Why Is Car Registration So Expensive In California | Know The Reasons

Why Is Car Registration So Expensive In California

If you are a resident in California or plan to move there, then you are probably familiar with the sky-high vehicle registration fee over there. Registration fee is a lot for new residents and people who have been living in California for years alike.

Now the question is, why is car registration so expensive in California? 

The main reason the fee is so high is that it considers many factors like smog inspections, weight certificates, license plates, etc. Since it charges an additional fee for all these, the overall amount is quite high.

Required Registration Fees

Although there are different amounts of high registration fees charged according to various factors, some fees are common for all vehicles. These include a $46 registration fee, a $23 California Highway Patrol fee, and a license fee of 0.65% of the vehicle’s value.

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Factors Affecting The High Car Registration Fees

Several factors come into play while talking about the ridiculously high registration fee of cars in California. Some of these factors are –

1. Value of the Vehicle

The value of the car is one of the first things to impact car registration fees. If you drive an expensive car, you have to pay a higher price than the others. In other words, the higher the value of the vehicle, the more the registration fee amounts to.

2. Insurance Company

The type of insurance company you have for your car will also impact the registration fee. Proper insurance is a necessity for driving cars in California. If a reputable insurance company does not back up the vehicle you own, then the authority will charge a higher car registration fee.

3. Increased Cost of Living

With increased modernization, the cost of living is also rising substantially. The high cost of living impacts everything from bus fare to home rent, and you guessed it – car registration fees.

Other Pertinent Factors

There are some other factors that are relevant during the registration process of cars in California. These factors also end up increasing the registration fee-

1. Smog Inspections

In California, a smog test is conducted on every car. A prerequisite of being selected for registration is to pass the smog test. Since the smog test is done quite extensively, it also impacts the amount paid for registration and increases it. 

2. Weight Certifications

Some trucks need to have their weight certified before they can be confirmed for registration. Ideally, the benchmark is 10,000 pounds. If your truck crosses that weight, then a weight certification has to be obtained. 

The weight certificates vary depending on the location where weight is calculated and the truck’s total weight. You will have to pay more to obtain a weight certificate if the weight is high. 

3. License Plates

Like we mentioned before, a license plate makes up about 0.65% of the value of your car. But besides that, obtaining a license plate also costs money

This is because the registration authority insists on using the latest license plates. On top of that, the license plates need to have an updated registration sticker so no one can use a fake one and get away with it.

Registration Process

The whole car registration process is quite extensive in California and requires a lot of effort. The registration process varies depending on several things, which we are going to discuss below.

First of all, regardless of whether you bought your car from California or some other state, if you are going to drive it in California, you have to get it registered there too. The Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) is the designated authority to do the registration process.

You will find the process different for cars bought at a dealership and cars purchased from private parties. Usually, dealerships make the task a lot easier and issue a temporary registration card. This card can be used until you obtain your actual registration card from the DMV.

Although buying from private parties is highly practiced around California, the registration process gets slightly complicated in this aspect. You have to register your car within ten days of purchasing it from a private party and face fees otherwise. 

Besides all these, it is necessary to renew the registration every year, which adds more to the fee. The DMV usually has the job of warning the car owners ahead of their registration expiration date. There are several renewing methods, including registering in person, via mail, or through online renewals. 

Frequently Asked Questions

  1. What documents do I need for registering my car in California?

To get the car registered with the DMV, you need these documents – a completed application for registration, a smog certificate, the title of the vehicle, and the payment of fees.

  1. What does the vehicle registration fee calculator do?

The vehicle registration fee calculator helps estimate the amount of fee you will need to pay to register a car in California. Be warned that it doesn’t take into account the late fees.

  1. What are the fees required by all vehicles?

Although the total registration fees vary according to several factors, some are the same for all vehicles. Those include a registration fee of $46 and a California Highway patrol fee of $23.


This article is bound to give you a better understanding of why is car registration so expensive in California. We hope you can keep in mind all the factors and the whole registration process and hopefully avoid late fees.

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