A big dilemma for those moving to Kauai: do I ship my mainland car or buy a vehicle there? Garden Island Auto Sales validated our choice.
Disclosure: We have a business relationship with Garden Island Auto Sales, having bought and sold with them when we lived on, and returned to, Kauai.
When we were planning on moving to Kauai, there were so many details associated with wrapping up our mainland life that we left decisions about our cars until just a few months before our departure date. This made sense: we needed our vehicles to go about daily life, and we weren’t really sure whether taking them (or just one) was the right decision. About three months prior to our move, we got serious about researching our options.
Initially, both of us thought we’d be taking a vehicle with us when moving to Kauai. What we discovered, though, was the process of doing this was a little more involved, and ultimately much more inconvenient and costly, than we anticipated.
“Just ship your car, they said. It’ll be great, they said.”
You’ll find lots of recommendations on the Internet (some of which are from people who have no actual experience) that you should ship your mainland car to Hawaii. From our pre-relocation research before we moved, and on-island experience (our own and that of others), we disagree. Here are the facts straight from one of the companies which would ship your vehicle:
Hawaii Rates: (effective 4/10/2021, please check for updates)
To Hawaii from California ports (Long Beach and Oakland) as long as your vehicle does not exceed 21’8”L x 6’3”’H starts from $1747. Seattle/Tacoma rates begin at $2247.
Extensive Preparations: Your vehicle must be clean and pass an extensive USDA inspection at origin and destination. No cracks or damage to windshields or windows. All personal belongings, decorative ornaments and non-factory installed items such as tailgate nets, roof racks, alarm systems, extra speakers, power boosters, etc. must be removed.
Length of Wait: You must allow between two and three weeks for delivery. Port storage fees on the mainland and at Nawiliwili are free for 4 business days, with daily charges assessed thereafter. During this time, you’re still going to need transportation of some kind, whether you’re on island already or still on the mainland. Factor in at least $300/week for a rental from a local via Craigslist, much more from a national agency.
Unexpected Duress: We heard from a friend who shipped his car and it was exposed to the elements. When the car arrived in Hawaii, there was a ton of damage from salt water and air exposure. Not cool.
With all of the above in mind, and coming from Minnesota, we became less and less enamored with the idea of keeping our vehicles. We decided to sell my Volkswagen Passat and get by with one vehicle on the mainland for the last couple of months. Then, we thought some more about our remaining vehicle: a 4 year old Jeep Liberty. Initially, we’d thought this might be the perfect Kauai car.
BUT – We would have had to drive it out to California with gas at an all-time high, arrange for accommodations in California around the drop-off, and comply with all the above requirements. Because we were moving at the beginning of February, this would have been a tiresome several days of driving across the country, in what was sure to be some sort of inclement winter weather. In addition, having rented a car on island previously, we knew how expensive that was going to be for three weeks. All of these aspects put a damper on our newly-acquired aloha!
Instead, we opted to sell on the mainland and then gave ourselves a schedule upon arrival within which to obtain a set of wheels.
“Moving to Kauai? You need a friend in the car business. That friend is Garden Island Auto Sales.”
After moving to Kauai, we visited several new car dealers, and immediately came down with a case of severe sticker shock. Transporting new vehicles to the island adds a lot to their overall cost! When we decided a used car would be in our best interest, our luck began to turn. Pulling into Garden Island Auto Sales, we were faced with a wide variety of choices in pre-owned vehicles.
The Garden Island Auto Sales customer experience couldn’t have been easier. Within an hour or so, we’d settled on our vehicle, a Lexus SUV with low miles. Garden Island owner Victor Lawson had us approved for an auto loan with First Hawaiian Bank in a very short period of time. The next day, we came in to sign the paperwork and drove our new wheels off the lot.
Garden Island Auto Sales specializes in “Car Fax Certified” one-owner vehicles with 95% of their inventory coming from Oahu, where conditions contribute to more pristine condition. Victor has almost 30 years in business on Kauai and is dedicated to providing the best selection of vehicles at a variety of prices to fit every budget. A quick check of current inventory while writing this post revealed a range of choice from newer compacts, luxury sedans, trucks and SUVs – something for everybody!
“But what about if I have to leave Kauai? Will it be hard to sell my car?”
When you’re moving to Kauai, the last thing you’re thinking about is ever having to leave! But many folks find themselves in circumstances that have them moving on. When we decided we were going to travel full time, we gave Victor a call for advice. “Just bring it down to me, name your price, and we’ll sell it for you.”
And that’s exactly what happened. We embarked on our first stop from Kauai in Fiji, Victor kept in touch with us as to the status, and when a new buyer was found, handled the transaction remotely for us while we remained out of the country.
When you’re moving to Kauai, what passes for conventional wisdom isn’t necessarily the best alternative to meet your express needs. We couldn’t have been happier with our decision, and more than likely would have incurred unnecessary frustration and expense. If you’re planning your move, be open to the idea that buying a vehicle when you get to Kauai is possibly your best move. If that’s the case, give Garden Island Auto Sales a try!