California Title and Registration of Diesels

Joined
Dec 3, 2010
Messages
865
Location
Redlands, CA
 
I'm in California. What are peoples recent experiences with title and registration of an HJ61? Any vehicle I'd be buying would come with out of state registration (and then I'd register it in CA) or some companies even can get a CA title and registration. If one does the import yourself, its easiest to get a vehicle registered in CA if it comes with out of state registration.

Here's the crux though. I spoke with a local JDM importer who is a registered dealer with the state and he doesn't do CA sales of diesels. He told me the DMV can and does give title and registration to an HJ61 using the 30 year rule but this is mostly due to laxness or ignorance of the DMV employees. He, as a registered dealer, wont try to get CA title and registration because its not legal for him. He does get other states registration however. He claims that technically, no non-US imported diesels are legal under any circumstances in this state unless they are 1978 (or 1979?) or older. They are only legal if they go through the retrofit process (~$12k). The owner of a CA title and registered vehicle can still have it seized an any given moment during a traffic stop for example or as part of an organized criminal investigation. WTF? How can a vehicle if CA gave title and registration to a vehicle seize it later if its not legal?
Christ, I think I need to speak to a lawyer (my least favorite pastime)..... :bang::worms::censor:
 

SteveJackson

Supporting Vendor
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Oct 21, 2013
Messages
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Location
Utah
 
Land Cruisers Direct has sold over a dozen vehicles into California with no problems. Check the regulations, vehicles previously titled and registered out of state can be titled and registered in California no problem. Most importers don't go through the extra step and expense of titling, they hand you a stack of paperwork and you have to get your own title in your own state. This is called direct import, which is a complicated and nearly impossible process in California. Land Cruisers Direct is different and provides you with a transferrable title valid in all 50 states.
 
Joined
Apr 5, 2006
Messages
13,821
Location
San Jose, CA
 
 
Land Cruisers Direct has sold over a dozen vehicles into California with no problems. Check the regulations, vehicles previously titled and registered out of state can be titled and registered in California no problem.
That may be true. It really depends on which person you run into at the DMV.

Importing a rig directly into CA from a country other than Canada is never going to work. The emissions system has to be originally from North America for it to pass the BAR. There is no 25 or 30 year exemption. If anyone thinks there might be such an exemption, please post a reference.

What you have to do is import it into another state, get a title, best if it states on the title that the fuel type is diesel, then import it into CA. That is very straight forward. In this case there is no BAR intervention or DMV roulette.
 

perrobravo

SILVER Star
Joined
May 21, 2012
Messages
565
Location
San Diego, CA
 
Land Cruisers Direct has sold over a dozen vehicles into California with no problems. Check the regulations, vehicles previously titled and registered out of state can be titled and registered in California no problem. Most importers don't go through the extra step and expense of titling, they hand you a stack of paperwork and you have to get your own title in your own state. This is called direct import, which is a complicated and nearly impossible process in California. Land Cruisers Direct is different and provides you with a transferrable title valid in all 50 states.
Not an HJ61, but one of those "over a dozen vehicles" Steve mentioned above is in my garage now, registered in California in February! Besides waiting an eternity in line and having to write a fat check for sales tax, the interaction with the DMV was pretty simple. The DMV rep didn't even get out of his chair, let alone inspect the truck or even confirm it exists.

A few more details of my experience are here: https://forum.ih8mud.com/threads/righty-moves-to-san-diego.840721/#post-9610832

 
Joined
Jun 10, 2015
Messages
5
Location
San Franciso, CA
Whats up guys, I am new to the forum, but I've been reading a lot of posts in the past couple of months.
Since then I found a 70 series I wanted to get.

I bought it but I haven't picked it up from Vancouver.
I am concerned because I realized that California have different regulations with the 25yr old rule for Diesels.

Any suggestions on what to do to register it?
 
Joined
Sep 27, 2006
Messages
700
Location
Venice Ca.
 
 
Whats up guys, I am new to the forum, but I've been reading a lot of posts in the past couple of months.
Since then I found a 70 series I wanted to get.

I bought it but I haven't picked it up from Vancouver.
I am concerned because I realized that California have different regulations with the 25yr old rule for Diesels.

Any suggestions on what to do to register it?
Contact Wayne Darbey at Chevrolake motors in BC. He can awnser all your questions. He did everything for me bringing my diesel from BC to California. Google Chevrolake motors .
 

603

Joined
Jun 21, 2014
Messages
52
Location
Belgium
Another story regarding my 1977 BJ40 imported from Europe. NOT POSSIBLE to title in California. Even though DMV Santa Monica happily took all paperwork, Euro title, customs etc, and told me to "just wait and you'll receive title in the mail". I got all my paperwork back stating I need EPA C.A.R.B verification regarding smog (EGR etc).
Titled it in AZ and then tried to put in my name in CA; NOT POSSIBLE comes up as "grey market". Red flag on the computer screen, no EPA sticker in door jamb. Needs to be prior to 1966 to be EPA exempt. I have been to hell and back trying and gathering information and titling is NOT POSSIBLE in CA without EPA sticker in door jamb/ test lab procedure and if you do manage without it is ILLEGALLY DONE by someone (usually a registered importer bypassing parts of the DMV bureaucracy) risking their license and jail time. Any of you who have one titled in CA, good luck and don't get caught because it will get impounded or at the very minimum your title cancelled as I have been told over the phone by the manager of the technical department at the DMV in Sacramento last winter. (who, strangely enough doesn't understand how they get through/titled and asked me for some VIN's of cruisers to "check up on" which of course I didn't give her)
It's not high priority to the DMV to hunt down illegal diesel vehicles in CA but be aware that it IS illegal, unless you've installed EGR system etc etc and went through an environmental test lab like this

ecologiclabs or whoever is certified by EPA and C.A.R.B

I don't try CA anymore, with my next BJ. There's 48 states they can be sold anyway. I heard the DMV-employee say the phrase "yes it's 48-state legal" when I showed my AZ-title.
 

603

Joined
Jun 21, 2014
Messages
52
Location
Belgium
correction: The trying to get AZ title transferred to CA title was my Euro Mercedes diesel, not the BJ. That had a 17 digit VIN, and hence came up as grey market. The BJ40 sold in AZ but what I did was show the title to an officer at DMV in Santa Monica who said titling wouldn't be possible because of the EPA sticker- issue.
If it would be possible, and apparently it is as s many people have diesel cruisers with CA titles, then I have been given wrong information by the DMV, including the officers at their head office in Sacramento. It's rather confusing I must say.
The nightmare of importing directly into CA from overseas I can't recommend anyone, this was easily possible according to DMV Santa Monica, but then all paperwork came back "denied".
 

SteveJackson

Supporting Vendor
Joined
Oct 21, 2013
Messages
1,049
Location
Utah
 
The nightmare of importing directly into CA from overseas I can't recommend anyone, this was easily possible according to DMV Santa Monica, but then all paperwork came back "denied".
Yes, it is impossible as you say.

I can tell anyone reading this thread that it is possible to legally register and operate an imported diesel vehicle in California. Land Cruisers Direct takes the extra steps necessary to make this possible. Any vehicle bought from us can be licensed and registered in your home state, guaranteed, California included. We have sold over 20 diesel vehicles into California in the last three years, not one has had a problem with licensing, titling or registration. Others may have problems with vehicles from other locations or other sellers. But LCD trucks are guaranteed not to have any titling or licensing problems, in California or anywhere else.
 
Joined
Jun 8, 2015
Messages
10
I'm in the military and just ran into this issue they said I need a manufacturers letter stating it meets EPA standards... Don I have any options? It's a FJ60 1986 2H diesel from Japan. Help please anyone!
 
Joined
Nov 24, 2014
Messages
5,171
Location
Traffic Land
 
Another story regarding my 1977 BJ40 imported from Europe. NOT POSSIBLE to title in California. Even though DMV Santa Monica happily took all paperwork, Euro title, customs etc, and told me to "just wait and you'll receive title in the mail". I got all my paperwork back stating I need EPA C.A.R.B verification regarding smog (EGR etc).
Titled it in AZ and then tried to put in my name in CA; NOT POSSIBLE comes up as "grey market". Red flag on the computer screen, no EPA sticker in door jamb. Needs to be prior to 1966 to be EPA exempt. I have been to hell and back trying and gathering information and titling is NOT POSSIBLE in CA without EPA sticker in door jamb/ test lab procedure and if you do manage without it is ILLEGALLY DONE by someone (usually a registered importer bypassing parts of the DMV bureaucracy) risking their license and jail time. Any of you who have one titled in CA, good luck and don't get caught because it will get impounded or at the very minimum your title cancelled as I have been told over the phone by the manager of the technical department at the DMV in Sacramento last winter. (who, strangely enough doesn't understand how they get through/titled and asked me for some VIN's of cruisers to "check up on" which of course I didn't give her)
It's not high priority to the DMV to hunt down illegal diesel vehicles in CA but be aware that it IS illegal, unless you've installed EGR system etc etc and went through an environmental test lab like this

ecologiclabs or whoever is certified by EPA and C.A.R.B

I don't try CA anymore, with my next BJ. There's 48 states they can be sold anyway. I heard the DMV-employee say the phrase "yes it's 48-state legal" when I showed my AZ-title.


All that trouble you've gone through sounds really bad. I had no idea CA is really that idiotic to go back to '66.
 

603

Joined
Jun 21, 2014
Messages
52
Location
Belgium
it seems to be the case CA DMV requires this paperwork from the manufacturer, and according to Steve it's best to title elsewhere first for at least one year and then title in CA.
 
Joined
May 8, 2011
Messages
212
Location
Brentwood TN
I have had two in the past but currently I have a HJ47 & a HJ75 both of which got denied after inspections and paperwork..

I registered one in Vegas no issues but was unable to transfer it into Cali..

There are workarounds i.e. Arizona you may get lucky but i think that all the DMV staff just send it to Sacramento and then that is where it sits.
 

SteveJackson

Supporting Vendor
Joined
Oct 21, 2013
Messages
1,049
Location
Utah
 
I have had two in the past but currently I have a HJ47 & a HJ75 both of which got denied after inspections and paperwork..

I registered one in Vegas no issues but was unable to transfer it into Cali..

There are workarounds i.e. Arizona you may get lucky but i think that all the DMV staff just send it to Sacramento and then that is where it sits.
It's possible that it is flagged since you tried California and then registered in Vegas. Bummer. Direct import titling in California is a nightmare. Titling out of state first and transferring to California works.
 
Joined
Jan 21, 2016
Messages
1
Location
Japan
Here is a great read and relates to any import coming in under the 25 year law. I'm in the process of selling my Land Rover Defender 110 I bought while stationed in England but the problem is I'm a California resident ( Ahhh I hate that damn state )Basically from my learning experience and the 5 months of trying to figure everything out move out of that stupid state. Any who now I'm in Japan and about to take the plunge and get 1993 80 series. Nothing is impossible if you have boo coo amounts of money. Enjoy the read best explanation of exactly what you can and cannot do.
Defenders in California - Everything you want to know
So you live in California, and want to own a Defender? Great!

The problem is, California has the strictest emissions regulations in the country, governed by the California Air Resources Board (CARB). There is little to no room to escape these regulations, trust me people have tried.

Here are some important facts to consider:
  • ALL VEHICLES starting with Model Year 1976 have to meet California Emissions Standards to be sold in the state. Vehicles that only meet EPA (Federal, or "49 state") standards can be brought into California 2 years after manufacture, with more than 7,500 miles on the odometer. There is no "sliding window" or "25 year exemption". Since the engines used in Defenders (2.25, 2.5, Turbo, 200Tdi, 300Tdi) were never certified by California or the EPA, they are then ILLEGAL in California vehicles.

This is supported by CA Health and Safety Code sections 44201, 44202, and 44210, emphasis mine:

Quote:
44201. The state board shall adopt, by regulation, a certification
program for used direct import vehicles. The state board shall issue
a certificate of conformance to each used direct import vehicle which
meets the requirements of this program.

44202. A used direct import vehicle which was not registered in
this state prior to the adoption of regulations adopted pursuant to
Section 44201, may not be registered in this state unless it has
received a certificate of conformance from the state board, except as
provided in Section 44210.


44210. The requirements of Section 44202 do not apply to any motor
vehicle having a certificate of conformity issued by the federal
Environmental Protection Agency pursuant to the federal Clean Air Act
(42 U.S.C. Section 7401, et seq. ) and originally registered in
another state by a person who was a resident of that state for at
least one year prior to the original registration, who subsequently
establishes residence in this state and who, upon registration of the
vehicle in California, provides evidence satisfactory to the
Department of Motor Vehicles of that previous residence and
registration.
  • Emissions Compliance and a Smog Check are two different, yet related things. Every vehicle sold in California has been inspected for California Emissions Compliance. This is done behind the scenes before the vehicle is even sold, and is totally handled by the manufacturer. This is what gains you the sticker on the truck that says it meets California requirements. Smog Checks are periodic inspections to make sure your vehicle still complies with the requirements that were in effect at the time of manufacture of your vehicle. Just because an older Diesel doesn't have to have a smog check doesn't mean they didn't have emissions control requirements; it just means the state doesn't require you to prove it's still in compliance year after year. However a vehicle being imported must demonstrate it meets the requirements in place at the time of the engine's manufacture (see section 44202 above).

  • The barrier to California importation is the emissions, not safety standards. California abides by the 25 year importation rules for Safety.

There are 6 major ways people bring Defenders in California:
  1. Purchase a NAS or NAS-Possible (like Japan Spec) vehicles. This means 1993 D110s, or 1994/95/97 D90s. There are specific VIN numbers that are approved for US sale, and ALL of them have a sticker in the driver's footwell that states the vehicle "Meets Federal Safety and Emissions Regulations" or something to that effect. Since they are EPA legal (in fact, most are California legal), you have no issue other than performing a smog check. 100% legal.

  2. Sweet talk your way through DMV. This is how most imported Defenders have arrived here. DMV assumes the stickers have worn away from an off-road vehicle that's at least 25 years old. However there have been reports that the DMV is seeking out these vehicles and requiring owners to take them to a Smog Referee or CHP office for inspection, even if they have already been titled and plated. Not legal.

  3. Register it out of state, and drive it in California. This is another common tactic, since all of the states bordering California will readily register an imported Defender. However California requires you to register your vehicle within 20 days of bringing it into the state. Failure to do that can equal back fees, fines, and even jail time. The CHP has started a program called CHEATERS to find people with out of state plates, and that has netted the DMV almost $1.7M in 2013, and shows no sign of slowing. You are considered a resident of California if you file taxes here, have a California Driver's License, pay the resident rate at a California University, register to vote, or "any other privilege or benefit not ordinarily extended to nonresidents." So, not legal.

  4. Be a military member with out of state plates. If you are a CAC card holding member of the Military stationed in California, you can bring whatever plated out of state vehicle you have. 100% legal. However you can't sell it to someone in the state and have them be exempt from all of the regulations.

  5. Purchase an import, and then implant an engine that is EPA or California compliant. This is the newest possibility. Especially with Nick's LS conversion kit, and the possibility of transplanting a Ford Transit Puma motor into a Defender. California requires that an engine be the same model year or newer than the chassis it is being put in to. So if you have a 1987 Defender and want to put a 2010 LS Motor in it, along with ALL of the required emissions equipment, you can take it to a California Smog Referee and have it signed off as a legal engine swap. 100% legal.

  6. VIN Swap. Have a newer Defender, but title it as something older than a 1976. This is so illegal we aren't even going to talk about it. Like felony pound me in the ass prison illegal. Don't do it. We aren't going to go down the rabbit hole of "what makes up a VIN" or "how much has to stay the same". If you are asking these kinds of questions, you already know you are on the slippery slope.


So, in short, if you want a Defender that is in California Legally, you have these options:
  1. Buy a NAS
  2. Join the Military
  3. Engine swap with California approved components

You may luck out with the following, but it's pretty much still not legal, and is no way condoned or sanctioned by anyone here:
  1. Sweet talk through the DMV
  2. Register out of state and drive it here

Don't even think about this:
  1. VIN Swap

Q & A

How does insurance work?
Insurance companies don't care about emissions laws. Short answer is most insurance companies have no problem providing coverage.

If anyone has questions, please go ahead and ask. Remember I am not a lawyer, but having gone through this process, and have talked to many others who have, I have a great grasp on what's involved.
 
Joined
Nov 29, 2015
Messages
11
Location
SoCal
You may luck out with the following, but it's pretty much still not legal, and is no way condoned or sanctioned by anyone here:
  1. Sweet talk through the DMV
  2. Register out of state and drive it here
  3. A LOT OF LUCK
I have a California registered 1989 Toyota TownAce Turbo Diesel RHD. I modified your list a bit to reflect my experience. Let me just say this was a very stressful experience! I didn't feel relief until that title arrived in the mail.
 
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