Driver’s license and car registration 101

When I first learned how to drive, I was baffled with how much paperwork is actually involved.

However, it turned out to not be as scary and complicated as I thought. Car registration and the driver’s license are two of the most important components for every driver. Car registration is proof that you’re the owner of your car and your driver’s license is your passport to the roads.

All applications for car registration and driver’s license are done through the Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV).

The notoriety surrounding the lackluster customer service at the DMV is not a myth. Many folks are subjected to long lines, famously unpleasant staff members and antiquated methods of processing requests. But not every interaction and trip with the DMV has to be a nightmare.

Many services can be done online at, but there are some things that need to be done in person. If a trip to your local California DMV is needed, always make an appointment so you don’t have to wait in line.

Here’s a refresher on what car registration and a California driver’s license are and how to retrieve them:

Car registration: What is it and how do I do it?

The purpose of car registration is to establish a link between the vehicle and the owner(s) if the vehicle. If someone is convicted of any crimes, oftentimes the car registration is the first place law enforcement points to.

Every car (new or used) that you purchase from a licensed California dealer must be registered with the state. The dealer collects use tax fees to register and title the car, and those use taxes are forwarded to the state Board of Equalization.

Once all that is processed at the DMV, you’re given temporary operating authority. Typically within 6 to 8 weeks after you purchased the car, you’ll receive a registration card, license plates, stickers (placed on license plates to indicate the month and year of each year of renewed registration) and a California Certificate of Title.

Registration typically lasts for a year, after which time you must renew your auto registration. Renewing car registration only takes a few clicks online. Head to and follow the steps. You should have the following with you before you renew:

•  License plate number

•  Last five digits of your Vehicle Identification Number (VIN)

•  Smog certification filed with the DMV

•  Renewal notice that was mailed to you that shows your current address or a confirmation through the Change of Address system that logged your updated address

•  A method of payment to pay the mandatory renewal fee

In the mail, you’ll receive proof that you’ve renewed your registration and new stickers to place on your plate.

However, if you buy a car from a private owner, it’s a different story. You must transfer the ownership of the vehicle with 10 days and you’re to submit the following documents to the DMV:

•  An endorsed and completed California Certificate of Title OR Application for Duplicate or Paperless Title (REG 227) form

•  Smog certification, if applicable

•  Use tax payment, if applicable

•  Odometer Mileage Disclosure Statement, if applicable.

•  Necessary vehicle registration fees

Driver’s License: how to apply and when to renew

Getting a driver’s license is a big moment everyone’s lives. It’s basically a rite of passage into adulthood. Not only does it allow you to legally drive, it’s also used for self-identification.

Whether you’re a teen driver or an adult first-time driver, the process to obtain a driver’s license is pretty much the same:

•  Make an appointment local California DMV office and complete a Driver’s License or Identification Application (Form DL 44)

•  If you’re under 18, you’ll need a parent or guardian’s signature

•  Provide social security number and verify birth date and legal presence

•  Submit certification that you completed driver education or training or proof of enrollment

•  Give a fingerprint

•  Pay the driver’s license fee — in California, it’s $33

•  Give another fingerprint, provide a signature and have your picture taken — all these will appear on your driver’s license

•  Pass the written knowledge test — for teen drivers, there are 46 questions and a passing score is at least 38 questions correct. For driver’s over 18, there are 36 questions. You have three chances to pass the test and if you fail, you must wait 7 days before retaking

•  Schedule a pass/fail road test — you have three chances to pass the driving test. If you fail, take some time to practice then you may make another appointment. There’s no waiting period, but you must pay $6 for each additional driving test.

Once you pass the road test, congratulations! Your new driver’s license will be mailed to you in the next 90 days.

Your California driver’s license expires every five years on your birthday. Two months before it expires, the CA DMV will mail you a renewal notice. You can renew your license online, by mail, by phone or in person.

For more information on car registration and how to obtain a driver’s license, visit Happy driving!

Klarize Medenilla

Klarize Medenilla is a staff writer and reporter for the Asian Journal. You can reach her at

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