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I have a vespa from the 1970s that used to be my grandfather's and that I used to drive around when I was a teenager in Italy.

I'm now a California resident and I'm having it restored in Italy and planning to bring it over to CA.

Does anyone know if I will be able to register it here and what steps I need to take? Obviously it probably won't meet today's emissions standards...

Any advice is greatly appreciated.

Thank you.
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How to Guide- Apply for a California plate and title

In my experience, telling the DMV/CHP too much opens up a can of worms. Tell them you need a title and plate for a vehicle no longer in the system. Say your grandpa IN CALIFORNIA lost the title/ it's been in a barn/ you inherited it. If you say you imported it I'm guessing you'll need custom forms and all kinds of paperwork and fees.

Also, DMV/CHP don't know about scooters in general. When they don't know, they make your life difficult. Assuming they would let it slide cause it's a scooter sadly has never been my case. So, I found what worked and typed up that guide. It's worked perfectly many times since.

So, follow my above guide to a T, don't tell them where you got the guide and remember your grandfather each time you ride.
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Thank you. But will there be problems at customs when I have it shipped?

Someone on this forum wrote (about buying a new scooter overseas) that custom might stop and destroy it if it doesn't meet US regulations.

While I suspect that might not apply to a vintage scooter, I would like to have some certainties as this is a treasured family heirloom and I would rather leave it where it is than have it taken from me at customs.
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I dont know anything about customs stuff and can't point out anything definitive on this forum. Since youre in the Bay Area, I'd suggest calling SF Scooter Centre and asking for Barry. Ask him if he knows anything about customs stuff.
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If it's older than 25 years, you should be OK, here's a guide from eBay
https://www.ebay.com/motors/blog/how-to-import-a-classic-car/

and a commercial importer that could handle it all for you
https://borderbuddy.com/

Now how about a few pics of Grampa's old Vespa? Eyelashes emoticon
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Yes, a vehicle not made for the USA market can't be imported unless it's 25 or more years old.
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Thank you
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Thanks for the additional info.

Unfortunately I don't have an actual photo. I used to ride this vespa as a teenager in the early 90s when I didn't go around with a smartphone in my pocket. Life was not as dutifully documented back then.

But the vespa is red and looks like the one in my pic although the seat is more flat and doesn't have the strap for whoever is riding pillion to hold on to. The back of the seat was extremely hard, as I remember hearing a lot of complaints from my passengers.

I also used to ride it as a 6 year old standing in the front between my grandfather's legs. Once again... different times and different ideas of child safety...

Now I'm day-dreaming that my 2-year-old son might like to ride it in a few years time. Who knows...

Sorry for the nostalgic turn of this post. I'd still love to hear from anyone else who has any more info.

Thank you again.
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I'd ask at a vehicle importer. I helped a friend with my SUV and trailer to import a non-USA BMW motorcycle from Canada. It wasn't 25 years old so he had reams of paperwork for USA's EPA and DOT that took him months to gather the required info and fill it all out. He did use a well established vehicle importer to help with some of the paperwork, for a fee of $1700, but they still managed to screw it up.

The key here is yours is over 25 years old, so I don't see all that paperwork being required, but I'd still check with an importer to find out what's required.

And since California is allowed to set its own rules somewhat, make sure the importer is either in CA or has done imports to CA. Also check with CA DMV to see if there's going to be any surprises when you go to register it. (Fees).
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I contacted the California Air Resources Board as suggested on this website (https://www.dmv.ca.gov/portal/dmv/detail/pubs/brochures/howto/htvr09a) and got this reply:
Quote:
An out of country motorcycle that does not already meet CA or USEPA standards is not registrable in California. Motorcycles and heavy-duty engines (used in trucks and buses) are required to comply with CA or USEPA from the date of manufacturer, no after-the-fact modification is permitted for products first sold outside the US market.
I contacted them again to ask them if there are no exceptions for older vehicles.
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There shouldnt be a problem. These vintage scoots are exempt from DOT, EPA craps. I purchased a Vespa from France and a Lammy in UK before. I assumed you will ship sea freight and not sure about Italy but there should be a Shipping service where they wrap, crated your Vespa and ship.

The shipper will ask you to provide documentations like Vehicle registration of the vespa in Italy so that they check it's not stolen. (in France, they dont allow you to ship if there is no valid doc). They will then scrub the paperwork as export. Once these steps are done, the shipper should provide you a copy of export papers, bill of lading, fumigation doc, and last registration if there is any. At this point, it is on it way to the US.

After like a month or two, the container get to the Long Beach port, they will hold it there for 1-3 weeks before CBP actually inspecting it. By the way, make sure don't lock the glove box, no gas in tank and oil in engine. They will fine you if you have gas in the tank.

The shipper will tell you when to go the CBP office in Long Beach to complete the import paperwork. When you do this, make sure you put down that it's family owned so you dont pay any tax. When it's done, they will stamp your import docs and release the crate from the port.

The crate will go to a warehouse somewhere in LA. It takes another 5-7 days to get to the warehouse. Shipper will let you know which one to go to pick it up. Bring the stamp doc and at least 300-400 cash as you will have to pay some fees there. Prepare to be there around 4-5hrs.

It's a painful process but you will get the scoot.

When you are registering with the DMV, it's pretty straight forward. You have to get the CHP inspection complete first. Bring your import docs that have the CBP stamp, inspection paper and fee paid if there is any to the DMV. Beside 3-4hrs waiting, and reg fee (no tax since it's granpa gift). This is actually a quick process than most people thought. You should get title within 3 weeks. If you dont plan to ride the scoot often then there is different way to register to save on registration fee.
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Thank you so much for the added info!

Just for reference this is my subsequent exchange with CARB:
Quote:
Thank you for the information. So are there no exceptions for older vehicles?

The DMV website states:
Quote:
If the vehicle is a 1968 or newer year-model auto or commercial vehicle, or a 1978 or newer year model motorcycle that does not comply with EPA or CARB emission requirements, contact CARB by phone at 1-800-242-4450 or by email at helpline@www.arb.ca.gov.
This seems to imply that 1978 is the cut-off date for different rules to apply but it doesn't state what the rules are.

Thank you for any information you can provide.
And they replied today:
Quote:
Hello,

There are no exemptions to be had for an out of country Vespa registration.
As I mentioned in the beginning, I'm having the vespa brought back to as close to its original state as possible in Italy (at a cost of EUR 2-3K) so I would like to make sure it's not for nothing...
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sneaky
If you hit the wall in CA, you could ship it to Seattle, and I could get it shipped on to you after getting it legal in WA state? You'd have to do the heavy lifting, but I'd be happy to help. I have registered my Sprint here, originally brought in from Italy w/ papers to WA state.
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importing vespa
1 sell the vespa in Italy .. save your self a ton of grief and money..
2- buy the similiar one here in the usa and the money you saved will pay for your trip to italy and back...... that easy
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Re: importing vespa
littlemicrocars wrote:
1 sell the vespa in Italy .. save your self a ton of grief and money..
2- buy the similiar one here in the usa and the money you saved will pay for your trip to italy and back...... that easy
Read his post. This one was his grandfathers and he used to ride it as a kid. I'm sure that's why he wants THIS one. A replacement wouldn't mean anywhere as much.
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shipping out of Italy
it its really special send by air .. pick it up at the border in San Diego where all the junk yards are and shipper warehouses .. customs will meet you there and cut the seal... load it in you van and take it home.... about 3 days from italy to germany and to san diego.... and nobody messes with it...L
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^^^ I like this under the radar plan to 'sneak' it in country, but....
have you been able to get California reg & plates this way? Or what, Vermont next step?
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V oodoo wrote:
^^^ I like this under the radar plan to 'sneak' it in country, but....
have you been able to get California reg & plates this way? Or what, Vermont next step?
Once the scoot is in the country (by air, or other means like say - disassembly and shipping in pieces as separate shipments....) couldn't you just apply for a missing title/out of system vehicle?
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GeekLion wrote:
V oodoo wrote:
^^^ I like this under the radar plan to 'sneak' it in country, but....
have you been able to get California reg & plates this way? Or what, Vermont next step?
Once the scoot is in the country (by air, or other means like say - disassembly and shipping in pieces as separate shipments....) couldn't you just apply for a missing title/out of system vehicle?
Normally, DMV will input your VIN into their system ( and/or CHP inspection will enter it) and it'll come up as a vehicle not originally for the U.S. market and, as such, without Customs and DEP and EPA paperwork, you won't be able to register it. ( Or quite possibly not even legal for it to be in the U.S.)

BUT, this scoot from the 70s just might fly in under the radar. But if it doesn't, like previously said, a state's DMV won't allow it to be registered, so you'll have an expensive living room object d'art. And if after being refused by the state DMV you THEN start to look into federal approvals after the fact, the feds may impound the scooter while you try to figure things out.

Which is why the OP needs to find a REPUTABLE vehicle importer that has dealt with California DMV.
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Vintage1 wrote:
GeekLion wrote:
V oodoo wrote:
^^^ I like this under the radar plan to 'sneak' it in country, but....
have you been able to get California reg & plates this way? Or what, Vermont next step?
Once the scoot is in the country (by air, or other means like say - disassembly and shipping in pieces as separate shipments....) couldn't you just apply for a missing title/out of system vehicle?
Normally, DMV will input your VIN into their system ( and/or CHP inspection will enter it) and it'll come up as a vehicle not originally for the U.S. market and, as such, without Customs and DEP and EPA paperwork, you won't be able to register it. ( Or quite possibly not even legal for it to be in the U.S.)

BUT, this scoot from the 70s just might fly in under the radar. But if it doesn't, like previously said, a state's DMV won't allow it to be registered, so you'll have an expensive living room object d'art. And if after being refused by the state DMV you THEN start to look into federal approvals after the fact, the feds may impound the scooter while you try to figure things out.

Which is why the OP needs to find a REPUTABLE vehicle importer that has dealt with California DMV.
Thanks for the clarification and detailed explanation. It's good information to know, for all of us old scooter enthusiasts. I (and I'm sure others as well), didn't know that a vin could show in the system as 'not for us market' or something to that effect. It would really suck to get the scoot impounded because of a 'flag' like this! I had a passing thought that because it is a vintage old scooter it might sneak by in this way. But its good to be informed, and better know what the proper procedures for success
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Re: importing vespa
littlemicrocars wrote:
1 sell the vespa in Italy .. save your self a ton of grief and money..
2- buy the similiar one here in the usa and the money you saved will pay for your trip to italy and back...... that easy
as a person who ships cargo globally into US, I'm seconding this. The shipping from Italy into the Bay area may double the cost of your restoration project.
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Have it shipped with thew front fork uninstalled and the motor out. No regulations on parts importing.
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I'd import the scooter in 2-3 separate crates as parts, then register it in Vermont, then in California. Trying to do it by the book is going to be costly to import to the US as well as to export from Italy, and there seems to be no guarantee that you'd even be able to register it once there.
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it can be done.

my friend Emilio used a vehicle importer to make it happen, if you want, you can try to PM him for the contact info, his user name is TV200. I don't think he comes on here much, but he's done a number of bikes from Europe into CA.
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kmf wrote:
Have it shipped with thew front fork uninstalled and the motor out. No regulations on parts importing.
you will not fool CBP at a major port doing this unless you separate the parts under different bill of ladings, and if the container happens to be flagged for CET exam (which is very frequent at OAK/LGB ports), and CBP see there are shipments from the same exporter, they can/and will reject the cargo/customs entry due to DOT requirements.

Seriously, unless OP has deep pockets and a bucketload of time, do NOT do this.
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I have the answer...

Section out the VIN number on Grandpa's 70's Vespa and weld it into a similar scooter state side.
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Frank N. Stein wrote:
I'd import the scooter in 2-3 separate crates as parts, then register it in Vermont, then in California. Trying to do it by the book is going to be costly to import to the US as well as to export from Italy, and there seems to be no guarantee that you'd even be able to register it once there.
A lot of sidewalk lawyers here.
As I understand the process, VT only issues a registration. You still won't have a title or a certificate of origin. Those are required, I believe in CA and most other states. He would still have the issue of a non- U.S. VIN. Unless that is forgiven for such an older vehicle. To settle THOSE issues requires compliance with The U.S. EPA and DOT. Completely different and much more involved than a state's requirement. And those issues must be settled and in order when it arrives at the port or border, you don't get to take the scooter home and do it later.

Which is why I've been saying to get the proper info from both CA DMV and advice from an importer who's done it.
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Well, at least the sidewalk lawyers are only giving an opinion, not trying to pass as sidewalk specialists. That you've never heard of anybody doing it by any other method than your own doesn't mean it hasn't been done, or can't still be done. You may think you have all the definitive answers, but it's good that the OP has different options (that have worked in the past) to look into before going your route (if you don't mind, of course).
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The bike has history valuable to you, do what you have to do to get it home, I like Voodoo's helping plan. Here in Canada I beleive its the same rules for all provinces for importing.
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I like Frank's plan. I'd break it down into a number of boxes, and send them to a few addresses, on different days. That way it is not mistaken for a whole scooter. Then Vermont, then state of choice. It may cost more in shipping, but then there is no way they would assume it's all one bike.

That's what I'd do anyway... View from the yard, not even the sidewalk!
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qascooter wrote:
I like Frank's plan. I'd break it down into a number of boxes, and send them to a few addresses, on different days. That way it is not mistaken for a whole scooter. Then Vermont, then state of choice. It may cost more in shipping, but then there is no way they would assume it's all one bike.

That's what I'd do anyway... View from the yard, not even the sidewalk!
Problem with that is its going to increase the shipping charges substantially. I think the best plan would be get it into the country then simply pick it up and get it registered as a no ownership.
But then again after thinking about it, bringing it in in parts would leave no trace of a serial number on a whole bike, and customs wouldn't be inputting the bike info. Yep may be a safer option.
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Lynnb wrote:
Problem with that is its going to increase the shipping charges substantially.
Shipping does cost a lot now-a-days. I'm all curious how this is going to turn out!
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qascooter wrote:
I like Frank's plan. I'd break it down into a number of boxes, and send them to a few addresses, on different days, and show up at the post office under assumed names wearing disguises.
I don't know that the plan has to be that intricate The idea is that technically, a whole scooter in a crate is a vehicle, and thus needs to pass customs as such; whereas boxes full of parts are just that: parts. Whether you can build an entire scooter from all the parts or not isn't really the concern of the good people at customs, even if you receive an entire scooter over a few weeks at the same address. You'd be playing the Letter of the Law vs the Spirit of the Law.

I remember going into a showroom in LA a few years back, and wondering how they had T5s and other supposedly banned 2 stroke scooters on offer although they were all made after the 1984 California ban. The owner explained the method for importing them, but I'm not sure how he worked around the issue of getting paperwork for a 1985+ vehicle, given that the law specifically banned them while allowing vehicles already registered before the ban took place. The Vermont solution comes to mind.

Once again, it's up to the OP to ascertain whether the option is still workable, and whether legislation and/or enforcement thereof has changed to the point that avenue is closed.
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