Briefing Room: California law prohibits registering your vehicle out of state

Hi Officer Nic

For your Briefing Room column in the Sun Newspaper might you address the growing number of residents that are registering their vehicle out of state, even though they are full time Seal Beach residents … licenses include many from Arizona, Montana.

Your newspaper column might address if this is legal for full time California residents to register their vehicles out of state and how people can report vehicles they see this happening with in our city.



Thank you so much for your question.  To find out more information about this, I spoke with our partners from the California Highway Patrol, specifically the Registration Enforcement and Guidance (CHP REG) Program unit.

According to the CHP, California loses millions of dollars each year as a result of people fraudulently registering their vehicles out of state.  Why does this matter?  Aside from the obvious economic benefits, a portion of each vehicle registration goes to fixing roads that we drive on every day.  Furthermore, other states may not have the same emission standards as California, which means cars from out of state may be polluting our communities faster than California vehicles.

Knowing this, I asked the CHP why someone might decide to register their car out of state, even though they live in California.  This might happen because people are unfamiliar with the law pertaining to vehicle registration, or because they want to avoid paying fees in California, or because their vehicle cannot comply with California’s emission requirements.

The California Vehicle Code has several laws concerning this topic.

§4000.4 (a) – Except as provided in Sections 6700, 6702, and 6703, any vehicle which is registered to a nonresident owner, and which is based in California or primarily used on California highways, shall be registered in California.

(b) For purposes of this section, a vehicle is deemed to be primarily or regularly used on the highways of this state if the vehicle is located or operated in this state for a greater amount of time than it is located or operated in any other individual state during the registration period in question.

Who decides if someone is a California resident?

California Vehicle Code §516 – “Resident” means any person who manifests an intent to live or be located in this state on more than a temporary or transient basis. Presence in the state for six months or more in any 12-month period gives rise to a rebuttable presumption of residency.

The following are evidence of residency for purposes of vehicle registration:

• (a) Address where registered to vote.

• (b) Location of employment or place of business.

• (c) Payment of resident tuition at a public institution of higher education.

• (d) Attendance of dependents at a primary or secondary school.

• (e) Filing a homeowner’s property tax exemption.

• (f) Renting or leasing a home for use as a residence.

• (g) Declaration of residency to obtain a license or any other privilege or benefit not ordinarily extended to a nonresident.

• (h) Possession of a California driver’s license.

• (i) Other acts, occurrences, or events that indicate presence in the state is more than temporary or transient.

And what is the punishment for not complying with this law?

• CVC §8804 – Every person who, while a resident, as defined in Section 516, of this state, with respect to any vehicle owned by him and operated in this state, registers or renews the registration for the vehicle in a foreign jurisdiction, without the payment of appropriate fees and taxes to this state, is guilty of a misdemeanor.

How do residents report fraudulent registration?  The CHP has a website where the public can report suspected violations.  This unit will conduct follow-up investigations and may issue a citation to the offender.  Reports can be made online here:  Last year the CHP collected more than $2,000,000 in recovered fees as a result of these investigations.

Lastly, you can always call the SBPD.  Our non-emergency number is (562) 594-7232.

Thank you again for your question.  Seal Beach, keep them coming!  Email us at today!