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All Topics > Registration Renewal > How to Renew Vehicle Registration After It Has Expired?

How to Renew Vehicle Registration After It Has Expired?

What do I need to provide to renew my California registration if I'm already expired? Any special paperwork needed?


No special paperwork is needed to renew your vehicle's California registration after its expiration period. Here are your options:

If you are renewing by mail...

Review your registration renewal notice, locate the additional late fee section on the lower right hand corner of the renewal form. You should see a Late Payment Fee Chart which shows four incremental payment amounts depending on how late you are submitting your renewal fees. Simply write out a check for the appropriate amount and mail it in with your renewal notice. Expect to receive your renewed registration card and sticker within 3-4 weeks.
Registration Renewal Notice Late Fees
Note: If your vehicle is due for a smog check, you should complete it beforehand. If not, the DMV will issue you what is referred to as an RDF. It stand for Report of Deposit of Fees. It is not current registration, but simply proof that you've paid your registration renewal fees. You will no longer be charged late penalties. Once your vehicle receives its smog inspection, your new registration card and sticker will be mailed to you. It is not recommend to pay your renewal fees to the DMV by mail or in-person if you haven't smog checked your vehicle and a smog inspection is required, or if your vehicle is uninsured. The reason being, it takes the DMV longer to issue registration once a vehicle has been RDF'ed. It's best to pay renewal fees directly to the DMV only when you have both insurance and smog certificate on record. See alternative renewal options below for faster service when paying renewal fees prior to obtaining a smog inspection and/or insurance.

If you are renewing online...

Simply have ready your vehicle's license plate number and the last 5 digits of VIN (vehicle identification number), and proceed to the online registration renewal portal at NeedTags for expedited renewal service or the DMV website for regular processing. Your vehicle's VIN can be found:

  • On your current registration card or renewal notice.
  • On the vehicle's public VIN plate located on the lower left hand corner of the windshield.
  • On the doorpost decal (driver's side door jam).

Online Option 1 - Standard DMV Processing (3 to 4 Weeks for Delivery)

Renew online through the California DMV online renewal system. Have your vehicle's license plate number and last five digits of the Vehicle Identification Number (VIN). You can get both of these off of an old registration card, renewal notice, or directly from your vehicle. As mentioned above, the VIN can be obtained either from the public VIN (located behind the windshield on the lower drivers side corner) or from the drivers side door post. Same as with visiting a local DMV branch office, ensure you have your smog check completed (if your vehicle requires one) and insurance on record with the DMV. Do not use the state's online system if either of these requirements are not fulfilled. The system will automatically RDF (Report of Deposit of Fees) your vehicle's registration and it will take you much longer to receive your renewed registration card and sticker. Use NeedTags as an alternative. See Online Renewal Option 2 below.

Online Option 2 - Expedited DMV Processing (1 to 3 Days for Delivery)

Renew online through This is your best choice to renew your registration if your expiration date has passed. Similar to the state DMV website, you'll need to have your vehicle's license plate and VIN number (last three digits only). The difference will be that your renewal order will be processed and mailed out same-day, as opposed to 3 to 4 weeks. This is the best solution when your registration is expired or about to expire soon. Also, if your vehicle requires a smog check or insurance and you don't have one or the other or both, you'll be able to pay your renewal fees (NeedTags will set an RDF), avoiding late penalties. We will clear the RDF and mail you your new registration card and sticker the same day you have your vehicle smog tested and/or obtain insurance. You will not have to wait the 3 to 4 week period for the DMV to realize you've fulfilled your smog check or insurance obligation, to clear your RDF, and place your renewal back in queue for processing.

If you are renewing in-person...

In-Person Option 1 - DMV Branch Office Renew in-person at a local DMV branch office. Take with you your current or expired registration card and ID. You'll see a DMV clerk, pay your renewal fees and be issued your renewed registration. Remember to have a valid smog certificate on record (if required) as well as current auto liability insurance.

In-Person Option 2 - No line, No Wait Registration Offices Renew in-person at a local vehicle registration office. These offices are known as BPA (Business Partner Automation) providers . They are your DMV office alternatives. BPAs are privately owned businesses contracted by the California Department of Motor Vehicles to provide in-house vehicle registration services. They provide the same services which you would find at a state run DMV office but without long lines, and with very few limitations as far as the types of vehicle registration transactions they can perform. They carry official DMV inventory and can provide same-day license plates, stickers, vehicle registration cards, OHV tags, and more. If visiting a vehicle registration office, once again, make sure if you need a smog check, it's taken care of and that your vehicle is currently insured. They will be able to renew your vehicle's registration and issue you new stickers and registration card on the spot.


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What DMV Service May We Help With?
The VIN is a 17 digit identification number assigned to automobiles.

The VIN can also be found on your registration card or renewal notice.

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