Drivers on the U.S. mainland are accustomed to seeing license plates from other states, but plates from one particular state tend to stand out. When they spot Hawaii plates driving on a mainland American highway, drivers may wonder, “How exactly did that car get here?”

You may find yourself with similar questions if you’re prepping for a move from one of the beautiful Hawaiian Islands to another state. For you, the questions present more than just a passing moment of curiosity. You need to know exactly how to transport your vehicle over the Pacific Ocean and whether that choice is the best one to make. This blog aims to answer many of those questions.

The Basic Process of Shipping a Car From Hawaii

Although you might assume this process is complicated, shipping a car out of Hawaii isn’t terribly difficult for the car’s owner. Your first task is to choose a shipping company. Ask your moving company if they offer this service or what companies they recommend.

Once you select a company, the shipping team will ask you to present some documents and fill out some paperwork. Usually, the documents you need include:

  • Your driver’s license
  • The car’s registration
  • Proof of insurance
  • The car’s original title, or a letter from the lienholder authorizing you to ship the vehicle

The shipping company will also outline their rules for shipping your vehicle. (Learn more in the “Tips for Shipping Your Car to the Mainland” section.)

Your shipping company will arrange a time with you when you’ll drop your car off at a port in Hawaii. Car owners can ship vehicles from any of these locations:

  • Hilo, Hawai’i
  • Honolulu, O’ahu
  • Kahului, Maui
  • Kawaihae, Hawai’i
  • Nawiliwili, Kaua’i

At the port, your vehicle will be loaded onto an ocean freighter. From this point, the shipping company will have your car in their custody until it arrives at your chosen port, usually about three to four weeks from your drop-off day.

Finally, the car arrives in port on the mainland where you can pick it up. Drivers must choose a port on the West Coast, such as a port in Los Angeles, San Francisco/Oakland, or Seattle.

Some vehicle shipping companies allow customers to pay extra to have their car transported closer to their home, or even to directly to their house. You may want to consider this option if your final destination is not close to an arrival port.

Tips for Shipping Your Car to the Mainland

One major consideration you have to think about is whether to ship your vehicle inside a shipping container or not. You will pay more for this extra accommodation, but your car will avoid being exposed to ocean air and salt spray during the duration of its trek. Usually, the more expensive your car, the more you should consider container shipping for the automobile.

Before you drop your car off at the port, make sure it complies with all the requirements of the transport company. Typically, these rules include:

  • Empty the car of most items. You cannot fill it will your possessions to save on shipping costs. Exceptions to the empty-car rule may include a spare tire, a child’s car seat, or jumper cables.
  • Have no more than one-quarter tank of gas in the car.
  • Ensure that the car has no fluids leaking from it.
  • Present the car in safe operating condition. For example, make sure it has a working parking brake and no cracks in the windshield.
  • Wash the car’s exterior and vacuum the interior. Get the car as clean as possible.

When you drop your car off, bring a set of keys to leave with the transport team. They’ll use these keys to drive your vehicle onto and off of the freighter or into and out of the shipping container.

The Decision to Sell Your Car Instead of Shipping It

The cost to send your car over more than 2,000 miles of ocean begins at approximately $1,000 to $1,500. For some people, that price tag presents them with a choice: Should I ship my car, or should I sell it and buy a new one on the mainland? The following factors typically affect that decision:

  • Owning the car. If you already own the car outright, shipping may be less expensive than buying a new vehicle when you get to the mainland.
  • Age and upkeep of the vehicle. Before you make a final decision, you may want to have a mechanic look over your car. If it has any sizeable mechanical problems or quite a few miles on the speedometer, you may be better off getting an upgrade at your new home.

Your moving company can offer you advice specific to your vehicle if you have trouble deciding whether to ship or sell.

The above information should answer many of your questions about shipping your car when you move away from Hawaii. If you have additional questions, consult with Island Movers.