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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

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

No worries, take the registration, insurace and if u need smog, then take the smog as well, to DMV or registration service near you, and they'll be able to renew your reg. If u r not sure about smog, call DMV to verify, or check online.

I have a question. I have not been able to pay my full registration and I wanted to know if there was a partial payment I can make to receive a temp sticker or do I have to pay the full amount?

No luck in this case, u have to pay all registration fees to get a any permit.


asked for call back by agent 4 times, get call back 30 min to 1 hr later, agent never comes on line because I cannot type in the keypad responses. I am disabled and have difficulty with handling keys on the keypad of the phone, this system cannot or will not get me to an agent.

I purchased a car in Michigan, my home state back in May and didn't become a California resident until a couple months after that. I have California insurance and a California driver's license, however, I am having trouble trying to register my vehicle in California. My plates are due for renewal, but, I tried renewing in California and they told me that because my car has less than 7500 miles on it, I cannot register it here in Cali. I cannot renew it in Michigan because I no longer have proof of Michigan no-fault insurance (and in order to get Michigan insurance, you have to have a Michigan driver's license). Is there any way I can get my car registered in Cali? I have 6,600 miles on it after 11 months and my registration expires in 2 weeks, so, it is very unlikely that I am going to be able to put 900 miles on it in that time. Also, I don't think that is actually the law, I think the people at the DMV just didn't know the law. The law states that you can't register a vehicle that had less than 7.500 miles on it when you purchased it. Somebody please help! Thanks

If you were a resident of Michigan and you registered it in California you are exempt from meeting the CA emission requirements. However you will still need a smog check prior to registration. Now if you were a California resident and you purchased a new vehicle out of state you will not be able to register it no matter what. But if you are as California resident and purchase a vehicle with 7500 miles or more than you may register it. Ca states that any vehicle with less than 7500 miles is considered new.

Hi, I"m transferring my car from texas to california. similar mileage. did you get response on how to proceed? please advise.

thank you

Our car is registered here in CA but my daughter has the car out of state while she is attending college. I just received the renewal notice and it needs to have a smog inspection. Does she have to drive the car all the way to CA to get it smogged or is there something we can do to comply and get it smogged when she returns to CA?

I don't know what you mean by the term "review" but I need to put off my smog until I return from Florida in Sept.

Do I need to smog my car if it 1999 and has over 2000000.00 do you still still have to smog it.

I would like to send in the renewal registration amount and do the smog when the car is returned to CAlifornia but I don't know where to send the renewal. It has to be to a physical address, not a PO Box because that is the only mail service available to us

Can I add daughter as registered owner

My wife and I divorced and we both moved back to California from another state in August. My vehicle is still owned by my ex-wife, the loan is in her name, with out of state plates. I need to register it in my name with new plates. We only lived in another state for a short time and the vehicle was originally purchased and registered in California. We are both permanent residents of California. Am I able to register the vehicle in my name and how do I do this? Do I need her signature on the registration form?

I never received a notice last year to pay my yearly registration tags fee. So I proceeded to get a smog check done on my vehicle prior to January 1, 2012; went to and pulled up my fees online, paid the fees online on Janauary 2, 2012 at 6:57 pm. As of today 2/20 I have not received my tags or registration card yet. I have attempted to contact the dmv and they never received incoming calls. How can I get both my sticker and registration card?? The payment was taken immediately, so I know they are paid. Where else may I call to find out why I never received a notice in the first place?? And now that I have gone in and attempted to solve myself, I still don't have my tags or registration card?

I don't have money to do my renewal vehicle registration expires on the 20 this month What I should do? Can I have a extesion ? I'm a disabled with very low income .I'm desperate because my car is my life,I used to go doctor's apoitments and a market shopping

II am presently disable and I do have the plcard to prove it my name is Louise Newberry. I need my car to grocery shop go to the doctor. I am alone so I have noone to do his for me.

Ms. Newberry I am in Northern California - Solano County and happen to see your question. Did you get an answer?

I plan on selling my car but i have not renewed the registration. Can i sell it without renewing?

bought a car for my son and the title is still in the name of the seller. if i have the seller write it over to him as a gift would he still have to pay the tax on it or does the car need to be in my name first?

some one got into our cars last night and stole the registration paper from two of our cars , what can i do? why people do that what do they want with these papers? what can i do now?

Someone broke into our daughters last night stole her car registation card. How do we get another one. Please advise. Thank you.

My plate tags expire on February the 20th. I want too know if I have till that date to change my tags. I don't have the money for that right now until the 16th. I just don't want to get pulled out over for that. Thanks!

My daughter is buying her first car. She is 16 .However she cannot drive it yet. She is still waiting to get her drivers license. She is buying it in calif. Can she have her mom go to the dmv with the selller and help her register it in her name>? The car will be taken home to Washington state. Her mother will drive it home for her.We will have proof of insurance at that time as well.

My truck falls under the federal emission and is registered in california. does it fall under the california smog requirements or washington from where it came. It just turned 35 years old is it smog exempt?

check under the hood for the emission sticker what does it say?

I bought a used vehicle from a private dealer almost 3 months ago and as for now I have not received my Plates(I was told that I was going to get new ones) and Registration. I did receive though the Title, but it comes with the old license plate.

My guessing is that I will keep the old license plate and then get the stickers, but I'm still waiting.

What can I do?

I live in the state of California

Anyone knows who I can speak with if DMV put the wrong number on my address as a result, did not get a chance to know that my registration was past due. Now I'm stuck with 2 months of penalty because of it.

Don't you have a copy of your registration? You know, the paper portion that the date sticker is stapled to when you receive it? That is your notice that tells you how long the registration is good for. You walk past your license plate every time you get in it. Maybe if you paid attention to that month sticker, it might jog your memory and you could make a trip to the DMV during the month that it's due. It's not the DMV's fault there was a bad address on it. It's been that way now for 14 months and YOU obviously never filled out a form (available online) to correct the issue. You're stuck with a penalty because of your own stupidity. Trying to blame the DMV will not help your "case".

We are a military couple. Upon moving to CA we brought a car already registered in Wyoming. I bought my husband another car and the dealership told me in CA vehicles are automatically registered with the DMV through the dealership. I tried explaining to him that I wanted to register the car in Wyoming where it is significantly cheaper but was told there was no way around it. I had to pay license fees and sales tax on my contract which isn't done in Wyoming. When the car was delivered it came with license plates but as of yet I haven't received an actual registration from the DMV like I was told I would be. Did the dealership pull a fast one or should I just be patient and wait for my registration to come?

If you want to pay Wyoming taxes and get a Wyoming tag, buy a car in Wyoming. And when you move to California, plan on spending an additional registration fee for having moved out of state, on top of whatever you paid in Wyoming. You have 30 days to register your vehicle in California, now that you have become residents. If not, get ready to pay a lot more in fees and penalties than it would have cost if you had followed the laws instead of trying to get away with failing to register it. Doesn't matter that you are a military couple. Doesn't matter where you are stationed, for how long. Where you live, is where you reside. After 30 days, you're breaking the law if you don't register your vehicle. You're worried about the DEALERSHIP pulling a fast one? Sounds like sour grapes, somebody might be doing it better than you are? Huh. Whoda thunk it was even possible.

Military members can keep their vehicles registered in there home state.I was Prior military

I have 2 addresses, 1 in California and another 1 in Arizona. I have a car registered in AZ which I intend to use there. I am planning to buy another one to be used in CA. Can I register it in CA even if my drivers license is in AZ?

i got a truck that is licensed in Quebec and i want to know how it will cost me to registed in California