Expert Answers to Common DMV Questions

By the California Department of Motor Vehicles

SACRAMENTO — Do you have questions about general driving related requirements like registration or insurance? Are you unclear about laws and restrictions related to driving? The California Department of Motor Vehicles has answers. “Save Time, Go Online,” at You can submit any DMV-related questions at

1. Q. I am visiting California on holiday from Europe. Can I use my disabled permit when I park my rental car?
A. If you have a disabled placard or permit that has the international symbol on it; you can use it in California. For information visit:

2. Q. I noticed that the number on the license plates I received today does not match the license plate number that is shown on my registration card. What should I do?
A. Good catch! It’s really important to make sure the information on the registration card matches the vehicle description; including the license plate number you were issued. Please make an appointment with your local DMV office and take in the set of license plates and registration card. A new set of license plates can be issued. Save Time, Go Online! For faster service call 1-800-777-0133 to make an appointment or go online to our Appointment System. You can also make an appointment directly from your iPhone or Android DMV Now smartphone app.

3. Q. I would like to go to a DMV investigations office to formally file a complaint on a used car dealership that sold me a car six months ago and never completed the transfer of registration. Where can I find one of these offices?
A. You can find one of these offices online at On the home page, click the Offices tab, and then click Investigation Offices. Click the nearest city name for the list of office locations and hours of operation. It would be best to call and schedule an appointment first and, please note, these offices do not provide basic driver licensing or vehicle registration services and exist solely for consumer protection issues including complaints against car dealer; victims of identity theft, or other consumer protection issues involving the purchase of a vehicle or identity theft.

4. Q. I haven’t been to the DMV in a while and I just recently received a letter to renew my driver license and was told I can do it online. But I would actually like to take a new picture because I’ve decided to exercise and lost over 40 pounds and I look a lot different on my DMV picture. What will I need to do and how much will a new license cost me?
A. Congratulations on achieving your goals.If you want to have a new picture taken, you will need to visit your nearest field office. Be sure to make an appointment for faster service by going online at or calling 1–800–777–0133.Please, bring your driver license renewal letter with you. When at the field office you will be given a vision test, an electronic thumb print will be taken, and a new photograph. Since you are eligible to renew online a written test does not appear to be required. Depending on the class of driver license you possess the driver license renewal fees can vary. The renewal notice will have fees required to renewal your driver license on it. Check your address before you leave DMV and tell the DMV representative if your address is incorrect. You will be issued an interim license valid for 60 days until you receive your new driver license in the mail.

5. Q. My mother and my brother are coming to visit from New York next month for three weeks, but I’m worried that they won’t be able to drive themselves around when I am at work. She has a valid New York driver license and my brother, who is 16, just obtained his New York license a few weeks ago. Will this be enough for them to drive in California?
A. In your mother’s case, visitors over age 18 with a valid driver license from their home state or country will be allowed to drive without getting a California driver license. However, since your brother is a provisional driver under age 18, he will only be allowed to drive for the first 10 days of his visit using his New York license. After the 10-day period, he will need to get either a California driver license or a Nonresident Minor’s Certificate, which is issued by DMV to a minor who has provided proof of financial responsibility. Visit and click on the Online Services tab to make an appointment. Save Time Go Online!

6. Q. My wife and I would like to obtain a California ID card for our daughter, who just turned 18 months. Can a baby or toddler apply for a California ID? Will you take her photograph or should I bring one?
A. In order to obtain a California Identification card for a minor, you will first need to obtain the child’s certified birth certificate. Check with your local county Clerk-Recorder or office of vital records to obtain a birth certificate. You will also need to obtain the child’s actual Social Security number. Once you have the required documents visit a local DMV office, but make sure to make an appointment for faster service by going online at or calling 1–800–777–0133. The parent or guardian will need to fill out an Identification Card Application (DL 44) and check the “Original ID Card” box. Make sure you know the child’s height and weight when filling out the application. You’ll need to provide the child’s Social Security number. Next, your child’s thumb print will be captured electronically and your child’s picture will be taken. You should receive your child’s new California ID card within 30-60 days.

7. Q. I recently purchased a car from a local dealership, and I was told by the sales staff that I had a 3 year warranty. I went back to the dealer where I bought the car for repairs but they told me the warranty had already expired last year. The car is used and I was told the dealer’s warranty started when the previous owner bought the car. My main issue is that the sales staff told me I had enough warranty until the end of the year but now I’m told the warranty actually expired last year. What should I do?
A. We’re sorry to hear you’re having trouble with your vehicle purchase. Most manufacturer warranties are time and mileage based upon the original date of reported sale, or first date of operation in the case of Dealer Demo vehicles. Most are transferable, however, that varies amongst vehicle manufacturers. The DMV Investigations Division diligently enforces laws, rules, and regulations that apply to new and used vehicle dealers, brokers, dismantlers, registrations services, vehicle verifiers, driving schools or traffic violator schools, and other vehicle-related businesses. If you’d like to file a consumer complaint against any of the above-listed groups, please fill the Record of Complaint Form. Follow the directions for completing the form and then mail it to an Investigations office in your area-see address listing on form:

8. Q. Is it true that minors are never allowed to use cell phones when driving, even with a hands-free device?
A. That is correct. It is against the law for a minor to use a cell phone while driving, even one that is equipped with a hands-free device. Drivers under age 18 are only to use their cell phones when the vehicle is safely stopped or parked. If a minor violates this law, they will be subject to fines. The only exceptions to this law are in the event that a minor must use a cell phone in an emergency situation to contact law enforcement, a health care provider, the fire department, or another emergency entity.

Don’t Stand In Line, Go Online! Doing business with the DMV has never been easier. The DMV offers an array of services to customers 24 hours a day, 7 days a week through its Website including online advance appointments for written and drive tests; vehicle registration and driver license renewals, selection of personalized license plates, changes of address and payment of fees via secure debit transactions. Customers can also effect transactions by calling DMV customer service at (800) 777-0133. DMV is a department under the Business, Transportation and Housing Agency.



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