Application for original or renewal registration for vehicles and motorcycles is made to the DMV.
Application for initial registration or transfer of registration must be accompanied with a valid certificate of compliance with state air pollution control measures.
Registration card (or facsimile) issued upon registration must be carried with the vehicle and must be presented upon demand to any peace officer.
DMV may suspend, cancel, or revoke registration of a vehicle when notified by an insurance company that coverage has been canceled and when sufficient notice to insured has been given by the insurance company. DMV must give the owner at least 45 days’ notice of intent to suspend, cancel, or revoke registration.
DMV will not accept application for registration if the vehicle is not in the state unless the DMV is satisfied, at the time all documents and fees are submitted, that the vehicle will be registered to a resident of California.
DMV must refuse original, renewal, or transfer of registration if the application contains a false or fraudulent statement, fees have not been paid, the vehicle has failed emissions standards, evidence of financial responsibility has not been provided, or applicable use tax has not been paid.
DMV must refuse renewal registration for delinquent parking violations or failure to pay a lawfully imposed fine, penalty, or bail.
There is no period of grace for late registrations.
DMV will waive all registration renewal late payment penalties on a vehicle which is registered to a member of the U.S. Armed Forces Reserve or National Guard who is called to active service or active duty out of the state.
Registration for Non-Residents
A non-resident vehicle must be registered in California if the vehicle is based in California or primarily used in California; a vehicle is considered to be primarily used in California if it is operated or located in the state for a greater amount of time than it is located or operated in any other jurisdiction.
A non-resident vehicle may be operated in California without registering the vehicle in California provided that the vehicle is registered in another jurisdiction.
A non-resident vehicle becomes subject to registration 20 days after gainful employment is accepted or residency is established, at which time application for registration must be made.
Application for renewal registration must be accompanied by evidence of compliance with California financial responsibility laws–unless electronically reported to the DMV by insurer.
Non-resident military personnel or spouses may operate their vehicles in California with their valid home state license plates or until the plates issued by the foreign state where they were last stationed expire. They may renew the vehicle registration in their home state before the end of the registration period or register the vehicle in California.
Application for renewal may not be made more than 60 days prior to expiration of current registration and must be made not later than midnight on the day of expiration.
Registration expires at midnight on the last day shown on the registration card.
A vehicle with expired registration may be operated on highways so long as timely application for renewal registration has been filed and the old registration remains on/with the vehicle.
Two tabs issued by the DMV must be displayed on the rear license plate, 1 indicating the year of expiration and the other indicating the month of expiration, except vehicles over 10,000 lbs. Gross Vehicle Weight (GVW) rating that must display tabs on the front license plate.
Trailer coaches must be registered annually, and upon sale or transfer of a trailer, the permanent identification plate remains with the trailer.
Smog inspections are required for all vehicles except motorcycles or those vehicles manufactured prior to the 1976 model year and diesel powered vehicles manufactured prior to the 1996 model year that have a gross vehicle weight over 8,500 lbs. Vehicles registered in areas subject to the biennial smog certification program are required to submit evidence of a smog certification every other renewal period.
Vehicles that are 6 model years old or less are exempt from the biennial smog requirements for registration renewal. Evidence of a current smog certification must be provided by the seller except when transfer occurs between a spouse, sibling, child, parent, grandparent, or grandchild.
Smog certifications are good for 90 days from the date of inspection. The inspection is not required on a transfer if a biennial smog certification was submitted to DMV within 90 days prior to the vehicle transfer date.
Smog inspections are required in the following counties: Alameda, Butte, Colusa, Contra Costa, Fresno, Glenn, Kern, Kings, Los Angeles, Madera, Marin, Merced, Monterey, Napa, Nevada, Orange, Sacramento, San Benito, San Francisco, San Joaquin, San Luis Obispo, San Mateo, Santa Barbara, Santa Clara, Santa Cruz, Shasta, Solano, Stanislaus, Sutter, Tehama, Tulare, Ventura, Yolo, and Yuba.
The counties of El Dorado, Placer, Riverside, San Bernardino, San Diego, and Sonoma require smog certifications within certain zip codes only.
Visit the California Department of Motor Vehicles for more information on California’s Smog Inspection Program.
No periodic statewide safety inspection requirement. Officers of the California Highway Patrol that believe a vehicle is being operated in an unsafe condition as to endanger any person may require the driver of the vehicle to stop and submit to an inspection of the vehicle.
Title and Registration Fees
Title Fee: $18.00
Registration Fee: $46.00*
Title Fee: $18.00
Registration Fee: $46.00*
Plate Fee: $19.00
Registration Fee: $18.00
Driver’s License Fee: $25.00
Title Fee: $18.00
Special Plates: $10.00-$90.00 depending on type
* Plus additional fees of based on the type of vehicle, license plate type, and the owner’s county of residence and driving record.