When an out of state vehicle is registered for the first time in California, it requires a VIN Verification performed by the DMV, CHP or a licensed vehicle verifier. The DMV form REG 31 is supplied and completed by the verifier as the vehicle inspection is conducted. Once completed, the REG 31 is submitted with the Application for Title or Registration.

The REG 31 requires that the verifier inspect and document various aspects of the vehicle. The verifier will locate and examine the VIN and verify that it matches the ownership document provided (if available). The verifier will also need to examine the U.S. Federal Certification label to verify the vehicle meets all U.S. Federal motor vehicle safety standards and that the VIN on the label matches the VIN of the vehicle. An inspection of the Emission label is also required to establish if the vehicle meets California standards.

The State of California began establishing more stringent emission standards in the 1960’s to combat air pollution. California leads the nation in having the highest emission standards, exceeding even those established by the Federal government, and several states have chosen to adopt California’s motor vehicle emission regulations as their own.

Some vehicle manufacturers produce vehicles that are not compliant with California’s emission standards. These vehicles meet Federal standards, but fall short of California’s more stringent requirements. They are referred to as 49-state vehicles. If the vehicle was manufactured to be sold in California and to comply with CA emission standards, it is referred to as California certified or a 50-state vehicle.

Out of state residents can register their 49-state vehicle in California provided they can prove it was registered in their home state.

Residents of California who have purchased a 49-state vehicle may run into a problem if the vehicle has less than 7,500 miles. The California DMV considers any vehicle with less than 7,500 miles to be “new”. A 49-state vehicle with less than 7,500 miles cannot be registered in California unless it qualifies for exemption:

The Exemptions:

  • Obtained as part of a divorce, inheritance, or legal separation settlement.
  • Purchased to replace your California-registered vehicle that was stolen while you were using the vehicle out-of-state.
  • Purchased to replace your California-registered vehicle that was destroyed or made inoperative beyond reasonable repair while you were using the vehicle out of state.
  • An emergency vehicle, pursuant to California Vehicle Code § §27156.2 and 27156.3.
  • Registered by you in the state of your last active military service outside California.
  • A street motorcycle or motor-driven cycle year model 2005 and older, with an engine less than 50 cubic centimeters (cc) displacement. Beginning January 1, 2006, street motorcycles and motor-driven cycles year model 2006 and newer, with engines less than 50 cc displacement, require an emission label certifying them to meet U.S. Environmental Protection Agency emission regulations, and may be registered regardless of mileage

If the 49-state vehicle has in excess of 7,500 miles, the vehicle is considered used and can be registered without issue.

California residents would be well-served to verify if the out of state vehicle they wish to purchase with less than 7,500 miles is CA compliant or if it is a 49-state vehicle that they won’t be able to register once the sale is complete.

Totally Notary is a third-party DMV registration service and licensed Vehicle Verifier. VIN Verifications can be performed 7 days a week at the Totally Notary office or by mobile service for an additional fee.

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