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August 5, 2008 8:27 PM   Subscribe

Bringing a car from British Columbia to California- complicated title transfer situation.

I am being given a car by my parents who live in B.C. I live in California, and plan to fly up and then drive the car back down here.

The complicated part is- the car is currently registered and insured in BC in my parents' names. Ultimately it will be registered and insured in California, in my name. Where and when do I need to do the title transfer (or is there paperwork in both places)? How can I be covered for the in between time (during my trip down) for insurance and registration? Should I keep the BC plates on for the trip, or get some sort of temporary plates?

posted by purplefiber to Travel & Transportation (7 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
This is how I'd do it:
1. You and your parents fill out the paperwork to transfer ownership to you when you get to BC, but do not submit it yet.
2. Drive the car to California while it's still insured and registered in your parents' names.
3. When you get to CA, have them submit the paperwork to BC DMV and cancel their insurance.
4. Registering a car is easy. You can walk into a AAA or DMV to do it.
5. Get the car insured.

You can also visit AAA and ask them what process you should follow.
posted by HotPatatta at 8:38 PM on August 5, 2008

Keep the plates until you register the car in Calif.
posted by HotPatatta at 8:39 PM on August 5, 2008

Before you can even begin changing the plates/registration, you'll have to export the car from Canada and import it into the US. I did this going the other way (US car into Canada) and it's a huge pain in the ass. I had to leave my car at the US border for 72 hours after completing a ton of paperwork, take it to Canadian Customs and complete a bunch more paperwork, have the car inspected to pass a provincial inspection, etc. Once all those things were completed, the car was eligible for registration in BC.

I'd be absolutely shocked if things were any simpler getting a car into the US. This site seems to have a some information on what's required. You'll want to get the title changed to your name (or perhaps have it in both names so it can keep your parents plates/insurance) and take things from there.

In general, this will cost more money and take more time than you're expecting. Be prepared.

4. Registering a car is easy. You can walk into a AAA or DMV to do it.

I'm pretty sure you can't just walk into a DMV and register a foreign vehicle. Have you done this before? If so, consider me infuriated than the Canadians make one jump through so many hoops.
posted by Nelsormensch at 8:53 PM on August 5, 2008

This is going to depend on year and origin of car, whether it meets US and California emission regulations and your status (student, visiting or permanent resident and when you moved to California from BC).

You might not be able to do as HotPatatta said because you need to officially import the car if you are a permanent resident. Some of the paper work (EPA form 3520-1 and DOT form HS-7) has to be done before you get to the border. Also you'll need to get a California Smog Certificate before you can register the car.

Customs FAQ 1, 2 and word doc outlining the process.

California DMV might have additional requirements depending (like the smog check for sure), the above just lets you legally bring the car into the states.
posted by Mitheral at 8:57 PM on August 5, 2008

From my own recent experience transfering a car from my parents, but entirely in New York, this was the time line as presented to me by the guy at the DMV:

1. Get new insurance first - do it over the phone because of the registration situation. I didn't think it was possible to do this, but i was wrong. Once that's in place your parents can cancel their old policy. Do this first because at least in NY, a gap between insurance ending and starting is BAD.
2. Go to the DMV counter and ask for all the forms you'll need. The NYS DMV website was somewhat incomplete there.
4. Fill out the paperwork with your parents. Make sure they sign everything!
3. Go back to the DMV and hand in all the forms, the plates, and YOUR proof of insurance.

This will obviously be different because of the foreign thing and it's a different state. But the moral is that I was totally lost and confused until I went to the DMV and they explained to me what I needed to do and then it became very clear.
posted by amethysts at 8:59 PM on August 5, 2008

Oh one other thing. Phone the border crossing you are going to be using and inquire as to their specific procedures. They may only allow you to import the car on specific days or between specific hours.
posted by Mitheral at 9:01 PM on August 5, 2008

Response by poster: Thanks for all the suggestions folks! I'll be making some phone calls in the morning...
posted by purplefiber at 10:46 PM on August 5, 2008

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