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.
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
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 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. DMV.com's car registration fee calculator can help you figure out how much it will cost to register your vehicle.
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.
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.
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:
- 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.
- 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:
- A completed Application for Vehicle Title or Registration, signed by all registered owners.
- 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.
- If you do need to change the ownership of the vehicle, make sure that you have completed the Change of Title for the vehicle.
- If you have newly purchased the vehicle, make sure that you have the Bill of Sale.
- For cars less than ten years old, you must also have an Odometer Disclosure Statement signed by both yourself (the buyer) and the seller.
- If your vehicle is not new, you may require a smog certificate.
- Make an appointment to visit your DMV center, making sure that you explain that you require a vehicle inspection.
- 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.
- You are entitled to a tax reduction for a portion of the registration fees called the Annual Vehicle License Fee.
- 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 DMV.com CA Vehicle Registration Fee Calculator to find out exactly what you will need to pay.
RENEWING YOUR VEHICLE REGISTRATION
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.