The California vehicle registration process, like what is required in most other states, requires the right documents and forms be provided to the registrar:
The California Department of Motor Vehicles provides a vehicle registration fee calculator online to help residents determine fees for new vehicles, used vehicles and nonresident vehicles. After all documents have been processed and signed, a California DMV employee will physical inspect your vehicle and verify the VIN number. You will then receive registration stickers, license plates and a California registration certificate.
Most vehicles require smog inspections before they can be registered. Vehicles that are exempt from inspections are:
Smog certifications must be renewed every two years. However, the following California counties require smog inspections in specified zip code areas only: San Diego, San Bernardino, El Dorado, Placer, Riverside and Sonoma.
To be considered a California resident, you must "be present" in the state of California on more than a transient or temporary basis for six months or more in a 12-month period. Evidence of California residency for the purpose of vehicle registration can include the following:
Only one of these criteria need met to be considered a California resident. However, these residency and registration rules do not apply to military members and their families.
California residents buying a vehicle from an individual instead of a dealer have 10 days to register the vehicle before a late charge is applied to the registration fee. In addition to providing odometer information on vehicles less 10 years old, you also need to present a valid smog certificate if the vehicle purchased is more than four years old. However, smog certificates on privately purchased vehicles are not required if the prior owner had renewed the vehicle's registration with 90 days of selling the vehicle and had the registration renewed for two years.
The DMV issues non-transferable registrations to vehicles owners who choose to maintain their title with the state where it was issued or last transferred to. To sell or buy vehicles with non-transferable registrations, owners must convert their non-transferable registration to a transferable registration by submitting the following documents to their local DMV office: