Frequently Asked Questions FAQ

Online Calculator Will Determine New Vehicle License Fee Due on Vehicle Registration Renewals

Legislation authorized the Department of Motor Vehicles to decrease the Vehicle License Fee (VLF) from 1.15 percent to 0.65 percent when registration fees are due on or after July 1, 2011 for:

  • Automobiles
  • Commercial vehicles with a declared gross operating weight under 10,001 pounds
  • Motorcycles
  • Trailer coaches

Vehicle License Fee (VLF) FAQs

Q What is Vehicle License Fee (VLF) and how is the amount determined?
A The VLF was established by the Legislature in 1935 in lieu of a property tax on vehicles. The formula for VLF assessment established by the Legislature is based upon the purchase price of the vehicle or the value of the vehicle when acquired. The VLF decreases with each renewal for the first 11 years or until the vehicle is transferred. When transferred as part of a purchase/acquire, the depreciation of the VLF is based on the new purchase price/value when acquired and year of purchase/acquired. The VLF is part of the total fees due upon initial and annual vehicle registration renewal. This amount is currently 0.65 percent.

Q Where does the money go?
A The DMV returns almost all vehicle license fee revenue to the cities and counties. For more details on how your VLF money is used, contact your local city or county government officials.


Q Why did the vehicle license fee (VLF) increase?
A The VLF decrease was part of the 2011 budget plan. The new budget includes spending reductions, revenue increases, economic stimulus, and government efficiency.


Q How much is the overall VLF decrease?
A The VLF rate was 1.15 percent and decreased to 0.65 percent for most vehicles, a decrease of 0.5 percent.


Q When does the decrease go into effect?
A The decrease went into effect for registration fees due on or after July 1, 2011, whether for original registration or renewal.

Q Which vehicles are affected by the change?
A Most vehicles with fees due on or after July 1, 2011, are subject to the VLF decrease. This includes automobiles; commercial vehicles with a declared gross operating weight under 10,001 pounds, motorcycles, and trailer coaches.


Q Were commercial vehicles impacted by the decrease?
A Commercial vehicles with a declared gross vehicle weight or a combined gross vehicle weight of 10,001 pounds or more, remain at the 0.65 percent rate.  The 2009 VLF increase did not impact these vehicles.


Q How long will the decrease last?
A The decrease will remain at 0.65 percent until legislation is passed to change it to a different rate.


Q What is the minimum/maximum amount that may be charged for VLF?
A The minimum amount of VLF for any vehicle is one dollar ($1). There is no maximum; the VLF is based on the value of the vehicle.


Q Can I make payments?
A No. All registration fees must be paid in full prior to the expiration date to avoid penalty.


Q Can I pay with a credit card?
A Yes, if your billing notice indicates you are eligible to renew your registration via the Internet (www.dmv.ca.gov) or through DMV’s Automated Voice Recognition service by calling 1-800-777-0133 you can pay by credit card. Credit cards are not accepted at your local field office.


Q What can I do if I cannot afford to pay the registration fees?
A The law requires all fees to be paid before the vehicle is driven, moved, or left standing on a public highway or in a public off-street parking facility (California Vehicle Code §4000). If the vehicle is to be removed from the road, and be eligible for a planned non operation (PNO) the owner must file a PNO with DMV on or before the vehicle expiration date to avoid penalties.


Q What if I did not receive a billing notice, how do I calculate the new VLF?
A You may use the department’s Online Vehicle Registration Fee Calculator available at www.dmv.ca.gov, to determine the vehicle registration renewal fees due.