California - Importing and Obtaining Title/Licensing for Expedition Vehicle - RV - MotorHome

Does anyone know the specific California code sections or administrative regulations to bring in and/or import an expedition type motor home into California whether diesel or gas, whether 4 or 6 wheel, and whether truck/military vehicle in the past? I have seen the specific statutes and regulations for import vehicles and even trucks. But have heard there is even a different category for RVs or mobile homes - even if converted from a truck or military vehicle. Was wondering what the statutes/regulations are?
 

NatersXJ6

Explorer
Safe to assume you’ve already checked the DMV website?

At an absolute minimum, I would expect a VIN verification inspection, where the DMV or a registered 3rd party verified the VIN on each major component and looks at everything to make sure it is as-described in your application. They did that even for my simple trailer from Arizona just to provide a title and registration. I had no motor or Smog to worry about, so I did the on-site versus the 3rd party to save money.
 

Mike W.

Well-known member
Register it elsewhere. If your thinking diesel your probably screwed before you start...Arizona or Nevada..Both can be done by obtaining mail forwarding service.
 
It depends entirely on what you are trying to bring into the state and how/where it is currently registered. The experience can run the gauntlet from "no more difficult than any other state" to "don't even bother trying".
If you could post a few details about the vehicle it would be easier to answer your question.
 

Herbie

Rendezvous Conspirator
DON'T DO IT!
Bringing any out-of-state vehicle into CA is likely going to be a nightmare. I believe DMV is now booking appointments for 2047...

This is nonsense.

I recently imported a Canadian-market truck with a US-made camper titled in one state, purchased from another state, and got it all squared away in 2 easy and short DMV visits plus a trip to my local CARB referee. The 2nd visit was only needed because I needed to see the smog referee, and the trip to the referee was only needed because it was a flatbed conversion and the original smog shop had a (valid) question about the fuel filler conversion done when the original truck bed was removed. If not for that, I could have handled it on my original visit which was a Friday-afternoon walk-in.

For the OP - visit the DMV website, do a search on "out of state import", etc. as appropriate and read the pages that come up. They will refer to you a number of forms. You could print and pre-fill some of these, but you may be handed blank ones when you get to the DMV anyhow, so it's up to you. The main thing is to look at the forms in advance and be prepared to provide all the necessary information.

For RV's/Campers, depending on the type of construction, one of the big things to make sure is done right is in the "Classification" on the Vehicle Inspection form: https://www.dmv.ca.gov/portal/uploads/2020/06/reg31.pdf (This is one you CANNOT fill out, but reading it beforehand will help you know what the inspector will be looking for) You'll need to have a DMV rep (or other valid rep like a CHP officer) fill out this form and assign a Body Type code (see page 2). Since I have a flatbed, I could theoretically have been categorized as a commercial vehicle - this would have made me liable for a bunch of extra taxes and changed my obligations with regard to weigh stations, etc., however since my camper is permanently affixed, I got the type "PM" - (Pickup with Camper Mounted), which is a passenger vehicle class. Obviously if I remove the camper and use the vehicle as a flatbed, I'd be obligated to re-title the vehicle, but that's a non-issue for me.

This same form is also how they do the validation of the VIN, Smog labels, safety labels, etc. - it all happens in one quick inspection, IF (and I cannot stress this enough) - the vehicle is actually legal for import. If the vehicle has all the right FMVSS/CMVSS and EPA or equivalent labels, and you have all the relevant paperwork (title docs, import certificates if coming from outside the US, etc.), this is not hard.

If, however, you are trying to import something that is not actually legal, or is maybe legal but missing documentation, then yes, you're going to have a hard time. While I was waiting on my inspector, the couple ahead of me was trying to get their Louisiana-sourced Hyundai through the process, but it was missing one of the labels, either because it was grey-market, or (more likely) because it was a salvage recovery and the hood had been replaced without the all-important label. They were having a bad day.

Bottom line: Know what you need to know and what documentation you need to have. Make sure you have it before you get to the DMV. Better yet, make sure you have it before you close the deal (make it a condition of the sale). You'll be fine.
 
This is nonsense.

I recently imported a Canadian-market truck with a US-made camper titled in one state, purchased from another state, and got it all squared away in 2 easy and short DMV visits plus a trip to my local CARB referee. The 2nd visit was only needed because I needed to see the smog referee, and the trip to the referee was only needed because it was a flatbed conversion and the original smog shop had a (valid) question about the fuel filler conversion done when the original truck bed was removed. If not for that, I could have handled it on my original visit which was a Friday-afternoon walk-in.

For the OP - visit the DMV website, do a search on "out of state import", etc. as appropriate and read the pages that come up. They will refer to you a number of forms. You could print and pre-fill some of these, but you may be handed blank ones when you get to the DMV anyhow, so it's up to you. The main thing is to look at the forms in advance and be prepared to provide all the necessary information.

For RV's/Campers, depending on the type of construction, one of the big things to make sure is done right is in the "Classification" on the Vehicle Inspection form: https://www.dmv.ca.gov/portal/uploads/2020/06/reg31.pdf (This is one you CANNOT fill out, but reading it beforehand will help you know what the inspector will be looking for) You'll need to have a DMV rep (or other valid rep like a CHP officer) fill out this form and assign a Body Type code (see page 2). Since I have a flatbed, I could theoretically have been categorized as a commercial vehicle - this would have made me liable for a bunch of extra taxes and changed my obligations with regard to weigh stations, etc., however since my camper is permanently affixed, I got the type "PM" - (Pickup with Camper Mounted), which is a passenger vehicle class. Obviously if I remove the camper and use the vehicle as a flatbed, I'd be obligated to re-title the vehicle, but that's a non-issue for me.

This same form is also how they do the validation of the VIN, Smog labels, safety labels, etc. - it all happens in one quick inspection, IF (and I cannot stress this enough) - the vehicle is actually legal for import. If the vehicle has all the right FMVSS/CMVSS and EPA or equivalent labels, and you have all the relevant paperwork (title docs, import certificates if coming from outside the US, etc.), this is not hard.

If, however, you are trying to import something that is not actually legal, or is maybe legal but missing documentation, then yes, you're going to have a hard time. While I was waiting on my inspector, the couple ahead of me was trying to get their Louisiana-sourced Hyundai through the process, but it was missing one of the labels, either because it was grey-market, or (more likely) because it was a salvage recovery and the hood had been replaced without the all-important label. They were having a bad day.

Bottom line: Know what you need to know and what documentation you need to have. Make sure you have it before you get to the DMV. Better yet, make sure you have it before you close the deal (make it a condition of the sale). You'll be fine.

YES THIS?

Also, ignore the out of staters who get triggered anytime Ca gets mentioned.
 

shortbus4x4

Expedition Leader
Also depends alot on who you get to help you out. They might be very knowledgeable or this is their first time. If it's an older big truck and diesel be careful as CA has cracked down on those. If it's registered as an RV from where it's coming from it will be much easier.
 
This is nonsense.

I recently imported a Canadian-market truck with a US-made camper titled in one state, purchased from another state, and got it all squared away in 2 easy and short DMV visits plus a trip to my local CARB referee. The 2nd visit was only needed because I needed to see the smog referee, and the trip to the referee was only needed because it was a flatbed conversion and the original smog shop had a (valid) question about the fuel filler conversion done when the original truck bed was removed. If not for that, I could have handled it on my original visit which was a Friday-afternoon walk-in.

For the OP - visit the DMV website, do a search on "out of state import", etc. as appropriate and read the pages that come up. They will refer to you a number of forms. You could print and pre-fill some of these, but you may be handed blank ones when you get to the DMV anyhow, so it's up to you. The main thing is to look at the forms in advance and be prepared to provide all the necessary information.

For RV's/Campers, depending on the type of construction, one of the big things to make sure is done right is in the "Classification" on the Vehicle Inspection form: https://www.dmv.ca.gov/portal/uploads/2020/06/reg31.pdf (This is one you CANNOT fill out, but reading it beforehand will help you know what the inspector will be looking for) You'll need to have a DMV rep (or other valid rep like a CHP officer) fill out this form and assign a Body Type code (see page 2). Since I have a flatbed, I could theoretically have been categorized as a commercial vehicle - this would have made me liable for a bunch of extra taxes and changed my obligations with regard to weigh stations, etc., however since my camper is permanently affixed, I got the type "PM" - (Pickup with Camper Mounted), which is a passenger vehicle class. Obviously if I remove the camper and use the vehicle as a flatbed, I'd be obligated to re-title the vehicle, but that's a non-issue for me.

This same form is also how they do the validation of the VIN, Smog labels, safety labels, etc. - it all happens in one quick inspection, IF (and I cannot stress this enough) - the vehicle is actually legal for import. If the vehicle has all the right FMVSS/CMVSS and EPA or equivalent labels, and you have all the relevant paperwork (title docs, import certificates if coming from outside the US, etc.), this is not hard.

If, however, you are trying to import something that is not actually legal, or is maybe legal but missing documentation, then yes, you're going to have a hard time. While I was waiting on my inspector, the couple ahead of me was trying to get their Louisiana-sourced Hyundai through the process, but it was missing one of the labels, either because it was grey-market, or (more likely) because it was a salvage recovery and the hood had been replaced without the all-important label. They were having a bad day.

Bottom line: Know what you need to know and what documentation you need to have. Make sure you have it before you get to the DMV. Better yet, make sure you have it before you close the deal (make it a condition of the sale). You'll be fine.
Herbie, incredibly helpful and informative on the practical step by step to get an out of state/country vehicle registered in California. But I was wondering if you knew the specific statutes, rules, regulations that put a vehicle within the guidelines to be a candidate for such a relicensing procedure? Would love to know if some of these out of country vehicles are even worth pursuing if I live in Canada. Obviously, not a problem if I live in Montana. But I don't and I am not interested in licensing out of state through a LLC.
 
Also depends alot on who you get to help you out. They might be very knowledgeable or this is their first time. If it's an older big truck and diesel be careful as CA has cracked down on those. If it's registered as an RV from where it's coming from it will be much easier.
Interestingly, diesel trucks before 1997 that are made into MH seem to get a pass as an historical vehicle or U500 Unimogs currently being produced for the USA will most likely get registered.
 

Herbie

Rendezvous Conspirator
I'm no expert, but I did find the dmv.ca.gov website very helpful the first time I was looking to import a vehicle. Searching the topic "Vehicle import" brings up this set of resources: https://www.dmv.ca.gov/portal/vehicle-registration/new-registration/register-an-imported-vehicle/

The relevant federal starting points are:

I have not researched the differences for registering via an LLC, but based on the truck, it may put you into Commercial Vehicle territory, which I know has some extra rules/fees associated.

The trickiest bit for me with my most recent truck import was validating that the federal import paperwork had all been completed correctly by the previous owner. The NHTSA Import and Certification division was able to provide me with the name of the original import broker ,and by emailing them, I was able to get a PDF copy of the NHTSA Import/Bond Release paperwork. This was probably not strictly needed in my case, since the vehicle had already been imported/registered in another state, but I wanted to cross my Ts and dot my lowercase Js.
 

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