How to register a vehicle in

California

as a non-US resident

California

at a glance

Major cities
Los Angeles
San Francisco
Major ports of arrival
Los Angeles International Airport (LAX)
San Francisco International Airport (SFO)
Registration challenges
In-state address required
Average sales tax rate
8.68%

State Overview and Advice

In order to register a vehicle in California, you need a California address. If you do not have a California address, we recommend using visitor.us' services to register a vehicle that you buy in California.

The Registration Process

California vehicle registrations are handled by the California Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV).

California dealers will often, but not always, provide a 90-day temporary registration and apply for title and registration on your behalf. It's best to confirm the process with any California dealer before purchase.

If you buy your vehicle from a private party and plan to register it in California, bring the required items (below) to a DMV office in the same county as your registration address to register your vehicle. If you plan to register your vehicle elsewhere, One Trip Permits are available from DMV offices.

Taxes and Fees

Sales Tax

State sales tax

7.25%

Average local sales tax

1.43%

Average combined sales tax

8.68%

Registration fees

Light Vehicle

Fees: $138

Vehicle License Fee: 0.65% of vehicle value

Transportation Improvement Fee: $27 - $188

RV

Fees: $138

Vehicle License Fee: 0.65% of vehicle value

Transportation Improvement Fee: $27 - $188

Motorcycle

Fees: $138

Vehicle License Fee: 0.65% of vehicle value

Transportation Improvement Fee: $27 - $188

$15,000 car

$1,608

$50,000 RV

$5,078

$5,000 motorcycle

$601

Total taxes and fees

Registration Requirements

Prior owner's title

The vehicle's title must be signed by the owner(s) printed on the title, its odometer reading recorded (if less than 10 years in age), and be free of all liens in order for the prior owner's interest to be released.

Identification

A current, government-issued photo ID is required to register a vehicle in California.

Bill of sale

A bill of sale is  not required to register a vehicle in California, although signing one with the vehicle's seller is recommended.

Application

REG 343 - Application for Title or Registration

Inspection

Emissions (smog)

A biennial emissions (smog) inspection is required in many areas. A vehicle's smog inspection must be current to register it.

Safety

A safety inspection is not required to register a vehicle in California.

VIN

DMV personnel must verify the vehicle’s VIN if the vehicle was not previously registered in California.

Insurance

California's minimum liability insurance limits are 15/30/5. Proof of insurance is required to register a vehicle in California.

Residency

California does not require proof of residency to register a vehicle.

Local Address

Vehicles registered in California must be registered to a California address.

The Alternative

When you sign up with visitor.us, this is what you get:

Company Formation

visitor.us forms a Limited Liability Company for you in Montana, the best state for international visitors to register vehicles.

Vehicle Purchase

Complete paperwork and funds transfer with the seller.
The seller will list your LLC and its address as the buyer on the vehicle's title, and visitor.us will arrange for it to be couriered to us for processing.

Insurance

Insurance from a top-rated insurance company that covers you, your vehicle, and your LLC.

Vehicle Registration

You buy a vehicle, we register it in MT. Why?
- MT sales tax: 0%
- Inspections not required in MT

Annual Actions

visitor.us will keep your registration current, and courier your annual decal and registration document to you ('hold at courier location for pick-up' available, if you're on the move).
Ready to get started?
Take the visitor.us quiz and learn how to buy, register, and insure a vehicle in the States relevant to your visit.

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