Vehicle Registration

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"Thank you so much for your help, but more than anything, your attitude was amazing and awesome. Thank you for choosing to be kind.️"
– Ne’Cole

If you just bought a car in California or recently moved here from another state, you are going to need to register your vehicle with the Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) in order to legally operate your vehicle. This page will tell you what documents you need to need to bring to the DMV to complete the registration process and what fees you can expect to pay.

California Vehicle Registration

If you bought your car at a dealership, they will generally take care of the entire registration process for you. You will be issued temporary registration to use until your permanent registration card and stickers arrive in the mail from the DMV. Check with the dealership before purchase to be sure that they register vehicles. If they don't, then you will have to follow the process described below. Buying a car from a private party makes the registration process a little more complicated. You will have 10 days from your vehicle purchase to register your vehicle with the DMV (or face late fees). Your initial registration can only be done in person at the DMV, so make an appointment and submit the following documentation:

  • A Completed Application for Title or Registration (Form REG 343).
  • The Vehicle's Title (with Odometer Mileage if vehicle is under 10 years old).
  • A Valid Smog Certificate (if the vehicle is over 4 years old).
  • Payment for Fees (see "Fees" below).

While you are at the DMV, an employee will complete a Vehicle Identification Number (VIN) inspection. Once completed, you will receive your registration card, stickers, and your plates.

Registration for a New California Resident

Once you officially establish residency in California you will have 20 days to register your vehicle with the DMV to avoid late fees. To register, head to the DMV and submit:

  • A Completed Application for Title or Registration (Form REG 343).
  • The Vehicle's Out-of-State Title.
  • The Vehicle's Out-of-State Registration.
  • Proof of Insurance.
  • A Valid Smog Certificate.
  • Payment for Fees (see "Fees" below).

After a DMV employee completes your vehicle's VIN inspection, you will be issued your registration card, stickers, and plates.

Vehicle Registration Fees

There are a number of different fees that can be charged during registration. Each case is different. These fees will be charged during your car purchase if you buy from a dealer. You must pay the DMV directly if you purchased your vehicle from a private party. The fees that are required from ALL vehicles include:

  • Registration Fee: $46
  • California Highway Patrol Fee: $23

The DMV offers a Vehicle Registration Fee Calculator that allows current and new residents of California to estimate their registration fees. It is important to note that late fees will be applied if you do not register your vehicle within 10 days of purchasing it from a private party. A late fee will also be applied if you do not register your vehicle with the DMV within 20 days of establishing residency in California.

Registration Renewal

You will be required to renew your vehicle registration annually. The DMV will send you a renewal notice in advance of your registration expiration. This notice will list your renewal options which generally include: renewal in person, by mail, by phone, or online. You may also choose to renew your registration with CarRegistration. CarRegistration is officially licensed by the DMV and provides quick and easy DMV transactions online. For more detail on how to renew your registration, visit our "Renew California Vehicle Registration" page.