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  • Custom Built Car Registration in California

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    Custom Built Car Registration in California

    After all of the hard work, sweat, blood, and tears you put into building and fabricating your custom-built vehicle, you're now ready to get it registered and titled in California. Of course, the California Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) takes specific measures to ensure your vehicle meets their safety requirements.

    There are several steps of this process, which are outlined on this page. Continue reading to learn all about getting registration and a title for your custom car.

    What is a Custom-Built Car?

    California law describes a custom-built car as one that's been made for private use, hasn't been built or rebuilt by a manufacturer of any kind, and isn't for resale. Basically, a custom-built car is one you built yourself. These types of cars are usually built from kits, or parts taken from salvage vehicles and other cars.

    Restored cars, even if you manufactured parts, aren't considered custom-built. Modification to the  vehicle's body, engine, vehicle systems, or interior also don't qualify.

    Since custom-built cars are not your typical vehicles, the registration process is a little more involved than with a regular car.

    Paperwork Tips

    When you register, you'll need documentation to prove you're the owner. 

    Be sure to hang onto all of your invoices, manufacturers' certificates of origin, receipts, bills of sale, and junk receipts for the major components such as the frame, engine, body, and transmission.

    How to Register

    When you're ready to put your custom car on the roads of California, make an appointment at your local CA DMV office. You'll need to bring the following:

    • A completed Application for Title or Registration (Form REG 343).
    • A filled-out Statement of Construction (Form REG 5036).
    • Proof-of-ownership documents, like receipts and bills of sale
      • NOTE: A motor vehicle bond will be required if proof of ownership cannot be obtained for parts valued at $5,000 or more.
    • A vehicle verification done by the California Highway Patrol. Make your DMV registration appointment before scheduling the CHP vehicle verification.
    • Official brake and light adjustment certificate, unless your custom vehicle is an off-highway vehicle or a trailer that weighs under 3,000 lbs. gross vehicle weight.
    • A smog check completed by a CA Bureau of Automotive Repair (BAR) Referee Station. Since custom-built cars do not have a year-of-origin designated by a manufacturer, they must be inspected by a BAR Referee Station instead of a regular smog check facility.
      • Call (800) 622-7733 for an appointment.
    • Any and all due titling, sales tax, and registration fees.

    Registration Fees

    The fees you'll pay for motor vehicle registrations in California are based on your location and the age of the vehicle. 

    If your custom car can be "dated"―that is, if there is a model year for the body and motor―you can use the DMV's handy registration fee calculator to estimate your fees based on the overall cost of what you spent on the parts.

    Additional Information

    If you have any specific questions about the documents you need to bring or how much you'll be required to pay to get your custom-built vehicle on the road, you can contact your local California DMV office