Registration for a Vehicle Purchased from a Dealer

SUV Side

Buying a vehicle from a dealership often means that at least some of the registration process will be handled for you – many dealers are authorized to transfer titles and issue temporary registration to use until permanent registration and stickers arrive in the mail. If the dealer you bought your vehicle from doesn’t provide registration services, you will need to register the vehicle yourself.

To register your vehicle/vessel, you will always need:

You may also need:

To complete your registration, please visit a DMV field office in person.

Frequently Asked Questions

If your gas-powered vehicle is less than 4 years old, you do not need a smog certification, but you do need to pay a smog abatement fee.

If your gas-powered vehicle is more than 4 years old, the dealer you are buying from must get a smog certification before selling to you, unless the vehicle was smog certified within the last 90 days.

Smog inspections are not required for:

  • Diesel-powered vehicles weighing more than 14,000 pounds.
  • Electric-powered vehicles.
  • Natural gas-powered vehicles.
  • Motorcycles.
  • Trailers.
  • Special equipment (like construction or farm vehicles).
  • Off-highway vehicles.

DMV will calculate your fees when your application is submitted to DMV, but you can expect them to include:

  • Title transfer fees.
  • Use tax of 7.25% – 10.25% (based on new registered owner’s city and county of residence).

You must pay transfer fees within 10 days of the sale. If you miss that deadline, you will be charged a late penalty after 30 days. If you are registering more than one vehicle/vessel, you must pay a separate transfer fee for each vehicle/vessel.

Before buying a vehicle, it is important to know your rights and responsibilities.

  • Know and understand your rights as a consumer. Learn more from our Car Buyer’s Bill of Rights guide.
  • Know how much your ideal vehicle costs. Look up prices on the internet, in newspaper ads, vehicle pricing guides, or even by visiting several dealerships to see if the price changes. Make sure you also compare interest rates.
  • All California dealers must show you a National Motor Vehicle Title Information System (NMVTIS) report.
    • If you buy a vehicle/vessel from another person instead of a dealer, you can get a NMVTIS report at for a small fee.
  • Make sure you read and understand your purchase contract. Don’t be afraid to ask questions or get a second opinion. You shouldn’t sign anything you don’t understand.
  • Make sure you read and understand the manufacturer’s warranty and any extras the dealer offers you (such as service contracts).
  • Check to find out if your vehicle has a safety recall notice that has not been repaired.
  • If you own your vehicle with another person, be aware that writing an “or” between co-owners’ names means one owner can sell the vehicle without the other’s consent. If you use a slash (“/”) or “and,” between the owners’ names, the signature of both owners is required.
  • There are some restrictions on buying a vehicle/vessel from another state. You can learn more in our Driver Education section.

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