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Why is Car Registration So Expensive in California?

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The cost of registering a new or used car in California has increased significantly of late. It has become so much such that it has left many wondering why is car registration so expensive in California. Get to know why it may cost you more to register your car in California.

Getting your car registered is mandatory to prove that you’ve paid the needed taxes and fees for owning a car in California. The process of registering a car entails securing a license plate, registration certificate, and validation decal. 

Whether you are registering a nonresident or resident vehicle, you have to follow the registration laws alongside completing the CA registration as outlined in the Californian constitution.

To register a car in California, you’ve to visit your local DMV location and provide your car’s title, emissions inspection certification, required fees, filled-out registration, and proof of ID.

New California residents are required to register their cars in less than 20 days of their stay in California to evade avoidable fines.

Why is Car Registration So Expensive in California – How Much Does it Cost?

Registering a car in California involves multiple costs and fees. Cars bought from dealerships have the fees already taken care of, and so you won’t have to pay more or follow up with the required organizations to register your car. Those who buy their cars from private entities have to pay the required fees to the California DMV to initiate the care registration process.

The Californian car registration fee is usually $46. Those who buy from car dealerships aren’t obliged to pay these fees as they would have already paid it while paying for the car. New California residents are advised to register their cars within twenty days once they enter California, otherwise, they will be forced to pay a fine of $30.

What Has Caused the California Car Registration Fee to Go So High?

So many factors affect the cost of registering a car in California. Among the core things that have a significant impact on the cost of car registration in California is the value of the car. More valuable cars are likely to cost you more to register compared to the less valuable options. 

In other words, registering a Subaru or Maybach car would be way costly than registering a Kia car. That’s certainly because Kia cars are less costly compared to Maybach and Subaru cars.

The insurance type may as well affect the cost of car registration. Insurance companies that don’t have a solid reputation in the provision of services will likely end up making your car registration cost higher.

Another of the factors that have led to an increased cost of car registration in California is the increased cost of living. When the cost of living increases, you obviously should expect everything else to go high including your house rent and daily bus fare. 

Other things such as car registration are also going to increase. That just happened in California. The increased cost of living had led to the increased cost of getting car registration.

Smog inspections and checks

The extensive smog checks and inspections are done on cars during registration in California also affect the total amount you pay as a registration fee. In most Californian cities, your car must pass the smog test for it to be confirmed ideal for registration. 

Cars that haven’t been used for more than six years need a payment of $20 instead of going through extensive smog checks and inspections. That’s an added amount that will tally while you are making the total amount invested in the car registration.

Weight certifications

While registering trucks and pickups in California, you must as well get your vehicle weight certified. These certificates can be obtained from a public scale.  It costs money to have your car weighed, which is dependent on the location and the total weight of your truck. 

Not all trucks require weight certification before registration. However, if your truck is more than 10,000 pounds, you will need to get it to weight certified before it is registered.  

When you tally the costs of getting a truck weight certified alongside other costs involved during the vehicle registration, you will realize that it has cost you way more than you had thought, initially.

License plates

Another of the many reasons for registering a car in California costs so much is because people have to procure license plates before they have their cars registered. It’s legally required that you obtain the latest license plates for your car before you present it to the responsible body for registration. 

You must obtain a license plate with an updated registration sticker proving that the license plate you have in place is valid and genuine.

License plates are stuck to cars when being sold. These tell more about the registration status of the cars as well as the type of ownership. Buyers searching for license plates in California have a whole range of options to compare and choose. 

You can choose from options ranging from collegiate, military, and lots more depending on personal preferences. For you to obtain the license plate of choice depending on personal preferences, you need to fill the Special Interest License Plate Application.

Registering for license plates is not free. You will have to pay a certain amount of money to get your license plate. The amount varies depending on the type of license plate you decide to apply.


Outlined here are some reasons why the cost of getting car registration in California has become so expensive nowadays. As you have seen, there are many other mandatory costs involved during the car registration process besides the actual registration fees. When planning to get your car registered, it is important to budget for these costs and fees if you wouldn’t want to end up in surprises.

Do all the research and comparison needed to come up with a rough estimate of the exact amount you will need to pay to have your car registered. That way, if the cost goes higher or lower than the budgeted amount, you won’t end up in surprises.

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