Take time to learn a little about cars and the registration process in Hawaii

Written by: 
Adam Case
Riding the bus and hitching rides with friends is fun for a semester, but students said that can get old. When buying a car, they said find a friend who knows about cars, try adding your car to your parents’ insurance, and always use a code reader to find out if the car you want to buy has any mechanical problems.


A Horror Story

Blair Hauk, an exercise science major from California, recently purchased a Nissan Xterra. He tells his story, “I met this man on BYUH sell your stuff. I met him on campus and he told me that there was a problem with the sensor. He was going to fix it. I told him I was interested but to let me know when he fixed it. A couple of weeks later I checked it out. There was no engine light. I made a deal and bought the car.
"That night driving from Moana Street to campus, the car died three time and the engine light turned back on. I called the guy who sold it to me. He came and checked it with his code reader. He said it was the sensor again. He let me borrow another car and told me that he would fix the problem. A week later I got the car back. The engine light was off, he said he had to change the distributer.
"About a week later, driving to Sunset Beach on my first journey out of Laie, the engine overheated. I called a friend and he couldn’t figure out what is wrong with it. I called the seller back and he came and put two buckets of water in the radiator. I tried to sell the car back, but he told me that he only has $1,000 of the money I had already given him. So, I decided to keep the car. I had a bunch of people look at my car and they couldn’t figure out what was wrong. Eventually I went to the organic mechanic and he tells me that it needs a new water pump. I got that fixed and it has worked pretty well since, but it is currently starting to shake…”
Hauk counsels, “It’s not a matter of looking for a perfect car. It’s about looking for a car with problems you can handle.”

Finding a Car

Foster May, an accounting major from South Africa, just bought a Nissan Pathfinder. “I searched Facebook and Craigslist for a couple of weeks. I found a lot of good deals, but I never was motivated enough to drive across the island to check out a car. Finally, I found an ad for an older Pathfinder on Facebook. There wasn’t a lot of information on the ad, but the seller was very quick to respond and seemed honest - so I went to go look at it in Mililani. It has some mechanical problems that I haven’t identified yet but it seems like a good car.”
Some sources that students mentioned finding good deals on cars were:
• “BYUH Buy and Sell” page on Facebook. This is a private page you can join where they sell everything from cars to baby clothes.
• Craigslist. Students recommend bringing a friend who knows about cars to check and make sure the car a working properly. A few students have unknowingly bought cars with major problems because they didn’t know what to
look for, they said.
• Ask friends who are graduating or leaving the island. Students end up selling their cars cheap because they are leaving soon.
• Consider shipping a car from the mainland. It usually costs $1,000 to $1,500, but you will have a car that you already know. Colton Roney, a senior studying phycology, shipped his car from home for around $1,000. He said it is worth it to ship one over because it is hard to find something of quality here.


Insuring your vehicle is very important and should be done before you drive it anywhere. Most policies can be set up online or by phone. Some companies students have used are Geico, Island Insurance, and Allstate. Something important students mentioned doing was pairing up with their parent’s insurance policy. Hauk said he is on his parent’s AAA plan. Some mainland companies will not insure a car in Hawaii but, if possible, cheaper rates may be found this way.


Safety and Registration

A big road block in getting your car ready for the road is safety and registration. The first step would be to get your safety check done. This can be done with most mechanics and costs around $20. They check and make sure your car is in proper working order. Students mentioned that places like Jiffylube and other well-establish businesses aren’t as lenient.
Once you get the first inspection done, they give you some paperwork you can take, along with proof of insurance, title, and possibly other documents depending on your situation found at http://www.dmv.org/hi-hawaii/car-registration.php, to the DMV. The DMV in Kaneohe usually has shorter lines but other DMV’s, like in Aiea, let you take a ticket and come back in a few hours when they are ready for you. The cost of registration is more expensive in Hawaii than it is on the mainland and is based on the weight of the car instead of the price.
One very important thing to know about registration in Hawaii is back taxes. It is important to buy a car that has been registered recently or you may have to pay any unpaid registration tax on the car if it has been unregistered. For example, if I buy a car from a man who has not registered it for three years, I must pay those three years of registration to get it registered instead of just paying this year’s fee. This can quickly add up to thousands of dollars.
After paying your dues at the DMV, you must go back to where you had your car inspected and show them that you did your registration to receive your stickers. Then you are done, until next year…
There are a few students on campus who have knowledge of cars. Roney, who said he has helped many friends with their cars, said a lot of cars here have problems with batteries, cooling problems, and leaky hoses. He suggests using a code reader to find out what exactly is wrong with the car before you buy it because most cars in the price range students are looking at have the check engine light on. 
Date Published: 
Wednesday, April 12, 2017
Last Edited: 
Wednesday, April 12, 2017

Note: This story was featured in the April 2017 print issue.