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.
We use affiliate links and may receive a small commission on purchases at no added cost to you. Thank you for your support. You can read our full affiliate disclosure here.
Does California Stop RVs at the Border?
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?
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
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.
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:
- California Animal Tour: 10 Best CA Zoos, Aquariums & More
- The 21 Best Campgrounds in California by Region
- 11 Best RV Campgrounds for Beach Camping in California
- Yosemite Landmarks: 16 Best Sights & Must-See Attractions
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)
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.
We put together our Southern Utah Guide, Colorado Guide, and our NEW Arizona Guide into this 3-State Bundle at a very reduced price!
Each of these RV travel guides is a seven-day guided exploration of some amazing places to explore in these states. And each stop is a curated view of the best things that we’ve enjoyed on these trips and want you to experience.
Official RV Lifestyle QUICK Links to the Destination eBooks
You can see ALL our eBooks here, or use the following Quick Links to go straight to what you need!
And MANY of these are BUNDLED together:
Ultimate Michigan and Great Lakes Bundle – 3 ebooks –
Upper Peninsula, Lower Peninsula, and the Great Lakes Tour
Upper Peninsula, Lower Peninsula
The Great Lakes Adventure Guide Bundle
The Great Lake Shoreline Tour & JUST the Upper Peninsula Guide
Florida Adventure Guide Bundle
Gulf Coast, Atlantic Coast, Keys
Southwest Adventure Guide Bundle
Arizona, Colorado, Southern Utah)
Ultimate 7-Day RV Adventure Guide Bundle
Collection 1- our first 10 ebooks (does NOT contain Great Lakes Shoreline or Natchez Trace)
We also have a nice collection of ebooks that will help you navigate the RV Lifestyle.
The Beginner’s Guide to Boondocking ebook and Ultimate Guide to Free Camping Sites
And ONE PRINT book 🙂 and yes, before you ask, we have plans for MANY more print books.
The Complete Guide to Boondocking – PRINT VERSION
This is the same as the ebook titled The Beginner's Guide to Boondocking but in print.
And while you are exploring all our ebooks – check out the hoodies, T-shirts, Stickers, and mugs in our MERCH Store! You can get to it directly by just going here – SHOP!