buying a car in hawaii

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not have to be a huge hassle, but a lot of the stuff people tell you and much of the information you can find online is outdated, thus, incorrect.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.


Photos From My Last Day in Kailua-Kona

my last day in Kailua Kona

Airport Beach is fairly deserted late Saturday morning.

As you read this, I am probably still asleep, trying to adjust after my last day in Kailua-Kona. The time difference during the daylight saving is three hours earlier than Sacramento. I usually get up when the sun rises in Kailua-Kona. In Sacramento, that would be about 9 AM, but I cannot start my business day in Sacramento at that time. Now that Labor Day is over, it’s time to get back to work, and people expect me to be bright-eyed and bushy-tailed. Going forward in time is really hard for me.

I started out my last day thinking I would get a manicure, so I went to see Elaine at Hot Nails. The plumbing is out at the salon, so technically they were closed but Elaine made an exception for me. She asked if I have been to the Big Island Fair. No, I haven’t. Didn’t even know it was happening. She said if I drove down Kuakini to the end and then turned left, I would find the Big Island Fair.

The turnoff was easy to spot because the road that continued north was filled with potholes. It leads to the Old Kona Airport State Park, which the locals call Airport Beach. So I kept going.

Waves roll in at Airport Beach as a boat passes by


my last day in Kailua-Kona

Elizabeth Weintraub at Airport Beach in Kailua-Kona.

I hung out at the beach for about an hour, watching people, mesmerized by the rolling surf. I recorded the sound so I can play it back whenever I feel homesick for the ocean. It was fairly empty and deserted. The people who were there mostly sat on the sand to stare at the water or read a book. A few others enjoyed picnics. There are small huts scattered about to provide shelter from the sun, featuring picnic benches and separate BBQ grills.

my last day in Kailua Kona

Big Island Fair did not open on Saturday until noon.

I arrived at the Big Island Fair around 11:30 AM. The gates were open, so I walked inside. There was nobody collecting tickets but it did cost to get into the fair. I walked all around and nobody told me to get out. See, this is how life in Kailua-Kona is. It’s very kickback. Elaine told me the food wasn’t very good but the rides were fun. I did not feel like waiting a half hour, so instead, I decided to go to the gas station and fill up my rental Jeep Renegade.

my last day in Kailua Kona

Kona Nissan at noon on a Saturday.

As I stood at the pump, filling my car, I started reflecting on the online searches I had been doing about buying a car for our house in Hawaii. I initially thought a Jeep Renegade would be a good vehicle. I used to own a CJ5 in 1974. I like Jeeps. Even though I rolled it down a hill and lived after flipping it. But my husband talked me out of a Jeep Renegade. He read Consumer Reports, which basically said the only good Jeep is a Grand Cherokee. He then sent me a list of recommended SUVs. On that list was a Nissan Rogue.

Hey Siri, take me to a Nissan dealer. I hopped back into the Jeep. Now, I know everybody says don’t buy a car in Kona. They say buy it in California and ship it. Shipping is cheap. On the surface that makes sense but I like to keep my money in local communities where I spend time. And surely the dealers in Hawaii know this and would be willing to offer a deal, especially since the 2018s are coming next month.

After negotiation, I put down a refundable deposit on a Monarch orange Nissan Rogue Sport. Plus, I know the Nissan dealer in Reno has a good price for this exact vehicle. I drove a Nissan Rogue SL but Kona Nissan didn’t have a Sport. The closest Rogue Sport is in Hilo. I like the orange because it’s such a 1960’s color. Plus, I can find it easily in any parking lot. It’s a rebellious color. We will need to test drive a Nissan Rogue Sport in Sacramento.

If we decide to buy it, the salesperson promised to meet me at the airport when I come out this winter and hand me the keys. They would never do this in Sacramento. What do you think?

last day in Kailua-kona

Monarch orange Nissan Rogue Sport is surprisingly affordable in Kailua-Kona.

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