Vehicle Dealer License

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You need a vehicle dealer license to sell new or used vehicles.

See the full list of product types that currently require an occupational license.

Resources for Vehicle Dealers

Use these resources to help you apply for your vehicle dealer license:

How to Apply for a Vehicle Dealer License

To apply for your license, complete and submit the following:

You may also need:

  • Certificate of Completion, Dealer Education Program (used vehicle dealers and wholesale-only dealers).
  • Proof of successfully passing the used dealer test administered by DMV (used vehicle dealers and wholesale-only dealers).
    • Each applicant may make 3 attempts to pass the test. If an applicant fails the test, they must pay a $16 fee and wait one week to re-test. After the third attempt, if the applicant does not pass, they must take the dealer education program again and the testing process starts over with another 3 attempts.
  • Letter of Authorization (New trailer dealers only. Required for each line).
  • Statement of Information (SI 550) or Statement of Information LLC (LLC 12) filed with the Secretary of State (corporation, limited liability company, or limited liability partnership owned businesses only).
  • Copy of California Department of Tax and Fee Administration (CDTFA) Resale Permit (enables you to collect sales tax).
  • Photographs of the business location (refer to OL photography requirements).
  • Collect your paperwork and fees.

Once you have completed these forms and collected all documents, make an appointment with an OL inspector. The OL inspector will:

  • Inspect the main business office where you conduct business.
    • The office of the principal place of business and each location of the dealership must be established to the extent that its construction is not temporary, transitory, or mobile in nature (a trailer coach office is acceptable if it is not part of the dealer’s vehicle inventory for sale while it is being used as an office and otherwise meets the requirements of the California Vehicle Code [CVC]). The place of business is a place actually occupied either continuously or at regular periods by the dealer.
  • Inspect all books and records pertinent to the business.
  • Inspect the display area (not required if wholesale only). California Vehicle Code (CVC §11601(a), (c))
    • The display area of the principal place of business must be of sufficient size to physically accommodate vehicles of a type for which the dealership is licensed to sell.
    • The display area must be clearly for the exclusive use of the dealer for display purposes only.
    • Additional display areas are permitted within a radius of 1,000 feet from the principal place of business and any licensed branch location without being subject to separate licensing. However, such display areas must also meet the signing requirement as identified in CVC §§11709 (a). Title 13, 270.08, 270.08 (a) and 270.08 (b).
  • Inspect signs (not required if wholesale only dealer).
    • Signs must be of a permanent nature, erected on the exterior of the office or on the display area, and be constructed or painted and maintained so as to withstand reasonable climatic effects and be readable as provided for in CVC §§ 11709. CCR, Title 13, 270.06.
    • A temporary sign or device may suffice when a permanent sign is on order. Evidence of such order must be submitted to DMV prior to issuance of a temporary permit or license. California Vehicle Code (CVC §11709(a))

Fees

  • $175 non-refundable application fee
  • $1 family support program fee
  • $70 fee for each branch location (if applicable)
  • $90 fee for each dealer plate (plus county fees, if applicable)
  • $92 fee for each motorcycle plate (plus county fees, if applicable)
    • This figure will vary depending on the county where your business is located
    • Dealer plates are not required
  • $300 new motor vehicle board fee, per location (new automobile, commercial, motorcycle, ATV, motorhome, and recreational trailer dealers only)
  • $100 autobroker endorsement fee
  • $42 fee for each person submitting ADM 1316 Fingerprint Card (out-of-state applicants only)
  • $16 examination fee

Application Checklist

Take a look at the applicable checklist to make sure you completed all the application steps:

How to Renew a Vehicle Dealer License

To renew your license, complete and submit the following:

Mail your application and fees to the address on form OL 45.

Fees

  • $125 renewal application fee
  • $1 family support program fee
  • $90 fee for each dealer plate (plus county fees, if applicable)
  • $92 fee for each motorcycle plate (plus county fees, if applicable)
  • $300 new motor vehicle board fee, per location (new automobile, commercial, motorcycle, ATV, motorhome, and recreational trailer dealers only)
  • $75 autobroker endorsement fee

How to Modify a Vehicle Dealer License

To modify an existing license, complete and submit the relevant form(s):

Mail your completed form and fees to your local OL inspector.

Fees

  • $70 name change fee
  • $70 address change fee
  • $70 add a branch fee
  • $70 officer change fee

Additional Permits and Requirements

Participation in the Business Partner Automation Program is mandatory for new vehicle dealers and optional for used vehicle dealers. 

The program authorizes our partners to process and issue validated registration cards, full year registration stickers, automobile, commercial, motorcycle, exempt vehicle license plates, and sequential Arts Council License Plates from their remote locations.

Apply for the Business Partner Automation Program

New and used vehicle dealers must obtain a NMVTIS report for any used vehicle offered or displayed for sale, and must display a warning on the vehicle when the report indicates the state has branded the title.

Dealers who will be providing automobile servicing and repair are required to file an application with their local Bureau of Automotive Repair office. The application process takes approximately six to eight weeks and includes a fee.

Pursuant to  Business and Professions Code (BPC) §7502, no person will engage within this state in the activities of a repossession agency (as defined in §§7500.1 and 7500.2) unless the person holds a valid repossession agency license or is exempt from licensure pursuant to §§7500.2 or 7500.3.

Exemptions and Exclusions

A dealer who does not have an established place of business in California, but who is currently authorized to do business in this state and who has an established place of business as a vehicle dealer in another state, is not subject to licensure under this article if the business transacted in California is limited to the importation of vehicles for sale to, or the export of vehicles purchased from, persons licensed in California under CVC §§11700 et seq., 11700.1.

The term “vehicle dealer” does not include any of the following:

  • Insurance companies, banks, finance companies, public officials, or any other person coming into possession of vehicles in the regular course of business, who sells vehicles under a contractual right or obligation, in performance of any official duty, or in authority of any court of law, if the sale is for the purpose of saving the seller from loss or pursuant to the authority of a court.
  • Persons who sell or distribute vehicles of a type subject to registration for a manufacturer to vehicle dealers under this code, or who are employed by manufacturers or distributors to promote the sale of vehicles dealt in by those manufacturers or distributors. However, any of those persons who also sell vehicles at retail are vehicle dealers and subject to this code.
  • Persons regularly employed as salespersons by vehicle dealers licensed under this code while acting in the scope of that employment.
  • Persons engaged exclusively in the bona fide business of exporting vehicles or of soliciting orders for the sale and delivery of vehicles outside the territorial limits of the United States, if no federal excise tax is legally payable or refundable on any of the transactions. Persons not engaged exclusively in the bona fide business of exporting vehicles, but who are engaged in the business of soliciting orders for the sale and delivery of vehicles, outside the territorial limits of the United States are exempt from licensure as dealers only if their sales of vehicles produce less than 10 percent of their total gross revenue from all business transacted.
  • Persons not engaged in the purchase or sale of vehicles as a business, who dispose of any vehicle acquired and used in good faith, for their own personal use, or for use in their business, and not for the purpose of avoiding the provisions of this code.
  • Persons who are engaged in the purchase, sale or exchange of vehicles, other than motorcycles subject to identification under this code, which are not intended for use on the highways.
  • Persons temporarily retained as auctioneers solely for the purpose of disposing of vehicle stock inventories by means of public auction on behalf of the owners at the owner’s place of business, or as otherwise approved by the department, if intermediate physical possession or control of, or an ownership interest in, the inventory is not conveyed to the persons as retained.
  • Persons who are engaged exclusively in the business of purchasing, selling, servicing, or exchange racing vehicles, parts for racing vehicles and trailers designed and intended by the manufacturer to be used exclusively for carrying racing vehicles. A “racing vehicle” is defined as a motor vehicle of a type used exclusively in a contest of speed or in a competitive trial of speed which is not intended for use on the highways.
  • Any person who is a lessor.
  • Any person who is a renter.
  • Any salvage pool.
  • Any yacht broker who is subject to the Yacht and Ship Brokers Act Article 2 (commencing with §700) of Chapter 5 of Division 3 of the Harbors and Navigations Code and who sells boat trailers in conjunction with the sale of a vessel.
  • Any licensed automobile dismantler who sells vehicles that have been reported for dismantling as provided in CVC §11520.
  • The Director of Corrections when selling vehicles pursuant to §2813.5 of the California Penal Code.
  • Any public or private nonprofit charitable, religious, or educational institution or organization that sells vehicles if all of the following conditions are met:
    • The proceeds of the sale of the vehicles are retained by that institution or organization for its charitable, religious, or educational purposes.
    • The vehicles sold were donated to the institution or organization.
    • They meet all of the applicable equipment requirements of CVC Division 12 (commencing with §24000) and have been issued a certificate pursuant to §44015 of the Health and Safety Code.
  • The institution or organization has qualified for state tax-exempt status under §23701d of the Revenue and Taxation Code, and federal tax-exempt status under §501 (c)(3) of the Internal Revenue Code.
  • Any motor club, as defined in §12142 of the Insurance Code, that does not arrange or negotiate individual motor vehicle purchase transactions on behalf of its members but refers members to a new motor vehicle dealer for the purchase of a new motor vehicle and does not receive a fee from the dealer contingent upon the sale of the vehicle.

Vehicle Dealer Licensing Authority

California Vehicle Code (CVC) §§20, 285 – 286, 320(a), 426, 3000 et seq., 5753, 8803, 11700 et seq. The CVC is available for purchase from DMV.

California Code of Regulations §§Title 13, Chapter 1.

California Civil Code §§2981-2984.4.

California Government Code §§6157 (a) – (d).

California Health and Safety Code §§43150-43156, 43200-43213, and 43600-43660.


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