Buying a Vehicle Out of State? What California Car Buyers Need to Know

Lemon Law Attorney Serving Los Angeles, Riverside, Ventura and San Bernardino and Other Areas in California


For the most part, buying a car from out of state is much like the process of buying a new car or buying a used car in California, but with one big exception—the California vehicle emissions standards (the smog laws). California has tougher emissions standards than other states. Here’s what the California smog laws mean to you when you buy a new car out of state:

According to a guide report from the Department of Motor Vehicles, any new car, truck or motorcycle purchased from out of state must comply with California’s emissions standards. If the vehicle does not meet California’s admission standards, you may not be able to register the vehicle in this state.

What’s New?
In the state of California, 7,500 miles or less on the odometer counts as new. If your new car, truck or motorcycle shows this amount or lower on the odometer when you acquire the vehicle, your vehicle must meet California emissions standards.

How Do I Know if a Vehicle Meets CA Emission Standards?
Look under the hood of a car or truck. You should find an emissions sticker that will tell you whether the vehicle is built for use in California. On a motorcycle, the emissions notice may be on the vehicle frame or on the steering head (the place where the front fork attaches to the frame).

The Vehicle Doesn’t Meet CA Requirements. Now What?
You can replace the entire emissions system in the vehicle with a system that does comply with CA standards or you can look at another vehicle.

Any Exceptions?
The smog law has several exceptions, which allow you to register a vehicle in this state regardless of whether it meets the emissions standards. The exceptions are:

  • The vehicle was bought to replace a destroyed vehicle while out of state;
  • The vehicle was bought to replace a vehicle stolen while out of state;
  • Registered out of state while on active military duty; and
  • Received as a result of divorce or inheritance

If you have any questions as a California resident about buying a vehicle out of state, contact the Law Offices of Howard D. Silver. Call 855-341-2611 for a free consultation with a skilled California lemon law attorney.