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First Time Vehicle Registration in California

First-Time CA Vehicle Registration

The process for CA DMV registration varies depending on how you purchased your car and whether or not it is registered in another state. If you bought your new or used vehicle from a(n):

Scroll to the section on CA DMV Registration for Motorcycles for instructions on registering your new motorcycle.

Vehicle Registration in CA: Purchased From a Private Seller

When you purchase your car from a private party, you have 10 days to transfer ownership to yourself. The vehicle seller must report the transfer to the DMV within 5 days of the sale.

To register a vehicle for the first time, you must provide:

  • The Certificate of Title*, signed by the vehicle’s seller.
    • If the vehicle is less than 10 years old, the odometer disclosure section must be completed and signed by both buyer and seller**.
  • Valid smog certification.
  • Payment for the necessary fees and taxes.

Submit the above items to a DMV field office in person.

*If the vehicle title is lost or damaged, provide a completed Application for Duplicate or Transfer of Title (REG 227) form.

**If the Certificate of Title does not contain a section for listing the vehicle’s odometer reading, you must also provide a completed Vehicle/ Vessel Transfer and Reassignment (REG 262) form (available at a DMV field office).

California Vehicle Registration: Dealership Purchases

If the dealership you purchased your car from does not complete the transfer of ownership process for you, visit your local DMV field office and provide your:

  • Certificate of title (for used vehicles), containing your signature as well as the signature of the:
    • Seller.
    • Lienholder (if applicable).
  • Completed Application for Title or Registration (REG 343) form (new vehicles).
  • Payment for the title tax or use transfer fees.

Circumstances That Require Additional Paperwork

You will be required to provide additional documents if your new vehicle meets the criteria listed below:

CA Vehicle Registration for Non-Resident Vehicles

Vehicles that were last registered outside of California can be registered in CA, provided they conform to California’s emission standards.

The DMV will require:

  • A completed Title or Registration (REG343) form filled out and signed by the current registered owners (lessor must sign for leased vehicles).
  • Smog certification for:
    • Gas vehicles manufactured in 1976 or later.
    • Diesel vehicles with a GVWR of under 14,001 pounds, made in 1998 or later.
  • The most recent out of state title.
  • Most recent registration certificate or current renewal notice to verify the names of the owner and registration expiration date.
  • A Verification of Vehicle (REG 31) form completed by a DMV employee, police officer, or CA-licensed verifier.
  • The vehicle’s out-of-state license plates.
  • Payment for the applicable fees.

Submit these items to your local DMV field office.

CA DMV Registration for Motorcycles

To register a motorcycle for the first time in California, provide:

  • Your valid CA M1 or M2 license or motorcycle instruction permit.
  • A California Certificate of Title, or the lienholder’s address and name (if applicable).
  • Proof of insurance or surety bond of $35,000 from a business licensed in California.
  • Payment for the necessary fees.

Submit the items listed above to your local field office.

First-Time CA DMV Registration Fees

Registration fees may vary depending on a variety of factors. The CA DMV provides a calculator to estimate your first-time registration fees if you purchased a:

Use this calculator to estimate your vehicle licensing fee.

NOTE: These calculations are estimates and may differ from the fees charged at the DMV.

California DMV Registration for Other Vehicles and Unique Situations

Visit the following links for help registering: