Buying a Car in Hawaii Vs. Shipping a Car from California

buying a car in Hawaii

It surprised me to learn I could not buy a car on Big Island from an uncooperative dealer.

Buying a car in Hawaii should not have to be a huge hassle, but a lot of the stuff people tell you and much of the information you can find online is outdated, thus, incorrect. On my last day in Kona before coming home after Labor Day, I thought I had bought a car. I had gone to the Nissan dealer and picked out a Rogue Sport. This vehicle was on the list of Consumer Reports SUV recommendations, and it was fairly inexpensive for a new SUV. Not to mention, super cute! A quality my husband does not share the same enthusiasm for.

The only problem is they didn’t have any I could test drive and the vehicle I wanted was in Hilo. Nevertheless, I put down a deposit. Figured I could test drive the vehicle once back in Sacramento. Plus, I really liked the salesperson, Chris, at Kona Nissan, he was helpful, gracious and professional. Like with Sacramento Realtors, sometimes you luck out and get a really good person.

When I got back to town, I was busy with listing appointments for an entire week and could not get around to a test drive. I was excited and I love the neon orange, so 1960s retro. But when I drove the car, it’s small engine just didn’t have enough power for me. Further, like my husband pointed out, Consumer Reports ranked other small SUVs better. In fact, the best seemed to be a Subaru. We went next door to that Subaru dealer and met another amazing salesperson.

I drove an Outback, but that engine was the same as the Nissan Rogue Sport, and not nearly as chipper or, dare I say, cute. In fact, it was depressing. I felt like I would be very depressed if I had to drive that sad vehicle. It reminded me of my teenage years driving clunkers. The salesperson suggested a Forester Premium with a moon roof that rolled all the way back, not just halfway like my Mercedes. The engine is bigger, better pickup, and simply a pretty vehicle. Everything about it rated very highly: safety, customer satisfaction, reliability. When you’re buying a car in Hawaii to use on the Big Island, it’s important to know that you can rely on your vehicle.

Then I discovered that shipping a car to Hawaii meant taking it to the Port of Oakland. It’s about $1,500 or so to ship from California. Plus, it needs to be registered here, and registered again in Hawaii, but the sales tax paid here is deducted. The problem is our sales tax is about twice that in Hawaii. No refunds. Everybody said it is cheaper to buy a car in California and ship, but it’s not. I got a bottom-line price from a Consumer Reports-affiliated dealer, and it still cost more to buy it in California and ship.

I then decided to buy the vehicle from a dealer on Big Island. Keep my $$ local. I knew what I wanted, the options, the color, all the salesperson had to do was write it up. I could not get the salesperson to help me with buying a car in Hawaii. He gave me a price that was higher than Servco Subaru of Maui. When I asked him to match that dealer’s price, not only did he flat-out refuse, but his attitude turned insulting and rude. I finally begged him to stop texting me and to go away. At this point, I would have paid more to buy a car elsewhere, it was that awful. Senseless.

If I treated a Sacramento real estate client in that manner, I would deserve to be strung up by my toes.

The FedX package arrived this week from Maui. Jennifer at Placer Title was kind enough to notarize the pages I needed, and I sent my check yesterday to Servco Subaru in Maui. They will deliver the vehicle to Big Island when I come out this winter. They are shipping it from Honolulu. In the end of my buying a car in Hawaii experience, it turned out to be less expensive (and I received better service) to buy it through a dealer on another island and pay for shipping from Oahu to Big Island, than to buy the vehicle on Big Island. Come to think of it, that’s exactly what our neighbor in Kona said he did.

Goodbye National Car Rental Emerald Club. Do you know it costs $3,000 to rent a car for 2 months on the Big Island? Another interesting tidbit, when we visited Mauna Kea, we discovered that in Japan, Subaru is pronounced Soo BAR Ru. That’s where we saw the Subaru telescope and learned of its native pronunciation. We Americanize so many words.


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