California Car Registration Renewal

How To Renew A California Car Registration

To renew car registrations in California, drivers have three methods at their disposal: online, in person and by mail. Prior to beginning the CA vehicle registration renewal process, you must have the following information ready:

  • Your license plate number.
  • The last five digits of your Vehicle Identification Number (VIN).
  • A smog certification (if necessary).
  • A renewal notice with your current address or confirmation of an address change.

If you need more details about how to renew car registrations in CA, read the sections below.

When to Renew Your California Car Registration

Motorists must renew their auto registration before the expiration date shown on their registration card. The CA car registration renewal is conducted on an annual basis. Since the state's Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) does not allow a grace period, drivers must note the exact date of expiry, otherwise they will be obliged to pay late penalty fees. In general, the CA DMV will send a reminder notice which also includes the registration renewal due date, as well as the set fees for this service.

How To Renew Your California Car Registration

When renewing vehicle registrations in California, applicants can complete this process online, by mail or in person. The DMV in California has set certain eligibility requirements pertaining to the online method, which need to be met by car registration holders. For a detailed review of these three options, continue reading below.


To renew auto registrations online, drivers are obliged to complete a series of steps and provide the required information. To be eligible for online CA vehicle registration renewal, you must first have access to the internet and a valid debit/credit card or checking account to pay the allotted fees. Drivers must also be prepared to provide the following details in addition:

  • Their license plate number and the last five digits of their VIN.
  • A smog certification filed with DMV (if required).
  • Auto insurance coverage with a participating company that electronically reports vehicle insurance information to the CA Department of Motor Vehicles.

Motorists who have experienced vehicle record changes, including an address change or transfers to a new owner, will not be eligible for online renewal. Drivers who must present certain documents, such as an insurance certificate, will not be allowed to utilize the online service either.

By Mail

The in-mail California car registration renewal is another available method for motorists. In general, the DMV encourages applicants to send the auto registration renewal notice via mail in case they have moved to another location, and to include the new residence address on the back of the form. Note that you will need to arrange payment for set prices, and send a check or money order along with the other documents. Drivers may also be required to submit valid proof of insurance and a smog certificate, if necessary.

In Person

Drivers also have the option to renew their vehicle registration in person by visiting a nearby DMV location in California if they are required to present certain documents to go with their renewal. Such documentation may include an insurance card or a check. Motorists may need to present the renewal notice and some form of identification upon arrival in addition. In case you have not received a courtesy reminder, it may be best to contact the office and obtain information about the required paperwork, fees and payment options prior to your visit.

Liability Insurance Coverage

The DMV vehicle registration renewal in CA requires applicants to show proof of financial responsibility or what is commonly known as auto insurance. The insurance coverage may be provided electronically to the DMV in CA, though in specific cases drivers may need to submit a vehicle insurance card via mail or in person. When renewing your car registration in California, be sure you have obtained the following minimum liability insurance coverage:

  • $15,000 against injury or death to one person.
  • $30,000 against bodily injury or death to two or more people.
  • $5,000 for property damage.

Vehicle Registration Fees

The California auto registration renewal procedure will be finished once the applicant has arranged payment for the allotted fees. The current cost to renew vehicle registrations in CA is set at $46. Since additional fees may be included, make sure to note the amount listed in your renewal notice or contact the local DMV office beforehand. The Department of Motor Vehicles does not offer a grace period after the car's registration expiration date. The auto registration renewal prices must be paid either on or before the date of expiry, otherwise you will be subject to late fees. Note that the longer you wait to renew your registration, the higher the amount will be. Motorists have several payment options at their disposal, including credit/debit cards, checks or money order.

CA Vehicle Registration Renewal For Military Members

The CA vehicle registration renewal requirements are somewhat different for military members deployed to an out-of-state location. When renewing their auto registration, they may be able to submit the application after the expiration date. Also, military personnel may be exempt from paying late penalties, if they prove eligible to do so. In case you are a member of the U.S. Armed Forces and you have been deployed during a period of combat or homeland defense, you may qualify for a renewal penalty waiver. Applicants will need to submit a car registration renewal application along with the required fees to a CA DMV office within 60 days upon return to the state. They must also be prepared to provide proof of temporary military duty and a completed Statement of Facts indicating their active duty status and the deployment termination date.

New California Resident

New residents who wish to renew an auto registration in California must first request a new CA registration. Before starting the procedure, you must ensure that your vehicle meets state smog laws, otherwise it may not qualify to be registered. Drivers will need the following registration documents:

  • An Application for Title or Registration (REG 343 form).
  • A Verification of Vehicle form.
  • An out-of-state title/registration card.
  • A smog certification (if necessary).
  • An insurance card (if required).
  • Payment for the appropriate fees.

When the car registration renewal date approaches, new residents may initiate the regular renewal process by completing the steps the California DMV has previously set.

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