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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



Bad answer. Thanks

I have been given a vehicle in NY from a deceased relative. The insurance & registration on this NY vehicle have expired. I intend to fly to NY and drive this vehicle home but NY only gives a 30 temp registration. I am 70yrs old and I need more than 30 days to get this vehicle home. Is there a way for me to get a CA registration while the vehicle is in NY?

Am I allowed to register a car for my husband or does he have to be there himself?

Yo compre un carro y ya esta pagado perdi el titulo y ahora lo vendi al yonqe tengo la registracion valida y esta a mi nombre pero esta tambien el nombre del dealer donde lo compre es por eso qe me piden el titulo pero no lo tengo qe puedo aser alludenme por favor

Tienes que ir al departamento de motor vehiculos y darlo de alta. Ocupas un comprobante que el carro no esta en tu posesion. Con un recibo de lugar que se lo llevo, pienso que seria bastante. Y les dices que el vehiculo ya no esta en tu posesion. Y lo puedes dar de alta. Pero tendrias que ir primero al DMV. Suerte!


ignorant inbred fool.

I can't belive there is a person that needs help and all u people can do is name them ignorants and fools! u people really need a life! And wat does "Go Back To Europe" mean? Bunch of Fools that don't know how to think of someone that needs help! Bola de Pendejos!!!!!


You are a horrible person.

that spanish it say = You have to go to the department of motor vehicles and discharge. You occupy a proof that the car is not in your possession. With proof of what took place that I think it would be enough. And I say that the vehicle is no longer in your possession. And you can be discharged. But you should first go to the DMV. Suerte!

I had renewed my registration. While I was waiting in the mail for the sticker and registration, I sold my car. Can that registration (in California) be canceled and applied to a new car?

no refund, if you paid before the registration expiry then you can ask the DMV for refund.

A city recently contacted me about unpaid parking tickets from two years ago. I know that I paid them. Dont you have to pay them before you can register your car? Where can I find record of these payments?

Had a car non-op for over a year. Car had a new engine installed last week. Call State Farm insurance and let them know that the car has been repaired and I needed to drive it to get a smog cert. Went to the DMV with copy of Temporary Auto Identification Card for insurance and old registration. After waiting for hours I told the lady that I needed a one day driving pass to get the state required smog done on the car. Was told by the DMV lady I could not because the car registration had been suspended. Yes that is why I was here, to get it re-registered. But first I had to get a ONE DAY driving pass to not be illegally driving in the state. Showed that the car now has insurance and just need the pass to get it smogged!. She said can't help you computer says it is suspended. Yes it was non-op and insurance had suspended it over a year ago. I am showing her the insurance ID card and she still says the computer says suspended. So how do I get a ONE DAY pass to get it smogged??? She says go home and do it online with this site. I went to the registration page and entered the info. It says suspended go to DMV site?? If the DMV office cannot accept the insurance letter from State Farm insurance what am I supposed to do on this site??????????????????????

I have a repaired car sitting in a shop waiting to be picked up and no one at the DMV seems to know what to do??? Man this is so frustrating

Any help from anyone at the DMV would be nice.

solution: You will need someone else drive with you to the SMOG shop_ DMV's IQ is 2.5 out of 10

tow it to smog check duh


If they will give you another temp? you may only be able to get one per year,

but i think you can get a one day move permit if that helps.

pay the reg fees, take it to smog check with your incomplete reg.

If you get pulled over show them the incomplete reg that shows you just paid it and explain your on the wayt to get the smog to complete.

been pulled over 3 times in this situation and every time i was let go immediately with a warning because showing them that told them i was doing everything possible with in the law to take care of the issue.

The law is clear the Report Of Deposit of Fees you have is not a valid registration.

And you can not drive in California without a Valid registration so consider it the cops choice.

sorry but it's just a frustration story after another and it never ends. It's mind buddling how some of these people that were hired by DMV to help the public and paid for by your tax money and yet are poorly trained or can't even understand them. Some of them spoke with heavy accent, I got frustrated and left.

if the person at the window is unable to help you - you can ask to speak to a manager or supervisor to help you out. If a person has an accent that you are unable to understand you can ask to them to speak slower and do not leave unless you understand. Do be put off, be patience and pleasant. They are workers, citizens just like you- they have families like you.

i have the same issue going on, after waiting in the office for an hour and a half the lady tells me my reg is suspended and I need to get insurance verified. I held up my proof of ins and said here you go you can verify that this car is now insured. I asked why she couldnt do it. She told me "we dont have the manpower to do that". THAN WHY ARE YOU SITTING HERE!! I wanted to yell at her. I mean really? All she had to do was LOOK at the document I was giving her.

Anyhow she gave me this website amd told me that I could probably get the confirmation number she needed and come back within the same day. I said ok, so I just come back to this window once I have it? No, she says, I have to stand back in line. AHHHHH!

I sold an enclosed trailer, that was registered in Indiana, to a gentlemen about a year ago. I did'nt think to have him sign a release since it was an older trailer and not worth much. Well, here it is almost a year later and i've deleted his phone number from my phone and all text messages from him inquiring on the trailer, thinking everything is ok...well it's not. I recieved a letter in the mail from the city of Oceanside parking enforcement with a hefty fine on this trailer of $540. I call the number listed and they simply said i have to send them a copy of the release and when i told them i didnt have him sign one, they said i had to contact DMV about it. So now what do i do, i dont know where to begin and i certainly dont want to get stuck paying on a trailer that i sold that long ago.

i want to know how much it will cost me to change the title of a car i just bought to my name?

if it is a gift from parents or with same last name you will pay 15 to 20 dollars,other wise you will have to pay the sales tax on the purchased price plus 15 to 20 dollars

My mother just passed away. She has a vehicle with a loan on it. The bank said we should try and sale the car because she owes less then what the value of the vehicle is. However I am not sure how to go about changing the title with a lein still on the vehicle? Anyone ever do this? I have a dealer who will buy it because it is in good condition and low mileage but they said the title has to be in my name.

The loan must be satisfied before the vehicle can be sold. DMV will not allow a vehicle to be registered that has a lien on it. I know this for a fact because I just tried to donate a vehicle. The new owner went to DMV to register it, but was turned away because the records show it still has a lien on it. The lien MUST be satisfied/cleared/released by the lien holder. Otherwise, DMV will not allow the vehicle to be registered in another name until the lien holder has released the vehicle.

I want to move a car to our second home in Mississippi from CA. But I can't keep in aCA tag on it becuse I would have to bring it back for Smog TEST. Do I get a MS tga and still keep my CA drivers License?

how do i cancel my registration

I have a 1999 Grand Am that I blew up the valves and would of cost more to fix it. How do I get this car out of my name?


I have a question and thanks in advance for anyone who can help.

My Mom passed away last month and the title of her car was in her sole name. We have a buyer for the car. I am the executor of her estate and will. Can I sign the Pink Slip and transfer the title to the buyer and then attach a copy of the Death Certificate and Her Trust/Will documents showing my Power of Attorney. I would hope I can accomplish it this way instead of having to reregister into my name and then only to wait for a new Pink Slip and then turn around and sign it. We will be delayed with this buyer?? Thanks.

I have a truck with registrations suspended due to the inability of not showing proof of insurance. As of Jan 13. Now I no longer drive it but when I wanna re register the truck will o

I be penalized? Is there a way to place it on non operational online???? Your assistance with this concern will be greatly appreciated. Thanks


i have a 1992 truck i got a nitice of suspension my name is maria victoria elizarraraz


this is very confusing .i have received the 2nd renewal notice .the first one i returned with the comments the vehicle had been sold in oct of 2010 and taken out 0f state where it is now sited .

how do i handle this notice 0f incomplete renewal .

robert f gunn

license no 4ras414 ford van

vin 05273

1746 arroyo sierra av ,santa rosa ,ca. 95405

The current tags on my truck are for January 2011, i feel a bit dumb because I'm not sure if I have to pay registration for 2012 stickers. I haven't received anything from DMV so I don't know if I'm good or not. Please help!! Thank you.

yes, your tags expired in January of 2011

I recieved the registration for my car with the year sticker but have not recieved the Month sticker. How can I just get the month sticker so I can put my plates on my new car?

Thanks for any info.

Go to the DMV and ask for one, they have drawers full of them. If you hane AAA insurance, they have a ton of them too and shorter lines.

Can Anyone help me with this?

I have mailed a check with the slip the DMV gave me and they have not cashed it yet. Its been almost 2 months now. What am I supposed to do? I dont want to cancel the check if they have it and just have not deposited yet?

Please help!!!


we have a 79 chevy malibu and the person on the title dies years ago. her son sold it to us for 100 dollars and is now unable to be contacted. we have tried repeatedly to have him help us get the title in my name and have been unable to do so is there any way to get the title in my name i know i need a Gmac lean satisfied paper but i dont know how to get the title with him gone

Over a week ago, I renewed my registration on line. I received a confirmation for my payment by e-check. This was on Jun 7, 2010. However, this amount of $215.oo has never been deducted from my checking account. I have called the bank and they have no record of it. I phone the DMV a week ago and they said it was just being processed. Previously, these charges are debited the next day. I wonder what has gone wrong? I have a 2005 Chrysler MiniVan. My renewal # is 928100 Plates are 5NVD578. Please notify me asap as I want to go on vacation soon.


Carl McVey

I payed my tags for 2009 but i still needed to smog my car to complete regesration.i was not able to smog it due to personal money problems.What happenes if a year gos' by a the next years tags are due.DO I just pay that to ..and I know i still have to smog it before i can take it on the road for the 2010 tags.can you help?


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