Dealer-related Information in California

If you want to get into the auto business in the Golden State and don't know where to begin, this page is for you. Here are some of our most frequently-asked questions on the subject.

I want to open my own car dealership, but I'm not sure how to begin.

If you're starting from scratch, look at our Licensing Requirements article.

Do I need a special license to buy or sell cars?

Yes. In California, dealer-related occupations require special licensing. The California Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) has an unusual wealth of information for the automotive industry, including auto dealers, transporters, dismantlers, and manufacturers. The DMV's Vehicle Industry page also has more good stuff.

Your salespeople will also need to have a salesperson permit.

Do I need special training to open a dealership?

If you're selling new cars, then the answer's no. The manufacturers will make sure you know what you need to know.

Sellers of used cars must complete an automobile dealer education training program, given by various licensed agencies.

I'm overwhelmed by so many forms. Can anybody help me apply?

If you need help with permits for your dealership, CalGOLD (the California Government On Line Desktop) offers assistance for businesses in California, including automobile dealerships.

Your registration department will benefit from all of the documents covered by these vehicle registration procedures, including the entire Registration Handbook, formerly known as the Dealer Handbook. This publication covers everything you will need to know to register motor vehicles and vessels in California.

You may order certain common forms in large quantities from the DMV.

You may also download a copy of the Vehicle License Fee Table.

I heard that I have to undergo a background check. Is this true?

Yes. There is a background check; this is one reason the application takes up to four months to complete. The Department of Justice also requires that all first-time dealer or salespersons, as well as to any other staff or contractors who require fingerprinting, use LiveScan ink-less fingerprinting system.

Does the DMV ever communicate with auto dealers?

Occasionally, the California DMV issues memos to the all the state's auto dealers. If you wish to find the memo archives, or if you think you may have missed a memo, check the memo page.

How does the Lemon Law affect my dealership?

California follows federal regulations concerning automobile Lemon Laws. If a consumer has ongoing mechanical problems with a vehicle purchased from a licensed dealership, your dealership is responsible. To learn more about this consumer protection legislation and how it affects your dealership, please consult our article about California's Lemon Laws.

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