Vehicle Industry Registration Procedures Manual

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Section 13 of 38

Chapter 12: Nonresident Vehicles

12.000 Introduction

A nonresident vehicle is a vehicle last registered in another state or country.

Any vehicle based in California or primarily used on California highways must be registered in California, even if the vehicle is registered to a nonresident owner. A vehicle is considered to be primarily or regularly used on California highways if it is located or operated in this state for a greater amount of time than it is located or operated in any other individual state during the registration period (VC §4000.4).

When California registration is required, an application for original California registration must be made within 20 days of the date registration became due to avoid penalties or 30 days from the date of sale on the Report of Sale–Used Vehicle (REG 51) form for California dealers (VC §§4152.5 and 9553(c)(1)). Registration becomes due:

  • When a nonresident vehicle owner becomes a California resident. A person is considered a resident if California is the:
    • State where registered to vote.
    • Location of gainful employment or place of business. A person working for wages or operating a business is gainfully employed. Military personnel are not considered to be gainfully employed in California, even when they also hold a civilian job.
    • State where resident tuition is paid at a public institution of higher education.
    • Location where dependents attend a primary or secondary school.
    • State declared for homeowner’s property tax exemption.
    • Location of a property rented or leased for use as a residence.
    • Place declared as the state of residence to obtain a license or any other privilege or benefit not ordinarily extended to a nonresident.
    • State that issued the driver license in the person’s possession, except nonresident students. Refer to Nonresident Students section in this chapter.
    • Place determined to be the state of residence as evidenced by other acts, occurrences, or events that indicate presence in the state is more than temporary or transient.
  • Upon entry into California, for a business with an established place of business within California and regularly using a vehicle subject to registration (VC §6702).