by Armando Martinez

License Plate Transfer Process in California

In California, the license plates stay with the car, but you can keep personalized plates if you want to transfer them to your next vehicle. When you sell your car with non-specialty plates you want to transfer, leave them on the car for the buyer to use. The buyer must obtain their registration for the plates remaining on the car or obtain new plates if the prior plates are removed within 10 days of purchasing the car, though.

To transfer ownership, you'll need to fill out the transfer of ownership section on the vehicle's title (often called a "pink slip") and give it to the buyer. As a seller, be sure to fill out and remove the “Notice of Transfer” form at the top of the title and remove it before you give the title to the buyer.  You should mail the notice form to DMV so they can record the sale and release you from liability for any accident or citations in the future beginning on the date you sold the vehicle.  The buyer will then need to take the pink slip to a local Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) office, licensed DMV Registration Service, or Auto Club to register the car and if needed, get their own plates. Oh, and don't forget – the buyer needs to have car insurance before they can register the car.

License Plate Fees in California

License plate fees in California can vary depending on factors such as the vehicle's make, model, and year and type of plate you choose. However, here are some of the general fees you may need to pay:

- Initial registration fee: $46-$225

- License plate fee: $27-$98

- County/district fees: Varies by location

There may be additional fees for things like smog checks or specialized plates, too.

-California offers many different types of license plates which you can view at


Selling your car in a private party sale in California can be a breeze if you understand the license plate transfer process and fees. Remember, the license plates stay with the car, but the buyer needs to get their own registration and if needed, new plates within 10 days of purchasing the car. And don't forget about the initial registration fee, license plate fee, and county/district fees. With this friendly guide, you'll be able to navigate the process like a pro and have a stress-free private party car sale.

This article was written by Armando Martinez. Armando Martinez is among the nation’s experts on automotive titling, registration, DMV services and document operations. With nearly two decades of experience across a broad range of financial services functions and some of the largest names in auto, from Wells Fargo to Uber, Armando combines vision and ingenuity with a wealth of information so auto shoppers and sellers can learn from his experience.

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