How to Register a Vehicle in California

1. Get Started With Car Registration Application Assistance Online

In order to apply for a new California car registration, you need to complete a number of important steps when applying. In order to simplify the process, you will need to gather the necessary documents, calculate your required fee payment before being able to obtain a California car registration. Online assistance can help you complete all of these steps quickly and easily by providing you with all of the information you need to know about replacing your license. Start simplifying your application process today.

2. By Mail

Rather than get ahead with online assistance and services, some California residents prefer to handle their DMV transactions via mail. Drivers can complete a few different procedures by mail, but payment methods are restricted, and the transactions have inconvenient and lengthy turnaround times for results.

3. Via a DMV Office

Certain transactions must be completed in person at a California DMV office. However, before visiting a local branch, be sure to verify that the location offers the service you require. Not all DMV procedures can be completed at every location. Additionally, note that wait times are typically lengthy. So make sure to take advantage of online assistance to prepare for your visit.


Car registration in California is a necessary task for vehicle owners to complete before they get out on the road with their new or used car. Gathering specific vehicle registration information such as the car’s production year and make and model are necessary prior to completing the process. Car registration online is only available for renewals, not initial vehicle registrations, in the state of California. To learn more about CA car registration and how to obtain the proper paperwork, read the following sections:

  • How to register my car in California.
  • California vehicle registration information needed.
  • California car registry for nonresident vehicles.
  • California DMV car registration for new cars.
  • Auto registration services in California for used cars.

How to Register My Car in California

Car owners wondering, “where to register my car in California,” are advised to complete the process through the state Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV). Whether new or used, motor vehicle registration is necessary for all drivers who want to operate their cars without consequence. When a car has come into new ownership, that motorist must ensure the proper registration application, along with an applicable bill of sale, has been submitted to the DMV, whether it is turned in on his or her own or done by a dealership.

California Vehicle Registration Information Needed

Owners wondering, “When registering my car in California, what information do I need?” can consult the DMV registration application. The registration of vehicle information required is the vehicle make, model and year, as well as the type of vehicle it is, such as commercial, auto or motorcycle. To get car registration, owners also need to provide the vehicle identification number (VIN) and their driver’s license number. For cars less than 10 years old, vehicle owners need to supply an odometer mileage disclosure.

California Car Registry for Nonresident Vehicles

Getting car registration in CA for nonresident vehicles can be done through a DMV office. Nonresident vehicles are vessels that were previously registered in a different state or country. When learning how to get car registration for a nonresident vehicle, owners should know they may need the out-of-state license plate, a certificate of weight, a smog certification, a vehicle transfer and reassignment form or a title holder release form.

If you are wondering, “Can I register my car as a nonresident vehicle in California?” then you need to refer to the state DMV brochure about which vessels are allowed to be registered, as not all nonresident cars can. California DMV car registration is prohibited for vehicles that had under 7,500 miles on the odometer at the time of purchase or for new imports that are less than two-years-old.

California DMV Car Registration for New Cars

CA auto registration services are automatically provided for new cars purchased through an authorized dealership. The registration of vehicle information is already filed with the DMV by the dealer for new car owners, so they can just drive off the lot with a temporary license plate that serves as a valid tag until the official plate and tag arrive in the mail.

Getting auto registration in California for a new car only requires the owner provide proof of the appropriate insurance required by the state. Base DMV registration fees include a $46 charge for initial registration and a $24 fee for the California Highway Patrol (CHP).

Auto Registration Services in California for Used Cars

A California new car registration for a used car must be completed within 10 days of the purchase to avoid late registration fees. New auto registry for used cars requires documents proving a change in ownership, whether the car was bought from a private seller or a dealership. Vehicle registration services from a dealership usually include the transfer of title and/or a bill of sale that the dealer provides to the DMV or gives to the new owner for submission.

The state of California requires smog certification so that a vehicle is proven to adhere to environmental regulations, therefore used car owners are often responsible for obtaining such documentation from an authorized institute that can complete the inspection. The car registration cost of a transfer is set at $15 for the initial recording.

Used car auto registration in CA requires proof of a release of liability from the previous owner, so the new owner should make sure to have all paperwork related to liens and other financing documents.

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