How Do Auto Transport Companies Ship Vehicles to Hawaii?

While it’s clear that shipping your vehicle from the United States to Europe qualifies as international auto shipping, some destinations aren’t so clear. For example, although Hawaii is considered part of the United States, auto shippers obviously can’t use the traditional transport truck to deliver a vehicle to the island. Instead, auto shippers employ a variety of methods to ship vehicles both internationally and to islands like Hawaii and Puerto Rico.

It’s interesting to note that the gigantic truck typically associated with auto shipping is actually only a small part of the auto transport industry. Transport companies have long used railroads as a cheap and fast alternative to road transportation. According to automakers, up to 70 percent of all new vehicles sold in the United States make a portion of their journeys to dealerships on trains. Long domestic shipments are often most cost effective when performed on railways.

Shipping a Vehicle to Hawaii

But Hawaii is accessible only by two methods — plane and boat. Fortunately for auto shipping customers, auto transport companies are well equipped to use both. Planes rarely perform auto shipments, except in special circumstances. The U.S. president’s vehicles are always airlifted from Washington D.C. when he travels, for example. This shipment requires the C-5 Galaxy cargo plane. Exotic collector cars and concept vehicles may be delivered by plane to make sure they receive the maximum protection. But the vast majority of vehicles will arrive in Hawaii via a much cheaper method, by boat.

Before you panic about your car being shaken around a cavernous cargo hold on its treacherous journey across the ocean, consider the ships. Ocean vessels designed to ship vehicles are gigantic boats. While some have been built to hold more than 8,000 mid-sized cars, the average ship holds about 5,000. Auto shippers still take plenty of trips to Hawaii, even with large ships. In 2007, 1.13 million vehicles were registered in Hawaii, only slightly less than the population (1.28 million). If you started the 3-day journey with a single 5,000 car ship fully loaded each trip, it would still take you almost four years to deliver all 1.13 million cars to the island from the United States.

The most common use for large auto shipping vessels is to transport foreign-made vehicles from other countries to the United States. For example, the Japanese company Toyota shipped around 1.1 million vehicles to the U.S. in 2008.

Hawaii is completely set up for small to mid-sized vehicles to operate comfortably on the island. State highways can be found throughout the main islands, while O’ahu also has federal highways. It’s important to note that traffic can get congested on the main islands, especially due to the winding roads that characterize Hawaii’s natural beauty.