First Time Vehicle Registration in California
If you want to register your vehicle for the first time in the state of California, you'll be required to pay a $46 fee to the California Department of Motor Vehicles.
All cars purchased from a third party are required to register their vehicle within 10 days to avoid any late fees. Out-of-state cars that are registered in California must pay a $15 title transfer fee.
If you own a vehicle that is at least eight years old, it must pass a smog check every two years to register the car. If the vehicle is located out of state, you can submit an Application for Temporary Smog Exemption and aren't required to drive it back to California to undergo a smog test.
New to California
When you're moving from out of state to California, you'll be required to pay an additional $30 if you register the car 20 days post-residency being established.
One of the requirements of registering a vehicle for new residents of California includes that the car is less than 10,000 pounds. You don't have to provide a weight master’s certificate if you're registering a car, motorcycle, trailer, and certain types of commercial vehicles.
Schedule Your Appointment With The CA DMV
Scheduling a first-time registration appointment is the most efficient way of registering your car and can help you to avoid the long lines at the CA DMV office in your local area. You can conveniently schedule an appointment on the CA DMV's website and will be provided with a list of local DMV offices closest to your address or in a specific zip code.
Smog Check in California
A smog test is required for all gas-powered 1976 cars and newer or diesel vehicles from 1998 to today. Vehicles powered by natural gas or propane gas with a Gross Vehicle Weight Rating (GVWR) that is less than 14,001 pounds must also pass a smog test to be registered.
Renew Vehicle Registration in California
You have the option of renewing your vehicle registration within the allocated timeframe the CA DMV provides you with, or you will be required to pay late fees. The late fees increase the longer you wait to renew the registration. The DMV does not allow a grace period to be provided to drivers.
You'll also need to renew your car insurance and provide the policy information to the DMV in order to complete the registration. Online replacement requests can't be filed for vessels, off-highway vehicles, farm equipment, and vehicles that have registration due within 30 days.
If you only need a replacement sticker, you don't need to apply for a registration card also if you still have it in your possession. If you continue to drive your car with expired tags, there are penalties that include having your vehicle impounded.
If you are late with renewing your registration, you can do this in person at a DMV branch office at various locations. You'll need to bring your registration that is current or expired and present it to the clerk at the DMV. Once you pay the renewal fees, the clerk will issue your new registration. You also have the option of renewing the registration online or by mail.
Transfer Vehicle in California
If you want to transfer your car to another owner, you'll need to visit the DMV and submit a Title or Registration application. Four additional documents must be submitted, including the for the car, the registration, proof of car insurance, and a valid smog certification.
On the DMV's website, you can find a Vehicle Registration Fee Calculator to estimate what you'll be required to pay. This resource is available to current and new California residents.
Although you can choose to register the car at any time, a late fee will be applied after establishing your residency in the state after 20 days.
Lost Vehicle Registration in California
If you lose your vehicle registration, you need to start by submitting an application for a duplicate card on the CA DMV's website. You'll be required to complete a form that asks what you have lost and need to replace, whether it's the sticker and registration card or only the registration card.
You will be required to provide information about if the items are lost, stolen, or destroyed. The duplicate replacement fee is $20.
If your address has changed since you registered your car, you will also need to provide a Notice of Change of Address (DMV 14) form. The forms can be submitted via the mail, or you can visit a local CA DMV office in person. Making an appointment can allow you to obtain faster service.
Replace Vehicle Registration in California
If you need to replace your California vehicle registration card and need a duplicate, you can submit an application for replacement parts. You'll need to request a replacement sticker or registration card. You can have the items mailed to the address that is on file at the CA DMV.
This process is similar to obtaining a new registration card or sticker if you lose the items. You will be required to tell the DMV why you need to replace the documents and submit an application for replacement plates, stickers, and documents. Replacing the items is necessary when they are lost, stolen, or destroyed. A replacement registration card is easy to obtain by paying the required fee.
The registration fee depends on the type of car that you want to register, the purchase date and value of the car, the date your car entered the state, the city and county where you live, the gross vehicle weight, special license plates you've used, and if you haven't paid parking tolls or tickets.
The Vehicle Registration Calculator on the CA DMV's website is an accurate tool to use to calculate how much you can expect to pay for replacing the lost, stolen or damaged items. The fees can change at any time, depending on the law.
If your address has changed since the car was originally registered the last time, you'll also need to submit a Change of Address Form with the DMV.
When you visit the California DMV to obtain a replacement registration card or stickers for your vehicle, you'll need to bring:
- A form of identification such as valid driver’s license
- A form of payment for the required fees
- The Power of Attorney from your finance company if you are currently financing the car
Boat Registration in California
If you want to register a boat you now own in the state of California, you must submit an Application for Vessel Certificate of Number (BOAT 101) form. You'll be required to provide proof of ownership for the vessel, which includes the original title or out-of-state title if you purchased it outside of California.
You are not required to register canoes, rowboats, or sailboats that are less than eight feet long. Boats that run on a track or seaplanes on the water also don't need to be registered.
All vessels that are over eight feet long with a motor of any size must be registered to operate legally in the waterways in the state. You are still required to register the boat even if you plan to operate it on a private lake. Any trailers you plan to use for the boat will need to be registered separately. Registration fees for boats vary and depend on the value or purchase price, the specific date you became the owner of the vessel, the county or city you reside.
Motorcycle Registration in California
If you purchase or are given a motorcycle in California, you can register it by submitting an Application for Title or Registration form and a completed Statement of Construction (REG 5036) form.
The CA DMV will require you to provide a bill of sale, in addition to recipes of items you purchased for the motorcycle, which includes the engine, transmission, body, and frame. Any modifications that exceed $2,000 must also be reported, especially if it increases the weight of the vehicle. This requires bringing the motorcycle to the CS DMV for verification.
Motorcycles must also pass a smog test to be legally registered with the state. You will also need to provide Official Brake and Light Adjustment Certificates. Registration fees must need to be paid to register a motorcycle. This is a $46 fee but doesn't include additional charges for the county of residence, the license plate, and the type of motorcycle you own. The title for the motorcycle in California costs $18.