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Dealer Licensing in California

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The California Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) and Occupational Licensing Branch oversee all dealer license applications. You can apply for:

  • A new car dealer license to sell new AND used motor vehicles.
    OR
  • A used car dealer license to sell used motor vehicles ONLY.

Keep reading to learn more about the requirements for obtaining a CA dealer license.

Abbreviated Dealer License Applications

The DMV requires all CA dealer license applicants undergo a criminal background check. If you’ve ever received an arrest conviction, you may want to start by submitting an abbreviated application. Though it comes with a $175 fee, an abbreviated application could save you a lot of time, money, and stress in the future.

The full application process requires purchasing a surety bond, setting up an insurance policy, AND establishing a place of business. Depending on the circumstances, a conviction on your record could result in a denied application, meaning you’d have to rescind all previous preparations you made for the full application process.

For more information, refer to the CA DMV’s How to Complete an Application for a Vehicle Dealer License (Form OL 248) guide.

Apply for a California Car Dealer License

Depending on the types of vehicles you want to sell, you’ll apply for EITHER a new motor vehicle dealer license OR a used motor vehicle dealer license.

Note that:

  • New car dealers can sell both new vehicles and used vehicles.
  • Used car dealers can sell ONLY used vehicles.

Additionally, all used car dealer license applicants must complete a pre-licensing training course.

Checklists

Before completing your application, download the DMV's:

Forms

Once you have everything in order, download and complete the:

These packets include detailed instructions on completing each form.

Other Required Documents

You must submit the following items (NOT included in the form packets) with your original application for a California dealer license:

  • A copy of your:
    • City and/or county business license.
    • Resale Permit from the CA Board of Equalization.
    • Fictitious business name statement IF your surname isn’t included in the business name.
    • Lease or rental agreement for the facility.
  • Photographs of the premises showing the:
    • Main entrance.
    • Sign.
    • Vehicle display area.
    • Overall (wide shot) facility.
  • For used car dealer applicants, the original certificate of dealer education completion.

Submit your application packet and all other required documents to your local Occupational Licensing Inspector office.

Once you’ve submitted your application, you can check its status using the state’s Occupational License Status Information System.

NOTE: Pay close attention to your new or used car dealer application for details on additional documents or photographs you must send.

CA Car Dealer Fees

You’ll pay the following car dealer license fees, as they apply to you:

  • Non-refundable application fee: $175.
  • Family Support Program: $1.
  • Branch location: $70.
  • Dealer plate*: $71 per plate.
  • Motorcycle plate*: $73 per plate.
  • New Motor Vehicle Board (per business location): $300.
    • ONLY applies to dealers of new automobiles, commercial vehicles, motorcycles, ATVs, motorhomes, and recreational trailers.
  • Autobroker Endorsement: $100.
  • Fingerprint Card (out-of-state applicants ONLY): $42.
    • Call the Occupational Licensing Branch at (916) 229-3126 to obtain fingerprint cards.

*NOTE: For dealer and motorcycle plates, you might also have to pay a county fee based on the county in which your business is located.

Renew Your California Dealer License

To renew your CA dealer license, you’ll need to submit the applicable forms below:

Renewal fees are as follows:

  • Renewal application: $125.
  • Family Support Program: $1.
  • Auto plate*: $70 per plate.
  • Motorcycle plate*: $72 per plate.
  • New Motor Vehicle Board (per business location): $300.
    • Applies ONLY to dealers of new automobiles, commercial vehicles, motorcycles, ATVs, motorhomes, and recreational trailers.
  • Autobroker Endorsement: $75.

*Plus county fees, if applicable.

Additional CA Car Dealer Resources

The California DMV provides A TON of information about applying for licenses and establishing new or used car dealerships—the answers to many questions you may have can be found in the following additional resources:

For more information, contact the Occupational Licensing Branch at (916) 229-3126.

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