Find answers, information and resources to help you with all your California vehicle registration needs.
Is There a Grace Period to Renew your Registration?
What do I need to provide to renew my California registration if I'm late? Is there a grace period?
The CA DMV does not give any grace period for late renewals.
Penalties range depending on how late your renewal payment is received by the DMV. California does not allow a grace period for registration renewal. Penalties accrue the day after your tag expires, at midnight. An exception applies for those expiration dates which fall on weekends and/or holidays.Use the chart below to determine how much more you'll need to pay if you renew late. If you have your DMV renewal notice, see the right side center for a list on fees due based on payment postmark date.
- 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 $15.00 DMV penalty and $15.00 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
A. Renewing Registration by Mail
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.
B. Renewing Registration 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 - Expedited DMV Renewal (Overnight Delivery)
This is the fastest option to renew your DMV registration if your vehicle's registration is expired or will expire soon. Have your license plate and VIN number (last three digits) available and follow the link above. Your registration renewal order will be processed and mailed out same-day, as opposed to 3 to 4 weeks; when using the DMV website directly.
Also, if your vehicle requires a smog check or insurance, and you don't have either one or both, you'll still be able to pay your renewal fees. NeedTags will set your vehicle's registration as RDF, allowing you to avoid late penalties, and we'll clear the RDF and mail out your new registration card and sticker on the same day you have your vehicle smog checked and/or obtain insurance. There will be no waiting period for the DMV to realize you've fulfilled your smog check and/or insurance obligation, clear the RDF, and place your renewal back in queue for processing. RDF stands for Report of Deposit of Fees. It is not current registration, but simply proof that you've paid your renewal fees.
Online Option 2 - Standard DMV Processing (3 to 4 Weeks for Delivery)
Renew online through the California DMV online renewal system here. Have your vehicle's license plate number and last five digits of the Vehicle Identification Number (VIN). 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.
Important: If your vehicle requires a smog check and you will be renewing its registration online through the DMV, we highly recommend getting the smog test completed before paying your renewal fees. If not, the DMV will issue you what is referred to as an RDF once your payment is made. 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 the alternate renewal options below for faster service when paying renewal fees prior to obtaining a smog inspection and/or having insurance.
C. Renewing Registration In-Person
If you choose to renew your vehicle's registration in-person, it is recommend that you bring with you your vehicle's registration renewal notice and current identification.
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.