownership. Customs clearance can take a few days to complete, as the authorities verify compliance with import regulations and collect any applicable taxes or fees.

Mistakes to Avoid When Shipping a Car to Hawaii

By sidestepping common mistakes and navigating the waves of car transportation with finesse, you can ensure a seamless voyage for your vehicle and enjoy the tropical bliss of Hawaii without any unnecessary detours. So, let’s uncover the key mistakes to avoid when embarking on this exhilarating shipping journey.

#1. Inadequate Research and Planning

One common mistake to avoid when shipping a car to Hawaii is inadequate research and planning. It’s crucial to gather information, understand the process, and make necessary preparations to ensure a smooth and successful shipping experience.

For example, imagine a scenario where a car owner fails to research the shipping options and chooses a shipping company without thoroughly evaluating their reputation, services, and customer reviews. As a result, they may end up with a subpar shipping service that must provide adequate care for their vehicle or delay the shipment.

By conducting thorough research, the car owner could have discovered reputable shipping companies with a track record of reliable service and positive customer feedback. They could have compared prices, shipping methods, and additional services to select the best option for their needs. Adequate planning would have allowed them to book their shipment well in advance, ensuring a suitable schedule and avoiding last-minute complications.

In a nutshell, inadequate research and planning can lead to unnecessary risks and potential issues when shipping a car to Hawaii. By investing time in research and thorough planning, car owners can make informed decisions, choose reliable shipping companies, and have a smooth shipping process.

#2. Choosing an Inexperienced Car Shipping Company

One of the crucial mistakes to avoid when shipping a car to Hawaii is selecting an inexperienced car shipping company. Entrusting your vehicle to an inexperienced company can lead to various complications and potential damage to your vehicle.

For example, let’s say a car owner decides to go with a newly established car shipping company without thoroughly researching their background, customer reviews, and industry experience. The company may need more expertise and infrastructure to handle the complexities of shipping a car to Hawaii. As a result, the car owner might experience delays, poor communication, or even damage to their vehicle during transit.

To avoid this mistake, it’s essential to do thorough research and select a reputable and experienced car shipping company. Look for companies with a proven track record, positive customer reviews, and a solid reputation in the industry. By choosing an experienced company, you can have confidence in their expertise, ensure proper handling of your vehicle, and have a smoother shipping process overall.

#3. Not Checking Licensing and Insurance

Auto transport companies should have valid licenses that authorize them to transport vehicles. Checking the licensing ensures that the company complies with legal requirements and operates within the established regulations. Additionally, it’s crucial to inquire about the insurance types that auto transport companies provide. Two common types of insurance are:

  • Liability Insurance: This type of insurance covers any damage or loss that occurs due to the carrier’s negligence during transportation. It typically provides coverage for the value of your vehicle up to a certain limit.
  • Cargo Insurance: Cargo insurance specifically covers damage or loss to the vehicle while it is being transported. It provides additional protection beyond liability insurance and may cover the full value of your car.

Not having this information or failing to confirm the licensing and insurance of the auto transport company can lead to potential consequences. If the company lacks proper licensing, it could indicate that they are operating illegally or without meeting industry standards. With adequate insurance coverage, you might recover costs in case of any damage or loss during transit.

To avoid this mistake, it is important to ask the auto transport company for proof of their licensing and insurance coverage. Verify the information provided and ensure it meets the necessary requirements. By taking these steps, you can experience peace of mind, knowing that your car is entrusted to a licensed and insured company, minimizing the risks and potential financial consequences in the event of any unforeseen incidents during the shipping process.

#4. Incorrectly Preparing the Vehicle

If you don’t prepare your vehicle properly before transporting it to Hawaii, it can lead to various issues and potential consequences. Here are some examples of what might happen:

  1. Damage During Transit: Without proper preparation, your vehicle may be more susceptible to damage during transportation. For instance, if you don’t remove personal belongings or secure loose items, they could shift and cause damage to the interior. Please document the vehicle’s condition before shipping to make it easier to prove any additional damage caused during transit.
  2. Safety Hazards: A vehicle with unresolved mechanical problems may encounter difficulties during transit or cause problems for other vehicles being transported. Leaks, if not addressed, can potentially damage other cars or the shipping vessel itself.
  3. Delays and Additional Charges: If your vehicle needs to be properly prepared, it may not meet the requirements for shipping, leading to delays or additional charges. For example, if the fuel level is not reduced as required, the shipping company may refuse to transport the vehicle or charge extra for fuel removal.
  4. Inconvenience and Frustration: You may face difficulties in resolving issues or addressing damages that could have been prevented through proper preparation. It can also lead to disputes with the shipping company or delays in receiving your vehicle in Hawaii.

So what’s the right way to prepare your vehicle for shipping? You need to follow a few simple steps to enjoy a hassle-free experience:

  • Clean the Vehicle: Wash your car thoroughly, both inside and outside, before shipping it. Remove any personal belongings and valuables from the car to prevent damage or loss during transit.
  • Document Existing Condition: Take pictures of your car from various angles to document its condition before shipping. This will serve as evidence of any damage that may occur during transportation.
  • Check for Leaks and Mechanical Issues: Ensure there are no fluid leaks and that your vehicle is in good working condition. If you notice any mechanical issues, get them resolved before shipping to avoid further complications.
  • Reduce Fuel Level: Keep the fuel level in your car to a quarter tank or less. This reduces weight and minimizes the risk of fuel leakage during transit.
  • Disable Alarm Systems: If your vehicle has an alarm system, deactivate it to prevent unnecessary disruptions during transportation.

#5. Ignoring Vehicle Inspection and Documentation

By neglecting vehicle inspection, you’re sailing blindfolded. Any pre-existing damage might be left undocumented, making it difficult to differentiate from new damage that could occur during transportation. With proof of your car’s condition before the journey, resolving insurance claims becomes easier than navigating through stormy waters. Disputes with the shipping company can arise, leaving you in a sea of uncertainty.

But fear not! There are solutions to keep your journey on the right track:

  1. Take a thorough inspection of your vehicle before the ship sets sail. Capture detailed photographs and notes of any scratches, dents, or imperfections.
  2. Create a comprehensive inspection report, like a treasure map, documenting the existing damage’s date, time, and descriptions. Make sure the shipping company acknowledges and signs this report, creating a valuable piece of evidence.
  3. Keep a copy of the inspection report safe in your treasure chest of records. Share another copy with the shipping company to ensure they have the same treasure map.

Applying these solutions will equip you with the power of documentation. If any disputes arise or storms of damage occur during the journey, you can confidently navigate through the waves. Your thorough inspection and well-prepared documentation will guide you towards smoother waters, ensuring your car’s safe arrival and an adventure to remember in Hawaii’s sun-kissed paradise.

#6. Inaccurate Cost Estimations

Failing to get accurate cost estimates can steer your journey off course and lead to problems. Let’s explore how this can happen:

Imagine you receive a cost estimate from a shipping company that seems too good to be true. Eager to save money, you hire them without questioning the estimate’s accuracy. However, once the process is underway, hidden charges start surfacing like sea monsters from the depths. Additional fees for handling, storage, or documentation may emerge, throwing your budget overboard and leaving you stranded on the shores of unexpected expenses.

On the flip side, inaccurate overestimations can also wreak havoc. Suppose you receive a cost estimate that seems excessively high compared to other quotes. Fearing excessive charges, you abandon that option and choose a different shipping company. However, upon completing the transportation, you realize the actual costs were much lower than anticipated. In this case, you have needlessly spent more than necessary, leaving you feeling like a ship lost at sea.

To avoid these problems, it’s crucial to seek accurate cost estimations. Take the time to gather estimates from different reputable shipping companies, comparing their services and charges. Request detailed breakdowns of the costs involved, ensuring transparency and clarity. This way, you can navigate the vast ocean of transportation expenses with confidence, avoiding unexpected surprises or unnecessary financial setbacks.

#7. Overlooking Customs and Regulatory Requirements

Just like a ship needs a captain, your vehicle needs proper documentation for smooth entry into Hawaii. Customs requirements may include the Vehicle Import Form, Bill of Lading, or the EPA Form 3520-1. Overlooking these forms can result in delays and fines, leaving you stranded at the customs port, yearning for the sandy shores of Hawaii.

But wait, there’s more to this adventurous tale! Imagine you’ve modified your vehicle, turning it into a roaring beast ready to conquer the roads. However, unbeknownst to you, Hawaii has strict regulations on vehicle modifications. If you overlook these regulations and sail with your modified vehicle, you may encounter the wrath of customs officials, who will raise their eyebrows and request an inspection. The storm clouds gather as you face additional costs, headaches, and prolonged separation from your cherished car.

To steer clear of these troubled waters, arm yourself with knowledge and preparedness. Research the specific customs and regulatory requirements for importing a vehicle to Hawaii. Understand the documentation, permits, and regulations to ensure a smooth journey. Check if any modifications to your vehicle comply with the state’s regulations before setting sail. By doing so, you’ll navigate the customs harbor like a seasoned captain, avoiding unexpected delays, fines, and the shipwreck of your plans.

#8. Failure to Secure Proper Shipping Insurance

Shipping a car to Hawaii involves inherent risks and uncertainties, and without adequate insurance coverage, individuals may encounter the following issues:

Not securing proper shipping insurance can significantly affect your car shipping experience to Hawaii. Let’s take a closer look at how this oversight can affect you:

  • Financial Burden: Without insurance, you’ll be solely responsible for any damage, loss, or theft that may occur during the shipping process. This means you’ll have to bear the full financial burden of repairing or replacing your vehicle if something goes wrong. Repair costs or buying a new car can be an additional burden on your finances.
  • Limited Recourse: Without insurance, your options for seeking compensation or recourse are limited. You may have to rely on the shipping company’s goodwill or any contractual provisions that may offer partial coverage, but these might not provide adequate protection.
  • Delayed Resolution: In the unfortunate event of shipping-related issues, such as damage or loss, resolving them without proper insurance can be prolonged and complicated. It may involve extensive negotiations, legal procedures, or even legal action, causing unnecessary delays and frustrations.
  • Inability to Recover Value: Insurance coverage typically provides compensation based on the market value of your car, helping you recover a significant portion of your investment. Lack of insurance can hinder your ability to recoup the full value, leaving you at a financial disadvantage.
  • Limited Protection against Liabilities: Shipping companies often have liability limits for any damages they may cause during transit. Without additional insurance coverage, you may be vulnerable to unforeseen liabilities, such as accidents or incidents caused by the shipping company’s negligence. Proper insurance can provide additional protection, safeguarding you against potential liabilities.

#9. Lack of Communication and Updates

Effective communication is a fundamental aspect of a positive customer service experience, and when it is lacking, it can lead to frustration and dissatisfaction. A lack of communication and updates can indicate poor customer service from the shipping company. It reflects negatively on their professionalism and commitment to customer satisfaction.

Lack of communication from the shipping company keeps you in the dark about the status of your car. This uncertainty can cause stress as you are unsure about the progress and whereabouts of your vehicle. Regular updates and effective communication help alleviate these concerns and provide peace of mind.

Besides, with timely updates, it becomes easier to plan your schedule and make necessary arrangements upon the arrival of your car in Hawaii. You may need help coordinating transportation or adjusting your travel plans. Clear communication lets you plan effectively and ensures a smoother transition upon the vehicle’s arrival.

If the shipping company fails to provide updates on any delays or changes in the shipping schedule, you may also miss important deadlines. This can be particularly problematic if you have time-sensitive commitments in Hawaii, such as starting a new job or attending an event.

#10. Disregarding Additional Charges

Disregarding additional charges when shipping your car to Hawaii can have several negative consequences. Firstly, it can lead to unexpected financial burdens as you may not account for fees such as handling, customs, or terminal charges, resulting in budget strains and disruptions to your financial planning. Secondly, it can cause a misalignment between your budget and the actual costs, requiring unplanned adjustments or sacrifices in other areas.

Moreover, paying attention to these fees may limit the services provided by the shipping company, potentially leaving you with a standard service that doesn’t meet your specific needs. Please promptly address additional fees to avoid delays or denial of vehicle release, causing frustration and inconvenience. It may even result in legal and contractual issues if the fees are not properly acknowledged, leading to further complications and financial burdens. Finally, disregarding these fees can impact customer satisfaction and strain the relationship with the shipping company, eroding trust and creating a negative customer experience. Therefore, it is crucial to be transparent and upfront about all fees and charges to ensure a smooth and satisfactory car shipping experience.

11#. Neglecting to Remove Personal Belongings

Neglecting to remove personal belongings from your car during transportation to Hawaii can result in significant issues that you certainly want to avoid. Let’s delve into why it is crucial to take this matter seriously:

First and foremost, shipping a car to Hawaii involves sea transport, and weight restrictions are a common concern. If your vehicle exceeds the weight limit due to the presence of personal belongings, you may encounter additional charges or, worse, face the possibility of your car being left behind. By removing these items, you can ensure a hassle-free and smooth transportation process.

Moreover, unsecured items can shift, potentially scratching or denting the car’s interior or exterior during transit. Fragile components could be compromised, leading to costly repairs. In rough sea conditions, unfastened belongings can become projectiles, inflicting severe harm to your vehicle.

Lastly, safety should always be a top priority. Loose personal belongings may interfere with the car’s functionality or obstruct the driver’s visibility, increasing the likelihood of accidents. By taking the time to remove these items, you are safeguarding your car and ensuring the safety of yourself and others on the road.

All in all, removing personal belongings before transporting your car to Hawaii is paramount. By doing so, you can adhere to weight restrictions, prevent damage to your vehicle, and prioritize safety. Remember to consider the importance of this simple step to guarantee a smooth and trouble-free transportation experience.

#12. Failing to Prepare for Vehicle Pickup in Hawaii

Failing to prepare for vehicle pickup in Hawaii can lead to transportation issues for your car. Lack of preparation can result in problems such as delays or the inability to retrieve your vehicle. To avoid these issues, make sure to:

  • Gather required documentation and paperwork in advance.
  • Settle outstanding fees and have the necessary payment ready.
  • Communicate and coordinate pickup details accurately.
  • Familiarize yourself with transport regulations in Hawaii.

By preparing adequately, you can minimize the risk of complications during vehicle pickup and ensure a smooth transportation process for your car.

Tips for a Smooth Car Shipping Experience

Your car shipping experience can be a breeze if done right. Here are a few tips to enhance your shipping experience:

  • Plan Ahead: Research and plan your car shipment well in advance to allow ample time for arrangements and bookings.
  • Choose a Reliable Shipping Company: Select a reputable, experienced car shipping company specializing in Hawaii shipments. Read reviews, check their credentials, and ensure they have the necessary permits and insurance coverage.
  • Understand the Shipping Time: Shipping a car to Hawaii usually takes 7-14 days from the West Coast of the United States. However, weather conditions and shipping schedules can influence the exact duration. Consult with the shipping company for a more accurate estimate based on your specific location.
  • Estimate the Shipping Cost: The average cost of shipping a car to Hawaii ranges between $1,000 and $1,500, depending on various factors such as the size of the vehicle, distance, and shipping method (open car transport or enclosed car transport). Request quotes from different shipping companies to better understand the pricing.
  • Coordinate Pickup and Delivery: Communicate with the shipping company to arrange the pickup and delivery details. Provide accurate contact information and be available during the designated times to ensure a smooth and efficient process.
  • Understand Hawaii Import Regulations: Familiarize yourself with Hawaii’s import regulations and vehicle requirements. This includes paperwork, inspections, and any specific guidelines that need to be followed. Ensure you have all the necessary documentation and comply with the regulations to avoid delays or customs clearance issues.


Shipping your car to Hawaii can be an exciting adventure, but navigating the process with caution is essential to avoid costly mistakes. By following these tips and avoiding the common pitfalls discussed, you can ensure a smooth and tension-free car shipping experience. Proper research, planning, and communication are key to selecting a reliable shipping company, understanding the logistics and costs involved, and complying with import regulations. Remember to prepare your vehicle adequately, document its condition, and secure the necessary insurance coverage. By doing so, you’ll set sail on a journey that leads you to the tropical paradise of Hawaii, with your car waiting to transport you to stunning landscapes and unforgettable experiences. Bon voyage!

Common Questions People Also Ask 

What documents are required for shipping a car to Hawaii?

To ship a car to Hawaii, the following documents are typically required:

  • Vehicle title or proof of ownership
  • Vehicle registration
  • Bill of sale or commercial invoice
  • Valid identification (driver’s license, passport, etc.)
  • Proof of insurance
  • Vehicle inspection report (if applicable)

Can I ship my car to Hawaii if it’s not running?

Yes, you can ship an inoperable car to Hawaii. However, additional arrangements may need to be made for loading and unloading the vehicle onto the shipping vessel.

Are there any restrictions on the types of vehicles that can be shipped to Hawaii?

There are generally no specific restrictions on the types of vehicles that can be shipped to Hawaii. Most vehicles, including cars, trucks, SUVs, motorcycles, and RVs, can be transported.

How far in advance should I book car shipping services to Hawaii?

It is advisable to book car shipping services to Hawaii as early as possible. Ideally, you should book a few weeks to ensure availability and secure a spot on the desired shipment.

Can I ship my car to Hawaii with my personal belongings inside?

Shipping companies have different policies regarding personal belongings inside the car during transport. In general, shipping personal belongings inside the vehicle is not recommended, as they may not be covered by insurance and can add weight to the shipment. It’s best to consult with the shipping company for their specific guidelines.

Are there any additional costs or fees associated with car shipping to Hawaii?

Additional costs and fees may be associated with car shipping to Hawaii. These include transportation to and from the shipping port, port fees, customs fees, taxes, and any optional services like insurance or expedited shipping. It’s important to inquire about these costs with the shipping company beforehand.

How can I track the progress of my car during shipping to Hawaii?

Most reputable car shipping companies provide tracking services. They typically offer online tracking systems or customer support to help you monitor the progress of your car during shipping to Hawaii. You can contact the shipping company for specific tracking information and instructions.

What happens if my car gets damaged during the shipping process?

If your car gets damaged during the shipping process, you should immediately notify the shipping company and document the damages with photographs or written records. The shipping company’s insurance policy should cover any eligible damages, and you may need to file a claim with them accordingly.

Are there any specific regulations or restrictions regarding car shipping from the mainland to Hawaii?

Specific regulations and restrictions regarding car shipping from the mainland to Hawaii exist. These can include adherence to emissions standards and safety regulations. It’s essential to comply with these regulations and work with a reputable shipping company familiar with them.

Can I transport a leased vehicle to Hawaii? Whether you can transport a leased vehicle to Hawaii depends on the terms of your lease agreement. In many cases, leasing companies allow their vehicles to be transported to Hawaii, but you should consult with your leasing company to understand their specific policies and any necessary procedures to follow

Harish Makam