Green Kei Truck Parked Inside a Rustic Wooden Shelter in Montana

Are Kei Trucks Legal in Montana? A Comprehensive Guide

Kei trucks, also known as mini trucks, are small, versatile vehicles from Japan that have gained popularity in the United States for their compact size, fuel efficiency, and practicality. As interest in these vehicles grows, many potential owners and enthusiasts are curious about their legality in different states. Montana, with its vast landscapes and rural areas, presents unique opportunities and challenges for kei truck usage. In this comprehensive blog post, we will explore whether kei trucks are legal in Montana, examining federal and state regulations, necessary documentation, and real-life experiences from owners.

Understanding Kei Trucks

Kei trucks belong to a category of small vehicles that adhere to specific size and engine displacement limits set by Japanese regulations. Typically, these trucks have engines under 660cc and dimensions that make them exceptionally maneuverable and efficient. Despite their small size, kei trucks are known for their durability and versatility, making them ideal for various utility tasks, including agriculture, construction, and commercial use.

Federal Regulations for Kei Trucks

To understand the legality of kei trucks in Montana, it's essential to start with federal regulations. The United States enforces strict import regulations to ensure that all vehicles meet safety and emission standards. Kei trucks, being foreign imports, must comply with the Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standards (FMVSS) set by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA).

A significant aspect of federal law is the 25-year rule, which exempts vehicles older than 25 years from complying with FMVSS. This rule simplifies the importation and legalization process for classic and vintage kei trucks. However, newer kei trucks must meet these stringent safety and emissions standards, which can be challenging due to their unique design and specifications differing from typical U.S. vehicles.

Montana's Specific Regulations

Montana has specific requirements for titling and registering kei trucks, which are categorized as mini trucks. Below are the detailed steps and requirements for titling and registering kei trucks in Montana.

Titling and Registration Requirements

  1. Application for Bonded Title (Form MV10): This form is required to start the process of titling a mini truck in Montana.
  2. VIN Inspection (Form MV20): A law enforcement officer must complete this form to verify the vehicle identification number (VIN).
  3. Proof of Ownership: Documents such as a canceled check, bill of sale, or invoice must be attached to prove ownership.
  4. U.S. Customs Entry Document: This document must show the VIN of all vehicles being imported on the bill of lading. Customs entry documents and EPA requirements must be met for title and registration.
  5. Japanese Export Certificate: The export certificate from Japan, along with a translated version, must be submitted.
  6. MV70A Inspection Form: When sold as street-legal, this form must be submitted, ensuring that the vehicle meets federal odometer requirements under the Truth in Mileage Act (TIMA).
  7. Surety Bond: If the vehicles are sold as street-legal, a surety bond for the value of the vehicle must be submitted.

Permanent Registration for Older Vehicles

Montana offers the option for permanent registration for vehicles 11 years old or older. The fees collected at the time of permanent registration include:

  • $87.50 registration rate
  • $10 Montana Highway Patrol Salary and Retention Fee
  • County tax, $9 optional state parks support, special plate fees, and gross vehicle weight (GVW) fees for light trucks
  • $5 insurance verification fee if existing plates are kept on the vehicle

Mini Truck Registration

When applying for a title on a mini truck, the following steps must be completed:

  1. Application for Bonded Title (Form MV10)
  2. VIN Inspection (Form MV20)
  3. Proof of Ownership: Attach documents such as a canceled check, bill of sale, or invoice.
  4. U.S. Customs Entry Document: Ensure the VIN is listed on the bill of lading. Customs entry documents and EPA requirements must be met.
  5. Japanese Export Certificate: Submit the certificate and its translation.
  6. MV70A Inspection Form: For street-legal vehicles, submit this form and comply with federal odometer requirements.
  7. Surety Bond: Submit a bond for the value of the vehicle if it is sold as street-legal.

Bonded Out-of-State Title

If an out-of-state bonded title is submitted, the Montana title will be issued showing the bond brand and expiration date. If the expiration date has expired, it will not be shown on the Montana title. The customer may need to provide verification from the issuing state regarding the bond expiration date.

Applying for a Break/Bonded Montana Title

If an applicant cannot provide a certificate of title assigning the prior owner’s interest, the following steps must be taken:

  1. Complete Form MV10: Application for Break/Bond Title.
  2. Stage 1 Vehicle Inspection (Form MV20): Completed by a law enforcement officer.
  3. Proof of Purchase: Provide documents such as a canceled check, bill of sale, or invoice.
  4. Surety Bond: Required for vehicles valued over $500.

Real-Life Experiences and Success Stories

Many kei truck owners in Montana have successfully navigated the regulatory landscape to register and drive their vehicles legally. These owners often share their experiences and tips in online forums and social media groups dedicated to kei trucks and other imported vehicles.

One common piece of advice is to consult with the local DMV offices to understand the specific requirements and processes involved. Networking with other kei truck enthusiasts can also provide valuable insights and recommendations for trusted mechanics and modification services.

Conclusion: Navigating the Legal Landscape

In conclusion, while kei trucks face regulatory hurdles for on-road use in Montana, they can still be valuable for off-road and agricultural purposes. Understanding federal and state regulations, gathering the necessary documentation, and making necessary modifications are crucial steps in this process. By staying informed and seeking guidance from experts and fellow enthusiasts, you can navigate the complexities of making a kei truck legal in Montana and enjoy the unique benefits these compact vehicles offer.

Whether you are considering a kei truck for its practicality, fuel efficiency, or as a unique addition to your vehicle collection, knowing the legal requirements and options available in Montana is essential. Stay informed, and connect with the kei truck community to successfully navigate the path to legal and practical use.

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