Registering in CA: J tags, AAA, etc

I’ve just acquired an S1 from out of CA and want to be prepared for what I’ll run into with the DMV. Knowing the stellar quality of their staff, I want to make sure I have all my ducks in a row when I walk in so there are no surprises.

I’ve read a lot on here about the J tags issued in the early days for cars originally sold in CA to meet their ID number requirements, but I haven’t been able to find anything about people bringing a non-J tagged car into CA for new title and registration. Is the DMV able to handle it with just the chassis number (like 1EXXXXXX) or will they require more digits for their system? If they require more, is there any responsibility of the new owner to establish that first, or do they do it on the spot?

Do they require the car in person to inspect, or is it just a paperwork transaction? I’ve searched through the DMV site info and couldn’t find that requirement. Since my local DMV branch shares is at the end of a little group of strip mall shops and shares its always-crowded parking lot with a Walmart, I cringe at the thought of having to park a lovely new E type there.

Also, has anyone had experience using the AAA’s DMV services to handle all this, or does it require one to go to the DMV instead? On AAA’s website they say they can handle vehicle ownership transactions from out of state and everything else needed, but I wonder if that is true for something like an old classic. It would be wonderful to handle it all through AAA and not have to get anywhere near the life-sucking vacuum that is the CA DMV.

Any experiences and advice appreciated!

When I moved to California from out of state I brought my 59 TR3A - I was able to register it with just the original 8-character VIN (commission number). As I recall, I took care of everything at AAA.


My understanding is that the Jxx tag was a requirement for cars that were delivered new in California for a number of years, and that it was then added as a prefix to the ID for registration purposes. However, the reason for the Jxx tag was nothing to do with the length of ID. It’s purpose was to identify the model year of the car, to prevent unscrupulous dealers selling a last year’s car as this year’s model (which was otherwise possible as imported cars didn’t typically have radical appearance changes on on annual basis). I have registered a car in California from out of state with a 6 character ID (1Rxxxx) without a problem. That said, as the car was from out of state, the DMV did want to inspect the car to verify the ID matched the out of state title. Whether AAA can offer that service, I don’t know.


Give the AAA your first shot. For the most part they are more knowledgeable than the DMV.
When I brought my E back to Ca after being out of state for 18 years the DMV gave me the run around.
One office would not accept my vin and said it would have to be inspected by CHP.
Another DMV office said no problem. Good luck.

Do yourself a favor, and use one of those registration services you see dotted around town. They typically charge about $50 for their services, and the good ones are worth their weight in gold.

I went on Yelp a few years ago to find one with good reviews, and I haven’t been near a DMV or AAA ever since. All the registration stuff that you see people scaremongering about on forums is typically a case of “user error”…these folks know every rule in the book, and they have a relationship with the people at the local DMV, so they can navigate the system with their eyes closed.

You don’t say where you are located, but if you’re anywhere near San Diego, I would strongly encourage you to go see the lady that does my stuff. Your lack of a J-tag won’t be a problem, the length of your VIN won’t be a problem. If your VIN needs verifying, she’s licensed to do it…you’ll be in and out of her office in 10 mins with your new license plates, and your registration slip, and your pink slip will arrive in the mail 7-10 days later.

Work smarter, not harder.

I used the AAA service when I registered my 69 (NON J tag car). I showed them all the previous state registrations and showed them all the VIN locations on the car. was a breeze. but I may have been lucky.

I forgot: I went to the DMV, armed with a photocopied print of Tweety’s original title.

I bit off subject, but I suspect the bigger problem would be registering cars that have the Jxx included in their “VIN”, in other States. I’m going to contact the California DMV and suggest that they issue a Bulletin that discusses this issue and past practice.

EDIT: I just sent them an e-mail regarding above. If they don’t respond I’ll send them a letter.

I went to AAA… no problem…the lady had no idea what she was doing except matching numbers

Could be: I’ve never run into that, before.

Thanks all for the feedback and thoughts. I think I’ll try the nearby AAA office first as it’s only a couple miles from my house, and hope it’s smooth!

Ben, i am in San Diego and I’ll PM you for her contact info if there turns out to be any issue. The cost of such a service is trivial compared to my time and the aggravation factor.

Sounds good. I’ve successfully used AAA also, so I don’t foresee any issues. They also did a VIN verification for me without complaint, so you should be good there.

But, if they start questioning anything, just go to California Registration Services on El Cajon Blvd, and ask for Nicky or Sammy…they are sisters, and they’re both excellent.