Hilo Car and Driver Licensing

Moving to Hawaii

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A major part of moving to Hawaii is getting your cars inspected and licensed as well as getting a driver's license. The information here is based on our experiences in Hilo.

If you are considering a move to Hawaii Island, YOUR IDEAL HAWAII MOVE: A Guide for Moving to Hawaii Island contains detailed information on licensing a vehicle, getting a driver's license, deciding whether to become a resident of the state, and other choices when moving to Hawaii.


To register your vehicles in Hawaii, you need to do the following things in order:

  1. Get auto insurance
  2. Get a safety inspection (requires proof of auto insurance)
  3. Go to the Motor Vehicle Department office to get a Hawaii car title, registration and new license plates (requires proof of passed safety inspection and auto's bill of lading)

Hawaii Car Title and License - The Motor Vehicle Licensing and Registration office is located in the Aupuni Center at 101 Pauahi Street.

Apuni Center in Hilo Hawaii County

The Motor Vehicle Registration office is in Suite 5, on the left side of the entrance above.

Apuni Center Car Lic office in Hilo, Hawaii

The office opens at 8 AM and it is well worth being there when they open. It takes a while to process the cars (and we had two cars), so the line was pretty long by the time we were finished.

In order to get a Hawaii car title and license plates you need to bring your car's current title and registration, the bill of lading from the shipping company (make sure it is signed when you pick up your cars), and the Hawaii safety inspection certificate. Bring a photo id and money (they take a check).

The County web page on their vehicle registration and licensing office addresses and hours around the island is here with other information about their procedures.

Hawaii vehicle safety inspection. Once your auto insurance company has provided you with a vehicle insurance identification card you need to obtain a safety inspection certificate and sticker for the car in order to register the car in Hawaii. There are many service stations and car repair shops with signs stating they perform the safety check. You must bring your car, vehicle registration and insurance identification card and wait for their inspection. If it doesn't pass, you have to make the repairs before being able to get the certificate. We used Midas in Hilo and they were great; for $15.31 (each car) they provided us with the certificate we needed for DMV. Once we obtained our Hawaii title and new license plates, we returned to Midas and they put the new license plates on the car and attached the final safety sticker on to the bumper.

Hawaii auto safety sticker

Auto Insurance. We used an agent with the same company we had on the mainland, hoping that longevity with the company would help us get covered, but it didn't seem to make much difference. Where your residence is located is a factor in the insurance cost as well as whether they will cover a vehicle at all. As a part of the process, they physically inspected our cars. All of our insurance policies (auto, rental, umbrella) had to be rewritten for Hawaii and it took a while, so plan for that when calculating the time it takes to license your car in Hawaii.

Subsequent Car Registration Every year the State sends us a bill for car registration renewal. You can get a car registration sticker without getting an updated inspection sticker, but there is a fine if the police ticket you for an expired sticker. The safety inspection stickers are color coded and easy to spot when they are out of date.


Hawaii does not require you to get a driver's license if you have a valid license from another state in US or country with driving agreements in the US. When you get a Hawaii license, you must surrender any other driver's license. There are driver's licensing offices around the island. The office in Hilo is located at the Hawaii Police Department building at 349 Kapiolani street, not the Apuni Center.

Hilo Police Department

The driver's licensing office is up the steps and to the left.

Hilo Police Dept

When you are ready to get a Hawaii license here is what you need to do:

  1. Study the Hawaii Driver's Manual. You can buy a book in a retail store or use the online PDF version: Hawaii Driver Manual. Some of the laws are different than on the mainland, so it is worth studying.
  2. The Hilo office is open for written tests from 8AM to 3PM.
  3. You need to bring your current valid driver's license, your Social Security card, and cash or a check to pay the fee. Hawaii has just changed the law to require proof of citizenship by bringing a passport or birth certificate.
  4. When you get to the office, you have to fill out an application with your mailing and actual addresses, your height, weight, and other information. You have the option of registering to vote as a part of the application. Once the application is filled out, stand in line and wait for a window.
  5. When called to a window you are asked for your driver's license, which they keep, and your Social Security card. A vision test is performed so make sure you have the right glasses if you need them. They use a machine to test your vision and peripheral vision.
  6. If you pass the vision test, then you take the written test in an area set aside with desks. When you are finished, hand in the test and stand in line again until they call you back to the window to grade your test and verify you have a passing score. If you pass the test, pay the fee at another window and they will take your photo, get your signature, and your finger prints. Before you leave, they hand you an official Hawaii's driver's license. Our licenses are valid for 7 years before requiring renewal. The day we went in, there were only 2 other people there and it took over 45 minutes to leave with the license.


The state of Hawaii issues identification cards that can be used in place of a driver's license to get access to county services (like the golf course) and use as a picture id for airline travel or cashing checks. A Hawaii State Identification Card provides a local id if you choose to keep an out of state driver's license or don't drive.

The Hawaii State ID is issued by the County at the Police Station in Hilo (349 Kapiolani street). The cost is $15 and you must fill out an application, bring your Social Security card, passport or birth certificate, and proof of Hawaii residency.

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