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California Car Shipping: Preparation Eases Importation Pains

Shipping a vehicle into the state of California means bureaucracy and red-tape. After all, California was at the forefront of environmental legislation in the 1970s. And going into the 21st century, the red-tape is no less restrictive.

The first thing you should know is that there are both U.S. federal emissions laws and California emissions laws. Not only must you comply with Federal laws, but you must comply with the stricter California laws which are administered by its Air Resources Board (Address: Mobile Source Control Division, 9528 Telstar Avenue, El Monte, CA 91731; 800-242-4450). Even if your vehicle has passed smog emissions tests in other states, this does not necessarily mean that it will pass in California.

Certain types of cars are not required to pass emissions tests. Ironically, vehicles made in 1975 or before, some of the worst smog offenders, are exempt on an antique vehicle basis. Diesel-powered cars, electrics, natural-gas, and hybrids also do not need to pass emissions tests.

California Vehicle Registration

On top of smog certification, your vehicle must be registered as a non-resident vehicle with the California Department of Motor Vehicles. Smog testing is a component of vehicle registration. Depending on your circumstances, you might need an Application for Title or Registration signed by all registered owners; previous out-of-state title; previous registration certificate; Bill of Sale; odometer disclosure if the vehicle is less than ten years old; DMV inspection; the smog certification; weight certificate; and fees. See www.dmv.ca.gov for more information.

Shipping More Cost-Effective

Importing a vehicle to California can be slightly cheaper than shipping to other areas of the U.S., thanks to California's long coastline and highly developed port system. From the San Francisco East Bay area down south to San Diego, there are many port options available to international importers. Once in California, your vehicle can easily be moved from one end of the state to the other in just a few days because of the very modern (U.S.) Interstate 5, which reaches from the Oregon border to Mexico. Additionally, well-developed state and county highways provide east-to-west access.

Weatherize Your Vehicle

The image of California as a year-round sunny paradise is only partially true. Communities from Orange County (near Los Angeles) on southward experience temperate weather throughout the year, with San Diego having annual median temperatures of 62.6 degrees F. Yet anything north of Los Angeles, and even parts of Los Angeles, can reach freezing at night.

Mountainous areas around Los Angeles can find themselves under a foot of snow during the winter. And at the other end of the scale, communities such as Blythe, Needles, Mojave, Imperial Valley, and most of the San Joaquin Valley, regularly peak at 100 degrees F during the summer. Moral of the story: make sure your vehicle is properly weatherized before it crosses the California border.

Summary: Don't Hesitate to Import

Even though California presents many obstacles to car importation, the alternative is not much better. California's new and used car prices are among the highest in the U.S., so you stand to save money in the long run by shipping your own car into the state. Don't let the red-tape get in the way of transporting your vehicle into California.