top of page

States Are Banning Mini Trucks: How to Register Them Anyway

The Popularity (and Banning) of Mini Trucks

Japanese mini (or kei) trucks, known for their compact size and efficiency, have garnered a substantial following among American auto enthusiasts. However, their rising popularity has hit a roadblock as several states have imposed bans on their registration, deeming them not street-legal due to safety and environmental concerns. This has left many mini truck owners in a predicament, searching for viable solutions to keep their cherished vehicles, such as the ones we offer at LLCTLC.

How and Why Did States Start Banning Japanese Mini Trucks?

The wave of registration bans on kei trucks is spreading across states like Georgia, New York, Maine, and Rhode Island, among others. Each state has its own set of rules and regulations, which have made the registration process a daunting task for kei truck owners. These bans primarily stem from concerns regarding whether the vehicles comply with the Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standards and Environmental Protection Agency regulations.

AAMVA's Role in Triggering the Ban

The American Association of Motor Vehicle Administrators (AAMVA), which is a non-profit and not a government agency, significantly influenced the bans on kei vehicles across various states. The influx of mini-trucks from Japan and China in the 2000s prompted a series of meetings from 2010 onwards, aimed at standardizing registration laws. The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) weighed in, labeling these vehicles as unsafe. Following this, the AAMVA published a "Best Practice" document concerning the registration and titling of mini-trucks, marking them as substandard in safety and emissions, which swayed many states towards implementing bans​​.

AAMVA’s Reasoning

“By allowing on-road operation of used mini-trucks, Canada and the U.S. are accepting another nation‘s cast-offs—vehicles that no longer meet the exporting country‘s vehicle safety or emissions standards. Increasing the supply of older model vehicles in North America undermines government and industry efforts to improve vehicle safety and reduce vehicle emissions, as these efforts are largely dependent on fleet turnover. This risk can be reduced by placing restrictions on the use of these non-conforming vehicles” (Emphasis added)

State-by-State Breakdown

Though the majority of states still have no laws or regulations that specifically deal with kei vehicles, we have a state-by-state breakdown of the ones that have, either legally or in practice, banned the registration of Japanese mini trucks:


In Maine, the ban on kei trucks started when the state's Bureau of Motor Vehicles began categorizing these vehicles as mini-trucks that didn't meet federal emissions and safety requirements. This was done by actually changing the relevant law to create an extremely sweeping definition of an off-road vehicle. This move, plus the national work of AAMVA, ignited a trend that several other states would soon follow.

Rhode Island

Rhode Island was quick to join Maine in effectively banning registrations for mini trucks, even going so far as to revoke existing registrations that had previously been deemed legal by the state.

Rather than actually modify or create a new law governing Japanese mini trucks, the state instead decided to reinterpret existing laws to deem these vehicles as "mechanically unfit or unsafe" for highway usage. This came as a shock to mini truck owners who had been using their vehicles on Rhode Island roads for years, and to drivers looking to become mini truck owners as a huge disappointment.


In Georgia, the Department of Revenue issued a policy bulletin reminding county tag offices not to title or register kei-class vehicles as they are not compliant with the U.S. Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standards (FMVSS), hence, not considered "street legal." The bulletin aimed to address the issue of kei vehicles being incorrectly titled and registered due to misunderstandings, possibly since Japanese mini trucks are legal in other states. The ban in Georgia isn't a new law but rather a reminder to county officials that mini trucks should not be registered in the state of Georgia, which are primarily imported for use as farming and off-road recreational vehicles​​.

New York, Pennsylvania, and Virginia

These states are also blocking the registration of Japanese mini trucks in their states. Each state exhibited different levels of registration difficulties for Japanese Domestic Market (JDM) vehicle owners, but the long and short of it is, if you want to register your mini truck as street-legal, look elsewhere.

A Solution for Mini Truck Owners in Bypassing Registration Restrictions

Fortunately, it’s not all bad news: there's a beacon of hope for mini truck owners in the form of Montana's more forgiving vehicle registration laws. By forming a Montana LLC through LLCTLC's Montana LLC formation services, vehicle owners can register their Japanese mini trucks in Montana, where the laws are more favorable. This pathway not only provides a solution to the registration ban dilemma but also offers financial benefits such as no sales tax on vehicle purchases. The process is straightforward and LLCTLC guides you through every step, making LLCTLC a preferred choice for many mini truck enthusiasts seeking to bypass the registration restrictions in their home states.

Your Path to Making Your Japanese Mini Trucks Street Legal

Setting up a Montana LLC through LLCTLC is a straightforward process, designed to provide a legal pathway for mini truck enthusiasts facing registration bans in various states. By forming an LLC in Montana—where we have no sales tax and friendly vehicle registration laws—you can register your kei truck under the LLC's name, making it street-legal in your state.

Get Your Mini Truck on the Road Again with LLCTLC

LLCTLC offers a seamless solution to the mini truck ban - forming a Montana LLC. By registering your mini truck under a Montana LLC, you can bypass the stringent registration restrictions faced in other states. Our Montana LLC formation services ensure that your mini truck is street-legal and ready for the road.

Experience the joy of driving your kei truck on the road by leveraging the benefits of Montana’s favorable vehicle registration laws through LLCTLC. Talk with us today!

Looking to buy a mini-truck? Check out HVNY Imports! They have a large selection, can customize to your needs, and even ship to your door.


bottom of page