~ California Registration Tips ~
John Goldman john@goldmanarchitects.com

California is one of the easiest states to register a bike in, as long as it is OFF the DMV computer. Meaning that the bike has either never been registered in California or has not been registered in over seven years. You do not need any old paperwork or old title as long as the bike does not show up on the DMV computer.

What has been written on this list about registering old bikes is true, but here are tips to make it even easier, which I have learned over  the years from registering at the California DMV many old Italian bikes which had no papers whatsoever and never did have papers. Many of these bikes did not run and some still don't run. Few if any had turn signals or other "safety" equipment. In one case the "bike" was a collection of parts and an engine sitting next to a frame which was soon to undergo restoration. In each case I got the bike (or bike parts) registered for the street with no problem, once I got this method down.

The most important form you will need to register an old bike is a combination form called "Application For Title Or Registration" and on the reverse side the form is called "Verification Of Vehicle". You will also need a form called "Statement of Facts." These forms are available at any DMV office and you can get them without standing in line.

Here is the key to make your life easier: do NOT take your bike to the DMV. They do NOT need to see it. All they need to see is a properly filled out Verification Of Vehicle form. Any police officer or highway patrol officer can fill out that form. Most police officers have never seen this form before and have no idea what it is, which works to your advantage. DMV people work with this form every day which does not work to your advantage.

Make a copy of the Verification Form and complete that copy of the form. You will be filling in the frame and engine I.D. numbers and other info about the bike, including the mileage on its speedo and the year of the bike. If the bike has no speedo, install one temporarily from another bike and record its mileage on the Verification form. Don't worry about connecting the speedo. On the form there is a place to state that the mileage on the speedo is not the actual mileage of the bike.

Flag down a cop and have your bike ready to show to the cop. Explain to the cop that you need them to fill out the Verification form, then show the cop where the frame and engine numbers are. Show the cop the copy of the form which you have already filled out in order to demonstrate to them how to properly fill out the form. You are making the cop's life easier by filling out the example form so they can fill out the actual form quickly and accurately and then leave quickly so they can get on with their business. Since the cop won't know what year your bike is and he or she has to fill in the year on the form, the cop will have to take your word for the year of your bike. You can make this easier for the cop by having pictures to show of that year of bike from a book or magazine. That is one way for verifying the year of your bike which has worked well for me.

Then you fill out the front side of the form, the Application for Title. Also fill out a "Statement Of Facts". On that form you will explain that you lost all of the old paperwork, including the old title and registration. (That's what happened, right? Either that or the prior owner told you he lost all of the paperwork and thus you never had any paperwork.) Also state that the bike has not been on any public road since you lost the paperwork. (This is important, since you will owe fees if you had an unregistered bike on the road. But, if it was unregistered, it should not have been on the road, anyway.) Also be sure to state that the bike has no liens recorded on it and never did.

Take these forms to the DMV. Once you get to the registration window it should go fairly smoothly and you will immediately be issued a new registration and license plate. Your new title will follow in the mail.


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