California Vehicle Registration - How to Register your Vehicle

Driving the California roadways is a privilege all licensed drivers can take advantage of. Motor vehicle owners have an additional responsibility though – California law requires most vehicles to be registered with the DMV before driving on state roadways.

Which vehicles need to be registered in California?

Below is a list of vehicles that drivers must get car registration for:

  • Passenger vehicles
  • Non-resident vehicles
  • Motorcycles
  • Commercial vehicles
  • Trailers
  • Off-highway vehicles
  • Vessels

Types of motorized vehicles that do not need to be registered in California:

  • Motorized scooters
  • Miniature motorcycle
  • Certain specialized vehicles

Initial Vehicle Registrations

If you purchased a used vehicle, you have within 10 days of the purchase date to register and avoid late auto registration fees. If your car is new to California, you must apply for vehicle registration within 20 days of the entry date to avoid late fees.

Renew Your Vehicle Registration Online

Renew Car Registration or Order a Duplicate

If you need to renew or replace car registration, fill out the convenient Online California DMV Vehicle Registration form above. Not only does it save you a trip to the DMV, annual auto registration renewal notices will be sent to your email automatically. This is an official car and automobile registration service which works alongside the CA DMV to ensure privacy and expediency. Services are not just limited to cars and include:

  • Motorcycles.
  • RVS
  • Boats
  • Trucks
  • Commercial vehicles

More Important Information on Vehicle Registration

Smog Inspections

In the state of California, certain vehicles need to undergo a smog inspection to be registered with the CA DMV. These include the following:

  • Hybrid cars
  • Trailers
  • All vehicles less than four years old
  • Motorcycles
  • Electric cars
  • Gas vehicles from 1975 or older
  • 14,001 lbs. or more natural gas vehicles
  • 14,001 lbs. or more diesel vehicles

How to Register a Car in California

Getting a new car is exciting, and by going through an authorized dealer, your vehicle registration paperwork is submitted automatically. To take the car off the lot, the only thing you must provide is proof of auto insurance. You can expect your auto registration certificate, decal and license plate to arrive in the mail within two weeks of purchasing your new vehicle.

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 you receive them.
  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.
About Your Vehicle Identification Number (VIN)

When you are buying a used car, make sure to check its vehicle identification number (VIN) before finalizing the sale. If not, you could end up with a vehicle that has serious mechanical errors and requires repairs. To prevent yourself from being a victim of false advertising, order a VIN history report. A VIN report provides buyers like you with important information on the car in question. The vehicle history report will include:

  • Accident history.
  • Past owners.
  • Odometer reading.
  • Recent repairs.

Simply ask the seller for the VIN code and order a detailed car history record before purchasing it.

New Resident Car Registration

After establishing a new residency in the state of California, you have 30 days to visit a local DMV office and register your vehicle. Upon arrival, you must bring the following documents:

  • An Application for Title or Registration (REG 343),
  • A Declaration of Gross Vehicle Weight (GVW)/Combined Gross Vehicle Weight (CGW) (REG 4008)
  • A Permanent Trailer Identification (PTI) Certification (REG 4017)
  • One proof of car insurance:
    • Permanent vehicle insurance card
    • Printed temporary auto insurance card
  • Your out-of-state car title, if you are transferring car title to California
  • Your out-of-state car registration
  • Weight certification, if necessary
  • Smog and emissions certificate, if necessary
  • Payment for all taxes and fees, based on the fee calculator:
    • The DMV accepts cash, checks, money orders, and debit/ATM cards

How to Register a Vehicle as a Non-Resident

When non-California residents register a vehicle in California, it is often due to owning a separate residence. In this case, provide the following items to get car registration:

  • Application for Title or Registration (REG 343),
  • Your out-of-state car title or one proof of ownership:
    • Car title transfer document
    • Bill of sale
  • A Verification of Vehicle (REG 31)
  • Payment of applicable fees, based on the fee calculator:
    • The DMV accepts cash, checks, money orders, and debit/ATM cards

Depending on the kind of vehicle you are registering, there are a number of other documents that you may be asked to present:

  • Out-of-state license plates
  • A smog certification
  • A weight certificate
  • Customs, safety, and emissions documents (for out-of-country cars)
  • A Statement of Facts (REG 256)
  • A Lien Satisfied/Legal Owner/Title Holder Release (REG 166)
  • A Permanent Trailer Identification (PTI) Certification (REG 4017)
  • A Declaration of Gross Vehicle Weight (GVW)/Combined Gross Vehicle Weight (CGW) (REG 4008)

How to Register a Vehicle as a Military Member

The process to register car credentials as a member of the military depends on your status as a resident or non-resident.

Non-California Residents in the Military
If you are not a California resident, then you do not need to obtain CA car registration. All you have to do is:

  • Purchase California car insurance.
  • Have valid license plates from your home state or the state where you were last stationed
  • Have a current car registration in either your name or your spouse’s name.

California Residents in the Military
If you are a resident of California, then you must follow a different set of rules. You have the option to register a vehicle in the state that you are stationed in and then register your car in California once you return. In addition, CA military members can qualify for a vehicle license fee exemption by turning in one of the following forms to the CA DMV:

  • For military members: Nonresident Military (NRM) Exemption Statement (REG 5045)
  • For NATO members: North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) Status of Forces Agreement (REG 5046)

California drivers serving in the military are also exempt from the vehicle registration renewal fee by filling out applicable forms.

How to Register a Motorcycle

The process to register a motorcycle in California is almost identical to registering cars. Provide:

  • One proof of ownership (only originals or certified copies):
    • Car title
    • Name and address of lien holder, if you have a loan
  • One proof of motorcycle insurance:
    • Permanent insurance card
    • Temporary insurance card printout, if your official ID has not arrived
  • Payment for applicable fees, based on the fee calculator:
    • The DMV accepts cash, checks, money orders, and debit/ATM cards

Smog inspections are not required to get motorcycle registration.

How to Register an RV

Registering RVs in California is mandatory for all California RV owners. Complete the following steps:

  • Buy RV insurance for the vehicle. Uninsured vehicles cannot be registered in California.
  • Complete an Application for Title or Registration form (REG 343).
  • Show proof of your RV ownership:
    • Car title
    • Name and address of lien holder, if you have a loan
  • Show Bill of Sale (REG 135).
  • Present smog certification, depending on the age of the RV.
  • Provide payment for applicable fees, based on the fee calculator:
    • The DMV accepts cash, checks, money orders, and debit/ATM cards

How to Register a Trailer

The state of California has determined that any trailer longer than 16 feet or wider than 96 inches needs to be registered with the CA DMV every year, just like a recreational vehicle would. Due to their size, trailers do not qualify for permanent vehicle registration. However, trailers that do not meet these specifications can be registered through the Permanent Trailer Identification Program.
In order to register the right type of trailer in California, you will need to:

  • Buy car insurance.
  • Complete an Application for Title or Registration form (REG 343).
  • Show proof of your RV ownership:
    • Car title
    • Name and address of lien holder, if you have a loan
  • Fill out a Permanent Trailer Identification (PTI) Certification (REG 4017).
  • Provide payment for applicable fees, based on the fee calculator:
    • The DMV accepts cash, checks, money orders, and debit/ATM cards

Smog testing is not required to get trailer registration in California.

Do boats need to be registered?

Boats need to be registered just like standard and commercial vehicles do. However, there are a number of exceptions to this rule. If you own one of the following types of vessels, then you are not required to register your boat:

  • A vessel that is used for racing
  • A vessel that is registered in another state and typically used in out of state waterways
  • A lifeboat of a ship
  • Nonmotorized sailboats that are eight feet long or less
  • Nonmotorized surfboats that have a sail and mast, which the operator holds up

Off-Highway Registration Requirements

In order to register an OHV in California, you will have to meet all of the following requirements:

  • Street-legal license plates
  • Green sticker (for year-long operation)
  • Red sticker (for operation during certain times in the year)
    • These stickers are used for motorcycles and ATV made in 2003 or later
  • Nonresident OHV Use Permit (if applicable)
  • Closed Course Competition Transportation Permit (for racing cars)

How to Get Handicap Placards in California

If you need to obtain handicap placards in California, you may do so at the same time you get car registration from the DMV by following these steps:

  1. Fill out an Application for Disabled Person Placard or Plates. (
  2. Get a licensed physician to sign the Doctor’s Certification section of the application.
  3. Submit the fees when requesting a temporary placard.
  4. Mail the application to the address you find on the form.

California Car Registration Fees

The last factor to become familiar with when it comes to registering cars in California is cost. There are two fees associated with getting car registration documentation:

  • CA car registration fee: $46
  • California Highway Patrol fee: $23

If you recently bought a used car, you have 10 days to register the used vehicle. If you don't register your car within 10 days of purchasing it, you may have to pay late fees associated with obtaining DMV car registration.

Penalty fees from California Highway Patrol:

  • If expired for less than one year: $30
  • If expired between one and two years: $50
  • If expired for more than two years: $100

Penalty fees to California vehicle registration:

  • If expired for less than one year: $30
  • If expired between one and two years: $50
  • If expired for more than two years: $100

The DMV accepts cash, checks, money orders, and debit or ATM cards (Visa, MasterCard, American Express and Discover) as methods of payment.

Suspended Vehicle Registration

Like a drivers license, your car registration can be suspended by the CA Department of Motor Vehicles too. One of the most common reasons for vehicle registration suspension is not having car insurance. If you are driving without proof of financial security, visit the California Car Insurance Regulations page.

To reinstate suspended car registration, you must provide proof of car insurance and then go to a local CA DMV office. Otherwise, you will be unable to renew or replace vehicle registration documentation.

How to Obtain Salvage Car Titles

If you live in California, a salvage vehicle does not have a title. Thus, you will need to substitute your current car title for what is known as a Salvage Certificate. This can be done at a local California DMV office.

Personalized License Plates

Another option to choose when registering car credentials is whether or not you want to buy vanity license plates. Also known as custom license plates, vanity tags allow you to choose the letters and numbers as well as the style of the license plate in question. For instance, you can choose your alma mater, or a license plate that supports a cause.

If you want to get a new personalized license plates, you may change it again at the time you go to renew car registration decals.

How to Transfer Titles to Another State

When moving out of California to a new state, you do not need to surrender license plates. Just be sure to have your California registration certificate and car title to provide your new state’s DMV. Because the process for transferring title varies from state to state, you are also encouraged to contact that state’s DMV for more details.

Additional Resources

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 auto registration:

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.

Reviews of California Vehicle Registration - How to Register your Vehicle

i need to put my car on non-opp. they said i can do it online? how? it doesnt even give u the option... anybody know how to do it online?

you have to do the prosses like you goin to pay anual sticker an then before you complete the prosses it goin to give you the option

The DMV pulled a fast retarded move with me too. This was for a new license. They sent my license to another person and sent hers to me. I sent it back in good faith. Meanwhile, somebody else was using my license to write bad checks, so collectors started chasing me for purchasing things at places I never shop at. I have sent in last years registration bill and took well over the due date to receive the new one. So with these charming comments in mind, I think I'll just drop by DMV and pay my registration in person this week. None of us need any more nasty surprises.


If you do any transactions on line, BEWARE! The DMV has a nasty habit of losing your information, especially dealing with your bank account, and WILL, come back to you months later and charge you exorbitant late fees. I registered my vehicle in January and paid them $105. I recieved a "Demand for Payment" in March, that they had not been paid and penalized me $125. raising the registration fee to $230. Because of their mistake they forced me to go to the bank and PAY for a certified check, bank charge $30. Now I am up to $260, I sent them the certified check and I get a second "Demand for Payment" a month later claiming they have not recieved my first "demand for payment" certified check. I spend all most 2 hours on the phone with my bank to find out if they have cashed the certified check and sure enough they cashed it 2 weeks before the date on the second "demand for payment" letter.

Now they want to penalize me another $250 for not paying them the first penalty amount to total $510 for a $105 fee and all of this is because they can't keep track of the transactions they do. They lose information and WE the citizens have to pay for their lack of ability and stupidity.

Why don't you just go to your bank and get your bank statement for the month that you payed the fees? It will say DMV and a transaction number on the statement along with the date and amount paid. So lost or not you have proof that paid the fees and they were taken. If the fees were not taken then it is on you. Anytime you pay anyone for anything electronically or by check YOU need to make sure that it was processed. This is especially true when it comes to dealing with government agencies which are notoriously inefficient. That being said I've never had a problem paying my registration fees online. I would not recommend changing your address online as it took almost as much time as it would have to do it in person and it didn't even go through.

my wife is going thru exact same thing dmv is full of incompentent people. i think this is why dmv keeps raising fees. they good at cashing checks , but cant do the job , there is a lot of good people out there looking jobs. dmv needs to get rid of the idiots and hire some1 with iq of more than 20, but might make the boss look bad,so good luck we need it

do i need an id number to register a car? i dont have one yet.

How long do you have when you just change your address in the same state?

My son is deployed in Afghanistan, his registration is due in April, but he will not be back in the states until June. Is there a deferment process for military personel who are deployed overseas when their registration is due?

There is a form for him to fill out. It basically allows 30-60 days, (don't remember the correct number) grace period to pay registration after returning. They never required me to show proof of my return. I brought orders but they didn't even want to see them. So either you can go to DMV and ask for this form or get it online and bring a copy of his orders with you and either pay the reg., or non op. it. If you have it stored where you are not at risk of getting tickets or having it towed then you can wait until he gets home and let him to go DMV and pay the current registration. He will not have to pay any late fees. If he missing two years, then he will have to pay them both.

yes and the military did exlain that before he left in his briefing. either he, or whoever has power of attorney over his finances, can simply call any companies that he makes payments to, either monthly or pariodically, and tell them that he is deployed overseas and they are always more than willing to work with you to DEFER any and all of his payments until he returns home again, without penalties. it isactually against the law for them to not defer his payments while he is deployed. even if there is not a for sure date for him to return home. by the way, i know all of this from experience with my husband who was deployed to Iraq for 16 monthes. never personally had any problems deferring any payments that we needed before. :) so good luck and dont let anybody tell you otherwise, take or fax his ORDERS to them as proof that he is out fighting for our freedom and if worse comes to worse, tell his unit about the problem and theyll help you out. so good luck and god bless your son, you and your family. hoooooah! ; )

I have my grandmother's car from Iowa. My grandmother passed away a little under a year ago. It's registered in Iowa under her name, but as soon as we got to our home in California we called my insurance company and got it insured in my name.

The issue is that my grandmother's estate is the owner of the car at the moment. We hope to have a family member appointed executor as the original executor is unable, but the judge is not available daily, only every few weeks. And the title to the car is nowhere to be found.

Once the family member is appointed executor he can get a duplicate title and transfer it to me, and at that time I would register the car in California.

In the meantime:

Am I legally allowed to drive the car in California? The vehicle's entry into the state is less than twenty days old and it IS registered in Iowa under my grandmother's name, but it's insured in my name.

As soon as I can get the title from the executor I would register the car in California. I'm hoping that's in the next week, as I need to be able to drive the vehicle.

I was told by the southern california autoclub DMV representative that if it was after twenty days it would depend on the officer's mood if he felt like he wanted to give me a citation, but I'm hoping to have everything resolved before the twenty day mark.

What about a transit permit? And what state would issue it?

Thanks for any info.

i want to know if a third person can be added to a car registration??

I was sent a bill that said I was past due, but they sent it to the wrong address so I didn't receive the bill till two months later. How can I speak to someone to explain the situation so I am not charged 200$ for a mistake that wasn't mine in the first place? I came from Michigan and we were required to renew registration based on when we bought the car, not when it was my birthday, so I had no way of knowing I was late.

Buying a vehicle that has been sitting 15 years but has not been registered. Owner has original title but never changed it over in his name but was signed off by original owner. Are back registration fee's going to be due? Does a vehicle become a non-op or fall off the books after a number of years?

i bought a car on 3/11/11 i havent had money to transfer it under my name but i do have insurance, ill be going tomorrow to the dmv. does anyone know appx how much the fees will be? or how long i had since the first day i bought the car to transfer it under my name?


fees are based on the value of your vehicle.

I bought a used car in 7/2010 and took my personalized plates from my old car. The dealership said the car I was purchasing was registered thru 2/14/2011 and that I wouldn't have to pay registration fees until then, but I told them I wanted my personalized plates on the new purchase. They charged me registration fees, but registered the car without my personalized plates. I've been driving around with my personalized plates thinking they registered them, but they didn't. Now I'm being charged late fees for not registering the new purchase before 2/14/2011, and I can't seem to find out how to not pay double registeration fees for registering it under the used car's license and then registering it with my personalized plate. And the website says you can't register in person, only online.

Any suggestions?

I would like to by a used truck that has not been registered in many years. Do I need to pay past registration to register it up to date? Do I just pay non op for those years not registered?

If you have not had it set up as non op prior to the last known payed registration

you will have to pay for the registrations for those years, heres the thing its only if you

have had the vehicle on the road during that time so if you had any tickets or somthing that could be used to say you did have the vehicle on the road then you are toast.

If you claim to have never moved the vehice out of storage let's say then you could fill out a affadavte saying you have not driven the vehicle LOL.

my nephew got in an accident, found out his check to the insurance company had bounced , had to have his car towed away & put in impound.

Will he be denied vechicle registration when he is able to buy another car in

the state of California ?

He will be required to prove he is insured to register the new car.

I will be working in California for 1 year coming from out-of-state. Do I need to register my vehicle and get a California drivers license for that year? I will be leaving California and returning to my home state with my vehicle.

You would at the least go to the DMV and let them know what your plans are.

My son wants to purchase a used vehicle from a private party, the vehicle has not been registered in 10 years, what does he do?



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.