California Title and Registration of Diesels (5 Viewers)

Joined
Apr 21, 2015
Messages
42
Location
San Diego, CA
It’s all about what the paperwork looks like... bummer though. Did you ever get a title?
No, they gave us the plates and stickers first and then Sacramento stopped it. I then got a South Dakota title. I swear if we would have gotten the SD title first, it wouldn't have been an issue. :-( I have hope that after a couple years our attempt will fall off the record and we can try again.
 
Joined
Apr 21, 2015
Messages
42
Location
San Diego, CA
Wow so you can have a CA address on an SD registration... That is interesting, but also gives me hope that a cop wouldn't question it if I got pulled over. Thanks for the info, I'll try this when I import a truck.
Mine is for sale if you are interested!
We did the registration thru the treasurer in Clay county Clay County, South Dakota - Treasurer
This is the affadavit for not living in SD but wanting to register your car there http://www.claycountysd.org/userfiles/files/Treasurer's forms/Non-resident affidavit.pdf
 
Joined
May 22, 2014
Messages
501
Location
Los Angeles
No, they gave us the plates and stickers first and then Sacramento stopped it. I then got a South Dakota title. I swear if we would have gotten the SD title first, it wouldn't have been an issue. :-( I have hope that after a couple years our attempt will fall off the record and we can try again.

Oh so you tried to import direct to CA? Only clarifying for future readers.
 
Joined
Sep 13, 2020
Messages
3
Location
California
After what I went through to get my JDM van registered in CA I thought I'd never consider going through it again...but another opportunity arose and I just might try it again. This time on a micro car. It's a scary thought!

Hello,
I am currently considering purchasing a '91 TownAce Turbo Diesel 5 speed from an importer up in Portland, OR. I live in Santa Cruz, CA. Am I totally nuts? What was your process for getting your's registered?

If they register it in Oregon first, would I still need to go through the CARB lab testing bureaucracy and red tape?

Any help would be appreciated.

Cheers,

Will
 
Joined
Jan 15, 2019
Messages
10
Location
Mill Valley CA
Hello,
I am currently considering purchasing a '91 TownAce Turbo Diesel 5 speed from an importer up in Portland, OR. I live in Santa Cruz, CA. Am I totally nuts? What was your process for getting your's registered?

If they register it in Oregon first, would I still need to go through the CARB lab testing bureaucracy and red tape?

Any help would be appreciated.

Cheers,

Will

Can you register it? Short answer: no. Long answer: maybe?

The only legit way to register it in CA would be to take it to that CARB certified place in Santa Ana which is really shady and probably a racket for the state. They "bring it into compliance" somehow... Nobody really knows how it works, and it costs probably as much as the van itself.

But I've seen some JDM vans in San Francisco area with CA plates, so it's possible.

Your best bet is probably to register it in South Dakota. And if a cop asks you about it... just be extra nice to them and hope your van doesn't get turned into a cube.
 
Joined
Sep 13, 2020
Messages
3
Location
California
Can you register it? Short answer: no. Long answer: maybe?

The only legit way to register it in CA would be to take it to that CARB certified place in Santa Ana which is really shady and probably a racket for the state. They "bring it into compliance" somehow... Nobody really knows how it works, and it costs probably as much as the van itself.

But I've seen some JDM vans in San Francisco area with CA plates, so it's possible.

Your best bet is probably to register it in South Dakota. And if a cop asks you about it... just be extra nice to them and hope your van doesn't get turned into a cube.
Yikes, thanks for the summary... Seems like rolling the dice either way.
 
Joined
May 22, 2014
Messages
501
Location
Los Angeles
Hello,
I am currently considering purchasing a '91 TownAce Turbo Diesel 5 speed from an importer up in Portland, OR. I live in Santa Cruz, CA. Am I totally nuts? What was your process for getting your's registered?

If they register it in Oregon first, would I still need to go through the CARB lab testing bureaucracy and red tape?

Any help would be appreciated.

Cheers,

Will


I just snatched up a HiAce and I'm gonna attempt to get it plated.

The process will be identical to a Land Cruiser. The only issue I see is name recognition. As I've said before it's all about the paperwork. Check the right boxes and it's simply up to someone at the DMV with manager credentials to enter a password to approve the non standard VIN and you're home free. I can see a DMV employee not recognizing the car, therefore wanting to give it more scrutiny. Have a back up plan before attempting a CA reg.
 
Joined
Jan 15, 2019
Messages
10
Location
Mill Valley CA
Yikes, thanks for the summary... Seems like rolling the dice either way.

Yeah, it seems luck is the most helpful thing in getting a car registered. If you haven't already, read through this thread. There's a lot of good information.

Good tips that I've gathered are that you should have it registered it another state before trying to bring it into CA, gather as much info as you can before you go to the DMV, including talking to third-party VIN verifiers, AAA if you have it, and others. Go to a small town DMV. And also, if things go south while you're actually inside of the DMV, don't be afraid to say "Thanks, have a nice day" and walk out before they block your van from being registered at all.

I make it sound a lot scarier than it actually is. It's certainly possible to get a vehicle registered, and COVID stuff at the DMVs probably has a net positive in the chances of you registering some weird van with the steering wheel on the right side...

Best of luck anyways, I hope to bring an HJ60 into this s***ty state before long...
 
Joined
Sep 13, 2020
Messages
3
Location
California
I just snatched up a HiAce and I'm gonna attempt to get it plated.

The process will be identical to a Land Cruiser. The only issue I see is name recognition. As I've said before it's all about the paperwork. Check the right boxes and it's simply up to someone at the DMV with manager credentials to enter a password to approve the non standard VIN and you're home free. I can see a DMV employee not recognizing the car, therefore wanting to give it more scrutiny. Have a back up plan before attempting a CA reg.
I just got a quote for the ONE shop in Santa Ana, CA that magically makes these things California Compliant. The quote for the TownAce Turbo Diesel I'm looking at came in at $6,500. Looks like I'll be buying a company car under my LLC in Montana...
 
Joined
Jun 7, 2018
Messages
21
Location
Santa Cruz, CA
Hey Will,
There's some good info in this thread. I read the whole thing many times over before I pulled the trigger on my foreign diesel. Last time I looked at CARB's website it said they were not registering any foreign diesel's at that time. I think the Santa Ana route may only be working for gassers now. Out of state plates come with their own risks as technically you are only allowed to have the vehicle in state for twenty days before requiring Cali registration. I wouldn't recommend the out of state route if you'll be using it as a daily driver. However, if it's for seldom use and it's kept out of sight, your chances of having an issue go down significantly. I know a couple people have gotten lucky with the DMV but it's a big dice roll as there is really no recipe to follow for successful registration. Many of those that do walk out of the DMV with plates get them pulled back by the state 6 months later once the reg makes it to Sac. I wanted a 70 series cruiser bad enough that nothing was going to stop me. When I committed to my purchase, I accepted the fact that I may have to sell it eventually or pay major dollars for a Cali legal engine swap. If you're comfortable with the risks, they sure are fun to drive. A Montana LLC adds a layer of protection for when your CA driver license doesn't match your plates.
 
Joined
May 22, 2014
Messages
501
Location
Los Angeles
I just got a quote for the ONE shop in Santa Ana, CA that magically makes these things California Compliant. The quote for the TownAce Turbo Diesel I'm looking at came in at $6,500. Looks like I'll be buying a company car under my LLC in Montana...

I botched the registration of my HZJ73 years ago and went down the same rabbit hole. Got really deep. There are two companies in Ca that CARB has credentialed, one in Northern Ca, the other in LA. It's an opaque, frustrating and corrupt system, and this is coming from a closet tree hugger who believe in the concept of emissions testing!

I would be ready for the Montana LLC, but I'd try for CA reg first. Your docs need to be straight, and boxes checked in a way that makes it look like any other out of state diesel coming in. That is the key! However you get those boxes checked is your deal. You need to work with a VIN verifier, do not put it in front of a DMV employee or CHP officer. Paperwork is the only way. If it doesn't work, take it to Montana.
 
Joined
Aug 28, 2017
Messages
25
Location
San Francisco Bay Area
I just snatched up a HiAce and I'm gonna attempt to get it plated.

The process will be identical to a Land Cruiser. The only issue I see is name recognition. As I've said before it's all about the paperwork. Check the right boxes and it's simply up to someone at the DMV with manager credentials to enter a password to approve the non standard VIN and you're home free. I can see a DMV employee not recognizing the car, therefore wanting to give it more scrutiny. Have a back up plan before attempting a CA reg.
Yeah, it seems luck is the most helpful thing in getting a car registered. If you haven't already, read through this thread. There's a lot of good information.

Good tips that I've gathered are that you should have it registered it another state before trying to bring it into CA, gather as much info as you can before you go to the DMV, including talking to third-party VIN verifiers, AAA if you have it, and others. Go to a small town DMV. And also, if things go south while you're actually inside of the DMV, don't be afraid to say "Thanks, have a nice day" and walk out before they block your van from being registered at all.

I make it sound a lot scarier than it actually is. It's certainly possible to get a vehicle registered, and COVID stuff at the DMVs probably has a net positive in the chances of you registering some weird van with the steering wheel on the right side...

Best of luck anyways, I hope to bring an HJ60 into this s***ty state before long...

HogBeast, I would strongly advise against attempting to register a non-USDM diesel in California. They have made it essentially impossible without going through California Environmental Engineering in Santa Ana (or whatever the Norcal equivalent is). All new registrations are sent through CARB's office, and they will flag a non-standard VIN and send you a rejection letter, regardless of whatever the person at the DMV does or doesn't do. My experience has been that the DMV and CARB aren't great at communicating with one another. It's also unclear if they're even allowing JDM/EDM/ADM diesels here, even with CEE mods...

Sam80, the out-of-state registration exemption no longer applies, and the language related to it has been removed from the DMV and CARB websites. Unfortunately, regardless of where the VIN is verified or who does it, non-standard VINs now get flagged by CARB and rejected. AAA doesn't have a clue and doesn't know what to do with new registrations that aren't completely vanilla and cookie-cutter (ask me how I know...). Even small-town DMVs won't work now: Even if they give you the green light at the field office, they'll still send it to Sacramento, where it'll get sent to CARB, who will reject it.

The only viable option now is the old out-of-state registration trick in Montana, SD, etc. For whatever reason, non-USDM diesels suffered a major crackdown a few years ago and are no longer allowed.
 
Joined
May 22, 2014
Messages
501
Location
Los Angeles
HogBeast, I would strongly advise against attempting to register a non-USDM diesel in California. They have made it essentially impossible without going through California Environmental Engineering in Santa Ana (or whatever the Norcal equivalent is). All new registrations are sent through CARB's office, and they will flag a non-standard VIN and send you a rejection letter, regardless of whatever the person at the DMV does or doesn't do. My experience has been that the DMV and CARB aren't great at communicating with one another. It's also unclear if they're even allowing JDM/EDM/ADM diesels here, even with CEE mods...

Sam80, the out-of-state registration exemption no longer applies, and the language related to it has been removed from the DMV and CARB websites. Unfortunately, regardless of where the VIN is verified or who does it, non-standard VINs now get flagged by CARB and rejected. AAA doesn't have a clue and doesn't know what to do with new registrations that aren't completely vanilla and cookie-cutter (ask me how I know...). Even small-town DMVs won't work now: Even if they give you the green light at the field office, they'll still send it to Sacramento, where it'll get sent to CARB, who will reject it.

The only viable option now is the old out-of-state registration trick in Montana, SD, etc. For whatever reason, non-USDM diesels suffered a major crackdown a few years ago and are no longer allowed.

You're not "wrong."

I've been through California Environmental Engineering and it's a horrible joke. I was going to do it with my HZJ73, but decided against it when the f***ing guy wouldn't provide me an actual quote, among all sorts of other problems. There's always risks trying to get something through in the state, always have a back up plan, but if your paperwork is dialed in properly (I mean like, everything is filled out), the state recognizes it as any other out of state and sends in on through. If you don't have your paperwork squeaky clean then you're right, you'll get a love letter that will send you down a rabbit hole of despair.
 
Joined
Jan 8, 2021
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1
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California
Joined
May 14, 2015
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355
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Oceanside, CA, USA
No. You can't get one directly imported due to CA red tape BS. The only way to do it is to register out of state and take that reg in state as a diesel.
Not sure if I'm jumping in at a point where this info isn't relevant, but I imported a ute two years ago from Australia to Los Angeles, CA. No problem at all. Registering it is a different story. It's luck of the draw to get it illegally but successfully registered in CA. The guy I sold it to (I kept my troopy) got it registered in CA whereas I had been unsuccessful. Some have it and some don't. I don't.
 

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