Ca Dmv Registration

This page is intended to supply you with all of the information you need to register your car and renew your registration in the state of California.

Your Initial Registration


The California Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) is where you will go for registration, renewal, and countless other transactions. If you just moved to California, state law requires you to register your vehicle with the DMV within 20 days of gaining residency.

The DMV requires an in-person visit to your local branch for your registration. If you have purchased a new car in California, the dealership will likely have submitted your vehicle registration documents for you. Ask the dealership for specific information on this process.

The list of documents below will cover what you need to bring to the DMV office if you are registering an out-of-state car, or a car bought in California from a private party.

Documents Required For Registration

Be sure to submit these documents to your local DMV office to register your vehicle.

  • A completed Application for Title or Registration.

  • Proof of Insurance

  • Out-of-State Registration (If you originally registered the car in another state)

  • Out-of-State Title (If you are transferring a title to CA)

  • Vehicles Title with Odometer reading (If purchased in state from private party)

  • Fill out an Application for Duplicate or Paperless Title and present Smog Certificate (If title cannot be located)

  • Smog and Emissions Certification (if applicable)

  • Weight Certification (if applicable)

  • Proof of Vehicle Ownership

  • Payment to Cover Registration Fees 


A physical inspection of your vehicle will be done by a DMV employee. Once your VIN is verified, you will be issued your registration certificate, tags, and California plates.

Military Drivers

If you are a California resident that is currently stationed in another state, you may register your car in your current state and re-register in CA when you return .

If you are a non-resident that is stationed in California, you do not need to register your vehicle with the DMV. However, in order to drive in CA, non-residents must have California auto insurance and current registration from their home state.

Weight Certification and Smog Checks

Weight certification is required for some trucks in California. Smog checks are required of most cars before registration and some areas require smog checks every two years. Check with the DMV for your local regulations.

Renewing Your Registration in California

The DMV will send you a renewal notice before your registration expires. The majority of car owners have an annual yearly renewal. This notice contains the total cost of your renewal fees and the date of your current registration expiration. It will also tell you if you need an emissions test and if you have any outstanding issues (unpaid tickets or fines) that need to be resolved before renewal.  If you did not receive a renewal notice, contact your local DMV office or call (800) 777-0133.

Once you have completed your emissions test (if necessary) and cleared your record of any outstanding fines or tickets, you are ready to renew your vehicle.

Renewal Options

Unlike your initial registration, you do not have to make a personal visit to the Department of Motor Vehicles to renew (but it is still an option). Instead, you may renew by phone, online, or by mail.


Call (800) 921-1117. Be sure that your car insurance and proof of emissions certification is on file with the DMV. Have your VIN and license plate number ready and follow the instructions. Your new registration materials will be mailed to you upon completion.


Visit the DMV Online Renewal page. In order to use online renewal, you must have proof of smog certification and insurance on file with the DMV. Your VIN number is required as well as a method of payment. Once completed, print your receipt for your records. Your new registration materials will be mailed to you.

In Person

Simply drop by your local DMV, bringing your ID, your renewal notice (or current registration), court clearance regarding outstanding tickets (if necessary), and payment. You will be supplied with your updated registration documentation on the spot.


These are the documents you will need to mail to the DMV: a) Your registration renewal form, b) proof of smog inspection (if applicable), c) proof of insurance (if applicable), d) proof of paying outstanding fees (if applicable), e) check or money order made out to the DMV.

Once collected, throw these documents in an envelope and send it to:

Vehicle Registration Operations

Department of Motor Vehicles

P.O. Box 942869

Sacramento, CA 94269-0001

The DMV will mail your new registration and tab to you.

Renewal for Military Drivers

If you are a deployed member of the armed forces and your registration is expiring, you can delay payment until your return (check with DMV for full details).

Once you arrive back in California, you may be eligible to waive your late fees by visiting your local DMV office and filling out a Statement of Fact form. You are allowed 60 days upon your return to California to waive your late fees and re-register.

Renewing a Non-Operational Vehicle

If your registration is expiring but you do not plan on driving the vehicle for the upcoming registration period, you may apply for Planned Non-Operation (PNO). This will allow you to avoid paying renewal fees.

To apply, you can mark the PNO box on your renewal notice, or you can complete the PNO Certification sheet linked above, and mail it to:


Department of Motor Vehicles

P.O. Box 942869

Sacramento, CA 94269-0001