Registering an out of state leased vehicle in California when you move here.

This is just a quick post to hopefully help others who also find themselves in a similar situation as I did, and have to register a car they leased in another state in CA when they move here.

I very recently moved from Boston, MA to Palo Alto, CA. My family moved with me and we brought our leased car(s) with us.

I knew that I would need to register my car in California, get new license plates and change my license. I spent a lot of time on the phone with the leasing companies, their finance departments, on CA DMV website, and even showed up at the DMV during a CA trip to see if I could get some arty around the process. Unfortunately there is scarily little available online (at least my experience) on how to register a car, that you may have leased in another state and hence are not the owner and title-holder, in CA.

Car lease companies actually gave me some if the most confusing information. They kept telling me to go to the DMV and ask them to contact the car lease company and request a copy of the original title. They told me there is a special firm for this at the Dmv but didn’t know its name/number, and i searched the DMV website but didn’t find any such form. I was told by the lease company that somehow once the DMV gets that information I will need to go back to the DMV and fill out the application forms etc. That process didn’t make enough sense to me – I just didn’t see how I could just show up and say “Hi Mr/Ms DMV: can you please, ummm, call my leasing company on this number and get whatever you need?” I didn’t want to waste a day at the DMV.

Anyways – I asked friends on FB and Twitter if they had any advice, and lo and behold, social media came to the rescue. A friend had gone through this process herself and guided me. It is actually quite simple. And it worked for me today. Here’s how it goes…

1. Have your out of state car registration document with you.
2. Make sure you get a smog check done and have the report with you. Cost me $34.99.
3. Ask your lease company to send a “limited power of attorney for registering car in another state” and a copy of the original title to your home address. Bring those with you.
4. Bring your out of state drivers license (and your passport if you also want your CA drivers license). By the way: you need to do all this within a few weeks of arriving in CA so start the process with your lease company even before you move.
5. Get an appointment in advance with the DMV by going online. It can be a zoo if you don’t have an appointment.

Once you get to the DMV, look for window that says “By Appointment”, and let them know you have arrived. They will give you applications to fill out and make you go outside to bring your car to the appropriate place for “Verification Check”. Basically somebody will walk around your car, peek under the hood, take mileage information etc and give you a filled out verification form.

Fill out the application for registering a car that you will be given (don’t worry about price of car, just guess, and write in “lease” since there is no option for that).

You will be given a ticket number, wait for your turn, go up to the designated window/desk, hand over the documents with the filled-in application form and you will soon have new number plates and registration documents in your hands. Fee is $241 and you can only pay in cash, check or Debit/ATM card. No credit card.

I also filled out my driver’s license application on the spot and paid the $32 fee. They needed to see my passport as a second form of ID. I didn’t have to take a driving test but did take a written exam. I had not prepared but thankfully I only got 3 answers wrong when I was allowed to have 6 wrong answers out of 36. I didn’t know better, but you would be better off grabbing a CA driver’s handbook (copies lying around DMV) and reviewing it for 30 minutes before the test. Smile for your photo as you will be stuck with it for a while.

Good luck!


13 Responses to Registering an out of state leased vehicle in California when you move here.

  1. vigneshravi12 says:

    Thank you for your post. I have been searching for one regarding this. I am worried about the registration fees that I may have to pay. Is it fixed $241 or its based on the car. I hear from people that registration cost will be more as my car is new and from Texas. But when i look at the tax receipt, it says trade in and 20 $ as state tax. And by the way, do Cali DMVs verify the date we actually moved in to California? It’s been 3 months over here for me.

  2. Bilal says:

    Hi: Registration fee is $241 fixed (as far as I know), car price does not matter but they want an approximate value, and they didn’t verifiy externally when I really moved (even though I did it soon after I moved).

  3. Rueben says:

    You should be a part of a contest for one of the best blogs on the net. I most certainly will highly recommend this website!

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  5. James says:

    I’m moving to CA from Boston and just read your post. Looks like it was 4 years ago. What if my passport doesn’t have my newish married name on it? Is there another form of ID I can use for a CA license besides my MA license and passport? My MA license has my new married name on it. Thanks

  6. Matt says:

    Did the lease company give you a hard time with the request for original title?

  7. I would like to thank you for posting the steps of the process so detailed, you saved me some frustration and tons of time since i would never figured it out the documents needed from the Leasing company. DMV agent said that i needed the original title but processed my application with a copy. For foreigners, make sure you print your I-94 form.

  8. Shany Alon says:

    Hey, we are trying to register our leased MA car in CA too. The leasing company is claiming they need something from the CA DMV to provide a power of attorney, but the DMV has no clue what I’m talking about. Can anyone point me to the specific form the Lessor will need to provide?

  9. Dissatisfied Kia customer says:

    Thanks! This is very helpful indeed. I am leasing a car from the Kia dealership in Macon GA, and they are simply refusing to give me the needed documents. I have called in so many times that they are now refusing to answer my calls. The excuse they’re using is: the manager has the key and he’s out, or we have to search through a lot of paperwork so we’ll call back. My license tag is now expired so Im sitting with my hair in my hands.
    But this information has given me hope and I am working to find a way around this. Fortunately there’s public transport till I can figure this out.

  10. Miriam Eqab says:

    Thanks for this post! It was helpful for me too. And to pay it forward, I put together the steps I did just recently for getting my leased car registered in California from Texas.
    Basic Info: Leased BMW from Texas.
    – Appts at DMV fill up fast, I had to book 4 weeks in advance to get an appointment for today, 1/4/2018. I highly recommend getting an appt, if you don’t, I can’t even imagine how long you’d have to wait.
    – BMW leasing had to send a “move packet” to my old address first (it contained the Power of Attorney and Statement of Facts). I requested it on Dec. 20, and it arrived in Texas on Dec. 30. Those two documents were essential, so make sure you order them in time.
    – You’re required to register your vehicle within 20 days of it coming into California (if you don’t and you indicate on the form that you brought the vehicle in more than 20 days before your registration, they will fine you, this happened to my coworker).
    – Make an appt with the DMV online for at most 20 days from the date when your car will enter California.
    – Contact your leasing company to get appropriate documentation. They should know what is needed for California, but just in case, you will need ((1) signed Power of Attorney, (2) Statement of Facts completed by leasing company, (3) copy of the title). (BMW was a little confusing, they told me first that they had to send a copy of the title directly to the DMV, but that’s not the case, I just had to have a copy of it, but BMW also didn’t want to just email me a copy of the title, but I begged and told them I didn’t want to lose my appt, so they emailed it).
    – Make sure you have a copy of the vehicle registration receipt for the state you are coming from (I have the registration sticker on my car, but I brought the paper confirmation that came with the sticker in the mail for Texas).
    – Get a smog test done on your vehicle. It costs about $35.
    – When you go to the DMW, they will give you the form to fill out, you will only have to complete the info with your new address and information about the leasing company.
    – There is a space for your “purchase price” I also wrote in “lease.”
    – I was instructed to drive my car around the side of the building (San Jose DMV) and I waited about 10 minutes for someone to perform the vehicle inspection.
    – The vehicle inspection included looking under the hood, and the VIN on the windshield and door jam, checking the registration and title paperwork. I was given a vehicle inspection report.
    – I took all the paperwork back into the DMV (this is where the appt comes in handy, if you have an appt, you go in a separate “line,” but there’s no one in the line, you go directly to the desk, the other line was ridiculous).
    – I got to the first desk and they checked the paperwork, made sure I identified my name as the Lessee and BMW as the Lessor on the paperwork,
    – Was sent to a second desk where they input all the info I was asked specifically about the price of the car, I said I didn’t know except I knew the residual value, so they put that. I don’t believe that was used at all in the calculation of the fee.
    – The fee was $281 for me. I think that was a flat fee.
    – They registered the vehicle and gave me plates on the spot.
    – They only accept cash, check or debit card (absolutely no credit cards).
    Note: I also applied for my DL while I was there. I showed them my TX license and my passport and two utility bills. I took the written test, pretty easy if you drive already, and they took my picture and will be mailing the license within 30 days. They hole-punched my TX license.

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