Milestones

The following chronicles some significant events affecting drivers, vehicles, and the Department of Motor Vehicles.

1913
Chapter 326 of the Motor Vehicle Act, approved May 31, 1913, establishes the document authorizing a person to operate a motor vehicle as an "operator's license" or a "chauffeur's license." After December 31, 1913, no one may operate or drive a motor vehicle without a license.

1914
California starts requiring driver licenses and chauffeur driver licenses.
California begins issuing its first permanent license plates.

1915
Vehicle Act of 1915 establishes the Department of Motor Vehicles.

1921
Powers and duties of the Department of Motor Vehicles transfer to the Division of Motor Vehicles, part of the newly created Department of Finance.

1923
California Vehicle Act of 1923 revises Vehicle Act of 1915. As the predecessor of the California Highway Patrol, Division of Motor Vehicles begins appointing state inspectors and traffic officers to enforce the act.

1929
Division of Motor Vehicles transfers to the Department of Public Works.

1931
DMV again becomes an independent state department.

1936
DMV begins collecting a VLF (Vehicle License Fee). Because it takes the place of a personal property tax levy by cities and counties (at varying rates), it is sometimes called the "in lieu tax."

1941
Investigators are made members of DMV's Highway Patrol Division.

1945
The Motor Vehicle Fund replaces the Motor Vehicle Support Fund of 1937 for the deposition of DMV revenues.

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1947
Legislation authorizes fee increases to fund a new network of highways and freeways, safety controls, and vehicle usage regulations to address post-World War II transportation needs. California Highway Patrol becomes a separate state department with increased law enforcement and public safety responsibilities. DMV establishes an Investigations Section in the department's Division of Registration to enforce laws within DMV jurisdiction.
The vehicle registration fee increases from $3 to $6. Weight fees for commercial vehicles increase, as does California's gasoline tax.

1948
A new financial responsibility law provides for suspension of motorists' driving and registration privileges following accidents if they cannot prove ability to pay damages. Conversion from manual processing to a card punch system begins for registration documents. The conversion is completed by 1949.

1949
The legislature enhances negligent operator laws by requiring a count of two points be assessed against a driver's record for conviction of misdemeanor drunk driving, the same as felony drunk driving, reckless driving, and hit-run driving. Drivers find their license suspended if they accumulate a total of four points in 12 months, six points in 24 months, or eight points in 36 months.

1951
DMV authorized to issue "Horseless Carriage" license plates, recognizing vehicles made before 1922 as of historic interest.

1953
New Duties assigned to DMV include licensing of professional driving schools and instructors.
Registration fees increase to $8.
A new weight fee schedule is adopted for commercial vehicles.
Specialized peace officer powers are granted to DMV investigators.

1955
Legislature creates the California Reciprocity Commission to make formal agreements with other states regarding licensing, registration, or payment of weight fees on vehicles used in interstate commerce. DMV's director serves on the commission.

1957
Driver licenses become renewable every four years on an applicant's birthday instead of four years from the anniversary date of application.

1958
Photographs first appear on California driver licenses. DMV empowered to issue or, if necessary, refuse to license or revoke licenses of vehicle manufacturers, transporters, wreckers, and vehicle dealers. DMV also starts licensing persons who sell motor vehicles.

1959
The Vehicle Code is revised. DMV is assigned the responsibility of registering boats.

1962
Responsibility of registering boats is transferred to the Division of Small Craft Harbors of the then Department of Natural Resources.

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1964
DMV begins using magnetic tapes instead of punch cards for processing registration documentation.

1965
Smog control devices become a condition of first-time vehicle registration in California.

1966
Registration fee increases to $10 to help fund an expanded Highway Patrol staff.

1967
Legislature establishes the New Motor Vehicle Board. Registration fee increases to $11.

1968
Department begins using random access computer for processing basic registration documentation.

1970
Governor Ronald Reagan signs legislation authorizing California to issue personalized "Environmental License Plates." (8/21/70)
Driver license records are fully computerized.
DMV resumes responsibility for registering boats.

1972
Personalized license plates, also known as environmental license plates (ELPs), debut.
DMV begins issuing driver licenses with color photos.
Registration of off-highway vehicles begins.

1975
Legislature authorizes DMV to begin issuing "Historical Vehicle" license plates for vehicles at least 25 years old and manufactured after 1922, in contrast to "Horseless Carriage" plates for vehicles made before 1922.
The DMV Child Care Center-the first child care center in a state building-opens in DMV Headquarters.

1976
Year-round vehicle registration renewal begins. Previously, vehicles were registered during the first month of the year, causing long lines at DMV.

1977
DMV begins issuing Disabled Person parking placards, displaying the international handicap emblem.

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1979
DMV starts an experiment in renewal by mail for driver licenses. The pilot limits participants to 10 percent of drivers who qualified with four-year accident and citation free driving records. Within six months, new legislation allows extension for a four-year term to persons under 70 years of age with clean records.

1980
DMV computerizes vehicle registration cashiering transactions in most field offices.

1982
DMV's driver license renewal by mail expands to allow multiple extensions for drivers under 70 with three-year and two-year clean records.
Fees increase for registration and driver licenses. Designed to crack down on drunk driving, tough new laws mandate jail terms.
DMV introduces appointments for driving tests to speed service and thin field office crowds.
DMV issues the one-millionth environmental license plate.
Thumbprints became mandatory on driver license applications.
Reflectorized license plates become an option.

1983
The depreciation schedule for the Vehicle License Fee is expanded from nine to 10 years.
The high accident rate of younger drivers prompts provisional licensing of drivers between ages 16 an 18.
Beginning in fall, license plates with the Olympic Games logo can be ordered for delivery in 1984.
License plates for disabled veterans and disabled persons are simplified by a new series starting with either DV or DP.

1984
A new financial responsibility law requires that uninsured drivers involved in a vehicle accident have their driver licenses suspended for a year.
Registering a vehicle out of state to avoid California fees becomes a misdemeanor offense.
The $2.588 million raised through the sale of 25,583 Olympic Games License Plates helps pay for law enforcement and traffic control expenses for the Olympic Games in Los Angles. A portion of the funds goes to environmental programs.
To improve air quality, a new law requires vehicle owners renewing vehicle registration to have a certificate verifying that the vehicle complies with smog equipment requirements.
A pilot Court Abstract Program allows courts direct access to DMV files.
DMV begins a pilot program to conduct registration business by appointment as an option to speed service to the public.
Field offices start installation on $42 million in computer equipment to handle registration business. A computerized driver license system is to follow.

1985
DMV begins a computerized roster of Disabled Person parking placards. By mid-year, new two-year placards are being issued for a $6 fee.
Driver license renewal by mail is extended to drivers who have no more than one accident and have had clean driving records for two years.

1986
A legislatively-authorized, three-month amnesty period during the first quarter of the year brings in $15.6 million and restores some 115,800 vehicles to registration rolls.

1987
All new license plates issued by DMV are reflectorized.

1989
New licensing and testing requirements that equal or exceed federal standards are implemented for commercial vehicle drivers. The new Commercial Driver License (CDL) Program also begins a new license classification.
For the first time, paperless (electronic) vehicle titles are issued to companies acting as lien holders.

1990
DMV begins issuing magnetic stripe driver licenses, identification cards, and vehicle salesperson licenses.
DMV requires both operational and non-operational vehicles to be recorded on its data base. A $5 filing fee is charged to record a vehicle's Planned Non-Operation (PNO). Unless otherwise exempt, failure to record a non-operating vehicle and pay the $5 fee prior to the vehicle's registration expiring results in penalty fees.

Effective October 1, 1990, vehicles previously registered in another state or country were assessed a $300 Smog Impact Fee.

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1991
Effective August 1, 1991:

The Vehicle License Fee classification was assessed at 2 percent, with an additional 2.2 percent surcharge, based on the vehicle market value or vehicle purchase price (purchase price included under the new reclassification requirements).

The depreciation schedule for Vehicle License Fee was expanded from 10 years to 11 years for most vehicles (most park trailers are on an 18 year depreciation schedule).

The transfer of a vehicle requires reclassification of Vehicle License Fee (with some exemptions), based on the vehicle purchase price or the vehicle current market value as indicated by the new owner.

1992
Annual vehicle registration fee increases from $22 to $27. Driver license fee increases from $10 to $12 a year. Annual commercial driver license (CDL) fees are each an additional $2. Consequently, an original CDL, with or without a driving-skill test, costs $57. An original Class C with commercial endorsement increases from $25 to $27 annually. Environmental license plate fee increases from $35 to $40, while annual renewal fee goes from $20 to $25.

On August 1, 1992, the 2.2 percent surcharge assessed on the Vehicle License Fee classification was eliminated, which returned the Vehicle License Fee assessment to 2 percent of the vehicle market value or vehicle purchase price on an 11 year depreciation schedule for most vehicles.

1993
A new penalty structure was established for late payment of registration renewal.
Registration Fee penalty for renewal applications:
10% Late One to Ten Days
20% Late Eleven to Thirty Days
60% Late Thirty-One Days Up To One Year

1996
The Planned Non-Operational Fee increased from $5 to $10.

1997
Fee increase effective January 1, 1997:
$28 Registration Fee

Fee increases effective September 1, 1997:

$11:

  • Registered Owner and Legal Owner Transfer Fee (Commercial or Trailer)
  • Legal Owner Transfer Fee (All Other Vehicles)

$12:

  • Registered Owner and Legal Owner Transfer Fee (Automobile or Motorcycle)

1998
Fee increases effective July 1, 1998:

$13:

  • Registered Owner and Legal Owner Transfer Fee (Commercial or Trailer)
  • Legal Owner Transfer Fee (All Other Vehicles)

$14:

  • Registered Owner and Legal Owner Transfer Fee (Automobile or Motorcycle)

1999
A 25 percent offset was applied to the Vehicle License Fee.
Transfer Fees increased to $15.
Effective November 1, 1999, collection of the $300 Smog Impact Fee ended.

2000
The 25 percent offset to the Vehicle License Fee was increased to 35 percent.

2001
A 32.5 percent rebate was added to the Vehicle License Fee (rebate check mailed to registered owner after payment of fees and processing of application) in addition to the 35 percent offset already applied to the Vehicle License Fee.

Effective July 1, 2001:
The 32.5 percent rebate was eliminated.
A 32.5 percent offset was added to the already existing 35 percent offset, for a total offset amount of 67.5 percent applied toward the assessment of the Vehicle License Fee.

2002
The Commercial Vehicle Registration Act changed the way commercial motor vehicles were registered. Registration of commercial vehicles (registered December 31, 2001 and later) were based on unladen weight, or declared gross vehicle weight, or declared combined gross vehicle weight.

Excluded Vehicles:
  • Pickups
  • Light Weight Trucks and Vans (if declared gross vehicle weight or combined gross vehicle weight is 10,000 lbs or less)
  • Taxis and Rental Limousines (if declared gross vehicle weight is 10,000 lbs or less)
  • Park Trailer
Trailers were converted from regular registration to Permanent Trailer Identification. Excluded Trailers:
  • Park Trailer (CCHPT)
  • Park Trailer Boat (CCHPTBT i.e., houseboat with wheels)
  • Coach Trailer Boat (CCHBT i.e., houseboat with wheels.)
  • Trailer Coach (CCH)

Fees for Permanent Trailer Identification:
$20 Original Registration or Conversion Fee

$10:

  • Paper Title Fee
  • Five Year Renewal Fee

$8 Substitute Plate Fee
$7 Duplicate Identification Card Fee

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2003
Registration Penalty Structure was changed from a computed percentage of the total Registration Fee, Vehicle License Fee and Weight Fee to a set Registration Penalty Fee and penalty assessed based on a percentage of the Vehicle License Fee and a percentage of the Weight Fee (if due).

Registration Fee penalty for original applications:
$ 30 Late One Year Or Less
$ 50 Late More Than One Year Up To Two Years
$100 Late More Than Two Years

Registration Fee penalty for renewal applications: $ 10 Late One To Ten Days
$ 15 Late Eleven To Thirty Days
$ 30 Late Thirty-One Days Up To One Year
$ 50 Late More Than One Year Up To Two Years
$100 Late More Than Two Years

Vehicle License Fee and Weight Fee penalty assessment for original applications:
40 % Late One Year Or Less
80 % Late More Than One Year Up To Two Years
160 % Last More Than Two Years

Vehicle License Fee and Weight Fee penalty assessment for renewal applications:
10 % Late One To Ten Days
20% Late Eleven To Thirty Days
60% Late Thirty-One Days Up To One Year
80% Late More Than One Year Up To Two Years
160% Late More Than Two Years

2004
Registration Fee increased from $28 to $31.
The following fees were increased and were established as base fees to be compared annually to the California Consumer Price Index for calculation in determining future annual fee adjustments (California Vehicle Code §1678).

Vehicle Registration
$3 Information/Personal Service Private Industry Partners Fee (Business Partner)
$6 Off Highway Vehicle California Highway Patrol Fee
$9 California Highway Patrol Fee

$15:

  • Duplicate Certificate of Ownership Registration Card and Equipment ID Card Fee
  • Duplicate and Substitute Plates (does not include Environmental License Plates) and Equipment Identification Plate Fee (same vehicle).
  • Equipment Identification Renewal Plate Fee
  • Moped Original or Transfer Fee
  • Non-Resident Daily Commuter Permit Service Fee
  • Non-Resident Registration and Re-Registration Service Fee
  • Off Highway Vehicle Planned Non-Operation Fee
  • Off Highway Vehicle Transfer Duplicate Ownership, Identification Plate, Tab and Sticker Fee
  • Off Highway Vehicle Transfer of Ownership Penalty Fee
  • One Trip Permit Fee
  • Partial Vehicle License Fee
  • Partial Year Registration Fee
  • Planned Non-Operation Fee
  • Permanent Trailer Identification Paper Title Fee
  • Pre-Judgment Attachment Fee
  • Salvage Certificate Fee
  • School Bus (Privately Owned) Fee
  • School Bus (Education Related or Nonprofit Purpose) Fee
  • Special Equipment Originals and Renewal Service Fee
  • Special Equipment Transfer Fee
  • Special Identification Plate Service Fee
  • Special Transportation Identification Device Fee (for motorcycle)
  • Title Only Fee
  • Non-Repairable Vehicle Certificate Fee

$21 Commercial Vehicle Registration Act California Highway Patrol Fee

Driver License
$5 Driver License (Class C or M) Original and Drive Test Retake Fee
$19 Duplicate Non-Commercial Driver License or Name Change for Non-Commercial and Commercial Fee
$20 Identification Card Fee

$24:

  • Driver License Five Year Fee
  • Driver License (Class C or M) Original Application Fee
  • Driver License Renewal or Change of Class Fee
  • $34 Driver License (Commercial or Non-Commercial) Firefighter License Renewal Fee

2005
The 67.5 percent offset for the Vehicle License Fee was eliminated.

The assessment of the Vehicle License Fee classification changed from 2 percent of the vehicle market value or vehicle purchase price to 0.65 percent of the vehicle market value or vehicle purchase price.

The following fees were adjusted based on the comparison to the California Consumer Price Index (California Vehicle Code Section 1678):

Vehicle Registration
$10 California Highway Patrol Fee

$16:

  • Duplicate Certificate of Ownership Registration Card and Equipment ID Card Fee
  • Duplicate and Substitute Plates (does not include Environmental License Plates) and Equipment Identification Plate Fee (same vehicle).
  • Equipment Identification Renewal Plate Fee
  • Moped Original or Transfer Fee
  • Non-Resident Daily Commuter Permit Service Fee
  • Non-Resident Registration and Re-Registration Service Fee
  • Off Highway Vehicle Planned Non-Operation Fee
  • Off Highway Vehicle Transfer Fee
  • Off Highway Vehicle Transfer Duplicate Ownership, Identification Plate, Tab and Sticker Fee
  • Off Highway Vehicle Transfer of Ownership Penalty Fee
  • One Trip Permit Fee
  • Partial Vehicle License Fee
  • Partial Year Registration Fee

Driver License
$20 Duplicate Non-Commercial Driver License or Name Change for Non-Commercial and Commercial Fee
$21 Identification Card Fee

$25:

  • Driver License Five Year Fee
  • Driver License (Class C or M) Original Application Fee
  • Driver License Renewal or Change of Class Fee

$35 Driver License (Commercial or Non-Commercial) Firefighter License Renewal Fee

2006
The number of days the department accepted a vehicle registration renewal fee was extended from, "not more than 60 days prior to a vehicle's expiration date" to, "not more than 75 days prior to a vehicle's expiration date."

The following fees were adjusted based on the comparison to the California Consumer Price Index (California Vehicle Code Section 1678):

Vehicle Registration
$23 Commercial Vehicle Registration Act California Highway Patrol Fee

Driver License

$26:

  • Driver License Five Year Fee
  • Driver License (Class C or M) Original Application Fee
  • Driver License Renewal or Change of Class Fee

$36: Driver License (Commercial or Non-Commercial) Firefighter License Renewal Fee

2007

$17:

  • Duplicate Certificate of Ownership Registration Card and Equipment ID Card Fee
  • Duplicate and Substitute Plates (does not include Environmental License Plates) and Equipment Identification Plate Fee (same vehicle).
  • Equipment Identification Renewal Plate Fee
  • Moped Original or Transfer Fee
  • Non-Resident Daily Commuter Permit Service Fee
  • Non-Resident Registration and Re-Registration Service Fee
  • Off Highway Vehicle Planned Non-Operation Fee
  • Off Highway Vehicle Transfer Fee
  • Off Highway Vehicle Transfer Duplicate Ownership, Identification Plate, Tab and Sticker Fee
  • Off Highway Vehicle Transfer of Ownership Penalty Fee
  • One Trip Permit Fee
  • Partial Vehicle License Fee
  • Partial Year Registration Fee
  • Planned Non-Operation Fee
  • Permanent Trailer Identification Paper Title Fee
  • Pre-Judgment Attachment Fee
  • Salvage Certificate Fee
  • School Bus (Privately Owned) Fee
  • School Bus (Education Related or Nonprofit Purpose) Fee
  • Special Equipment Originals and Renewal Service Fee
  • Special Equipment Transfer Fee
  • Special Identification Plate Service Fee
  • Special Transportation Identification Device Fee (for motorcycle)
  • Title Only Fee Non-Repairable Vehicle Certificate Fee

$24 Commercial Vehicle Registration Act California Highway Patrol Fee

Driver License
$6 Driver License (Class C or M) Original and Drive Test Retake Fee
$21 Duplicate Non-Commercial Driver License or Name Change for Non-Commercial and Commercial Fee
$22 Identification Card Fee

$27:

  • Driver License Five Year Fee
  • Driver License (Class C or M) Original Application Fee
  • Driver License Renewal or Change of Class Fee

$38 Driver License (Commercial or Non-Commercial) Firefighter License Renewal Fee