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California Vehicle Registration - How to Register your Vehicle

California law requires that motor vehicle owners must register their vehicle with the California Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) before taking it on the road. Both new and second-hand vehicles must be registered, regardless of whether they are purchased from a dealer or an individual. In addition, new California residents who have registered their vehicle in another state must register their vehicle in California. The initial vehicle registration must be done in person, and registration renewals must be done annually, either in person, online or by mail.

If you have purchased a used vehicle you must register it within ten days of the purchase date to avoid late registration fees. If your car is new to California, you must register it within 20 days of the entry date to California to avoid late fees. The following are further resources to help with your specific needs whether you are doing your California vehicle registration for the first time, renewing or replacing your existing registration:

Initial Vehicle Registrations

If you are registering a vehicle in California for the time this process is described below.

Vehicle Registration Renewal

Guide to California vehicle registration renewal. What is required for renewing your vehicle registration in CA, where and when to renew your vehicle, fees, mailing address, forms, etc

California Vehicle Registration Replacement

CA Vehicle registration replacement information for lost, stolen or damaged vehicle registrations. Step-by-step guide to getting a new copy of your vehicle registration.

California Car Registration Fee Calculator

California car registrations fees vary depending on a number of factors including the make and model of the car, the date of late registration, traffic tickets, etc.'s car registration fee calculator can help you figure out how much it will cost to register your vehicle.

The California Vehicle Code

The California Vehicle Code is important for anyone registering their vehicle since it contains all the rules and regulations that drivers and vehicles are subject to while on the road.

California Car Registration Plates

This article is an overview of license / car registration plates. It covers the regulations for displaying and mainting your plates as well as information on vanity, disability and vintage vehicle plates.

California Custom Car Registrations

There are different procedures for registering a custom or vintage car in the state and you can find that information in this article.


If you are registering a motor vehicle in California for the first time, you must complete the following steps:

  1. All vehicles in California must be insured. When you register your vehicle you must provide proof of insurance. The easiest way to do this is to obtain auto liability insurance.
  2. Collect the necessary paperwork. If you bought your vehicle from a dealer, then the dealer will have sent the necessary paperwork to the California Department of Motor Vehicles. In all other circumstances you will need to collect the following additional papers:
  3. A completed Application for Vehicle Title or Registration, signed by all registered owners.
  4. If you do not need to change ownership of the vehicle, collect the last registration certificate and a copy of the last issued out of state title.
  5. If you do need to change the ownership of the vehicle, make sure that you have completed the Change of Title for the vehicle.
  6. If you have newly purchased the vehicle, make sure that you have the Bill of Sale.
  7. For cars less than ten years old, you must also have an Odometer Disclosure Statement signed by both yourself (the buyer) and the seller.
  8. If your vehicle is not new, you may require a smog certificate.
  9. Make an appointment to visit your DMV center, making sure that you explain that you require a vehicle inspection.
  10. Once your vehicle has been inspected, you can submit your paperwork and order your license plates. These will be sent to you in the mail and must be fixed to your vehicle as soon as received.
  11. You are entitled to a tax reduction for a portion of the registration fees called the Annual Vehicle License Fee.
  12. Remember that CA Auto Insurance is needed to legally operate all vehicles in California.


When registering your vehicle at a California DMV office, you will be required to pay the California car registration fee. Registration fees vary depending on whether you are registering your vehicle for the first time, if you require special license plates and so on. Use the CA Vehicle Registration Fee Calculator to find out exactly what you will need to pay.


Owners of motor vehicles in California are required to renew their vehicle registration annually, and can do so in person, online or by mail. See our CA Vehicle Registration Renewal section for complete details.

Reviews of California Vehicle Registration - How to Register your Vehicle

I was wondering. If I purchased a used vehicle in Ca and couldn't come up with the money for used sales tax within the 30 days they give you.. What happens next? What is the status of vehicle till I pay the used sales tax?

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Hi, I'm not a resident but I'm buying a car in california.

how's that working with the registration and insurance? how can I register it then? I have an address for it to be.

How to change a pickup truck from COMMERCIAL to passenger vehicle?

IT has to have a camper shell on it and you have to registered as a RV (recreational vehical) and state that the camper /camper shell never comes off

Hope someone has an answer for this! I wish to let a close relative, who lives in CA, have full use of a car that I'm currently paying for and therefore do not have title to. I do not drive the car but have to keep paying for it in my plan. How can we register the car in CA either under my name or hers? I live in GA. The GA car tags are overdue (May 2014) and I'd like to ship the car to CA so she can register it ASAP.

I have a Honda civic that was a gift from my boyfriend at the time, we broke up, the car is in his name only as well as the loan, I've made every single payment on the car and am continuing to make all the payments. I'm gonna be moving out of state how do I register the car when I make the move?? Can I do a registration transfer even though the loan is in his name.

I leased a car that is i need to return this month and the registration is expired because i extended the lease another couple of months beyond the original lease agreement date. With that said, do i need to renew the registration prior to turning in the car? Am i responsible for updating the registration regardless?

My Car Registration's last late renewel fee is on Oct 22, 2014. Can I get an extention? And, Or Can I put 1/2 of the money down and pay it off on Nov 9th ( when I get paid)?I work for the schools and they only pay us once a month and Im a new employee. What happens if I don't? Is there a grace period from the last due date? How long is it? Thank you

I am a senior citizen and I only receive One payment a month for Social Security . I was wondering if I could Get a Extention or do I just need to pay the extra when I am able to pay the fee?

I am traveling and was wondering if can you buy a NEW truck from a dealership out of state and register it in California?

I just submitted an online payment for my registration and I was not given any type of confirmation that it went through Jst a screen that says there is nothing in my cart? Shouldn't I have received a confirmation page that says it went through? It's due tomorrow and I'm scared to resubmit it in case it did go through I can't afford to have it charged double?

could I get an extension on my renew tags registration?

jjhg079 plate number 12264 last five on vin need to know the cost of registration I am late as of july 18 2014

can i get a renew tag extension did not pass smog applying for consumer assistnace program

i need an renew tag extension did not pass smog applying for consumer assistance progam

recently purchaced a old 77 jeep wagoneer with a blown engine would like to drop in a chevy 350 but dont know if i can because of the smog

having a hard time finding a amc 401 block

If a car is registered in CA (originally from NJ), do I need to obtain a CA car insurance policy or can I still use the insurance I had in NJ?

I paid the fee to change ownership and registration last year in 2012 got my sticker now that my tags expired dmv never sent my registration and my tags expired in aug 2013 also i havent recived a notice from dmv to renew my tags what do i do

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I recently bough a 1996 toyota tercel in CA. come to it was never put in to no po. , now the reg is 650.00. I have to pay the full amount I dont have the money pleas help TX,

I've paid for my car registration for July, 2013 to July 2014 too early, since then I've sold my car in May, 2013. Can I get my refund, and how?

I bought a truck from a dealership over 3 months ago, and when i purchased my truck i paid for taxes, title, and registration fees. I was told the registration would be mailed to my home address. Its now over 3 months/ 90 days, and i still havent received my registration. I am in the military and as of right now can not get decals to access my base where i work because temporary registrations are only good for 90 days. What can i do to get my registration since i have already paid for it?

I have paid non operate ($15) for my truck (not being use now) for last year. Do i have pay it again for this year. And why I have received the renew registration for this year?

My daughter bought a 1972 R.V. in 2007. She passed away before she could get it registered. It has been stored since. I would like to get it out. It needs a lot of work now before it is usable. Does it need a smog? How do I go about registering it and how would I calculate how much it will cost?

When I paid my CA car registration back a few months which was due on April 4 2013 I also paid extra for vanity plates. I ordered them so it would be easier for me to remember my car license. Today is April 24th and I have not received the plates in the mail yet. Who do I contact to find out the status of my plates?

How can I change my car plates from one state to another state.

How can I change my car plates from one state to another state.

how can i clear a suspended registration

To pay my registration due to suspension I understand that I need an RIN number which is available on my renewal notice. Due to the fact that I have a suspended registration there is no renewal notice for me to get the RIN number. Where do I get the RIN number to complete this process?

Hello, We paid for our registration back at the end of October 2012. I have misplaced/lost my sticker and card. I see that I can replace it online with tags but was wondering if I came in person would the cartagz fee be waived?

Can I receive my tags in the mail? If I already paid for my registration? I don't want to stand in that long DMV line.

Hello my name is Cindy Olivera I own a Plymouth Neon 1999, and I have a quick question, I was at the Local DMV in the city of Tulare CA 93274, and one of the ladies told me to find out if my old car would qualify for Retirement of Vehicle, can you please contact me at my e-mail address below with the required information

ordered my registration a week and a half ago...still have not recieved so i have to go to the DMV monday to figure this out. hoping for a solution as the $230 i payed has been taken out of my checking account. Thought online registration would be less of a hassle as i am a college student and it is finals week...guess i was wrong

Received a vehicle as a gift and started the registration process, but the car won't pass a smog - now the registration is about to expire - how do I complete the vehicle registration process and renew the registration? Will the DMV grant an extension?

My husband purchase a 2013 vehicle and I was at work and not able to be there to sign papers. We have since received the registration, but my name is not on it. How do we add my name to the registration since I am the primary driver?

Thank you

I paid registration fees for my vehicle but my car didn't pass smog test. I applied for assistance through State of California Bureau of Automotive Repair. My question is since I paid my tags, Can my vehicle be park on the street?


My vehicle is insured.

I have golf cart that is street legal in Arizona, how do I know that it street legal in California...

We are travelling up from Mexico to California within the next month and need help with understanding registration renewal and auto insurance. Is this possible to organize AT the border before we enter USA? The registration for our vehicle ran out just on June 30th this year so it is only recent. I tried paying registration online just now on the website and it said our registration is suspended... so I would like to know if you can tell me the best way to go about this. Thank you

Where do I make the appointment for the behind-the-wheel driving test online?

hi! I started my registration on line and finished it at my local Santa Rosa AAA office. They told me I would receive my tags directly from the DMV. (I thought I could pick them up at AAA.) Its been ??3or 4 weeks. I still haven't received them. What should I do? It would be most convenient for me to go to AAA. They are just down the street from me. Can we work this out?

My mom hasn't received her license tags for 2012 and they charged the check already. Nothing has came in the mail

My brother lived in California where his car is registered. He has died and I will need to sell the car. I live in Oregon. What do I need to do in order to transfer the title to a new owner? My name is not on the title.

My son will be moving to California and using a vehicle that is registered in our names. What do I have to do to get the vehicle registered properly in California?

You need: California smog check, the title, a vehicle verification (they'll check the vin #, and other items on the vehicle). You'll have to pay reg fees, new title and for plates.

I need to register my cars renewal, but never received it in the mail, what do I do?

Since i changed my address i have not received my renewal for lexus ls400 .

I need to no what the cost is for the renewal for my registration


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