Vehicle Registration and Renewal Research - California
In the State of California you can register or renew a vehicle by using the Department of Motor Vechicle's (DMV) Now Kiosk, Online portals, and by using the DMV business partner.
Basic Understanding of Vehicle Registration
- All vehicles have to be registered in California with registrations and renewals being made via online, mail, or in person.
- Vehicle registrations in California are required for all cars, light trucks, pickup trucks, heavy vehicles, trailers, mopeds, and motorcycles.
- Vehicles such as mini-choppers or pocket bikes cannot be registered or operated on public streets pursuant to California Vehicle Code (CVC) 751(d), since they do not meet Federal Safety Standards.
- Motorcycles, dune buggies, trail bikes, all-terrains vehicles and snow-mobiles operated exclusively off public roads and highways are known as Off-highway vehicles (OHV) and are registered as OHV unless it is registered for regular highway use and is not otherwise exempt from registration.
- A motorized scooter (two-wheeled device that has handlebars, a floorboard designed to be stood upon when riding, and is powered by a motor) does not need registration or license plates to be displayed or even to be insured.
- Commercial vehicles require registration as they are used and/or maintained for compensation, transportation of persons for hire, or profit or designed, used, or maintained primarily for the transportation of property.
- Commercial vehicles can either be registered as passenger or commercial, and include multipurpose vehicles, Passenger-type vehicles are those transporting persons for hire, pickup trucks with a camper permanently attached and Station wagons.
- Specialized vehicles which fall under the definition of Special Equipment (SE) are exempt from regular registration.
- Special equipment registration is required for special construction, special mobile, and cemetery equipment, logging vehicles, cotton and farm trailers, water tanks, oversize feed and seed motor vehicles, automatic bale wagons, and cotton module movers.
- Special equipment (SE) vehicles include special mobile equipment, implements of husbandry, special construction, cemetery, logging vehicles, and cotton or farm trailers.
- California only provides an estimate registration fee of $60 for all vehicles and states that for each vehicle there is a specific fee to be paid based on the online fee calculator.
- Off-highway vehicles (OHV) pay an estimated registration fee of $33.
- Motorcycles or mopeds pay an estimated registration fee of $22.
- Special Equipment vehicles pay an estimated registration fee of $27.
- For a specific vehicle fee payment, it is suggested to use the online fee calculator.
- Registration fees for nonresident vehicles must be paid to the DMV within 20 days of the date they become due, which depends on residency.
- Failing to register an original vehicle will lead to a penalty of $30 for one year or less, $50 for more than a year and including two years and $100 for more than two years.
How to Register
- Before registration a license plate number, the last 5 digits of vehicle identification number (VIN) for a vehicle, hull identification number (HIN) for a vessel/boat, smog certification filed with the DMV, a renewal notice showing current address or a confirmation on through the change of address system that reveals that the address is updated are all needed.
- In the state of California, a person can register their vehicle without visiting a department of motor vehicle (DMV) office, but instead going to a business partner, using the DMV Now Kiosk to instantly receive a new sticker and using the renew online portal.
- To register a vehicle from out-of-state (Nonresident Vehicle), an application for title or registration (REG 343) form is needed as well as an out-of-state title or proof of ownership and/or the out-of-state registration card, a verification of vehicle (REG 31) form, proof of insurance, a valid smog certification from a California smog station and the registration fees as calculated.
- The registration is simple. A person must enter the vehicle or vessel/boat information, confirm record information, select the payment option, read and accept the eCheck payment terms, if applicable, and then receive confirmation of the transaction.
- For California residents acquiring new cars, trucks or motorcycles from other states, they must meet the California smog laws before registration.
- The request for commercial registration of a passenger vehicle and the form is attached here.
- Owners of trucks obtain the registration application form and must calculate the registration fees so as to register the truck for the first time or renew its registration.
- A vehicle registration checklist provided by the DMV can be seen here.
- The DMV sends out a renewal notice in advance for a registration expiration. The notice listing the renewal options includes renewal in person, by mail, by phone, or online.
- If a person does not receive a renewal notice, they can use the online fee calculator provided by the DMV or call 1-800-777-0133 to determine fees are due, documents are required, and payment options.
- Vehicle registration in California is valid for one year with the registration fees being renewed annually.
- The registration card gives the specific actual day of expiration.
Fees for Renewal
- The renewal fee is based on vehicle type (auto, motorcycle), purchase price or declared value, dates (date purchased, date vehicle entered California), owner's residence county/city or business address, if a business, unladen or declared gross vehicle weight (GVW)/number of axles, special license plates and unpaid parking violation/toll evasion bail.
- The amount per renewal is not a single standard amount but is per vehicle based on the various fees that apply to the vehicle.
- California renewals allows for late registration renewal, but a penalty fee will be charged based on the number of days or years per the table shown here.
Methods of Renewal
- Renewals can be done in person, by mail, by phone, through a (DMV) office, DMV business partner, using the DMV Now Kiosk or online.
- The registration renewal is simple. A person must enter the vehicle or vessel/boat information, confirm record information, select the payment option, read and accept the eCheck payment terms, if applicable, and then receive confirmation of the transaction.
- The online registration renewal portal can be found here.
Failure to Renew
- California does not offer a grace period after vehicle's registration expiration date and the longer the delay in payment of fees, the greater the penalty amount will be.
- The vehicle registration annual renewal penalty is calculated by adding the percentage of vehicle license fee + registration late fee + CHP late fee = total due.
- The late penalty for renewal is $10 for 1 to 10 days, $15 for 11 to 30 days, $30 for 31 days to (and including) one year, $50 for more than one year to (and including) two years and $100 for more than two years.