California DMV Vehicle Registration


How to Register Your Vehicle in California. You need to register your vehicle in California in order to drive legally on the roads. Registering your vehicle can take place in a DMV office, online, or through the mail.

Registering your vehicle in California generally begins at your doctor's office to get a prescription medication for some sort of anti-depressant. Once that is in your system, you're ready to jump through some hoops to get your car all legal and stuff. After all, you don't really want to have the California Highway Patrol on your case - they're not nearly as cute or as nice as the TV show made them seem.

When to Register Your Vehicle in California

The California law states that in order to drive legally, you need to have your vehicle registered and that registration needs to be current (read: not expired). If you're new to the state of California, welcome. But within 20 days, you need to register your vehicle or face a hefty fine. To register your vehicle, you need to head to the local DMV office in your city.

The first time you register your vehicle is the toughest, so don't fret if this seems like a pain in the butt - you'll only have to do this once in person unless you buy a new car. First things first, you need to prove that you have insurance. This can be proven with an up to date insurance card and a copy of your policy. Or you can make that ever-so-friendly DMV agent call the insurance company to verify your coverage. Not the best way to start off your registration process, though.

Next, you will need to have your title for your car as well as the loan information from the bank, if you're still paying for it. The form Application for Vehicle Title or Registration will then need to be filled out and signed by all people who might own the car. If you're changing the title over, you will need to fill out a change of title form.

If the car is less than 10 years old, you will also need to filled out an Odometer Disclosure form. Who knows why this is necessary? Maybe it's to keep tabs on all the people who don't have the latest Ferrari in their garage. You will also need to show a smog certificate to show that your car has passed the smog test requirements. If your car is new, though, you might not have to go smog-checking.

When you are entering the state as a new resident, you will also need to have your car inspected to make sure it's safe to be on the roads (though one would think the smog check could cover this - guess the DMV employees like to get out once in a while). You do need to make an appointment to get your car inspected, so check with your local DMV on how to do this.

After all of this hassle, they will then ask you for a check - and your first born, second born, and third cat. And even then, you might not get your plates then. You might have to wait a few weeks for those to show up.

Choose Your State

Q:I haven't become a permanent resident of California yet but have to use my car that has Nevada plates. Do you need title to car at all times in California or is the out-of-state title valid in some cases?

A:There are certain exceptions in which you can drive a vehicle that has been registered in another state in California. If you have not been able to find any gainful employment yet in California then you can drive your vehicle without registering it. You can also get a special driving permit and avoid the late fees until you have rented or leased some property, enrolled in an educational institute or claimed a homeowner's exemption.