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Vehicle Registration FAQs

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Vehicle Registration FAQs

Waiving Late Fees & Penalties For Registration Renewals

The DMV is waiving late fees and penalties for vehicle registration renewals due between March 16 and May 31, 2020, and paid within 60 days of the original expiration date.

Why is the DMV taking this action?

To give Californians more time to pay their vehicle registration renewal without worrying about associated late fees and penalties during the COVID-19 pandemic.

I have already paid my registration renewal fees and was charged a late fee. Will I receive a refund for the penalties?

Yes. The DMV will mail a refund check to reimburse customers who paid for the registration penalties for expiration dates on or after March 16, 2020. If you paid your renewal by check and included late fees in the payment, do not cancel your payment.

How long will it take to receive a refund for late fees?

The DMV is working to expedite the process and issue refunds as quickly as possible.

If my registration expires on May 1, when do I have to pay my renewal to avoid late fees?

You can pay your renewal anytime within 60 days after your expiration date. For example, registration due May 1 can now be paid anytime before June 30 to avoid incurring late penalties.

With field offices closed, how do I renew my vehicle registration?

The DMV offers many convenient ways to renew your vehicle registration outside of a field office, including online, by mail, at a DMV Now kiosk, or an available business partner or auto club.

I tried renewing online or at a kiosk and got denied. Now what should I do?

Your transaction likely requires additional documentation. Complex vehicle registration renewals that require additional documentation can be done through the DMV’s Virtual Field Office, virtual.dmv.ca.gov, or at available business partners. You can find a business partner near you on the DMV Anytime webpage.

Has the DMV waived registration late fees and penalties for large groups in the past?

Yes. The DMV waives late fees and penalties for customers impacted by wildfires and natural disasters in counties where the governor declares a state of emergency.

Am I safe to drive if my registration is expired?

Yes. An Executive Order signed by Governor Gavin Newsom on April 23, 2020, temporarily suspends the requirement to have current license plate stickers through June 2020 for vehicles with registration expiring between March 4 and June 30, 2020.

My renewal notice says a smog test is required. Is that being waived too?

California has not waived smog requirements for vehicle registration. If your renewal notice indicates a smog test is required, your vehicle must pass the smog test before you receive your new registration and sticker. With the 60-day waiver of late fees and penalties for vehicle registration renewals due between March 16 and May 31, 2020, you now have more time to complete the smog check.

I don’t want to risk doing a smog test right now. Can I pay my registration renewal now and do the smog test later?

The DMV recommends customers have their vehicle pass a smog check before paying registration, and vehicles with registration expiring between March 16 and May 31, 2020, now have 60 more days beyond the expiration date to complete the smog test and pay their registration without incurring any late fees or penalties. Customers who pay their renewal fees before the smog test will not receive their new registration and sticker until the vehicle passes the smog test.

More Time To Submit A Transfer Of Ownership

The DMV is temporarily suspending, through June 21, 2020, the requirement to submit a transfer of ownership within 10 days for vehicle transfers occurring on or after March 4, 2020.

Why is the DMV taking this action?

California law requires vehicle owners to notify the DMV of a transfer of ownership within 10 days of the vehicle transfer. With field offices temporarily closed and few alternate service channels available, the DMV wants to give Californians more time to process the transaction.

Is there normally a late fee or penalties for submitting a transfer of ownership outside of 10 days?

Yes. The DMV is temporarily waiving late fees and penalties while the 10-day requirement has been suspended.

With field offices closed, how do I complete a title transfer?

Title transfers are available through the DMV Virtual Field Office, virtual.dmv.ca.gov. Customers will have the option to upload documents, provide an e-signature (if required) and pay the associated fees with an e-check.

Can I complete a title transfer through any other channel aside from the Virtual Field Office during the temporary office closure?

Yes, if you have a CA title you can mail the signed/endorsed title and other necessary documents to the CA DMV address on the back of the CA Title, Duplicate Title Application or to DMV, PO Box 942869, Sacramento, CA 94269.

Does this action apply to vehicles sold by a dealership?

The directive does not apply to the sale or transfer of a used vehicle by a dealership. In most cases, the dealership is required to file the paperwork with the DMV.

More Time to Register an Out-of-State Vehicle

The DMV is temporarily suspending, through June 21, 2020, the requirement to register a vehicle acquired or previously based outside of California within 20 days once registration becomes due between March 16 and May 31, 2020.

Why is the DMV taking this action?

California law requires vehicle owners to register a vehicle within 20 days once California registration is due. With field offices temporarily closed, the DMV wants to give Californians more time to process the transaction.

Is there normally a late fee for registering an out-of-state vehicle outside of 20 days when the registration becomes due?

The DMV is waiving late fees and penalties while the 20-day requirement has been suspended.

With field offices closed, how do I register an out-of-state vehicle?

With the 20-day requirement to register an out-of-state vehicle suspended, the DMV recommends customers to wait to register the vehicles until that service becomes available at a field office.

How do I know if I need to register an out-of-state vehicle in California?

A vehicle must be registered in California if it is based in California or is primarily used on California highways, even if registered to an owner who isn’t a California resident. For more information on specific circumstances, please see How To: Determine Residency/When Fees Are Due on Out-of-State Vehicles (HTVR 33).

Does this action apply to vehicles sold by a dealership?

The directive does not apply to the sale or transfer of a used vehicle by a dealership that submits the paperwork directly to DMV. If an out-of-state dealer gave you the paperwork to submit to DMV, then this action would apply to you.

Motor Carrier Permit Extension

The DMV is extending motor carrier permits expiring in March, April and May 2020 to June 30, 2020. A motor carrier permit is required for numerous transportation and commercial activities in California, including transporting property for compensation, hauling with a commercial vehicle weighing more than 10,000 pounds, and transporting hazardous materials.

Why is the DMV taking this action?

The DMV wants to give California businesses more time to renew their motor carrier permits during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Is there normally a late fee or penalty for renewing a motor carrier permit after the expiration date?

Yes, however normally there is a 30-day period after expiration that penalties are not assessed. After 30 days through the end of the 1st year, the penalty Is 60%. During the 2nd year period the penalty is 80% and after 3-year period begins the penalty is 160%.

Am I safe to drive if my motor carrier permit is expired?

The DMV will notify law enforcement it is extending the expiration dates for motor carrier permits expiring in March, April and May 2020. The California Vehicle Code already allows permit holders to operate for 30 days past the expiration date of the motor carrier permit under certain conditions.

Can motor carrier permits be renewed online?

Yes. The DMV begin offering online renewals earlier in 2020 on the Motor Carrier Permit Online Renewal page.

How many vehicles have a motor carrier permit in California?

At the end of February 2020, nearly 250,000 vehicles had motor carrier permits in California.

Temporary Operating Permit Extension

The DMV is allowing temporary operating permits that expire on or after March 4, 2020, to be valid through June 21, 2020.

Why is the DMV taking this action?

The DMV wants to keep temporary operating permits valid to give Californians more time to process vehicle registration transactions.

What is a temporary operating permit?

The DMV issues temporary operating permits to vehicles when all registration fees have been paid and license plates and/or stickers have not been issued. Examples of when a permit could be issued include:

  • Nonresident vehicle registration.
  • Original registration or transfer of ownership when a vehicle fails a smog inspection.
  • Vehicles referred to CHP for inspection or VIN assignment.
  • Commercial vehicles having difficulty filing federal heavy vehicle use tax.

Am I safe to drive if my temporary permit is expired?

Yes. The DMV will notify law enforcement that temporary operating permits expiring on or after March 4, 2020, are valid through June 21, 2020.

 
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