California Vehicle Registration Renewal: Step-by-Step

California Vehicle Registration Renewal Guide
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The State of California Department of Motor Vehicles dictates all drivers must renew their vehicle’s registration every year by their birthday. Those that forgo their registration renewal may face late fees and penalties.

Every driver will receive a renewal notice telling them their renewal is coming soon. The renewal notice will detail fees, dates, vehicle info, and renewal methods.

Car Registration Renewal in California is Available:

It is important to note that certain vehicles and registrations may not be eligible for online renewal. Drivers must ensure they are qualified before attempting this method. Regardless of a driver’s chosen renewal option, associated fees and taxes will likely be due when applying.

  • In-person
  • Online
  • By Phone
  • By Mail

This re-registration does not apply to new out-of-state drivers requiring initial registration. Likewise, drivers will need to clear a suspended license before renewing.

What’s Needed Before Re-Registering

Collect the following before visiting a local CA DMV office:

  1. CA CMV license plate number
  2. Last 5-digits of the vehicle’s identification number (VIN)
  3. Smog certification (if necessary)
  4. Appropriate vehicle insurance
  5. Payment method to process renewal fees

Refer to the California DMV’s fee calculator to estimate renewal pricing. The renewal fees may include unpaid traffic tickets or delinquent fees. Those fees must be paid before or during the renewal process.

How to Renew Your Vehicle’s Registration in California

Vehicle re-registration carries mostly similar processes. These are the specifics when registering through the different options:

Renewing Online

Renewing online is the easiest option:

  1. Visit the CA DMV website
  2. Fill in your personal information
  3. Enter your vehicle information
    1. Plate number
    2. Last 5-digits of the VIN
  4. Show proof of car insurance and smog certification
  5. Confirm the details and pay the renewal fee

You’ll receive the registration tag by mail in a few days after completing the process.

Renewing In-Person

Take a trip to the local CA DMV with these items:

  1. Renewal notice or registration certificate
  2. CA Driver’s license
  3. Proof of auto insurance
  4. Funds for the registration renewal fee

You’ll receive the tag letting you place it in the parking lot or later if you prefer.

Renewing by Mail

Mail renewal is available but slower, so it’s best to send early – you’ll include:

  1. Registration renewal form
  2. Proof of auto insurance
  3. The smog inspection certificate
  4. Payment details

Send the documents to:

Vehicle Registration Operations

Department of Motor Vehicles

P.O. Box 942869

Sacramento, CA 94269

It may take up to a month to receive your renewed tag.

Renewing by Phone

Individuals patient to renew over the phone will provide the following:

  1. Registration renewal notice*
  2. License plate number
  3. The vehicle’s VIN
  4. Proof of auto insurance
  5. The smog inspection certificate
  6. Payment details

*It’s expected you have paid any delinquent fees before calling.

For Military Members

Deployed military members in California may have late fees waived by visiting a local office or completing Form REG 256 (Statement of Facts). Then, process the renewal through one of the four methods mentioned above.


Renewing your  California vehicle registration is a simple process. You can renew your registration online, by mail, by phone, or in person at the DMV. It’s essential to plan and renew your registration on time to avoid late fees.

If you’re a deployed military member, you may have late fees waived if you fill out the necessary paperwork. Ensure all required documents and payment information are on hand before beginning the renewal process. With these steps, you’ll be back on the road soon!

Happy driving!