California Vehicle Registration
California Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) Registration Requirements for Registration Renewal and Title Transfer
How do I register my car in California?
Although the Bureau of Automotive Repairs (BAR) is the enforcer and decision maker in terms of California's smog check program, ultimately your vehicle's smog check results are sent to and required by the California Department of Motor Vehicles in order to complete an initial California vehicle registration or to renew your vehicle's registration in California.
The following are requirements the California DMV has put in place in order to register the car, truck, van, SUV, RV or motorhome you plan on operating or driving on California public roadways.
Note: Initial California vehicle registration forms can be downloaded online, but a visit to the DMV will be required to complete the vehicle registration process. Your vehicle's registration renewal however can be fully completed online without visiting the DMV office.
STEP 1. How to Register a Vehicle in California and Get New Plates.
a1. California Vehicles - When you buy a car in California you must register and transfer the title into your name at your local DMV office within 10 days of the purchase date. The following form will be required in order to complete the California vehicle registration process through the California DMV. CA Registration Application download here.
a2. Out of State Vehicles - Whether you recently moved to California or bought a car from out of state, you must complete the California vehicle registration process by registering your vehicle with the Department of Motor Vehicles. Complete online and download the CA Registration Application here.
Do I Need a Bill of Sale? - In both of the above cases, a vehicle in the title transfer process will require a Bill of Sale between the seller and buyer, as well as a valid smog test. If you are purchasing a vehicle from either a used or new car dealership, they will prepare these vehicle registration documents for you.
Do I need a Smog Check? California vehicle registration laws require the seller of a vehicle to provide the buyer of the vehicle with a valid and passing Smog Check certification at the time of the sale or transfer in order to register a vehicle. Smog certifications obtained for the purpose of title transfer or vehicle sale, are good for 90 days from the date of issuance for DMV registration purposes.
For the purpose of vehicle title transfer you can have your vehicle smog checked at any type of smog check station. A smog test only center, regular smog check center also known as a test & repair station, or Gold Shield (CAP) smog test & repair station can perform the smog test required for initial California registration.