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Guide to the California DMV

CA DMV Guide

California, the most populated state in the nation, naturally has a hefty number of drivers and vehicles on the road. Whether you are native to the state or a transplant, you’ll find their DMV offices and process are relatively streamlined but you may not be able to beat the wait times with so many people looking to complete DMV transactions. California though is a state that has embraced privatization which has generally relieved some of the wait and stress. Here are a few of the items you will find yourself needing to complete with the California DMV

California Vehicle Title and Registration

You may find yourself in need a transferring a title to California if you have recently moved to the state or purchased a vehicle from out of state. You may need to complete a transfer because you purchased a new or used vehicle from a dealership or private party within the state. Whatever your situation, there are several requirements that must be met before you are issued a California title in your name. This checklist outlines the standard requirements although you may need additional information and documentation such as in instances where a vehicle is gifted between qualifying family members.

When you title your vehicle in the state of California, you can complete the registration paperwork at the same time. California is an inspection state and requires an emission inspection every other year. Some exceptions apply such as for new vehicles and antiques. Registrations are issued for 12 months and must be renewed every year on or before the day the vehicle was initially registered

Renewing Your Vehicle Registration in California

California provides many convenient options for vehicles owners to renew including several licensed and private companies that can speed up the process. You can renew by mail or by phone. You can also renew online or in person directly with the DMV or with a licensed company.

If you have been issued any traffic or parking tickets, you will be required to pay those at the time you renew along with your renewal fee. Additionally, you will be assessed late penalties if you renew any time after your registration expires. To avoid late penalties, renew on or up to 75 days before your expiration date. Learn more about renewing your registration in California.

Auto Insurance Requirements in California

If you own and operate a vehicle in California, minimum coverage is required to assure that you can take financial responsibility for damages resulting from a crash in which you are determined to be at fault. This includes:

  • Property Damage coverage in the amount of $5,000
  • Injury or Death coverage in the amount of $15,000 for 1 person and $30,000 for 2 people

While insurance providers usually maintain digital files of the coverage you have, it is important to carry proof of insurance with you always. This is usually in the form of an insurance card which may need if it is requested by law enforcement, when you renew, or if you are involved in a crash.

California Driver License and IDs

All states have different requirements that must be met before an identification card or driver’s license is issued. Requirements vary based on whether you are over or under 18 years of age and what type of license you are applying for.

Teen drivers are required to take driver education training courses before they can apply for any driving privileges. Driving privileges for teens are staggered via the use of provisional permits in which driving restrictions are applied. Adults 18 years of age and older will not have the same educational requirements but will need to pass DMV written and practice tests. If you are already licensed in a different state, you may be able to apply for a California’s driver’s license with minimal need for training or testing.