California Emissions and California Legal

"California Emissions" and "California Legal" are two important, and often misunderstood (or reversed) definitions.  Let's define them:


   California Legal - A California Legal catalytic converter is simply one that is considered legal by the state of California's Air Resources Board.  These catalytic converters are typically the highest grade available.  However, they are only required if you live in California.


   California Emissions - Every car sold falls into one of two classifications: Federal Emissions (also called EPA Emissions) or California Emissions.  California Emissions is a stricter standard than the Federal.  Vehicles with California Emissions are not limited to the state of California, but are instead sold into numerous others (predominately on the West coast, Southwest, and New England.)  With increasing pressure for states to build environmental awareness, many states are now somewhere in the process of enabling legislation to move towards California's high standards.


   THE CONFUSION! - A "California Legal" catalytic converter is compliant as "California Emissions", but the reverse is NOT automatically true.  Vehicles with California Emissions are sold into both New York and California that are exactly the same.  However, a New York resident and a California resident will most likely wish to purchase different catalytic converters when replacing their original equipment.  California Legal requires more information, like stamping and labeling, and may contain more precious metal to meet the strict state requirements.  So we find we often have 3 levels of catalytic converters: Federal, California Emissions, and California Legal. 


So which Emissions Standard does my replacement need to have?


- California Legal - If you live in California, this is what you need.'s sister website specializes in this complicated and confusing product line.  Please visit us here:


- California or Federal Emissions? - If a catalog listing for your specific vehicle does not specify which Emissions Standard it fits, then knowing your Emissions Standard is not necessary, and you can assume the catalog fitment implies that the replacement part fits both standards.  If a catalog listing specifies just one of the Emissions Standards, then you need to determine which standard you have.


- And if I need or want to know which Emissions Standard my vehicle is? - Check your VECI label. This will be located under your hood. (VECI label = Vehicle Emissions Control Information label)



VECI examples


California Emissions example - On this example VECI, you see that the vehicle conforms to both EPA (or Federal) emission standards and California emission standards.  ALL vehicles in the US must conform to EPA standards; so this should be present on every VECI.  But keep looking for mention of California.  If it conforms to California standards, then it is considered to be a vehicle with California Emissions.


EPA Emissions Example - On this VECI, a boxed in section of text clearly states that the vehicle conforms to EPA Emissions standards.  However, it makes no mention of California at all.  Therefore it is an EPA Emissions, or Federal Emissions vehicle.