CarTalk.com Best of Deals Car Reviews Repair Shops Cars A-Z Radio Show

Planning to move to CA

Due to grad school, we are planning on moving to California with my '04 corolla. Which has been up to snuff for Illinois emission standards for as long as I have owned it. What changes if any do I have to make to get it to California standards? And how soon after moving do I have to get tested?

No changes will be necessary, you just, at some point, will have to pass CA’s strict emissions test…You should be able to get away with your Illinois plates until they expire…

The myth about CA emissions being a challenge for a car that meets other states standards is one that is firmly entrenched into automotive lore. I guess it comes from the days of when there were issues with bringing a car into CA, but that was a minimum 15 years ago.

I think Ca law gives you a limited amount of time before you have to register in State .
If the car is fifty State legal then no problem - if it isn’t then there probably be a hefty surcharge .

This is from the Ca DMV site

How To Register An Out-of-State Vehicle
(Nonresident Vehicle)

Definition of a nonresident vehicle

A nonresident vehicle was last registered outside the state of California. Anyone who brings a vehicle into California, or purchases a nonresident vehicle while in California, should be aware of the registration requirements.

NOTE:California law prohibits residents or businesses from importing and/or registering a new vehicle with less than 7,500 miles at the time of purchase unless it meets or is exempt from California Emission standards. If you acquire a 49-State vehicle (manufactured for all states except California) from another state or country, you may not be able to register your vehicle in California.

Reference:Health & Safety Code Section 43151(A)

When fees are due

Fees must be paid within 20 days of entry or residency to avoid penalties. Any vehicle owned by a California resident must be registered within 20 days of entry into California unless a special permit was obtained. Nonresidents whose vehicles are properly registered to them in their home state or jurisdiction may operate their vehicles in California until they:

Accept gainful employment in California.
Claim a homeowner’s exemption in California.
Rent or lease a residence in California.
Intend to live or be located here on a permanent basis (for example, acquire a California driver license, acquire other licenses not ordinarily extended to a nonresident, registered to vote).
Enroll in an institution of higher learning as a California resident or enroll their dependents in school (K-12).
NOTE: Nonresident military personnel stationed in California or their spouses may operate their vehicles with valid out-of-state license plates from their home state or the state where the military person was last stationed.

If the emissions equipment on your 2004 Toyotal is functioning as designed and there is no modifications of exhaust or internal engine problems your car will pass a CA smog test. It is not like “we can’t test your car because it uses Illinois pistons and only CA piston equipped cars are allowed in”

California smog standards include the smog equipment on the car, and ca smog equipment on many but not all cars differs from federal and canada standards. so you may not be able to get it smogged in Ca. If it fails, you will be sent to a referee and told what to do. If you try to call the govt. number for a ca smog referee they will only offer to give you an appointment, but will not give you the address of a referee unless you have a failed smog test in hand. Even if the vehicle passes all the emissions tests, but does not have the required smog equipment, you will not be allowed to register it. Conversly, if it fails emmissions, but has the equipment you may get a referee to allow it to be registered. go figger, it happened to me. On the other hand, you can take your chances of not registering it in Ca. but just keep your own state reg. and drive very careful and lie a lot if stopped, that you are on vacation. Enforcement is not that fierce as long as you have valid insurance, which I suppose is the achillies heal of trying to avoid Ca. registration aint it? If I was you, Id try to get into grad school in some other state. Or take the bus, or here is a good one, buy a bike.

I don’t have the full details, but I read that in some cases, college students don’t have to register their cars with the state. You should check up on that, because I am not sure if there is an age limit or if the car must be registered in your parents’ names.

This is what they would LIKE you to do…But they don’t know when you arrived…

It doesn’t appear to matter unless you become a Cali resident. As long as you maintain you IL residency, you won’t even have to get it tested in Cali. Do you need to become a state resident to be a graduate student? If you want to, that’s another thing. But you might prefer the taxes in IL instead of those in CA if your mate works while you study.

Please give us an example of what piece of equipment would be missing from a “non-CA” 2004 Corolla that a “CA” Corolla would have.

Now for a new car to be sold in the state of CA there are certain CA (and about 14 other states) ULEV standards to be met, in order for a manufacture to sell a new car.

I had no problem with my out of state car and it passed emissions I sold it after living there for 12 years. 1994 is when I sold it. You will have no problems if you passed in Illinois.

All states’ laws allow full time college students and military personnel who still use their home address as their permanent address to continue to operate under their home state’s licensing and registration system.