California JDM Import Guide: Titling, Registering, and Legalizing Your Japanese Kei Truck

Japanese import car driving on California coastal highway, ready for registration after meeting JDM legalization requirements

April 10, 2023

Got your eyes on a shiny Nissan Skyline R32 or a quirky Kei truck straight from Japan? Dreaming of cruising California's coast with your JDM ride? Buckle up, because we're going to turn the complex world of importing, titling, and registering Japanese vehicles in California into an exciting, witty, and digestible joyride!

Price Check: Modifying Your JDM Dream Car for California Before you hit the Golden State highways, your imported beauty needs a makeover to comply with California's Air Resources Board (ARB) standards. Depending on the model and condition, you'll need to shell out between $7,500 and $15,000 for modifications and testing. For fan favorites like the R32 and R33 Nissan Skyline GT-R, brace yourself for an $11,000 tab. And remember, your ride needs to be near stock and in tip-top shape.

Age Matters: Vehicle Exemptions & Registration Requirements California isn't all about sun, surf, and celebrities; it has some strict vehicle registration rules too. Let's break it down by age:

  • 1967 and older: You're in luck! No modifications or testing needed. Register and ride away.
  • 1968-1974: Tread cautiously. California isn't a fan of non-USA vehicles from this era, even if registered elsewhere. Meeting EPA requirements can be pricey and outweigh your car's value.
  • 1975 and newer: Prepare for some lab time. Your vehicle needs a "Certificate of Conformance" from the ARB after successful testing. But don't sweat the advanced manufacturer standards—individuals aren't held to the same level.

Diesel, Bikes, and More: The Special Cases

  • Diesel: If your vehicle has an original diesel engine from 1979 or older, congrats—no lab testing needed! But be warned: converted diesel vehicles from 1968 or newer must undergo testing.
  • Motorcycles: No after-the-fact modifications allowed. Your two-wheeled machine must comply with CA or USEPA standards from the get-go.
  • Heavy-duty engines: Same as motorcycles, no modifications allowed. Compliance is required from the date of manufacture.

California Dreamin': The Legalization Process Transforming your JDM gem into a California-legal cruiser is a multistep process. Fear not! We've broken it down into a fun, step-by-step guide:

    1. Choose your JDM ride and complete the purchase.
    2. Get your car inspected and serviced, returning it to stock condition if needed.
    3. Bring your vehicle to G&K Conversions, the trusted lab for California compliance modifications. Contact them at (714) 545-9503 or visit their website at http://www.gkconversions.com/.
    4. G&K Conversions will modify your car to meet ARB standards, including installing catalytic converters, oxygen sensors, and evap canisters.
    5. The lab will run pre-test smog checks to ensure your car's emissions meet California requirements.
    6. Once your car passes the pre-test, it'll hit the Federal Test Procedure (FTP) dyno for an 11-mile drive cycle, hot soak, and another 11-mile cycle.
    7. If your vehicle passes all tests, G&K Conversions will submit the paperwork to the ARB.
    8. Schedule an appointment with a California smog referee, who will inspect and test your car. If it meets the standards, you'll receive a Bureau of Automotive Repair (BAR) label.
    9. With the BAR label secured, pick up your car from G&K Conversion
    10. After VIN verification, give your car a final check and you're ready to hit the road!Remember, even a tiny vacuum leak or a deteriorating electrical system component can cause an emissions test failure. But with G&K Conversions' expertise and our guidance, your JDM car will soon be California-legal and ready for adventure.

Age Matters, Special Cases, and More Be sure to check our previous breakdown of import, title, and registration info by vehicle age, as well as special cases for diesel, motorcycles, and heavy-duty engines. And remember, my company oiwa.co is here to make your JDM dreams come true. We specialize in direct importing and purchasing Kei trucks from Japan, delivering your new ride straight to your driveway.

 

 

The Bottom Line It's no secret that California has strict rules for imported vehicles, but don't let that stop you from enjoying your JDM dream car. With a little wit, a dash of excitement, and a sprinkle of patience, you'll be cruising California's highways in style in no time!