How Much Is Motorcycle Registration in California? (That EXPENSIVE really?)

When you buy a new motorcycle, what is your first thought? If it’s about motorcycle registrations, then that’s good. That should be one of the top items on your priority list when you buy new vehicles. 

Motorcycle registration fees usually range from $120 to $700 or more. It includes the registration fee ($65). And also the license plate, registration card, and sticker fee ($23 each).

In California, you must register your bike, and new residents must do it within 20 days.

The total registration fee varies depending on different factors. They include the value of the bike, the date purchased, and the county you are in. You may also have to pay other fees such as the vehicle license fee, California Highway Patrol fee, taxes, etc.

Motorcycle registration fees in the state of California

The total registration fee for your new bike can depend on several factors. They are as follows. 

  • Your vehicle type (auto, motorcycle, etc.), model year, and the type of fuel it runs on (gas, diesel, electric, etc.).
  • Your vehicle’s purchase price or declared value.
  • Dates. For example, the date you bought your vehicle or brought your bike to California.
  • The city and/or county you live in and currently reside in.
  • Any special license plates your vehicle may have.
  • Whether you have any unpaid parking violations or toll evasion bail.
  • Sales taxes, late fees, etc.

This is on top of the fixed registration fee ($65) and motorcycle safety fee ($2). And also the fees for the license plateregistration card, and sticker ($23 each).

If you plan to use your new motorcycle on the highway, you will also have to pay the following additional fees: 

  • California Highway Patrol (CHP) fee – $29
  • Vehicle license fee – 0.65% of your motorcycle’s value.
  • Transportation improvement fee
  • County/district fee. It is usually between $1 and $19 each.

There will also be other fees depending on whether you are a new resident or bought a used bike. 

Calculate your vehicle registration fee online

You can get an estimate of the registration fees you have to pay. The California DMV lets you calculate it on its website. 

But do note that the calculators give you only estimates. It might differ when you pay the vehicle registration fees at the local DMV office. 

You can check out the different registration and renewal fees on the DMV website.

How to register your motorcycle at the California DMV

You can register your bike at your local DMV office.

For current California residents who are new motorcycle owners

To register your new motorcycle at the DMV, you will need the following:

  • Your California Certificate of Title for the bike. Or the lienholder’s name and address (if you have a loan). 
  • Proof of insurance. California state law requires all vehicles to have a vehicle liability insurance policy.
  • A completed application form for new registration by the vehicle’s new owner. 
  • valid California motorcycle license
  • Applicable fees.

Unlike cars or trucks, motorcycles do not need a smog check before registration. So you can avoid that in the registration paperwork.

For bikes bought from dealerships

If you bought your motorbike from a dealership, they would complete this process for you, and you will pay the fees. You will get your new license plates within 30 to 45 days of buying the bike.

For used bikes and private seller transactions

If you bought your bike from a private party, then you have to do the registration. You’ll need to title and register it in your name within ten days of buying it. This applies if you bought a used bike too. 

Besides the above documents, you should also have a bill of sale. And the signed-over motorcycle TitleYou also need odometer disclosure for motorcycles under 20 years old. 

For new California residents

You will need the following:

  • A completed application for a new motorcycle Title and registration.
  • The motorcycle’s out-of-state Title.
  • Proof of Insurance.
  • The bike’s out-of-state registration.
  • Payment for fees.

Off-highway vehicle registration

Do you want to use your motorcycle off public roads and highways? Then you must register it as an off-highway vehicle (OHV). 

OHVs are motor vehicles that you use only off public roads and highways. ATVs, trail bikes, and racing motorcycles don’t need regular vehicle registration, but they must display an ID plate or placard issued by the DMV.

The California DMV website lists what you will need for this type of registration. The registration is valid for two years. 

Exemptions from motorcycle registration

  • If you are military personnel from another state stationed in California, you may not have to register your bike. But you will still have to maintain your current registration in your resident state.

You can check the CA DMV’s guide to nonresident military vehicle exemptions. There you can see if you are eligible.

  • You do not need to register motorized scooters in California. You can operate them on public streets without registration, but riders must be at least 16 years old. They must have a valid driver’s license or permit to operate it. And must also wear helmets. 

You also cannot register or operate miniature bikes on public streets. This is because they do not meet federal safety standards.

Motorcycle registration renewal

You need to renew your motorcycle registration once every year. You should get a DMV renewal notice 60 days ahead of the expiration date. 

You can renew the registration at the local DMV kiosk, by phone, by mail, or online on the DMV website. It can take up to 2 weeks at most, and the cost starts at over $100, depending on different factors.

You can calculate an estimate of your renewal fees online. Do this using the DMV’s vehicle registration fee calculator. You can also see the different types of registration and renewal fees on the DMV website.

The importance of motorcycle insurance in California

In California, motorcycle riders should have the same insurance requirements as car drivers. 

You must have insurance that covers damage to the person or property of others. The least liability insurance coverage that passenger cars should have is $35,000. It must have the following coverage:

  • $15,000 for injury/death to one person.
  • $30,000 for injury/death to more than one person.
  • $5,000 for property damage.

Types of acceptable insurance for your motorcycle

  • Motor vehicle liability insurance policy.
  • A cash deposit of $35,000 with the California Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV).
  • A DMV-issued self-insurance certificate.
  • Surety bond for $35,000 from a company licensed to do business in California.

If the DMV does not receive proof of insurance for a vehicle, they suspend the vehicle’s registration. And you won’t be able to use or park the bike on public roadways.

What if you cannot afford mandatory liability insurance?

In this case, California offers the California Low-Cost Automobile Insurance Program. You can check if you are eligible at Or call the number 1-866-602-8861. 


Per, California currently has the most registered motorcycles in the country. That doesn’t surprise any of us, with California’s pleasant climate and scenic routes. 

But before you go on a trip, make sure to complete your motorcycle registration first. 

California’s law enforcement has a reputation for being quite strict.

You want to be on the right side of the law.

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Mike, the motorcycle enthusiast behind SuperBike Newbie, fell in love with superbikes during his college years. He owns a diverse range of motorcycles and offers valuable insights into motorcycling advice, maintenance, safety gear, and laws. Despite two decades of riding experience, he continues to learn and shares his knowledge on his website. Mike also has a keen interest in motorcycle club culture. While not a club member, he aspires to be one someday.

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