California Title and Registration of Diesels

tlaporte

SILVER Star
Joined
Dec 17, 2003
Messages
763
Location
Pasadena, CA
 
 
 
As I understand it, “Direct Import” refers to foreign vehicles imported into the US and registered in California, as opposed to foreign vehicles first registered in a different state and then transferred to CA.

I don’t know that there is a practical difference between the two situations in the way that the CARB and DMV interpret the laws nowadays, but I think that’s why you see slightly different verbiage on their site.
 
Joined
Jan 25, 2020
Messages
2
Location
California
Hey everybody, I've been reading through this forum for a while now and I'm ready to purchase an imported '94 diesel Land Cruiser from an importer in Oregon. It has temp registration in OR through the seller, but I was wondering about what it takes to get it registered in California. I know having the temp tags already helps immensely, but what other paperwork should I provide and what should I look for at the DMV in California?

Thanks for the info!

Alex
 
Joined
Nov 16, 2017
Messages
175
Location
California
You will have to o pay the ~$10,000 modification cost to title and register in CA. I don't believe there is anyway around it for a normal civilian, other than titling out of state. Go back a few pages, there's a link to the CARB compliance regulations.
 
Joined
May 1, 2016
Messages
343
Location
san diego
Hey everybody, I've been reading through this forum for a while now and I'm ready to purchase an imported '94 diesel Land Cruiser from an importer in Oregon. It has temp registration in OR through the seller, but I was wondering about what it takes to get it registered in California. I know having the temp tags already helps immensely, but what other paperwork should I provide and what should I look for at the DMV in California?

Thanks for the info!

Alex
As Dcruiser mentioned its about 10k to legally do it now in CA. No direct imports. I've looked into it and confirmed it with cruiser direct who import cruisers specifically and has had CA customers. If I recall correctly, and I forget the details, testing needs to be done for California specifically. I've looked into some oregon importers that title the vehicle and register it. California has specific rules on vehicles purchased out of state too. So in many cases they are still not allowed. Getting an out of state registration is a hassle as well as you can't legally be resident in two places. Good luck. I'd be interested if you find a loop hole.
 

tlaporte

SILVER Star
Joined
Dec 17, 2003
Messages
763
Location
Pasadena, CA
 
 
 
☝This from @dcruiser666 seems to be the accepted current wisdom based on many people’s experiences.

There are certainly exceptions and some folks have gotten lucky through their local DMV—and a $10K price tag for a “guarantee” makes some people willing to gamble on getting lucky, but anything that ends up getting referred to Sacramento or CARB has little to no chance of succeeding.
 
Joined
Nov 16, 2017
Messages
175
Location
California
All this even with a registered Oregon Title and a US VIN?
I think that only increases the likelihood of you getting lucky. Others with a foreign vin, like myself, would probably have no chance. But it is still grey market and technically not allowed. It being registered in a different state first doesn't matter when it comes to CARB regulations.

Don't be dissuaded from getting the truck though, there are relatively easy and "legally safe" ways to own it here. Happy to discuss in a private message if you want.
 
Last edited:
Joined
Sep 10, 2019
Messages
205
Location
New Mexico
Hey everybody, I've been reading through this forum for a while now and I'm ready to purchase an imported '94 diesel Land Cruiser from an importer in Oregon. It has temp registration in OR through the seller, but I was wondering about what it takes to get it registered in California. I know having the temp tags already helps immensely, but what other paperwork should I provide and what should I look for at the DMV in California?

Thanks for the info!

Alex
Hey Alex,

Read this entire thread to get an idea. TL/DR / In short, it seems like it's near-impossible to register a JDM anything in California these days without going through expensive CARB testing. The best way to do this is to register it in Montana, a state that allows you to open an LLC and register it online. Companies like this do it for you Montana Vehicle Registration Services for Cars, Motorcycles and More but you should know it's illegal in California. I have several friends who registered their Rovers, Delicas, KZJ78, and HDJ vehicles this way. You risk a cop pulling you over and ticketing you. It apparently can lead to impounding but I've never heard of it happening.

Otherwise, the short of the CA Reg process (the way I got mine titled) is this:
-Have the vehicle registered in another state for 6 months (AZ or MT).
-Take it to a CHP to VIN-verify the vehicle beforehand. Download the forms online.
-Take that paperwork and the title and proof of insurance to a small and not crazy busy DMV
-When they say the VIN is too short, tell them to get a supervisor to override the VIN. Act like you've done this before.
-Wait for your title.

The problem is, there's a box on the VIN verification forms that says "California EPA" and if it doesn't get checked, Sacramento will deny your title and send you back to CARB for testing, which is expensive.

There's also a few companies that do this for you but my friends recently had the paperwork go through, only to get denied by Sacramento.
 
Joined
Sep 24, 2015
Messages
55
Location
Southern California
You have to get it CARB certified or nothing. Ive done a few of them, I mostly tell people to reg out of state the juice is not worth the squeeze in my opinion but if you want to do it its gonna cost
 
Joined
Oct 26, 2015
Messages
34
Location
55343
I just registered a Japanese diesel RHD HDJ81 1991 in So Cal last week. In CA diesels older than 1997 are not required to pass smog.

Zero problems or hiccups. All we had to pay was the $375 for the plates. The DMV passed everything with an inspection through CHP to verify the "frame number" because it doesn't have USA vin number. The CHP guys all loved it and asked "so why did the DMV make you bring us this?" Truck was imported straight thru Oregon. So we had a clean Oregon title.

All the horror stories and 2nd hand knowledge weren't useful. Maybe we got lucky? Process was no different than regular registration.
 
Joined
Sep 10, 2019
Messages
205
Location
New Mexico
I just registered a Japanese diesel RHD HDJ81 1991 in So Cal last week. In CA diesels older than 1997 are not required to pass smog.
That's how mine went through in 2016. I don't wanna rain on your parade but that's happened to a few friends in mine. Then they got a letter from Sacramento denying the title, after they had plates and everything... So, I guess don't celebrate until you get the title.
 
Joined
Aug 5, 2014
Messages
213
Location
Aichi, Japan.....for now
 
That's how mine went through in 2016. I don't wanna rain on your parade but that's happened to a few friends in mine. Then they got a letter from Sacramento denying the title, after they had plates and everything... So, I guess don't celebrate until you get the title.
Anxious to hear an update on this in a little while then! How long did your friends wait before they received the letter?
 
Joined
Sep 24, 2015
Messages
55
Location
Southern California
I just registered a Japanese diesel RHD HDJ81 1991 in So Cal last week. In CA diesels older than 1997 are not required to pass smog.

Zero problems or hiccups. All we had to pay was the $375 for the plates. The DMV passed everything with an inspection through CHP to verify the "frame number" because it doesn't have USA vin number. The CHP guys all loved it and asked "so why did the DMV make you bring us this?" Truck was imported straight thru Oregon. So we had a clean Oregon title.

All the horror stories and 2nd hand knowledge weren't useful. Maybe we got lucky? Process was no different than regular registration.
yea sometimes you get lucky and chp and dmv are ignorant to the "rules" Sacramento usually catches them unfortunately.
 
Joined
Dec 7, 2009
Messages
170
Location
Santa Barbara, Berkeley
 
 
Proof is in the pudding I guess. Zero problems or hiccups here in So Cal

View attachment 2236916
Congrats, @Sdub !

I have a 1990 HDJ81 and am also in CA. I tried registering via AAA and made it as far as the woman doing a verification of vehicle (REG31) only have her ultimately realize that she didn't know how to complete the docs. Referred me to CHP for verification and then the state shut down.

I'd be really interested in getting more details on exactly how your verifying officer filled out your form. Particularly items 6 and 9 that pertain to US certification and emissions. Presumably s/he had to check "SEE REMARKS" and then manually indicated that it was 30 years old and thus exempt.

Thanks for the info and congrats on the plates/title!
Austin
 
Top Bottom