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Importing to California

lmsmedleylmsmedley Posts: 3
edited April 2014 in General
I want to buy a car in Oregon to save on the sales tax, but in order to register in CA, it needs to meet CA's emission standards. How can I find out if the car I want does this or not?


  • Mr_ShiftrightMr_Shiftright Sonoma, CaliforniaPosts: 64,490
    Call California DMV at 916-657-7669 or check on the website:
  • namfflownamfflow Posts: 202
    If you are buying in Oregon to save money think again. California will charge you sales tax on the car a second time after you pay taxes and fees in Oregon. In addition, even if you buy a "Califonia emissions legal" vehicle it will have to be "recertified" which costs money and time.

    If you want the car in California I would suggest buying it here. In the long run it will not only cost less but it will be much less hassle.
  • 98monte_ls98monte_ls Posts: 117
    what if you buy the car AND live in the other state, and later move to CA?
  • namfflownamfflow Posts: 202
    Same thing. I would almost have to say that is California's way of saying we don't need anymore cars here.

    I have a friend who just went through this. Her father had a 97 Dakota with a V6 and decided it wasn't strong enough to use for towing. He lives in Ohio. He gave her the truck. She had to take it to one of the "special" state run smog places and pay 150 just for the test. Then she had to pay sales tax on the book value since no money changed hands. I don't remember the total bill but is was too much IMO.

    It can be done but it ain't cheap. That is all I am saying on that point. I don't want to get into the politics of it cause they'll ban me from here!
  • Mr_ShiftrightMr_Shiftright Sonoma, CaliforniaPosts: 64,490
    Thanks for the input, but I still think you should call Calif. DMV because the California laws are changing all the time and are still changing as we speak. There is no longer a penalty for out of state registration (class action suit took care of that one) and you don't pay sales tax differential if you keep your new car out of California for a certain time (the time has slipped my mind, sorry!). The one thing I'm just not sure about is whether you need a special smog test on non-California emissions cars...that's why I want you to call.

    California used the Blue Book values to calculate a license fee, not for sales tax on used cars. So if I buy a car for $10,000, I pay 7 & 1/2 (some counties vary) percent of that plus a license fee based not on what I paid but on book's just a fractional formula and isn't very much really.
  • namfflownamfflow Posts: 202
    What I can tell you is my friend paid over 1000 bucks to get the 97 Dakota registered in California. This was just within the last 6 months.

    Go ahead and call DMV and you will find out it costs more than you think. California has always charged sales tax on the value of vehicles brought into the state.

    The class action lawsuit was only for those that already paid but doesn't apply to those now ariving.
  • Mr_ShiftrightMr_Shiftright Sonoma, CaliforniaPosts: 64,490
    I don't think that is quite right. You can't pay sales tax twice. He already paid his sales tax in 1997. He must have been charged licensing fees, which is based on a percentage of blue book value. But it isn't sales tax....on almost new cars and trucks, the licensing fees in California can be quite high, regardless if you are out of state or not. The only time you pay a sales tax (sometimes called a "use tax") for out of state vehicles is if you bought the new car in another state within the last 90 if you wait long enough, you are off the hook for sales tax.

    Also, out of state vehicles need a Calfornia smog certificate (about $35), plus the car has to be physically inspected.

    Here's a complete list of what you need to register an out of state vehicle in California:

    Also, for a complete registration packet that explains all rules and fees, call this number:


    and they will mail you the information!


  • stealth1969stealth1969 Posts: 162
    I know many years ago when I had moved to California, I registered my car there. It was a non California car. I just took it to a smog station for the test. I asked them about it not being a California car and they said as long as it passed the smog test it was fine. I don't know if they have changed the policy that is why I would check with the DMV. As far as a sales tax or use fee, I remember getting a large bill from DMV every year, not just when I registered it.
  • Mr_ShiftrightMr_Shiftright Sonoma, CaliforniaPosts: 64,490
    AT one time, Calfornia charged $300 for any out of state car brought in, as a penalty on top of any smog or registration fees. But that fee has been rescinded.

    Still, normal California registration fees can be shocking....even cars from the 1980s are paying $150 a year just for plates. So for new or newish cars, the fees are right up there.

    Right now, 1973 and older cars, and all diesels, are exempt from smog--everyone else has to have a smog certificate.
  • mrdetailermrdetailer Posts: 1,118
    First, I bought cars in Utah for a number of years. Every one of them met CA standards. You should ask the dealer if it does. They should be able to tell you. My 10 year old subaru still meets CA standard at leas based on the emissions I got on my last inspection, and the list of required standards I found on the Internet.

    Second, if you are a CA resident, CA will make you pay taxes since OREGON doesn't charge a sales tax. If you are a true Oregon resident then you shouldn't have to pay a sales tax again if you move. there may be other fees involved. It may get fuzzy if you buy the car then move immediately. I.E. if you have valid oregon plates, don't change them until the time has expired.
  • Mr_ShiftrightMr_Shiftright Sonoma, CaliforniaPosts: 64,490
    I still don't think you have this right (sorry). If you bring a car from Oregon that you bought there and it's been there over the required time as specified by California, you don't pay sales tax. You only pay the difference in sales tax between California and another state if you try to bring the car in right after you buy it. I believe the wait period is 45 days.

    Again, call the 800 # a few posts back and get the regulations to get clear on this.
  • namfflownamfflow Posts: 202
    It is obvious that you do not live in California. I do. I pay sales taxes EVERY YEAR on my vehicles. That is why my tags cost me up to 500 bucks each year. Sure it drops a little every year as the value goes down but California charges EVERYONE sales taxes EVERY YEAR. The lawsuit was because out of staters were paying the sales tax within California twice. First as a flat out sales tax and then as the annual sales (or use) tax.

    Even if you buy a "California car" because you know you will be moving to California you still have to go through all the smog testing BS. Many times it will be the "normal" test but by law a random sample that includes those transferring into California must have the tighter state run test which costs 150 bucks just for the test.

    Also since you are bringing the car in from out of state there is no cap on the amount of money required to spend to make the vehicle pass smog.

    The 800 number will giove you some information but I'll warn you it is just like the IRS service center. You can talk to 5 different "authorized personel" and get 5 different answers, none will be correct.
  • Mr_ShiftrightMr_Shiftright Sonoma, CaliforniaPosts: 64,490
    No, sorry, but you arent' paying Sales Tax every year. You are paying a calculated small percentage of Book Value that determines your license fees. The sales tax in California is about 7%-8% depending on where you live. You certainly do not pay 8% of your car's value every year! If you did, a $50K car would cost $4,000 a year to register! There is no "sale" only buy the car once.

    And if you bring your car from out of state, and you've purchased it out of state and kept it out of state the allotted time (I believe it is 45 days, 60 at most), then you do not pay any Calfornia sales tax, and all you need is a California smog certificate. There is no longer the $300 "penalty" for out of state cars 25 years or newer. You do, however, pay the license tax which on a newer car can be considerable.

    People really need to call and get the registration booklet sent to them so they know the rules. I speak to DMV often, it is not difficult to get a live person at the Sacramento office. They will quote you all the fees and requirements if you tell them your situation.
This discussion has been closed.