All About Car Registration Suspension in California

Learn why your car registration may have been suspended, figure out the best way to lift the suspension, and prevent future problems with the DMV.

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If you get pulled over or return from vacation to a stuffed mailbox, you may receive an unpleasant surprise. Your vehicle registration could be suspended. It’s a frustrating and sometimes scary situation.

The good news is that it’s easy to figure out why your registration has been suspended in California. It’s surprisingly to fix, and you can actually remove a suspension from home. A few simple steps can clear your suspension and get you back on the road.

Why registration may be suspended

Registration depends on insurance. Most states require valid insurance in order for drivers to legally operate a vehicle, and that rule applies to car owners as well. If you own a vehicle you don’t drive, you must submit an official Affidavit of Non-Use. Otherwise, you’re still responsible for maintaining insurance on the vehicle.

There are a few specific scenarios that will cause the DMV to suspend your registration. In the case of new or recently purchased cars, the new owner must submit proof of insurance within thirty days of transfer of ownership or initial registration. This gives owners time to find appropriate and affordable insurance even if they make a spur of the moment decision to purchase or trade for a vehicle. If the new owner forgets to submit evidence of their new insurance, however, the DMV will suspend registration.

In the second circumstance, an insurance policy may come to an end, and owners may simply forget to renew or replace it. If the DMV is notified that a policy’s coverage has ended, they must receive notification of a new policy within forty-five days. This replacement policy deadline is long enough to allow car owners who only receive monthly paychecks to get fresh funds and hunt for a new policy.

The final reason the DMV may suspend registration is due to false evidence of insurance. Suffice it to say, the DMV isn’t interested in a paper claiming you have insurance, but rather the insurance itself. If you ever considered trying to dupe the DMV, you should rethink your plan. The DMV does its research, and your insurance company may send updates about your status directly to the state.

How to fix the issue

The DMV is required to send owners a notice of suspension. It typically arrives as a letter with official state markings. That letter is your first tool in reinstating your registration. The letter should include both a web address and a mailing address. In order to fix the problem, you will need to submit the following to either address.

  • Proof of liability insurance
  • $14 to pay the service fee for reinstatement

If you don’t receive such a letter, don’t worry. There is a simple way around the problem. Simply go to the official California DMV website and follow the appropriate links. You’ll be directed to a mailing address you can send your fee and proof of insurance to along with an automated voice system you can call.

How to avoid the problem in future

To prevent a suspension, you have to keep active liability insurance. While it’s easy to miss a reminder from your insurer in your mail or email, avoiding a suspension is all about vigilance. To make that job easier, there are a few simple tricks you can try.

The best way to keep on top of your insurance is to be proactive. Don’t wait until you need a reminder. Use physical or digital calendars to mark important insurance dates so you don’t have to rely on the insurer’s last minute reminders. Paying insurance fees in advance is another simple way to essentially hit snooze on your responsibility to the DMV. By paying for several months at a time, you not only protect your registration, but you may get a better price per month from your insurer. You save the reinstatement fee, and you pay less for insurance.

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