Big Island and Automobiles, Part II: Choosing the Right Car
Updated: Feb 16
This blog is a continuation of the series about Big Island and Automobiles. In the first post, I covered what it is like to drive in Hawaii. For this post, my team has consulted the local automobile experts and shared their opinions and observations that will help you choose the right car for the island and make an informed decision when it comes to buying one.
If you are planning to move to the Big Island, a car is a necessity here. As the name suggests, the island is quite big, and population centers are spread out. In addition, the Big Island is unique in its infrastructure, geography, climate, and choice of activities, so before you picture yourself driving that convertible along the breathtaking coastline with the wind in your hair, consider the following factors.
Your lifestyle will likely change once you move to the Big Island, so it might be helpful to think about it before deciding on the vehicle to get. Whether you live in a resort or on a coffee farm, we advise prioritizing practicality and comfort over the image. Nobody pays attention to what kind of car you drive here, so think about what YOU want to do and how YOU want to live.
If you have an explorer in you and would like to go places like Waipio Valley or Mauna Kea Summit, 4WD is a must. The most attractive and exciting sites are not accessible by regular cars, and going there might be one of the best experiences of your lifetime. If you would like to engage in ocean activities like surfing, paddle boarding, and such, a truck could be helpful to haul all your gear. You get the idea.
Here are a few brands that are in demand and are compatible with the island's pulse. Toyota seems to be a local favorite. It checks all the boxes if you are looking for an active lifestyle. Toyota trucks and SUVs (like 4Runner) are used by surfers, professionals, families, and anyone who wants reliable transportation and ease of getting around the island. Toyota has a modern dealership and service center in Kona and Hilo on the island's east side.
Honda is also a great brand to consider. With locations in Kona and Hilo, the dealership offers SUVs, trucks, and various sedans chosen by people for low mileage and durability, when exploring the island is not that important.
If you are looking for more luxury, BMW is your choice. They have a great line of 4x4 SUVs that are popular on the island. The dealership is located in the center of Kona and provides a great variety of cars and excellent service.
Maintenance is another critical factor to think about, especially if you consider bringing a car from the mainland. Living in the middle of the ocean does come with its consequences. Check if there is a dealership or service center on the island that can support your type of vehicle, especially if it is a luxury brand. The BMW mentioned above is the only luxury dealer on the island, and they offer complete service. There is a Mercedes service center in Kona and some smaller auto shops authorized to work on German cars, but it is best to ensure that your brand can be supported here. Also, bringing the parts from the mainland takes some time, so be prepared for longer than usual waits for repairs. The popular brands with service centers are Toyota, Honda, Nissan, Ford, Hyundai, Kia, and BMW.
Gas vs. Electric
Electric cars gained a lot in popularity over the last few years. You see more and more Teslas and other EVs on the roads here; however, the infrastructure to support them is not as abundant. The best way to deal with it if you consider an electric vehicle is to install a fast charger in your garage, especially if you live in the resort area. There are only a few charging stations in this area, and they are not always available when you need them. Kona has more options, but they are still quite limited compared to what you can find in larger cities.
If you decide to go that route, get familiar with the charging station providers and their apps. There are a few of them on the island, and each requires a different app and an active account to use them, so it is best to prepare for it.
In the end, whatever vehicle you decide on, make it work for YOU. Enjoy the island, see the beauty, and have fun! Live your Hawaii Life!
In the next part of the series, I will explore whether it is better to bring a car from the mainland or buy it here, so stay tuned!
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Images courtesy of SGT Transport, BMW, Hawaiian Electric