The cost of California license plates can vary depending on the type of vehicle and the period of registration. In most cases, the price for a new plate is $23.
If you want to customize your plate with special characters or a slogan, then you could pay between $50 and $103.
California now offers digital license plates, which cost between $19 and $25 a month.
Fees are usually lower for a license plate renewal than for new license plates.
Additional taxes and fees may apply to both new and renewal registrations.
What Is The Process For Getting a New License Plate?
California requires each vehicle to have a front license in addition to the rear plate. (All states require vehicles to have a rear license plate. Some states require a front license plate, while others do not.)
Here’s how to get new license plates from the California Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV).
How To Apply For First-Time Issuance Of a License Plate
Before applying for the license plate, you will need a valid vehicle registration card from the DMV.
To the registration process, you'll need:
- Completed and verified Application for Registration
- Proof of ownership (usually in the form of your vehicle's title)
- Your driver's license (or other valid government ID cards)
- Proof of insurance
- Information about your vehicle, such as the vehicle identification number, make, and model
- A valid smog inspection certificate.
After you prepare all the paperwork, you will then be able to apply for your license plate at the California DMV.
Applying for your first-time issuance of a license plate in California is easy and straightforward. You will first need to apply for a transfer of title. Along with a completed application, you will need to provide proof that you own the car, such as a bill of sale or Certificate of Title.
Once you have done this, your application for title transfer must be approved by the DMV before receiving license plates. Submit proof of valid liability insurance, an identification card, and also any sales taxes and fees that are owed. After submitting your paperwork and payment at a local DMV office, you will be issued two license plates.
How to Order a License Plate in California
When applying for a license plate, there are three different ways that you can order your plates:
- Order license plates in person at your local DMV office
- Order license plates online
- Order license plates through the mail.
Whether you apply online, in person, or by mail, you need to fill out an application form that includes your personal information, address, and vehicle registration info.
Once you have submitted the form, you will be asked to pay the fee. The fee varies, depending on the type of license plate you choose, but for standard license plates is $23.
If you order online or in person, you can pay with a credit card, debit card, or electronic check. If you mail in your application, you must enclose a check or money order made out to your local DMV office.
How Much is the CA Vehicle Registration Fee?
The California Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) is responsible for vehicle registration and driver licensing in California.
California will charge you a base annual registration fee of $53 to register your vehicle under your name, plus extra fees like
- A $23 title transfer fee
- An $8 smog transfer fee for air quality and emissions inspection
- A $100 electric vehicle (EV) fee (only for plug-in hybrid or electric vehicles)
- A $27 California Highway Patrol (CHP) fee
- A transportation improvement fee of $27 to $188, based on vehicle value.
Types Of License Plates and Their Corresponding Fees
There are many different license plate types: passenger license plates, commercial vehicle plates, special license plates, trailer plates, digital license plates, and motorcycle plates. Each state has its own design for license plates, and some states offer vanity plates that can be personalized with a message or image.
License plates measure 6 by 12 inches and are rectangular (motorcycle license plates are smaller, measuring 4 by 7 inches). They are made of aluminum, which is durable and resistant to rust.
California license plates have 7 characters (across the 50 states, license plates have anywhere from six to eight characters).
How Much Are Standard License Plates In California?
Passenger vehicles, commercial motor vehicles, motorcycles, permanent trailers, trailer coaches, and park trailers all have standard California license plates that confirm registration and help identify them.
Standard license plates are issued in any of the following scenarios:
- Purchase a new vehicle.
- Replace plates that have been lost, stolen, or damaged.
- Surrender special interest license plates.
How Much Are Personalized Plates In California?
California has a different pricing model than other states when it comes to vanity plates. Where most states charge a flat fee, California charges based on the specific vanity plates requested.
Special plates cost $50 to purchase and another $40 to renew each year. A personalized plate with letters and numbers spelling out a statement or message costs $98. The annual renewing fee for the personalized plates costs an additional $78.
Disabled Veteran License Plate Fees
There are no registration or license costs for California disabled veterans to receive the disabled veteran license plate.
Disabled veteran license plates and decals are available for only one California resident veteran's vehicle.
To obtain a disabled veteran license plate, your disability must be confirmed by the Department of Veterans Affairs or the service that released you.
After receiving and completing the military paperwork and application, you may either deliver it to the DMV field office or send it by mail.
Digital License Plate Fees
In California, a battery-powered digital plate costs $19.95 per month. A hard-wired digital license plate costs $24.95 per month.
California drivers can now get a digital license plate, also called an ELP (electronic license plate). With the adoption of AB-984, all California vehicle owners are allowed to use digital license plates as a replacement for traditional license plates, decals, tabs, and registration cards provided by the California DMV.
California digital license plates are currently offered exclusively through a private company, Reviver. California drivers can sign up for them on the Reviver website.
License Plate Renewing Fee
The renewal fee for standard license plates in California is $40 a year.
Each state has different requirements for how often license plates need to be renewed. California drivers are required to renew their registration annually.
Being late on registration renewal can lead to late fees, fines and other problems when pulled over for a traffic stop. To avoid this, it is important to pay careful attention to both the registration expiration date and the license plate expiration date and ensure that both are up-to-date.
License Plate Replacement Fees
In some cases, the DMV may require you to change your license plates. This is usually the case if the plate is lost, stolen, or damaged.
When you submit your application for license plate replacement, you must pay a $16 replacement charge and a $1 reflectorized license plate fee (other costs may apply depending on the type of the plate). If your license plates are damaged or if only one is stolen, you must submit them to DMV officials.
If you need to replace lost license plates, the California DMV offers an online service for ordering replacement license plates.
The process is simple and straightforward: simply fill out a form with your personal information and plate number, select the type of plate you want, and enter your payment information.
If your license plates were stolen, the first step is to report the theft of the license plate to the local police department. In many cases, you must verify your address with the vehicle licensing office before you can begin the process of replacing a plate that was lost or stolen.
Once the report has been filed, you will need to visit the local Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) office to obtain a replacement plate.
If you need to replace your license plates, you need to submit an Application for Replacement Plates Form (REG156) by mail or in person at a DMV location.
California Temporary Operating Permit
In California, a Temporary Operating Permit (TOP) may be obtained in specific circumstances in which all registration payments have been paid, but license plates and registration stickers have not been issued.
- Vehicle owners who fail the biennial smog certification inspection can obtain a TOP for $50.
- A one-time 30-day TOP or a one-time 60-day TOP can be obtained on a registration application that is incomplete
- A one-time 90-day TOP can be obtained for drivers while they await the issuance of customized license plates.
How To Check If a Car Has Back Fees?
Before purchasing a used car in California, identify whether it has back fees, or you could be liable for them.
The first step is to obtain the vehicle identification number from the seller. With that information, you can contact your local DMV and request a title search. The DMV will be able to tell you if there are any unpaid fees associated with the car, such as registration fees or parking tickets.
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FAQ on California License Plate Costs
How Much Are Tags for a Car in California?
The price for a new standard license plate in California is $23.
Depending on the type of vehicle and the county you are registering in, the cost for tags could range from as little as $43 up to several hundred dollars. The most common factors that determine the cost of tags include the weight of your vehicle, its current value, any applicable emissions requirements, and local taxes or fees. This can make it tricky to calculate exactly how much you should expect to pay.
The California DMV vehicle registration fees calculator allows users to calculate various registration and licensing fees by entering vehicle information and personal information.
How much is sales tax on a $20000 car in California?
Sales taxes are typically payable anytime a car's ownership changes. This applies to purchases from both dealerships and private parties.
Used car sales tax in California is 7.25%, meaning you’d pay $1500 in sales tax on a $20,000 car. Certain California cities and counties also charge sales tax on top of the statewide California sales tax.
Does California have a yearly car tax?
Owners of California vehicles reap the benefits of not having to pay yearly car taxes. Instead, there is a one-time sales tax buyers pay when they apply for initial vehicle registration.
Do you need 2 license plates to drive in California?
California requires a front and back license plate on all cars, trucks, and RVs registered in the state.
How long does it take to get license plates in California?
Although standard license plates normally arrive in 2 to 4 weeks, you may always contact the California DMV office directly for assistance in determining how long it will take for personalized plates to be available through mail delivery. The wait time to get custom plates might range from six to twelve weeks.