Buying a Used Car from a Private Seller in Hawaii

You're smart if you’re looking to buy a private-party used car. Car dealers charge fees and markups, which you can avoid when you buy directly from an individual. Let’s walk through the entire transaction process for the state of Hawaii.
When you purchase a car from a private seller, there are more details to manage. Luckily, we make the process much easier with easy transactional infrastructure, including fee-free, instant payments up to $1M. Keep reading to see the steps you’ll need to take—and how PrivateAuto helps.

Find a Car

The first thing you need to do is find a car to buy. Based on your budget, requirements, and other factors, you probably have a good idea of what you’re looking for. It’s time to find it.

Choose an Online Marketplace

Most people go online to find their next used vehicle. Here are some of the online car-buying websites available to you:

Vehicle listing sites such as Autotrader.
Online classifieds
a. Local classifieds.
b. National classifieds such as Craigslist and OfferUp.
Auction websites such as Bring a Trailer and eBay Motors.
Social media listings.
PrivateAuto (we’re a whole new breed)

We’re the best place to buy a car because we offer full transactional functionality, unlike other "meetingplaces" that don’t do much beyond connecting a buyer and a seller.

PrivateAuto is the only transactional marketplace that offers self-serve technology solutions for every part of the deal, from first contact all the way through making payment. If you’d like to see how easy private buying can be with PrivateAuto, browse our wide selection of used vehicles for sale and start the car buying process.

We don’t hate other listing sites. Some have more private-party car inventory than we do (we’re still young and gaining traction), but we offer the transactional security and convenience that other sites simply do not.

That’s why we made DealNow, a fast-track dealflow that allows you to start a deal on another platform and finish it with our transactional infrastructure. Get your deal started now!

Land the Best Deal

Obviously, you want to get the very best car for how much money you have. PrivateAuto allows you to make offers on cars you like with ease. You never know if the owner will accept less than their initial sale price until you try.

Other websites require you to message the seller and have a potentially awkward exchange. PrivateAuto lets you make an offer with the click of a button. The seller can then accept, reject, or submit a counteroffer.

Do Car Research

Savvy buyers know that doing a background check on the car. The two best ways to learn about a vehicle’s background are with a vehicle history report and researching the car’s title.

Research the Title

Before you move forward with a vehicle purchase, do some research on the vehicle title.

The National Insurance Crime Bureau website allows you to research the title of any car. You might just avoid being the next victim of some car scam.

Good title research will help you check for the following:

1. An outstanding lien (or lien release).
2. Reports of the car having been stolen.
3. The car has been declared a total loss in an insurance claim.

Ask the seller for their full name and the vehicle identification number (VIN). Run the title check, and have one less thing to worry about.

Vehicle History Report

A vehicle history report is always a good idea when buying a used car. It covers ownership history and maintenance records and shows how well the seller cared for their car.

We provide a vehicle history report for all of our premium listings.

Here are some reasons a vehicle history report helps you have one less thing to worry about.

1. You are aware of any accidents or insurance claims.
2. You know how well the car has been cared for.
3. You can see service records, major repairs, and other work that has been done.

Meet Up For The Test Drive

Unless you’re purchasing a car long-distance, you’re going to want to test-drive it yourself. PrivateAuto lets you arrange the test drive in a safe, easy, and convenient manner that protects your personal information.

1. Our in-app scheduler allows you to pick from the time slots the seller has chosen. No awkward back-and-forth conversations. You'll also see the seller's preferred meetup location.
2. You can choose to transact with verified sellers, which helps to weed out scammers and crooks who want to conceal their identity.


You’ve test-driven the car and you’re ready to buy. It’s time to handle the paperwork.

Here are the key documents involved in a private-party vehicle transaction in the state of Hawaii.

1. Certificate of title
2. Safety inspection
3. Bill of sale

Hawaii Certificate of Title

A Hawaii certificate of title will require both you and the seller to complete the following information at the time of the sale:

Odometer disclosure
Seller’s hand-printed name, signature, and address (if there is more than one seller listed on the title, all sellers will need to sign)
Date of sale
Purchase price
Your hand-printed name and signature

Hawaii Safety Inspection

To register a car in Hawaii, you need to pass an annual safety inspection. For most passenger vehicles or trucks, that means visiting an authorized shop to obtain a valid certificate.

Independent repair shops as well as larger chains like Jiffy Lube perform Hawaii safety inspections. These usually cost around $25.

Hawaii Bill of Sale

The state of Hawaii doesn't require you to complete a bill of sale when you buy a used car in the state. Still, you should have one regardless, as it protects you by memorializing the terms of the sale, the VIN, the selling price, mileage, and the names and signatures of both parties.

If the seller ever wants to contest the transaction or any part of it, you have their signature on a legal document with all of the terms and details to back you up.

We make it easy with an official Hawaii bill of sale in the PrivateAuto app. You and the seller review the details and then digitally sign after inspecting the car. No printing or scanning is needed. It’s stored in your PrivateAuto account as a reference, should you ever need it.

Pay for the Car

There weren't many great options to pay for a car until PrivateAuto arrived on the scene. Cash is inconvenient and risky, PayPal has fees, Venmo and Zelle have low transfer limits, and checks and wire transfers are slow and unwieldy.

We got tired of the limitations associated with existing payment methods, so we created PrivateAuto Pay. Here’s how it works:

1. No transfer fees.
2. Instantaneous transfers. Close the deal when you meet for the test drive.
3. Works 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. No coordinating around bank hours.
4. No exchange of contact or banking info.
5. Enjoy escrow-like safeguards without the expense and hassle of an actual escrow service.

You’ll never want to buy a car any other way.
Image highlighting Buying Car Privately by PrivateAuto

Hawaii Title Transfer and Vehicle Registration

After the seller signs the title over, you’ll go to your local Hawaii DMV office to complete the title transfer process. At the same time, you’ll register the vehicle in your name, get new license plates, and pay the associated Hawaii sales tax.

Here’s what you’ll need to provide when you visit your local office:

The Certificate of Title, signed over to you by the previous registered owner
A completed Vehicle Ownership Transfer form
Lien information (if applicable)
Payment for the Hawaii sales tax: 4% of the purchase price
Payment for Hawaii’s vehicle title transfer fee: $5
Payment for Hawaii registration fees: depends on your vehicle type
Valid ID or driver's license
Proof of insurance

Read our complete guide to a Hawaii title transfer for more info on the subject.

Hawaii Vehicle FAQ

What are the names of the DMV offices in Hawaii’s main counties?

Depending on the county, Hawaii DMV offices are known as Motor Vehicle Registration (MVR) or Division of Motor Vehicles and Licensing (DMVL) offices.

Here's a list of the main offices in each county:

1. Hawaii County (Big Island). The offices in this county fall under the Vehicle Registration & Licensing Division.
2. Honolulu County (Oahu): The county registration office is in Satellite City Hall.
3. Kauai County (Kauai and Niihau). The Motor Vehicle Registration office for Kauai County is situated in Lihue.
4. Maui County (Maui, Lanai, Molokai, and Kahoolawe). Maui County's Division of Motor Vehicles and Licensing has multiple locations across the islands, including Kahului, Kihei, Lahaina, Pukalani, Hana, Molokai, and Lanai.
5. Kalawao County (Kalaupapa Peninsula, Molokai). Residents of Kalawao County would most likely need to visit the nearby Division of Motor Vehicles and Licensing office on the island of Molokai for their vehicle registration and licensing needs due to the county's small population and unique situation.

How to register a car in Hawaii?

How to register an out-of-state vehicle in Hawaii?

How much is the License Plate Replacement Fee in Hawaii?