Do visitors need to register vehicle?

“Ask George” Expert Answers to Common DMV Questions
By: George Valverde – Director, California Department of Motor Vehicles
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Do you have questions about general driving related requirements like registration and insurance? Are you unclear about laws and restrictions related to driving? The California Department of Motor Vehicles has answers. Save Time. Go Online at Q: My wife and I are Canadian citizens. We are retired and enjoy spending our winters in Palm Springs. We stay in California for approximately four months each year. Do we need to register our vehicle in California? A: If you do not establish California residency, you and your wife are visitors and may operate your vehicle in California with your Canadian Plates. Information on determining California residency is available on the department's website, Have a great time while visiting our state. Q: I have renewed my license by mail for the last 12 years. This year my notice says I have to take a written test. My health is excellent and I have never had a ticket. Why do I have to go to DMV? A: Congratulations on being in good health and never having received a ticket for a moving violation. Automatic driver license renewal is available to good drivers for two consecutive five year periods. This year DMV wants to check your vision and will give you an 18 question renewal test to be certain you are familiar with any new changes in the law. We will also update your photograph. The fastest way to get through the process is by scheduling an appointment on our website at While you are on our website, make sure you familiarize yourself with the written test, by reading the California Drivers Handbook and taking a sample test; both available on-line. Q: I have a trailer I use for camping. How does DMV determine if my trailer should be registered? A: It will depend on the length and width of your trailer. Camp trailers (those which do not exceed 16 feet in overall length and 8 feet in width), may register as a Permanent Trailer Identification. The fee is $10 every five years. This includes “pop-up” style or folding trailers. If a trailer exceeds 16 feet in overall length or 8 feet in overall width (measured from foremost point of trailer hitch to the rear extremity of the trailer body, and where a trailer telescopes out), it must be registered as a “trailer coach.” Trailer coaches require annual registration fees, just like an automobile. For more information on camp trailer regulations, please visit The DMV is a department under the Business, Transportation and Housing Agency, which is under the direction of Acting Undersecretary Traci Stevens. The DMV licenses drivers, maintains driving records, registers and tracks official ownership of vehicles and vessels, investigates auto and identity-related fraud, and licenses car dealers, driving schools, and traffic violator schools. For more information about the DMV, visit