California Vehicle Registration Renewal Guide
How to Renew A Car Registration In California
The Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) of California mails out registration renewal notices well in advance of the expiration date for your registration—you can expect to be on the lookout for it 60 to 90 days before the due date.
This notice will detail the date that your tags expire, the fees for renewing, general information about the vehicle, and the emissions (smog) requirements. Vehicles that may be exempt from a smog check include:
- Any vehicle made before 1975
- Diesel vehicles made before 1997
- Electric vehicles
- Vehicles powered by natural gas that weigh more than 14,000 pounds.
If your vehicle is less than 6 years old you will not be required to get the biennial smog certification if you pay a $20 abatement fee. There are many counties in the state that will require a smog check for every resident. This must be completed every other year.
You may renew in person, by phone, online, or by mail. In all cases uou will need:
- Your current registration or renewal notice
- A valid California driver’s license
Requirements For Online Registration Renewal In California
To renew online you will need:
- The last 5 numbers of your VIN.
- Proof of auto insurance on file.
- Proof of smog certification.
To renew by phone you need all of the above plus your license plate number. To renew by mail you need to provide all of the same documents as you would if applying in person, which should have been included with your renewal reminder.
How to a Lost Vehicle Registration in California
Are you in California and need to know how to replace a vehicle registration? You will need to visit the DMV, but before you go read this FAQ and make sure you have the right documentation to get the job done quickly.
If you are newer to the state, you need to know that you will be working with the California Department of Motor Vehicles. The website is easy to use and most services are standardized throughout the state, so if you live in the rural mountains you will get the same service as LA.
If you want to speak to a real person, try their phone number at 1-800-777-0133. The phone lines are manned during regular business hours and offer both English and Spanish speaking personnel to help you.
Are You Renewing or need a Replacement Car Registration?
If you received a renewal registration notice in the mail, you can complete that little chore online. Just click here and follow the instructions. If you need to replace a lost, stolen or mutilated registration card, you will need to visit your local DMV office or file a request by mail.
Ordering a California Replacement Registration
Department of Motor Vehicles
PO Box 942869
Sacramento, CA 94269-0001
You should receive the document in the mail within six to eight weeks. If you prefer immediate assistance, you can take the form down to your local DMV office and receive the replacement registration immediately.
California DMV Locations Near Me
Where are the offices for the California DMV located?
There are a large number of California DMV offices situated throughout the state. There is likely one or more near you. You can visit whichever is most convenient to you.
Use the office locator on the website for the address and phone number of your local office. In urban areas, there may be multiple office in your city.
California DMV Hours
When are the CA DMV offices open?
All the offices are open 8 AM to 5 PM Monday, Tuesday, Thursday, and Friday. They are open 9 AM to 5 PM on Wednesday. If yours is in a rural area, it may close down for lunch around noon. Call ahead to make sure you don’t waste your lunch break when the clerk is on theirs.
Do You Need an Appointment?
The California DMV recommends that you schedule an appointment to reduce the amount of time spent waiting in line. Click here to chose the date, time, and location that works best for you. You will also receive a list of needed documentation to bring with you.
If you don’t have an appointment, you can check for wait times before you decide to go by clicking on your office’s web page.
Replacing Lost or Stolen License Plates In California
If your plates are stolen, call the police and file a report. You can order replacement plates through the mail using this form.
However, it is better to visit your local office as soon as possible. While there is a grace period to receive your replacement plates in the mail, you will still get pulled over for missing plates.
Replacement License Plate Fees In California
The fees for replacing your plates can change. Make sure to check the fee schedule for accurate pricing. You can only use your ATM or credit card at the DMV office or at one of their self-service terminals.
Do You Need a Replacement Vehicle Registration When You Lose Your Emissions Sticker?
Just like your replacement car registration or plates, you use the same procedure to order a replacement emissions sticker through the mail.
You will need a copy of your inspection report, current registration, and license plate numbers before the sticker will be issued. Just remember that while it is legal to drive a vehicle after you have requested the missing documentation, you can still be pulled over. It might be better to take the time to visit the DMV office in person.
What About Specialty Plates? How to Replace Your Regular CA License Plates?
If you are thinking about upgrading to a personalized or license plate that supports your favorite organization, you can do it through the mail or online. Download the request form and send it in through the mail or follow the prompts through the online portal.
If you have any further questions about your replacement vehicle registration, give the California DMV a call at 1-800-777-0133 or make an appointment to visit your local DMV office.