Welcome to Hollywood! You finally did it: against all odds you left the comfort of your friends, family, and clean air behind to pursue your hallucination of becoming a big movie star. LA is a town where dreams come true—as long as you have a car, that is. Dreams don’t come true when you’re waiting forty minutes for a bus that never arrives.
Between gawking at your favorite celebrity in Jamba Juice and trying to secure an agent whose office is not also a tattoo parlor, the idea of registering your car probably feels a tad overwhelming. Don’t worry, it’s not you. The DMV takes great pride in breaking your spirit.
Here is the user-friendly guide to registering your vehicle after moving to LA. Aaaaand action!
First things first…
Step 1: Cry. A lot. Get that emotional outburst out of the way up front, because there’s a lot of work to do. Later, when you’re playing a helpless victim in a Scorsese movie, you can draw upon this experience.
Step 2: You’re required to get a California driver’s license within 10 days of moving here. This means that you need a California address, so either plan well in advance for this, or find some willing gal or guy to shack up with. Hey, not judging. It’s an actor-eat-actor world out there. Unless you’re a big fan of masochism, make an appointment rather than wait in line (which means 30 minutes versus half your life). You can do this online.
Here’s what you’ll need to bring to your appointment:
- the patience of Buddha
- a completed application (Form DL 44) which, just to make things fun, cannot be downloaded (it is only 2015, after all), so you must pick it up at a DMV office
- proof of your Social Security number (which they suggest can be found on your Social Security card; why not just say “bring your Social Security card”??)
- proof of your full and true name (i.e. birth certificate or passport)
- proof of your birth date and legal presence (no, you don’t have to be a lawyer to qualify; you just have to prove that you are legally allowed to be in this country, which you can demonstrate with a birth certificate, passport, or Green Card)
- your valid out-of-state driver’s license
- the $33 fee, preferably in small, unmarked bills which you’ll hand to a guy named Vinny out back—also, a Debit/Credit card or check will do
- a good hair day, since this will be your first Hollywood photo opp!
- a working knowledge of the rules of the road since you’ll be taking a written permit test, which contains 36 questions and you get 3 chances to pass (if you’re from another country, even the English-speaking, exact-same-road-rules, populated-with-American-cars one to the north, you’ll need to also take a driving test)
Now, on to registering your tricked-out Toyota Tercel!
Step 3: Keep in mind that you must register your out-of-state car within 20 days of moving to California. Why 20 days and not an even three weeks (21 days)? No idea. That’s government logic for you. Make another appointment.
Step 4: Get your car smog checked before your appointment date or they’ll send you away like an American auditioning for a British role. It doesn’t matter if you just got your car smogged last week—if it was in a different state, you’ll need to get it tested here as well. Depending on your car, the fee will vary, but generally it’ll set you back about $50. You don’t need an appointment and it takes roughly 30 minutes. If for some reason you don’t notice the smog inspection garages every five blocks, go here to find an approved location.
Step 5: One last thing before registering your car: call up your insurance provider and switch coverage to California. You won’t be able to register your car if your insurance is from another state. And be prepared for your premiums to go up. Hey, that’s the price you pay for moving to the best city on the southern portion of the west coast!
Step 6: Relax and enjoy an overpriced beverage at a coffee franchise in the heart of Hollywood, take a selfie with Batman or Darth Vader, and post it to your Facebook page to make all your friends back home green with envy (or glad they didn’t move to this crazy town)!
Step 7: When you arrive at the DMV, you’ll get the stink-eye from all those suckers standing in line without an appointment. Never mind them. Here’s what you need to bring:
- your temporary California driver’s license (which you received at your driver’s license appointment; your permanent one will arrive in the mail)
- your out-of-state driver’s license
- your out-of-state title and registration
- your new California car insurance
- your new Smog Certificate
Get there a bit early because you’ll be required to:
- complete a Vehicle Verification (which means a DMV clerk will verify your VIN, odometer reading, paperwork, and dating status—hey, it’s a tough place for single people!)
- fill out an Application for Title or Registration (Form REG 343)
- pay the$46 registration fee, $23 CHP fee, and mysteriously-unnamed title fees and taxes (if you don’t like surprises, check out this Vehicle Registration Fee Calculator)
- attach your new set of Callie license plates to your car—woo-hoo!
Step 8: Go out and have a cocktail or five because you just survived DMV hell! (But don’t drink and drive or all this will have been for nothing.)
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