I checked mine randomly the other day, and saw that it was about to expire. I hadn’t received a notice from the DMV. I called them and they said (very nice and helpful on the phone, by the way) that they had just mailed me a renewal notice. I received it two days before the expiration date. Then I had to scramble to get the renewal done, and when I tried to do so online, the DMV servers weren’t working for quite a few hours.
On top of that, the renewal form and enclosed separate “Special Notice” (see above) seem to disagree about the consequences of late registration. The renewal form has a “Late Payment” box which indicates that renewing even a day late results in penalties in the form of higher fees, and these get higher the later it gets. However, the Special Notice indicates that, due to recent legislation, for renewal fees due on or after July 1, 2011, DMV will no longer send 60-day advance notification of renewals, but rather, will establish a “30-day grace period before penalties are due.” I have read through these materials several times and still can’t figure out what the bottom line is if you pay late. Even if the Special Notice trumps the renewal form, I think the procedural change is going to cause some people a bit of nervousness.
For example, this is summertime, and plenty of people are on vacation, and thus might not get their vehicle registration renewal notices until after their registration expiration date. So again, I recommend checking the date on your registration. If it’s set to expire soon, you can go to dmv.ca.gov, and you should be able to navigate through the renewal and payment process online even if you have not yet received your notice in the mail.
UPDATE 7/11/11: According to the Fresno Bee, this whole procedural change is the result of a legislative proposal, Senate Bill 94, to help close California’s budget deficit by extending the 2009 increase in vehicle fees. Ostensibly to avoid having the wrong fee amount listed on our renewal forms, the bill “halt[s] DMV renewals for vehicle registrants until lawmakers reach a budget deal or the fiscal year ends on July 1. The DMV also would be unable to accept payment on renewals with due dates beyond June.” Governor Brown signed SB 94 in early May.
On June 30, the DMV put out this notice advising motorists not to renew their registrations until they receive a notice from DMV. I think that state officials could have publicized that a bit more at the time, don’t you? Also on June 30, Governor Brown signed a new budget into law. The budget does not extend the 2009 vehicle tax increase, but it does contain a modest vehicle registration fee increase ($12, I believe).
In any event, my attitude is unchanged: since I discovered my upcoming registration expiration date and was able to renew it before that date, there was no chance that I was going to wait until the date slipped, and then hope that the politicians and the police still would be on board with that after the fact.