You must register your vehicle from out of state with the California DMV within 20 days after you brought it into the state and remain as the owner of the vehicle, or within 20 days after purchasing an out of state or non-resident vehicle in California to avoid penalties. (CVC 4152.5). If the vehicle has less than 7,500 miles, click here.
Sales tax on the "cash price" paid for the vehicle is due if the vehicle was purchased within 1 year from the date the vehicle entered CA. "Cash price" refers to the price of the vehicle without including any additional charges such as tax, document, dealer, licensing, registration fees, financing charges or warranties, etc. If the vehicle was purchased within a year from entering California, and you have to pay CA sales tax, you will get a credit for any sales tax you previously paid, if any, in the state where the vehicle was purchased. You must provide written proof of the amount of tax paid by you in the state where the vehicle was purchased: ie purchase agreement, or a letter from the department of motor vehicles stating the amount of tax paid. The most common exemptions that apply to sales tax due are when the vehicle is received as a gift, or when it was purchased from a parent, grandparent, spouse or sibling, or when it is still being leased.
You need the following:
1- The certificate of title or latest (original) registration card, or registration renewal notice for the vehicle. If you lost the title or registration card, contact your state DMV or vehicle licensing department and request a replacement. The California DMV requires the title to issue a California certificate of title or pink-slip as the locals like to call it. If you still do not have the title because you are still financing (bring the name of the finance company or bank and its address), or leasing the vehicle (bring lessor's name and address), or you just cannot get the title, you still have to register the vehicle in California. You will need to turn in the latest original vehicle registration card, or registration renewal notice from out of state. You will get a California vehicle registration card, but no California certificate of title.
2- An Application for title or registration form. CA DMV form REG 343. Go to our forms page if you want to print it. We have plenty of forms at our office if you do not want to print it, and we'll help you fill it out. Keep in mind that all registered owners listed on the registration card or title need to sign the REG 343.
Note for leased vehicles: If you are leasing a vehicle, the application for title and registration form must be signed by the company leasing the vehicle, and you. You can have the lessor sign the REG 343, or they can send you a power of attorney authorizing you to sign the REG 343 on their behalf. Only originals are accepted.
3- A smog check done in California. All vehicles, except gasoline powered 1975 year model or older, electric, motorcycles, Diesel powered 1997 year model and older or with a Gross Vehicle Weight Rating of more than 14,000 lbs. The exemption for vehicles 6 or less model years old applies only to vehicles already registered in California. Click here to search online for smog check stations to near you.
4- A vehicle identification number (VIN) verification. We do it at our office. It consists of verifying that the vehicle identification number in your out of state documents matches the one on the vehicle, that the vehicle has a Federal Certification Label (usually on the driver's side door jamb). It also verifies whether the vehicle engine complies with emission systems requirements for California. Read more about VIN verification here.
For commercial Vehicles (including pick-up trucks and cargo vans)
-A weight certificate. Only if your vehicle is a pick-up, truck, or will be registered as a commercial vehicle: commercial/cargo van, etc. This is required only if your out of state title or registration does not specify the "shipping," "tare," "WT/Wheels" or "unladen" weight of the vehicle. These four types of weight mean the same thing. But they must be specified as such. For licensed public scales locations in California click here. Please make sure your weight certificate lists the weight type as "tare," "unladen" or "shipping."
If the vehicle has less than 7,500 miles
There are some restrictions when it comes to vehicles with less than 7,500 miles with emission systems not designed to be sold in California. These are known as "49 state" vehicles. If you are a resident of CA, you cannot register a vehicle that has less than 7,500 miles in CA if it does not comply with CA emission standards --regardless of model year. That means that such vehicles cannot be registered in California. Most vehicles have the emission systems label in the engine compartment (see samples here), and it states whether the vehicle complies with CA emission standards. If the label is missing, contact the manufacturer to find out if your vehicle complies with CA emission standards and get a letter from them detailing so.
If you are moving to CA from another state, and you are bringing your vehicles which have less than 7,500 miles and are currently registered out of state, there is an exemption and you can register them in CA; even though they do not comply with CA emission standards. You must show proof the vehicle was registered out of state to qualify (e.g.: out of state registration card, or letter from the motor vehicle department where the vehicle is registered stating the vehicle is registered in your name in that state).
See our frequently asked questions page for more general information, or email us with your specific question. It’s OK, we are glad to help. Some transactions may take longer depending on the status of your vehicle registration.
*Some restrictions apply based on type of transaction. Some transactions may take longer.