How To Register A Car In California From Another State

Bringing your out-of-state car to California? You’ll need to register it with the California DMV within 20 days of establishing residency. This process involves submitting the proper paperwork, passing smog inspections, and paying fees. With some preparation and knowledge of the requirements, you can smoothly transition to driving your car with California plates.

If you’re short on time, here’s a quick answer to your question: To register an out-of-state car in California, you’ll need to complete an Application for Title or Registration (REG 343) form, show proof of California insurance, pass a smog check, and pay registration fees and any applicable taxes. The process needs to be completed within 20 days of moving to California.

Determining Your California Residency

When registering a car in California from another state, it is important to establish your residency in California. The state of California has specific requirements that must be met in order to qualify as a resident.

Meeting the Basic Requirements

In order to establish residency in California, you must meet certain basic requirements. These include:

  • Having a physical presence in the state
  • Showing intent to remain in California

Meeting these requirements is crucial as it determines your eligibility to register a car in California.

Proving Physical Presence

One way to prove your physical presence in California is by providing documentation such as utility bills or a rental/lease agreement showing your California address. This helps establish that you have been residing in the state for a certain period of time.

Additionally, providing documentation of employment in California or enrollment in a California educational institution can also help prove your physical presence in the state.

Showing Intent to Remain

Showing intent to remain in California is another important factor in establishing your residency. This can be demonstrated by obtaining a California driver’s license or registering to vote in the state.

Other ways to show intent to remain include obtaining California vehicle insurance and registering your car in California within a reasonable timeframe.

It is important to note that these requirements may vary depending on individual circumstances. It is recommended to consult the official website of the California Department of Motor Vehicles for the most accurate and up-to-date information.

Preparing the Required Documentation

When registering a car in California from another state, it is important to gather the necessary documentation beforehand. This ensures a smooth and efficient registration process. Here are the key documents you will need:

Out-of-State Title

The first document you will need is the out-of-state title. This is the legal document that proves you own the vehicle. Make sure you have the original title or a certified copy. If the vehicle is financed, you will need to provide the lienholder information as well.

Smog Inspection Certificate

In California, vehicles are required to pass a smog inspection before they can be registered. This is to ensure that the vehicle meets the state’s emissions standards. You will need to obtain a smog inspection certificate from a licensed smog station.

If the vehicle is less than four years old, it may be exempt from this requirement.

Pro tip: To find a licensed smog station near you, visit the California Bureau of Automotive Repair’s website at

Proof of Insurance

California law requires all vehicles to be insured. Before registering your car, you will need to provide proof of insurance. This can be in the form of an insurance card or a letter from your insurance company. Make sure the insurance policy meets the minimum coverage requirements set by the state.

Pro tip: If you are looking for affordable car insurance options in California, websites like provide useful information and resources to help you find the right policy for your needs.

By gathering the necessary documentation, such as the out-of-state title, smog inspection certificate, and proof of insurance, you will be well-prepared to register your car in California from another state.

Remember to check the specific requirements and procedures set by the California Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) to ensure a successful registration process.

Completing the Registration Application

Gathering Key Information

Before starting the registration process, it is important to gather all the necessary information. This includes:

  • The vehicle’s make, model, year, and Vehicle Identification Number (VIN).
  • The current out-of-state registration documents.
  • Proof of insurance.
  • The current odometer reading.
  • The vehicle’s title or the name and address of the lienholder.

Having all this information ready will help streamline the registration process and ensure a smooth transition.

Filling Out the Forms

Once you have gathered all the necessary information, it is time to fill out the registration forms. The main form you will need to complete is the Application for Title or Registration (Form REG 343).

This form requires you to provide information about the vehicle, your personal details, and any lienholder information if applicable.

Make sure to fill out the form accurately and legibly to avoid any delays in the registration process. If you are unsure about any section of the form, you can refer to the California Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) website for detailed instructions or contact their customer service for assistance.

Submitting the Paperwork

Once you have completed the necessary forms, you will need to submit them along with the required documents to the DMV. It is recommended to make copies of all the documents for your records.

You can submit the paperwork in person at a local DMV office or by mail. If mailing the documents, it is advisable to use a certified mail service to ensure their safe delivery. The DMV will process your application and send you the registration documents and license plates once everything is in order.

It is important to note that there may be certain fees associated with registering a car in California from another state. These fees can vary based on factors such as the vehicle’s weight, type, and registration duration.

You can find more information about the fees on the official California DMV website or by contacting their customer service.

Registering a car in California from another state may seem like a daunting process, but by following these steps and ensuring you have all the necessary information and paperwork, you can successfully complete the registration application and enjoy your new California ride!

Passing California Smog Check Requirements

When registering a car in California from another state, one of the essential steps is to pass the California Smog Check. This requirement ensures that vehicles meet the state’s emission standards, helping to reduce air pollution and maintain a clean environment.

There are a few key aspects to consider when it comes to passing the smog check:

Finding a Star Station

California has a network of authorized smog check stations, known as Star Stations, that are certified to conduct smog checks. These stations have technicians who are trained to perform accurate and reliable tests. It is important to find a Star Station near you to complete the smog check.

The California Bureau of Automotive Repair (BAR) provides a convenient search tool on their website where you can locate the nearest Star Station.

Testing Tailpipe Emissions

The smog check primarily involves testing the tailpipe emissions of the vehicle. The technician will connect a device to the car’s tailpipe to measure the pollutants emitted during different operating conditions.

The emissions are then compared to the allowable limits set by the California Air Resources Board (CARB). If the car’s emissions fall within the acceptable range, it will pass the smog check.

Making Any Needed Repairs

If the vehicle fails the smog check, it means that it is emitting pollutants above the permissible limits. In such cases, it is necessary to make the required repairs to reduce emissions and ensure compliance with California’s standards.

The specific repairs needed will depend on the results of the smog check. It is recommended to consult a qualified mechanic or an authorized repair facility to address any issues and bring the vehicle into compliance.

Remember that it is essential to pass the smog check before registering a car in California from another state. Failing to do so may result in delays or complications in the registration process. By following the necessary steps and addressing any emissions-related issues, you can ensure a smooth transition and compliance with California’s smog check requirements.

Paying Necessary Fees and Taxes

When registering a car in California from another state, it is important to be aware of the necessary fees and taxes that need to be paid. These fees and taxes ensure that the vehicle is properly registered and compliant with California laws.

California Registration Fee

The California registration fee is an annual fee that is required to be paid when registering a vehicle in the state. The fee is based on the value of the vehicle and is used to fund various state programs and services.

It is important to note that this fee is separate from the vehicle’s license plate fee.

The exact amount of the California registration fee varies depending on factors such as the vehicle’s value, weight, and type. To determine the specific amount, individuals can use the California DMV’s online fee calculator on their official website here.

It is recommended to have this information ready before proceeding with the registration process.

Use Tax

When bringing a vehicle into California from another state, individuals may also be required to pay a use tax. The use tax is a tax on the use, storage, or consumption of personal property, including vehicles, in California.

This tax is applicable when the vehicle was purchased out of state and has not already been subject to a sales or use tax in California.

The amount of the use tax is based on the vehicle’s purchase price or its current market value, whichever is higher. It is important to note that this tax is separate from the sales tax that may have been paid in the state where the vehicle was originally purchased.

Local Taxes and Surcharges

In addition to the California registration fee and use tax, there may also be local taxes and surcharges that need to be paid when registering a vehicle in California. These fees vary depending on the county and city where the vehicle will be registered.

Some local taxes and surcharges that may be applicable include county and city sales taxes, transportation improvement fees, and environmental surcharges. It is important to check with the local county tax collector’s office or the city’s website to determine the specific fees that need to be paid.


Registering your out-of-state car in California takes some upfront preparation. You’ll need to prove residency, gather documentation, pass smog checks, fill out DMV paperwork, and pay all applicable taxes and fees. While it may seem daunting, breaking the process down step-by-step makes it more manageable. With the right documents and forms in hand, you’ll be driving your car with California plates and registration in no time.

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