How to Register your Out of State Vehicle in California
How to Register an Out of State Car in California
You may have recently moved to California from another state. Or, you may already live in California, but you bought a car in another state. In either case, you'll need to follow California's procedure for registering an out-of-state car. There are a few additional steps to registering an out-of-state car that don't apply to cars bought in the state of California.
Getting the Required Documents and Inspections
Check the car's emissions label.You car will have an emissions label under the hood. If it's certified in California, it will include a statement that it conforms to California state regulations. If it doesn't include that statement, you may not be able to register the car in California.
- If you're a California resident and you're looking at buying a car out of state, you might want to check this before you buy the car. If you're unable to register your car in California, you may not be able to get your money back.
- You don't need to worry about California's emissions laws if your car was built before 1976.
Evaluate exemptions if your car isn't California certified.If your car doesn't conform to California state regulations, it's considered a "49-state car." California law provides a few exemptions that will allow you to register a 49-state car. You will need to show the DMV proof that your car falls into one of these exemptions.
- If you got the car as part of a divorce, inheritance, or legal settlement, you'll be able to register the car.
- If your California-registered vehicle was stolen or wrecked out of state, and you bought a 49-state car to replace it, you can register it.
- California also grants exemptions for emergency vehicles, or a car you purchased while you were stationed on active military duty.
- Cars built before 1976 also are subject to an exemption.
Get the last issued out-of-state title or registration.To prove that you own the vehicle, you must present the title or registration from the state the car came from. You'll need to get the title unless the car is financed.
- Visit the California DMV website at www.dmv.ca.gov to find a list of out-of-state DMV offices where you can request a copy of the title or registration.
- If the out-of-state title has been lost, stolen, or destroyed, you typically will need to request a duplicate from the state that issued the title before you can register your car and get a California title.
Complete the odometer disclosure.Your title will have an odometer disclosure section that must be completed by the seller and acknowledged by you as the buyer of the car. This disclosure isn't mandatory if the car is more than 10 years old, or is a brand new car.
- If you're planning on registering and using the car as a commercial vehicle, you also typically won't need to complete the odometer disclosure.
- If you don't have the title (such as if your car is financed and the lien holder has the title), you must fill out a REG 262 form. You can't download this form online because it is printed on security paper. Call the California DMV at 1-800-777-0133 to have a form mailed to you.
Make a copy of your bill of sale.If you recently purchased the car from out of state and are registering it in California as a new owner, you will need to present a copy of the bill of sale to establish the chain of ownership.
- If you didn't get a document specifically titled "Bill of Sale," a finance agreement or other purchase agreement will suffice.
Calculate your registration fees.The California DMV has a fee calculator available online that you can use to determine how much you'll have to pay to register your out-of-state car.
- Go to and click on the "nonresident vehicles" link.
- You will have to provide information about the type of vehicle and model year. You'll also enter the date you purchased the vehicle and the date you first drove it in California.
- If you paid any use or sales tax in the other state, enter this information as well. You'll get a credit for it towards your California taxes.
Certify your car at a California smog station.Most cars must have a smog certification before they can be registered in California. The only cars that don't require smog certification are diesel-powered cars of model year 1998 or newer.
- To find the smog station nearest you, visit and click the "Find a Station" button.
- Smog check prices aren't regulated, so you may want to shop around at several stations to find the best price.
Verify the car's weight if you're registering the car as a commercial vehicle.If your out-of-state car is for personal use, you won't need a weighmaster's certificate. However, you will need one if you plan to register the car as a commercial vehicle and use it for business purposes.
- You can find public scales by visiting the website of the California Department of Food and Agriculture at .
Completing the Registration at the DMV
Visit your local California DMV office.When you're ready to register your out-of-state car in California for the first time, you'll have to drive the car to the nearest DMV field office and submit an application along with all the required documents.
- To find a field office near you, visit the DMV's website at .
- To shorten your wait time, you can make an appointment online or by calling 1-800-777-0133. Field offices are not open on weekends or holidays.
Complete the application for title or registration.The application for title or registration asks for information about you and the car you want to register in California. You also must provide information about the purchase of the car.
- You can download the application from the California DMV's website and fill it out ahead of time. You can also get a copy of the application at the DMV and fill it out while you wait.
Have your car verified at the DMV.You must take your out-of-state car to your local DMV to verify the car's vehicle identification number (VIN). This must be done by an authorized DMV employee, who will also conduct a visual inspection of the car.
- The California DMV recommends that you make an appointment so you don't have to wait as long. If you take all of your required paperwork, you can register your car at the same time you get the verification.
Submit your application along with certifications and proof of ownership.When you've finished filling out your application, you'll need to give it to the DMV clerk along with the title or registration from the other state, your bill of sale, smog certification, and any other required documents.
- The clerk will verify your documents and give your originals back to you.
Show your driver's license and proof of insurance.Before the DMV will process your registration, you must prove that you have car insurance that meets the state minimum requirements.
- For private passenger vehicles, you must have at least ,000 coverage for the injury or death of one person, ,000 coverage for the injury or death of more than one person, and ,000 coverage for damage to property.
Pay the required fees.Once the clerk has processed your application, they'll calculate the amount of fees you owe to register the car. If you've already calculated your fees online, you'll have an idea of how much this is going to be. However, if your calculation differs from the clerk's calculation, the clerk's calculation is the one that you'll have to pay.
- DMV field offices accept cash, personal checks, and credit or debit cards.
- A portion of these fees may be tax deductible. Contact a California tax advisor or consultant for more information.
Turn over your out-of-state license plates if required.In most cases, you'll have to give the out-of-state license plates to the DMV to get your new California plates. There are exemptions, such as if the plates are expired.
- If the other state requires you to send the plates back to them, it's your responsibility to turn the plates back in – the California DMV won't do this for you.
Put your new plates on your car.Once your registration is complete, the clerk will issue your registration certificate and give you new plates to put on your car. If you ordered specialty or custom plates, you'll get a temporary plate to use until you get your plates in the mail.
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