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California Department of Motor Vehicles
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How To Register An Out-of-State Vehicle
(Nonresident Vehicle)

Definition of a nonresident vehicle

A nonresident vehicle was last registered outside the state of California. Anyone who brings a vehicle into California, or purchases a nonresident vehicle while in California, should be aware of the registration requirements.

NOTE:California law prohibits residents or businesses from importing and/or registering a new vehicle with less than 7,500 miles at the time of purchase unless it meets or is exempt from California Emission standards. If you acquire a 49-State vehicle (manufactured for all states except California) from another state or country, you may not be able to register your vehicle in California.

Reference:Health & Safety Code Section 43151(A)

When fees are due

Fees must be paid within 20 days of entry or residency to avoid penalties. Any vehicle owned by a California resident must be registered within 20 days of entry into California unless a special permit was obtained. Nonresidents whose vehicles are properly registered to them in their home state or jurisdiction may operate their vehicles in California until they:

  • Accept gainful employment in California.
  • Claim a homeowner's exemption in California.
  • Rent or lease a residence in California.
  • Intend to live or be located here on a permanent basis (for example, acquire a California driver license, acquire other licenses not ordinarily extended to a nonresident, registered to vote).  
  • Enroll in an institution of higher learning as a California resident or enroll their dependents in school (K-12).

NOTE: Nonresident military personnel stationed in California or their spouses may operate their vehicles with valid out-of-state license plates from their home state or the state where the military person was last stationed.

Registering the vehicle

The following is required to register a nonresident vehicle:
  • An Application for Title or Registration (REG 343) (PDF) signed by all registered owners as they appear on the out-of-state registration and/or title. Enter the name(s) and address of the registered owner(s) and lienholder (legal owner), if any, and complete the questions on the application.
  • Last issued out-of-state title. (Not required if there is no change of registered owner and a California title is not requested.) If the out-of-state title is not surrendered the California registration card issued will say nontransferable and a California title will not be issued.Last issued registration certificate, if the applicant is the same as the registered owner shown on the out-of-state title and the vehicle entered California with valid out-of-state registration, or if the title has been lost.
  • Last issued registration certificate or renewal notice for the current year or a letter from the last registration jurisdiction verifying the registration period.
  • The vehicle must be inspected by an authorized DMV employee, law enforcement officer, or a licensed vehicle verifier. These inspections are most easily obtained by bringing the vehicle to the nearest DMV, where there is no extra fee charged for the inspection. For faster service, make an Appointment(s) .
  • Smog certification, if applicable
  • Weight certificate, if applicable
  • Declaration of Gross Vehicle Weight/Combined Gross Vehicle Weight (REG 4008) (PDF) form for commercial motor vehicles (pickups with unladen weight of 8,000 lbs. or less are exempt from this requirement)
  • Permanent Trailer Identification (PTI) Application Certification (REG 4017) (PDF).

Change of ownership

The following is required for a change of ownership:
  • Last issued out-of-state title signed by the seller(s) and the lienholder, if any. If you do not have the title, a duplicate must be requested.
  • Vehicle/Vessel Transfer and Reassignment Form (REG 262), if the person from whom you are buying the vehicle is not the registered owner.
  • Odometer
  • Disclosure on the title or REG 262 signed by the seller and buyer, if the vehicle is less than 10 model years old.
  • If the only change is the removal of a lienholder, a release of interest on the appropriate line of the title or a notarized Lien Satisfied/Title Holder Release (REG 166) (PDF)  from the lienholder is required.

Requesting a duplicate out-of-state title

If the title has been lost, stolen, or destroyed, a duplicate title must be obtained from the state that issued your out-of-state title.  You should submit an application for California registration while awaiting the duplicate title to avoid late penalties.

Fees that may be due

The amount of fees that may be due depends on a variety of factors. An exact amount can only be calculated when you submit your application to the department. For an estimate, you may use the online Vehicle Registration Fee Calculator. The type of fees collected are:

  • Registration Fee : Collected on the majority of on-highway vehicles to offset DMV costs.
  • Reflectorized License Plate Fee:  Collected to cover license plate issuance.
  • California Highway Patrol Fee:  (CHP) Collected to offset CHP costs.
  • County Fees: Vary by county. Collected at the request of your California county of residence for special programs.
  • Vehicle License Fee (VLF): Based on the value of your vehicle as determined by the Certificate of Cost or Bill of Sale. (Disabled Veterans and Nonresident military personnel stationed in California may apply for a military exemption from the VLF on vehicles they register in California.)
  • Permanent Trailer Identification (PTI) Original Fee: All trailers, except trailer coaches and park trailers, are under the PTI program. PTI trailers are not subject to registration, CHP, county, and vehicle license fees. PTI trailers pay an original fee and then a service fee every five years for renewal.
  • Weight Fee: Assessed on pickups with an unladen weight of 8,000 lbs. or less, and commercial motor vehicles with gross operating weight under 10,001 lbs. This fee is based on the empty or unladen weight.
  • Commercial Vehicle Registration Act (CVRA) Fee: Assessed on commercial motor vehicles with an operating weight of 10,001 lbs. or more (and including pickups with an unladen weight of 8,001 lbs. or more). This fee is based on the motor vehicle gross vehicle weight (GVW) or combined gross vehicle weight (CGVW). Tow trucks used to assist the motoring public to tow or carry impounded vehicles are subject to CVRA fees. The tow truck’s declared weight is based on its gross vehicle weight rating (GVWR), not a combined gross vehicle weight.
  • Cargo Theft Interdiction Program (CTIP) Fee: Commercial motor vehicles operating at 10,001 lbs. or more are assessed a CTIP fee. This fee is not due for pickups, tow trucks, or vehicles for hire used solely to transport people. It is used by the CHP to recover stolen cargo and promote security for commercially registered vehicles.
  • Use Tax: Collected at the same rate as your California city of residence sales tax. Legislation requires payment of use tax on a vehicle purchased outside California and brought into California within 365 days of the purchase date.
  • Nonresident Service Fee: Collected on vehicles and vessels other than PTI trailers and Special Equipment.
  • Penalties: Assessed when fees for a nonresident vehicle are not paid within 20 days of the date they became due.  PTI trailers are only assessed late use tax penalties.

NOTE:For registration fees, see the brochure, Registration Related Fees (FFVR 34).

Weight certificate

A California public weighmaster’s certificate of the vehicle’s unladen or empty weight is required for trucks and pickups. This certificate may be obtained from many moving and storage companies for a nominal fee. For a listing of public scales check your local telephone directory for the public weighmasters near you. For a listing of weighmasters by county refer to California Department of Agriculture.

A weight certificate is not required for:

  • Trucks or pickups previously registered in California, when the prior California registration shows the empty or unladen weight, and the vehicle has not been modified to change the weight.
  • Trucks or pickups with an  unladen weight of 6,000 pounds or less where the empty, unladen, scale, or tare weight is indicated on an out-of-state certificate of title or registration, and the vehicle has not been modified to change the weight.
  • Two-axle or three-axle trucks weighing 10,001 pounds or more. The estimated weight is required.
  • Autos, trailers, and motorcycles.

Registering a Vehicle From Out-of-State Checklist

HTVR 9 (REV 5/2009)