How to Register an Out of State Car in California

Last Updated on August 3, 2021 by Auslar Chukwuka Chimuanya

When you bring a non-resident car into CA, you must register it. In this regard, this article explains how to register an out of state car in California without penalty.

how to register an out of state car in California

Did you move into CA recently, or you just purchased a car into CA from another state? To make the car legal, you must follow CA DMV’s guidelines to register the car in your name without penalty.

California considers an out-of-state car a non-resident car since they do not have records of it in the state.

Can You Register an Out of State Car in California?

Yes, you can register an out of state car in California. However, some cars can’t be registered in the state for some reason.

First, the can you buy into CA must meet California emission standards, or the buyer or owner and vehicle must qualify for an exemption. CA does not allow a business or resident to buy and register a car that is less than 2 years old and the odometer reads lower than 7,500 miles at the time of purchase.

Requirements to Register an Out of State Vehicle in CA

What are the requirements to register a car in California?

  • An Application for Title or Registration. This form is known as REG 343, and the registered owners of the non-resident car must fill and sign it. The ownership information must match the information on the car title or registration.
  • Lessor signature. If you financed the non-resident car, the signature of the lessor must appear in the application.
  • Old title. You must bring the previous car title certificate or pink slip issued for the out-of-state car. If you do not surrender the out-of-state title to CA DMV, the California registration card will be marked “Nontransferable” and you will not receive a title for the vehicle in California.
  • The previous registration certificate of the car. You must prepare the previous registration certificate or present renewal notice, or fax or wire, or a letter from the last vehicle motor agency that shows the registered name of the previous owners or the car. The certificate must also contain the last expiration registration date.
  • A completed Verification of Vehicle form. This form is also known as REG 31. An authorized DMV employee or CA-licensed vehicle verifier must complete this form.

Vehicle Eligibility

  • Commercial car. A commercial vehicle that weighs more than 6,001 pounds unladen must have Declaration of Gross Vehicle Weight/Combined Gross Vehicle Weight (CGVW) known as REG 4008 form.
  • Vehicles and PTI Trailers. A vehicle that weighs less than 10,000 pounds unladen requires CA’s public weighmaster’s certificate. Note that you do not need the weighmaster’s certificate for private cars, motorcycles, trailers, and specific commercial cars.

How to Register an out of State Car in California

In this section, you will learn how you can register an out of state Car in California:

  1. Contact Your Nearest DMV

You can contact your DMV for the vehicle registration. You need to take the car to the CA DMV. First, find out the nearest DMV in California @ (CA DMV’s official website).

To reduce your wait time and perhaps having to return to the DMV another day, book an appointment online. You can also call 1-800-777-0133. Note that field offices are not open on holidays and weekends.

  1. Fill Out the Application for Title or Registration

Ensure to complete the Application for Title or Registration, which asks for the vehicle information you want to register in California. Make sure to enter the correct information about the vehicle purchase. You can download the form via California DMV’s website and fill it before visiting the office instead of filling it at the office, which costs your time.

  1. Complete the Verification of Vehicle Form.

You will complete the Verification of Vehicle form. The California DMV will verify your out-of-state car using the VIN (Vehicle Identification Number). The verification is performed by an authorized DMV employee, who also carries out a visual inspection of the out-of-state vehicle.

  1. Complete Smog Check

CA requires you to pass a smog check. However, gasoline-powered cars from 1975 or older, electric cars, diesel-powered cars, motorcycles, or a Gross Vehicle Weight Rating (GVWR) of more than 14,000 lbs.

  1. Submit Your Application

You are to submit your application and proof of ownership, including the previous out-of-state title or registration, bill of sale, and smog certification. Additional requirements may be communicated to you depending on your type of vehicle. The clerk only has to verify the originals of your documents and return them to you.

  1. Present Your Proof Insurance and Driver’s License

You will need to submit your proof of insurance and a valid driver’s license. Moreover, your insurance must meet the minimum requirement for eligibility to register your car in California.

If your car is a private passenger car, your insurance must be $15,000 coverage for the injury or death of one person, $5,000 coverage for property damage, and $30,000 coverage for the injury or death of multiple persons.

  1. Make the Payment

After the clerk processes your application, you will get an amount to pay to complete the registration, depending on your vehicle. You can calculate your registration fee online to know how much you will be paying.

The California DMV accepts cash, personal checks, and credit or debit cards. Note that a portion of the fees may be tax deductible, and for further information, contact a California tax advisor or consultant.

  1. Present Your Previous License Plate

Typically, California does not keep license plates. However, you may be asked to present your out-of-state license plate. The CA DMV will give you a new license plate. CA will not keep your license plates, mainly because the previous state where your car was registered may require the previous owner of the vehicle in that state to surrender the license plate after selling the vehicle.

How to Change Out of State Car Ownership in California

To change ownership of the car, you need the following:

  • Previous out-of-state title or registration. The title or registration must be signed for release by the seller(s) and the legal owner(s) of the car (if any). If the car has a lien, the lien holder may also release interest on the car. The lien must be notarized in a lien holder release form.
  • Vehicle transfer and odometer disclosure. If the out-of-state car is less than 10 years, a Vehicle Transfer and Reassignment Form for odometer disclosure is required.
  • Bill of sale. You need a bill of sale form if the person you’re acquiring the car is not the registered owner showing in the out-of-state title certificate.

What’s the cost of registering an out of state car in California?

The cost of registering an out-of-state state car in California depends on multiple factors. You can get an estimated cost using the Vehicle Registration Fee Calculator @ You will only get the exact amount when you submit your registration application to the CA DMV.

Final Thoughts

Before you visit the California DMV, ensure to make an appointment to avoid waiting longer in a queue. You can also complete your registration if you have all the required paperwork after verification.

Make sure to register your car at the DMV within 20 days from the date of purchase to avoid penalties.

Leave a Reply