Are you moving to California? Here’s what you need to know.

I’ve dealt with thousands of customers that come from other states into California. Many of them comment and lament on how their

states are so much easier and cheaper to own and operate a vehicle. Unfortunately, introducing a car into the California system requires a few extra steps that are not required in a lot of other states. Save time, money, energy and headache trying to figure it out. California has a few requirements before your vehicle can be “legal” to operate in the state & I’ll list a few of them below, including their estimated costs & time to get them done:

  • Smog / emissions testing: California and “smog testing” go hand in hand. California does not mess around – your vehicle has to pass emissions. Due to recent developments, depending on your vehicle, smogging a car is a very quick and cheap thing to do now! It takes between 5 – 10 minutes and runs between $30 and $55 depending on where you go.
  • Weight master certificate: If you are bringing a pickup, or any commercial vehicle (anything with carrying capacity that may be used for commercial use) then you will have to get yourself a weight master certificate from a certified weight master! California charges weight fees for commercial vehicles – the heavier your vehicle is, the more you will pay. The estimated cost is $11 at most weigh stations.
  • VIN verification: a VIN verification is essentially a report of how your vehicle looks like. A VIN verifier’s job is to be the DMV’s eyes. Because it is impractical for the DMV to inspect every vehicle physically while they are registering/titling your car they rely on the proper completion of the REG 31 form. This form tells them everything they need to know to properly key in the fields that are necessary to register the car. Now as you may already know, we can help you do this for a fee, however, the DMV and the CHP do it for free, and if you are a member of AAA you will be able to get one there as well. But if you want things done quickly and time is YOUR PRIORITY – give us a call. The estimated cost is around $25 if you bring the vehicle to us, and mobile service to you is available.
  • An out of state title: you’ll need this to establish that you are the owner, or you obtained ownership of this vehicle, so that you can title it here. However, if you don’t have a title, you can still REGISTER (not title) your car in California, you will have what is called a Golden-Rod Title.

In addition to the aforementioned requirements, here are a few things to watch out for or consider before you think about bringing your car to California:

  • Just because your state accepted a vehicle does not mean California will. A classic example of this is the Land Rover Defender that are imported from other countries. These are grey-market vehicles that other states may accept with no problem, but that the California DMV may have greater requirements of to register. In some cases the vehicle may not even be eligible for registration or titling in California. Another great example is the Japanese version of the Nissan Skyline.
  • If you don’t have an emissions label stating that it is California compliant and your car has less than 7,600 miles you will NOT be able to register it here. So make sure your ride has at least 7,600 miles if that label is missing!
  • Just because your car was purchased brand new in another state – it still has to go through inspections in California.


If you have further questions about titling and registration your out of state vehicle in California, please contact our parent company Quick Auto Tags and they will answer all your questions!


If you’re ready to schedule your VIN verification, call, email, text or click below to get started!

Call Us or Visit Us To Yours Done Today:

Quick VIN Verification

5586 Mission Blvd Ste B

Riverside, CA 92509

Tel: 951-394-7012

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *