Living Hawaii

Living Hawaii: The Surprising Price Tag for New Car Buyers in the Islands

Long-distance shipping affects the cost of many goods in Hawaii, but that's not the case for our vehicles.

·By Nick Grube

Editor’s Note: Civil Beat is examining why life in the islands is so expensive in an ongoing series, Living Hawaii. We are taking a look at what’s behind high prices here and discussing ways to bring them down.

We’ve all heard about the “Paradise Tax.” It is, people say, the added cost of living in these islands.

We feel it at the gas pump, when we open our electric bill, and at the checkout counter when we purchase a gallon of milk.

Many believe it gets back to the cost of shipping goods across the Pacific. The cost of transit may be what adds a buck or more onto the price of a six-pack.

So what about that brand new Chevy Cruze? What could be more vulnerable to the so-called paradise tax than a shiny new car fresh off the boat?

Almost everything in Hawaii is more expensive, but not new cars.

Eric Pape/Civil Beat

After all it weighs more than that sixer of beer, and takes up much more room on a cargo ship. But as it turns out, new vehicles aren’t subject to the same paradise tax as most other goods.

“It’s so counter-intuitive it surprises people,” said Dave Rolf, of the Hawaii Automobile Dealers Association. “There’s uniform shipping so it’s the same cost to ship a car one mile from the factory as it is to ship it to Hawaii.”

That means a new Toyota should list at the same price in Lihue as it does in Los Angeles, where

About the Author

Civil Beat Staff

Nick Grube

Nick Grube is a reporter for Civil Beat. You can reach him by email at or follow him on Twitter at @nickgrube.
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How would your driving habits change if cars cost more in Hawaii than elsewhere?