How much time do I have to renew my registration after my tags have expired?
You may renew your registration at any time, however there are penalties associated with renewing late. California does not allow a grace period for registration renewal. Penalties accrue the day after your tag expires. Late fees depend on when you make your payment. Use the chart below as a guide.
- 1 - 10 Days Late - Additional 10% vehicle license and weight fee plus $10.00 DMV penalty and $10.00 CHP fee
- 11 - 30 Days Late - Additional 20% vehicle license and weight fee plus $20.00 DMV penalty and $20.00 CHP fee
- 31 Days - 1 Year - Additional 60% vehicle license and weight fee plus $30.00 DMV penalty and $30.00 CHP fee
- 1 Year - 2 Years - Additional 80% vehicle license and weight fee plus $50.00 DMV penalty and $50.00 CHP fee
- More Than 2 Years - Additional 160% vehicle license and weight fee plus $100.00 DMV penalty and $100.00 CHP fee
What is the penalty for driving with expired tags and can my car be impounded?
The penalty for driving a vehicle with expired registration may be as severe as a vehicle impoundment. Ordinarily an officer will issue a citation for expired registration under CVC 4000a(1) and allow you to pay the penalty through traffic court if your tags aren't expired over 6 months. The law does allow an officer to impound any vehicle with expired registration greater than 6 months. A 4000a(1) citation is a correctable offense and not counted as a traffic point against your driving record. The penalties however, especially if your vehicle is impounded, are severe.
I lost my DMV registration renewal notice. Can I still renew online?
Yes, you may. You will need the last 3 digits of your vehicle's VIN number (vehicle identification number), the license plate number and the zip code where the vehicle is registered. You may then use our online registration renewal system to look up your vehicle's registration renewal fees. You can find your vehicle's VIN on any registration paperwork, from the vehicle's driver side door post, or from the VIN located behind the vehicle's windshield, on the lower left (driver's side) corner.
Do I need car insurance before I can start the renewal process?
When processing your registration renewal through NeedTags, you may pay your DMV fees without current insurance coverage. This will help you avoid DMV late fees in case you can't get coverage before your registration expiration date, or if your insurance company hasn't yet sent electronic proof of insurance to the Department of Motor Vehicles. Once your renewal order is submitted, NeedTags will check DMV insurance records. If an insurance policy record for your vehicle is not found, we'll contact you to collect this information the easiest way possible. Most often you'll simply snap a photo of your insurance card and email it to us. This speeds up the process tremendously. You will receive you new registration sticker and registration card once you submit proof of insurance or upon the DMV receiving electronic proof of insurance from your insurance carrier. Insurance companies in California are required by law to electronically report auto insurance policy information to the DMV for all private-use vehicles, (CVC §16058). Commercial or business insurance policies are exempt from electronic reporting. Reporting time is 30 days from the date coverage is obtained, and 45 days from when coverage has been canceled. Depending on how fast your auto insurance company sends data to the DMV, the DMV insurance system may or may not reflect your current insurance status. Records will indicate no financial liability coverage on record when you actually have coverage. We can help resolve these issues.
Do I need a smog check before I can renew my vehicle registration?
For the purpose of registration renewal, vehicles 6 years and older require a smog inspection every two years. Your DMV renewal notice will show the requirement. NeedTags.com can accept your renewal payment and post fees with the DMV so that you do not accrue penalties. Your new registration card and sticker will be mailed to you after your vehicle passes the smog inspection. If you've recently failed a smog test, this is the best option to avoid late fees. After your vehicle passes the smog test, the station conducting the inspection will electronically transmit your smog certificate to the Department of Motor Vehicles as well as give you a print out of your smog test results. Pay particular attention to the type of smog check the DMV has required. You may be able to visit any smog station or only one that is STAR certified depending on the inspection type requirement.
What can I do if I need a smog check but my car is temporarily out of state?
If your vehicle is temporarily located out of state and its registration renewal notice indicates a smog certificate is required, you do not necessarily need to drive it to California to obtain a smog inspection. When completing your renewal by mail, simply submit along with your renewal notice an Application for Temporary Smog Exemption (REG 5103)
. After your renewal is processed, the DMV will mail your new registration card and sticker to the mailing address on file.
This may or may not be convenient for you if your vehicle is required to have current tags in the state which you are located temporarily. Also when completing your vehicle's registration renewal through the California DMV, the smog exemption process takes approximately 30 days between the time you mail in the REG 5103 and the DMV reviews and authorizes it. If you choose to take this route, you may need to have someone at your mailing address forward your new registration to your out-of-state address once the DMV processes your renewal.
Smog Check Exemption Online:
To avoid the hassle of filing your smog exemption by mail, or in the case that you don't have someone available at your mailing address to forward your new registration out of state, the better option is to use NeedTags to renew your vehicle's registration and to allow us to file your smog check exemption online. When you order registration renewal through NeedTags and you email us your REG 5103 instead of mailing it to the DMV, we'll process your renewal order without a smog check and mail your new registration card and sticker to your out of state address on the same business day on which we receive your REG 5103. We allow you to email us the REG 5103 form, which speeds up the process tremendously. This is absolutely the best method to renew your registration without a smog check when your vehicle is located out of state. This service is especially beneficial to RV'ers, students, and military personnel... but really to anyone who is temporarily out of state and needs new stickers fast. Smog exemptions are not allowed when a vehicle is located in Nevada or Mexico.
How To Order:
If you need a smog check exemption, please contact us
with your vehicle's license plate number and the last 3 digits of the VIN prior to submitting your registration renewal order online. This is an additional paid service. We will provide you an email address to submit your REG 5103 upon receiving your request, along with information on the cost to filing your smog exemption online based on your vehicle's registration status. If you've already paid your renewal fees through the DMV and would like to now file a smog exemption through NeedTags, simply indicate so in your message. Our recommendation is that you process both your registration renewal and smog check exemption through NeedTags as this will make the process as smooth and efficient as possible.
Can I receive my registration card and sticker at my new address?
Yes. NeedTags can process your vehicle registration renewal and mail your sticker and registration card to any address in the U.S. This will not perform a Change of Address with the DMV. You must contact the DMV to officially change your address. To change your address on file with the California Department of Motor Vehicles you must have the following:
- California driver license or California identification card
- Social security number
- Last issued vehicle or vessel registration card
- Address in the United States
My registration renewal is due but I have parking tickets. Can I still renew my car?
It depends on whether the parking tickets or toll violations been recorded with the DMV. If they are, you may renew your vehicle's registration but only if you choose to pay the parking or toll tickets too. Your total registration renewal fees will include an itemized list of outstanding parking tickets which you may make payment for, along with your registration renewal payment. You may not renew your vehicle's registration without paying the parking citation(s) on record with the DMV. The good news is that not all parking and toll tickets are recorded with the DMV, only those which are delinquent. Your renewal notice will indicate which tickets and/or toll violations must be paid as well as the date of the parking ticket(s) or toll violation(s), the court through which the violation is handled, the citation number and the fine amount. If using our online registration renewal system, we will not require payment of delinquent parking tickets or toll violations until we confirm this information with the DMV. During the processing of your order and if the DMV has recorded any unpaid citations, we will notify you so that you may choose to complete your renewal order along with paying the fines. If the Department of Motor Vehicles has recorded parking or toll violations, payment for both your DMV renewal fees and outstanding fines must be made if intend on renewing your registration, either online, by mail or in-person. If you choose to contest a parking ticket, you will need to contact the municipality which issued the citation prior to being able to complete your renewal. If you've paid for a parking ticket yet the California Department of Motor Vehicles indicates parking penalties are still due, it is possible your citation clearance has not been filed yet. You may be required to provide proof-of-payment to expedite the renewal process.
My vehicle registration is suspended. How do I remove the suspension?
The Department of Motor Vehicles will mail a letter to a vehicle owner indicating that the vehicle registration is suspended or will be suspended soon. More than often the suspension is related to having lapsed auto insurance coverage or not having auto liability coverage at all. Obtaining auto insurance and paying a $14.00 suspension reinstatement fee to the Vehicle Registration Financial Responsibility Program will clear the suspension. If your vehicle is currently insured, but DMV records still show that it is not, it is possible your insurance company has not yet provided electronic proof of insurance to the DMV. You will receive instruction on how to submit proof of insurance to the DMV once you access your vehicle's suspension record using the DMV Insurance Inquiry System
. The system will allow you to learn the reason(s) your registration is suspended. The system will show you the current status of auto insurance and suspension reason. It'll identify any requirements due and provide an option for submitting payment, if required. Please note, a DMV office cannot process paperwork to clear vehicle insurance suspensions. Insurance suspensions are only be handled by the Vehicle Registration Financial Responsibility Program, and the only method to clear up the suspension is to either use the online insurance inquiry system or by calling the DMV at (800) 777-0133. Once your registration suspension is removed, you may renew your vehicle's registration, online, by mail or in person.
I received the registration renewal notice for a car I sold. What should I do?
Contact the DMV in-person or mail-in a Notice of Transfer and Release of Liability. Anytime a vehicle is sold in California the seller has a responsibility to report the sale to the Department of Motor Vehicles within 10 days of the sale date. Typically you would tear the bottom portion of the Pink Slip (Release of Liability section) and mail it in to the DMV. If you've already done that, it is possible the DMV has not received it or your registration renewal was mailed out before the DMV was made aware of the sale. In either case, registration is now the responsibility of the new owner, but you must ensure the DMV records the release of liability and new owner information. Without an official DMV recording you may still be liable for registration fees.
How are DMV fees calculated in California?
The California DMV collects transportation related fees from car owners upon initial registration and during registration renewal, annually. These fees can be broken down into 6 main categories.
- DMV Registration Fee - $46.00 for initial registration/renewal.
- Vehicle License Fee (VLF) - Based on .65% of the value of your vehicle.
- Weight Fee - Applies to commercial vehicles. Determined by weight.
- County/District Fees - Between $7.00 and $47.00 depending on the county in which your vehicle is registered.
- Smog Abatement Fee - $20.00. Applies to vehicles which do not require a smog inspection.
- Owner Responsibility Fee - $7.00 fee for failing to appear on a citation, if applicable.
- CHP Fee - $24.00 authorized under CVC 9250.8, 9250.13, and 9552–9554).
Fees collected are distributed as follows: 40.7% to local government (cities/counties), 25.7% to the CHP, 13.9% to the DMV, 13.0% to Caltrans, 1.7% to the California Air Resources Board, 4.3% to other state agencies, and 0.7% to the general fund.
I don't plan on driving my car anymore. Do I still need to renew the registration?
No. If your registration is current you may pay a $20.00 fee and place your vehicle under Planned Non-Operation (PNO) status. You may obtain a PNO filing up to 60 days before and 90 days after the expiration of your current registration. If you submit an application for PNO after your registration has expired you may have to pay late fees on the full registration amount. After a PNO is issued you may not operate or park your vehicle anywhere it may be subject to citation. If your vehicle is cited for any traffic or parking violation you may be subjected to full registration fees and penalties for that year. A PNO is the best option for vehicle owners who want to store their vehicles for reasons related to needing repairs or appreciation in value.