California Department of Motor Vehicles FAQs

    1. How do I register a vehicle in California that I bought from another state?

You may be required to complete a smog certification test before registering the vehicle with the DMV. A vehicle that cannot pass the smog test cannot be registered in California.

    1. How much does it cost to register a vehicle in California?

The registration fees for a vehicle may vary depending on whether it is a nonresident vehicle, new vehicle or used vehicle. Additional fees may be due for smog tests or other DMV certifications.

    1. Can I drive in California without a California-issued driver’s license?

If you have a valid license from your home state, you can operate a motor vehicle in California without applying for a California-issued driver’s license. You must be 18 years of age or older to operate a vehicle in California with an out-of-state license.

    1. How long do I have to get a California driver’s license if I just moved here?

If you have become a resident in the state of California, you should apply for a California-issued driver’s license within 10 days of residency.

    1. How do I apply for a driver’s license in California?

To apply for a driver’s license, you should make an appointment with the local DMV office. You will be required to pass a test, give fingerprints, fill out an application, have your picture taken and provide additional information.

    1. What should I submit to change my name on the vehicle’s title?

To change your name on the vehicle’s title, you will need to submit a Certificate of Title or an Application for a Duplicate or Paperless Title, along with a completed Statement of Facts. You will also be required to pay a fee and present your California state driver’s license to the DMV.

    1. How do I change my address with the DMV?

Most drivers can make an address change with the DMV using the online service. However, you must complete a form and submit it to the DMV manually if you have no Social Security Number, no California driver’s license, have an address outside of the U.S., possess a CDL or have an Army post office or Fleet post office as a mailing address.

    1. Is there a fee to change my name or address on DMV documentation?

There is no fee to make a change to the documentation filed with the DMV. However, if you would like a copy of this updated documentation, you may be subject to a fee.

    1. How can I renew my vehicle registration in California?

With the proper paperwork, fees and identification information, you can renew your vehicle registration online, in person at a local DMV office or by mail.

    1. Do I need to submit a smog certification when I renew my vehicle registration?

If you live in an area that implements the biennial smog certification program, you may be required to complete a smog check and submit a smog certification every other year for vehicle registration renewal.

    1. Do I need to carry insurance on a vehicle in California?

Liability insurance is required on a vehicle if you plan to operate it or park it in the street. Proof of insurance should be kept on file with the DMV to prevent a vehicle registration suspension.

    1. What are the car insurance liability limits that must be carried on vehicles in California?

To operate a vehicle legally in California, a driver must carry $15,000 in liability for injury or death to one person and $30,000 for injury or death to more than one person. $5,000 in coverage for property damage must also be carried on the auto insurance policy.

    1. When will I need to show my proof of insurance?

Proof of insurance needs to be kept on file with the DMV. It may be requested by law enforcement at any time while operating the vehicle and will be needed if the vehicle is involved in an accident. Additionally, proof of insurance is needed when car owners initiate renewing vehicle registration with the DMV.

    1. Besides an auto insurance policy, how can I prove financial responsibility for my vehicle?

A driver who does not have an auto insurance policy can make a cash deposit with the DMV of $35,000, obtain a self-insurance certificate from the DMV or acquire a $35,000 surety bond from an acceptable company to prove financial responsibility.

    1. Why is my vehicle registration suspended?

Vehicle registration may be suspended if the DMV receives notice that an auto insurance policy was cancelled with no replacement policy, a newly registered vehicle’s owner does not provide proof of insurance within 30 days of registration or it is found the proof of insurance provided to the DMV is false.

    1. What are the consequences of driving with suspended vehicle registration?

If you drive a vehicle that does not have valid registration, you can receive a violation and have your vehicle towed and impounded. If you are involved in a collision, you may be personally responsible for damages.

    1. How can I avoid getting points on my driver’s license?

Driving responsibly and avoiding any traffic tickets or violations can keep a driver’s record clean. In certain cases, attending traffic school can help to eliminate points from a driver’s record.

    1. What should I do with a totaled vehicle that I want to keep?

If you completed a total less settlement with your auto insurance company but you want to keep and repair the vehicle, you must apply for a Salvage Certificate or Nonrepairable Vehicle Certificate within 10 days of the settlement.

    1. Do I have to pay to obtain a copy of my title?

If you need a duplicate title because yours has been lost or damaged, you must provide the DMV with a request along with a duplicate title fee, either by mail, online or in person.

    1. Do I have to tell the DMV if a family member takes ownership of my vehicle?

Yes. When a vehicle changes hands, even if it stays within the same family or household, the transfer of ownership must be recorded with the DMV.