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Is Your RV Entering California? Get Ready to be Searched!

| Updated May 13, 2023

If you're entering California, your RV may be searched by border protection officers. Here's the important reason why and what to expect…

A recent post in our RV Lifestyle Facebook group asked about RV searches at the Californian border.

Kari, a top contributor, posted (with minor edits): “Hi all. Question regarding the fruits going across the state line between CA and OR.  We have a 5th wheel. I know they ask if you have fruit when you cross the border. How often do they actually physically do a check of the RV?”

With nearly 100 comments, fellow RVers shared their experiences and what to expect. We thought we’d share and add to their input, explaining why these searches occur and why they are so vitally important to the survival of California’s agricultural economy.

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Does California Stop RVs at the Border?

 oriental fruit fly Entering California
oriental fruit fly

Yes, the state does conduct inspections of RVs entering California. They have recently amped up their efforts because of a serious threat to California’s agriculture industry: the oriental fruit fly. 

The oriental fruit fly has been declared a significant threat to the natural environment, agriculture, and economy of California by the California Department of Food and Agriculture (CDFA). The oriental fruit fly is native to Asia but has spread to multiple Pacific Islands, including Hawaii, where it has caused significant damage to crops.

The oriental fruit fly is known to infest over 230 types of fruits and vegetables, including valuable California crops such as avocados, apples, stone and citrus fruits, tomatoes, and peppers. The CDFA estimates that in 2020, the value of California crops threatened by the fruit fly was $19.3 billion.

But it isn’t just about profits; it’s about jobs and agricultural supply! California’s agricultural industry employs an average of 420,800 people annually. Plus, California provides nearly half of the U.S. fruit and nut production.

So, imagine the local and nationwide effects ANY serious pest infection would cause! (Not just the oriental fruit fly!)

Do All RVs Entering California Get Searched?

Entering California you may be inspected

The short answer is no, not all RVs are searched when entering California. CDFA officers use both random and risk-based approaches to determine which vehicles to inspect based on a number of factors, including the vehicle's origin, the presence of fruits or vegetables on board, and any previous violations or inspections.

In general, vehicles entering California from high-risk areas such as Mexico, Oregon, or areas with known plant pest or disease issues may be subject to more frequent inspections. However, even vehicles entering from low-risk areas may be subject to inspection if there are signs of potential pests or diseases.

One of the most common ways for the fruit fly to enter California is when people illegally bring fruits and vegetables back from their travels or receive packages of homegrown produce through the mail. The CDFA emphasizes the importance of following federal and state laws governing what travelers are allowed to bring home. 

Should You Just Say You Don’t Have Any Onboard?

As tempting as it may be to try to avoid an inspection, you should always be honest about what plants, fruit, vegetables, and nuts you have on board. Remember, you’re not going to get fined or arrested if you have any onboard. They’re not trying to catch you doing something wrong; they’re trying to prevent you from accidentally causing an agricultural catastrophe. 

If you only have a small amount on board for personal consumption, you’ll likely be waved through anyway. But do be prepared for a short interruption of your trip if they decide to conduct an inspection. 

Understanding the Border Inspection Process

15 Tips for Properly Storing a Camper or RV

The California Department of Food and Agriculture (CDFA) operates a Border Protection Station (BPS) at several key locations throughout the state, including major highways and airports. The purpose of these stations is to prevent the introduction of harmful pests and diseases into the state's agricultural industry.

At these stations, vehicles are subject to inspection by CDFA officers, who will look for any signs of plant pests or diseases. This inspection may include a visual inspection of the exterior of the RV, as well as an inspection of any plants, fruits, or vegetables on board. If any pests or diseases are found, the vehicle may be subject to further inspection, disinfection, or quarantine.

However, don’t be alarmed by that worst-case scenario. In the vast majority of cases, the border officers simply ask about the produce and plants you have on board. Sometimes they do a quick visual inspection of your RV, particularly of your RV’s tires, undercarriage, and fridge. 

Preparing Your RV for Inspection

While not all RVs are inspected when entering California, it is important to be prepared in case your vehicle is randomly selected for inspection. Here are a few tips to help you prepare:

1. Know Which Fruits & Vegetable Are Prohibited to Enter California

To help travelers prepare for entering California, the CDFA has created a website called Don't Pack a Pest. The site provides information on California's agricultural regulations and tips for preventing the spread of pests and diseases.

The website includes a list of prohibited fruits and vegetables that are not allowed to enter California, as well as information on what to do if you encounter a pest or disease while traveling. It also offers guidance on how to clean and disinfect your vehicle to prevent the spread of pests and diseases.

2. Clean Your Undercarriage!

If it’s visibly obvious that your RV has been driving “offroad,” you’re more likely to get stopped. If you have a lot of dirt and plant debris on your RV, it’s a good idea to give it a good hose-down before entering the state.

Pay particular attention to any areas where pests or diseases may be hiding, such as undercarriages, tires, and wheel wells.

Entering California clean your underside of RV

3. Be Honest & Patient

Be honest and forthcoming with CDFA officers if your vehicle is selected for inspection. This may include answering questions about your travel history and any fruits or vegetables on board. Remember, they’re not trying to get you in trouble; they’re trying to prevent catastrophic infestation.

If your vehicle is subject to inspection, be patient and cooperative with CDFA officers. They are there to protect California's agricultural industry and ensure the safety of the nation's food supply.

While You're In California…

Check out these great articles we have about RVing in California:

Our Favorite California National Parks

Like what you see in these videos? We'd appreciate it if you would Subscribe to our YouTube Channel (easy to do right here) and consider “ringing the bell icon” to be notified of any new video from us. 🙂 Thanks!

Today we want to share with you our Top 5 National Parks in California. There's something truly captivating about the west coast. From the mountains, to the vast forests and deserts, see why these should be on every RVer's bucket list.

**The section of Joshua Tree has been muted due to a change in music copyright. Apologies for the change, it is truly a wonderful place to visit if you are in the area.

Check out this Southwest Adventure Guide Bundle (Arizona, Utah, & Colorado)

Is Your RV Entering California? Get Ready to be Searched! 1

When Jennifer and I travel to the southwest, we are continually amazed at the majesty and beauty this country has to offer. And it's really hard to stay in just one state! So we created this Bundle for you in case you like to travel as we do. 

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Mike Wendland

Published on 2023-05-12

Mike Wendland is a multiple Emmy-award-winning Journalist, Podcaster, YouTuber, and Blogger, who has traveled with his wife, Jennifer, all over North America in an RV, sharing adventures and reviewing RV, Camping, Outdoor, Travel and Tech Gear for the past 12 years. They are leading industry experts in RV living and have written 18 travel books.

7 Responses to “Is Your RV Entering California? Get Ready to be Searched!”

June 02, 2023at6:42 am, Jeff Hollon said:

Apparently, this is another violation of your fourth amendment right as perpetrated by California thuggery. Trying to put a nice spin on it doesn’t change the facts.


May 16, 2023at2:31 am, K Miller said:

A it is against your Constitutional rights for them to go into any vehicle, B you have a right to travel unmolested in the USA & C. You can sue them if they pressure you or deny you into the state. This article fails to adhere to the actual laws on your rights by using a guilt trip example of why they have some kind of false right to step on your rights.


May 14, 2023at1:37 am, Henry Bowman said:

The USA has so, so many agricultural states. Yet only one gets the vapors about perceived “risk” so phobically that it chooses to perform unconstitutional searches on law-abiding strangers. We live 90 minutes from California, yet we RV in every direction except that one. Another reason is that we choose not to risk traveling to a state where everything including sand is known to cause cancer. Our health and our liberty are too precious to us to vacation recklessly.


May 12, 2023at11:34 pm, Dan Hunter said:

If you are selected to undergo inspection, do you have the option of declining and returning to the state you just left?


May 13, 2023at8:02 am, Team RV Lifestyle said:

That would be something I would check with the California agricultural division that oversees this – wouldn’t want to steer you wrong! Team RV Lifestyle


May 13, 2023at1:40 pm, Bret B Blankenship said:

Yes you do they will simply just tell you to turn around and go back see it many times remember these people are NOT law enforcement


May 16, 2023at2:35 am, K M said:

Yes, you also have a right to tell them no and to gifts, as stated they are not law enforcement, and you have a right to travel unmolested in a country that obviously says so…


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