California Department of Motor Vehicles

California drivers can obtain an ID card, drivers license, commercial drivers license (CDL) and motorcycle license through the Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV). The CA DMV also handles services such as the smog check procedure, car registration, registration renewal and applications to store an unused vehicle rather than register it. Additionally, drivers may obtain information on driving school, demerit points and traffic tickets from the CA DMV. Many DMV services can be completed online or by mail, whereas others may require visiting an office in person. Self-service DMV Now kiosks also allow drivers to complete DMV procedures, such as vehicle registration renewal, through an automated process. Drivers should note that not all DMV offices feature the same services and some services can only be completed at certain branches. More information on California driver services is presented below and comprehensive information about DMV services in the state is available by downloading our free guide.

California Drivers License Services

A valid drivers license or learners permit is required for all CA residents who wish to operate a motor vehicle. Similarly, out-of-state residents driving in California must also have a drivers license. When getting a learners permit or license, all petitioners will need to submit a payment as part of the licensing application process. New drivers must meet certain eligibility requirements and complete the necessary vision, knowledge and skills tests to obtain a license or beginners permit in California. Different requirements apply based on a driver’s age and whether he or she has held a driving license in the past. A drivers license name change or address change must be done with the DMV when any personal information such as this changes. In order to continue operating a vehicle in California, drivers must also complete a drivers license renewal through the DMV before the expiration date listed on the card. READ MORE

California CDL Services

A commercial drivers license, or CDL license, is required for any California driver who operates a commercial vehicle. Applying for a CDL drivers license requires drivers to pass vision, written and driving tests in addition to submitting a CDL medical exam report. Under federal law, applicants must be older than 18 years of age to obtain a CDL. Additionally, drivers must be older than 21 years of age before they can operate their commercial vehicle across state lines. Before obtaining the full driving privileges of CDL drivers licenses, first-time applicants will receive a commercial instruction permit. After a CDL driver obtains full privileges, a variety of driving endorsements are available, which allow the driver to operate different commercial vehicles. When CDL drivers change their name, address or other personal information, they must complete the appropriate DMV forms. CDL driving licenses must also be renewed through the DMV before they expire. READ MORE

California Motorcycle Licenses & Registration Services

A motorcycle license is required for any California motorist who operates a two-wheel motorcycle, motorized bicycle or moped. Drivers can apply for an M1 license or an M2 license, depending on the type of two-wheeled vehicle they wish to operate. The two classes of motorcycle licenses each have different restrictions and application requirements. Applying for a motorcyclist license is similar to the process of applying for a driving license or learning permit, as applicants must meet eligibility requirements and pass tests including the vision test, knowledge test and road skills test. READ MORE

California Car Registration & Title Services

To get car registration credentials in California, motorists must pay a fee, show proof of insurance, pass smog checks and complete the DMV forms for new car registration. New California residents will also need to submit their out-of-state vehicle title when getting car registration in CA for the first time. When drivers purchase a new vehicle, sell a vehicle or need to do a car title transfer for a vehicle in CA, the registration transfer must be completed with the DMV within a period of five to 10 days, depending on the type of transfer. Car registration must also be renewed before the expiration date in order to avoid a fee. READ MORE

Traffic Tickets & Penalties in California

In California, traffic citations are issued for parking violations, driving infractions such as speeding or running red lights and other serious offenses such as driving without a license or driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol. Many traffic violations will result in a demerit point being assessed to the motorist’s driving record. A driver who acquires too many driving points in a given period of time may face a suspension on his or her license, be placed under probation, have his or her license revoked or have certain driving privileges taken away. After receiving a traffic ticket, motorists should follow the instructions listed on the ticket or follow the steps given to them by the law enforcement officer who issued the ticket. Some CA tickets only result in a fine, while others require the driver to appear in court. Failing to pay a CA traffic ticket or appear in court, if required to do so, may result in serious penalties. READ MORE

Online Services for California Drivers

In addition to topics on vehicle registration, drivers licenses and driving tickets covered above, many additional resources are available for California drivers on our website. This includes detailed guides on:

  • CA driving records.
  • Vehicle Identification Number (VIN) checks.
  • Background checks for CA drivers.
  • Drivers ed.
  • Traffic school.

To learn more about any of these topics, download one of our comprehensive guides.