How to Transfer a Car Title in Hawaii

A title certificate is a document that establishes ownership of a car. If you’re looking to buy or sell a used car in Hawaii, the transfer of title is one of the most crucial steps of the entire process.
The title transfer process must be a secure and legal one, particularly in private car sales. This title transfer guide gives you everything you need to know to transfer a vehicle title in the state of Hawaii.
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Car Title Transfer Process

A Hawaii car title transfer has two stages.

1. The two parties (buyer and seller) meet face to face. The seller receives payment from the buyer. Both parties are required to fill out and sign the physical certificate of title. The buyer is now the official and legal owner of the vehicle as of this moment.
2. The buyer completes the process of transferring the title of the vehicle with the Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) office in Hawaii. At the same time, the buyer registers the vehicle and applies for new license plates.
The first step (meeting between the seller and the buyer) is the most important. The second step is merely a formality.

As the seller, you’ll formalize the entire transaction when you transfer the ownership of the car by signing the title over to the buyer. You’ll remove the plates and be done with the vehicle.
As the buyer in a private party car sale, you become the legal owner of the car as soon as the seller transfers the title to your name. You’ll finalize with your local DMV office to get title and registration in your name. You’ll also get new license plates and car insurance.

Sign the Title Correctly

When signing the car title in Hawaii, always keep the following in mind.

Mistakes make the document invalid.
Do not erase anything or use white-out.
Only use black or blue ink. Any other color will void the title.
Write neatly.
Only use legal birth names.

Front of The Title

The back of the title has sections for the seller (red) and the notary (green). Here is the process for filling out the front of a Hawaii title.

Finalize Ownership Transfer with Hawaii DMV

You’ve done the deal and are the proud owner of a new-to-you vehicle. Your work is not yet done. There are still steps you need to take to finalize the title transfer with the state of Hawaii.

In the state of Hawaii, titling and registration are done at the same time. When purchasing a used car, you will need to provide your local Hawaii DMV office with additional paperwork, including:

You will need to submit the following to your local Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) office:

The vehicle title with your signature and driver's license number
Completed Notice of Transfer form
Payment for the car title transfer fee of $5
Payment for Hawaii vehicle sales tax of 4% of the vehicle purchase price

When you purchase a car from a private party, you will be required to complete the title transfer within 30 business days. If you don't meet that deadline, you will have to pay a fee of $50.

Provide Personal Documents

The buyer also needs to have a few personal documents on hand. Check that you have these before preparing for the transfer process:

Proof of Hawaii residency
Valid driver’s license
Proof of insurance

Your proof of insurance must meet Hawaii's minimum insurance requirements. This means having a valid liability policy that includes bodily injury liability for $20,000 per person and $40,000 per accident, property damage liability for $10,000 per accident, and personal injury protection (PIP) for $10,000 per person.

These are the minimum requirements, but you can add more to your policy, like comprehensive and/or collision coverage, or increase your liability coverage.

Safety Testing

While Hawaii does not require emissions testing, to register a vehicle in Hawaii, you must first pass safety testing. Used vehicles must be inspected once a year, and new vehicles must be inspected twice a year after the initial safety inspection.

All vehicles in Hawaii are subject to regular safety inspections:

Annual inspection of used vehicles
New cars: two years after the initial inspection

To have a safety inspection performed on your vehicle, you must take it to an authorized service station, such as an auto repair shop or a dealership.

The following vehicle components will be examined for defects by a certified inspector:

Fuel system
Steering component
Seat belts

In addition to checking these mechanical components of your vehicle, the certified safety inspection will also confirm that you have:

A valid registration card
A valid no-fault Hawaii auto insurance policy
Valid license plates

In Hawaii, the minimum fee for a vehicle safety inspection certificate is $19.19.

Consider a Bill of Sale

A bill of sale isn’t required to sell or buy a car in Hawaii. It is recommended, however, as an official receipt of transfer. A bill of sale provides legal protection for both the buyer and the seller. It proves that the seller is no longer associated with the vehicle, and it proves the buyer's ownership.

We provide an official Hawaii bill of sale as part of our in-app transaction process. Both buyer and seller will be prompted to e-sign the document at the appropriate stage of the transaction, right within the PrivateAuto app.

Here is some of the information the Hawaii bill of sale requires.

Buyer’s name, address, and signature
Seller’s name, address, and signature
Final sale price
Description of the vehicle
Odometer reading

This information proves that the seller did sell the vehicle and that the buyer is the new owner.

Hawaii License Plates

Some states allow the license plates to remain with the car when sold. Unfortunately, Hawaii requires the seller to remove the plates from the car. As the buyer, you’ll apply to your local Hawaii DMV office for new license plates and pay the $45 Hawaii license plate fee.

See our state-by-state guide to license plate requirements if you’re considering buying or selling a car in another state.

Buy or Sell Your Vehicle With PrivateAuto

Whether you want to sell your used vehicle or you’re trying to find used cars for sale, we make the transaction happen.

PrivateAuto Pay, our integrated banking gateway, is truly revolutionary. It allows you to send or receive unlimited funds instantly and for free.
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Hawaii Title Transfer FAQ

How to register a car in Hawaii?

To apply for a Hawaii license plate, you must have a valid Hawaii car registration card from the Hawaii DMV. Hawaii requires in-person registration for your vehicle. To make things more efficient, your vehicle's title and registration are done simultaneously.

You will need to submit the following documents to your local DMV office:

- The vehicle’s title
- The Hawaii vehicle registration from the previous owner
- A completed application.pdf) for registration of a motor vehicle
- A current Hawaii safety inspection certificate
- Payment for the vehicle registration transfer fee of $5

Here are the standard Hawaii vehicle registration fees:

- State fee: $45
- County fee: $12
- Transfer fee: $5
- State weight tax:
- 0 to 4,000 lbs.: 1.75 cents per lb
- 4,001 to 7,000 lbs.: 2 cents per lb
- 7,001 to 10,000 lbs.: 2.25 cents per lb
- Over 10,001 lbs.: $300 flat rate
- County weight tax:
- Passenger vehicles & trucks up to 6,500 lbs pay 1.25 cents per lb
- All vehicles over 6,500 lbs pay 2.5 cents per lb
- Beautification fee: $1
- Electric, plug-in hybrid, alternative fuel, or hybrid vehicles fee: $15
- Sticker renewal/replacement: $0.50
- Plate replacement: $5
- Duplicate registration: $5

To avoid paying a late fee or penalties, make sure you register the car right after transferring the title.

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

How much are license plate replacement fees?

How much is the Hawaii DMV registration renewal fee?

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