How to Apply for Car Registration in California

Obtaining a California vehicle registration is one of the first steps you must take after purchasing, inheriting or acquiring a new or used automobile. If you do not apply for CA DMV registration credentials within 10 days of acquiring a new or used motor vehicle, you may need to pay a penalty fee when you do register the automobile with the California Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV).

Moreover, the specific process of registering your newly acquired vehicle varies slightly depending on whether you purchase the vehicle from a dealership or private party, and whether you wish to register a resident or nonresident automobile. In most cases, however, you must visit a local DMV office to complete the application process in person. Read on to learn more about the steps you must take to register a vehicle in California.

California DMV Car Registration Requirements

To obtain new car registration credentials after purchasing, acquiring or inheriting a motor vehicle, you must visit a local DMV office to complete the application process in person. In most cases, you can schedule an appointment online or by phone before heading in to apply, as this saves you time once you arrive at the DMV office.

If you buy an automobile from a licensed dealership, however, the car dealer may forward your application materials directly to the California DMV, eliminating the need for you to visit a local office on your own.

Before obtaining new vehicle registration records in CA, you must submit any gas-powered automobile for a smog inspection, as you will need to present a certification of completion when registering the vehicle with the DMV. You may also need to complete this step when renewing a vehicle registration.

Keep in mind that some newer gas-powered vehicle models are exempt from meeting this requirement. If your vehicle does need to pass a smog inspection, remember to retain a copy of the receipt in case you need this information in the future.

If you wish to register an out-of-state motor vehicle in California, you must meet several additional requirements. When applying for DMV auto registration credentials, for instance, you may need to surrender the vehicle’s out-of-state license plates, and your nonresident automobile may need to undergo a physical inspection before you can leave the office.