Long wait for license California plates?
October 25, 2006 5:24 AM   Subscribe

How long does it take to get California license plates?

I bought a used car from Carmax in September 23. I still haven't received my plates & registration & pink slip from the DMV. Before I have to call or --shudder-- go to the DMV, I'd like to know if they're late or if I should wait some more. Anybody?
posted by CoffeeCake to Travel & Transportation (9 answers total)
According to the website, "Sequential license plates will be mailed directly to you at the address on your DMV vehicle record; you should receive them in approximately 4-6 weeks."
posted by bcwinters at 6:02 AM on October 25, 2006

When you purchase a car from a dealer, the dealer has the option of setting it up so the plates are either mailed to you or to them. Call Carmax's finance department and ask them where the plates will be mailed.
posted by buggzzee23 at 6:13 AM on October 25, 2006

Also, used car titles can take considerably longer to process than new car titles. Dealers often sell used cars before they have physical possession of the title and that can sometimes add several weeks to the process. With new cars, OTH, there is no certificate of title but just a manufacturers statement of origin (MSO) that the dealer has on file and ships to DMV almost immediately to get the title process started and DMV issues the first certificate of title upon receipt of the MSO.
posted by buggzzee23 at 6:24 AM on October 25, 2006

I bought a new car (so buggzzee's comment should be applied here) in CA two and a half weeks ago and my dealer called 2 days ago to say that the plates were ready for pick-up. I had asked to have them hold the plates since my mail box is too small for them. But that's at least a good starting point for estimating time for a used car.
posted by otherwordlyglow at 8:31 AM on October 25, 2006

Last August I bought a used car and my then roommate bought a new car and we both received our plates in the mail in December.
posted by hamhed at 9:43 AM on October 25, 2006

Also, check under the dealer logo on your plate holder, it may already be there. I bought a used car last April and was waiting and waiting for the plate to arrive. Three months later I was pulled over for something unrelated and the cop asked when I had purchased the car. After I explained to the cop that it had been three months, but I was still waiting to recieve the plate in the mail, he walked back, pulled that paper off, and lo and behold, my plate had been there all along!
posted by platinum at 11:03 AM on October 25, 2006

Call Carmax first, and make sure they actually submitted the paperwork! I bought a used car in CA in Feb 2000, then got pulled over by the police in April 2000 for expired tags (the old plates). I had foolishly assumed that the plates were just takign a while to show up. It turned out the car dealer hadn't bothered to submit the paperwork yet. Plates usually take a few weeks, but call carmax and check that everything is actually in process.
posted by Joh at 1:13 PM on October 25, 2006

The official line is you should not let your dealer submit your paperwork for you because sometimes they don't and you're still liable.

It took them about a month and a half to get me my plates on a new car (a couple years ago), which is longer than it's been for you yet. But it's still worth calling the DMV to confirm that your dealer did what they said they were going to. You will probably have to wait on hold some, but suck it up.
posted by aubilenon at 1:30 PM on October 25, 2006

The official line is you should not let your dealer submit your paperwork for you because sometimes they don't and you're still liable. posted by aubilenon

Good luck with that if you're not paying cash up front for the car. A dealer is contractually bound by the lender to handle the title and registration process to ensure the lender is listed as lienholder/legal owner on the new certificate of title.

A cash customer can demand the title and handle it himself, but it is sometimes weeks and sometimes even a few months after the sale before the dealer has physical possession of the actual title certificate on a used vehicle. This is because used car titles involve paying off the old lender and waiting for them to mail the title to the dealer who took it in as a trade. It's not uncommon for a dealer to aquire a used vehicle from a wholesaler who bought the car from another dealer or auction and that adds add'l hands for the title to pass through before the dealer who made the retail sale receives the title. I've seen cars that have passed through as many as 14 wholesale steps before being retailed and each step adds a minimum of 3 business days to the process.

There are 2 different sets of DMV paperwork for vehicle sales in California. New cars require a Report of Sale (RS) to be filed along with the Manufactures Statement of Origin (MSO) while used vehicles require an Application for Registration (AR) be filed along with a boatload of title, registration, notice of lien satisfaction and other docs. Both sets of paperwork are numbered and contain an original and a hard copy. The lower portion of the original is what goes in the window of the vehicle and serves as the temporary registration until title and registration are issued. The law requires the dealer to submit the lower portion of the hard copy (along with DMV fees collected) to DMV within 5 days of the sale whether the MSO, title or other docs are in their possession or not. The upper portion of the original is then submotted to DMV with all the required docs once the dealer has those in hand. The titling and registration of used cars can still take a long time even when the 5 day notice is sent in a timely fashion.

Speaking as someone who has been through a couple of DMV audits, only an idiot dealer would drag his feet when it comes to RS/AR submissions. There is no quicker way to get on DMV's shitlist than to get sloppy with those 2 docs and no delaer wants to be on their shitlist.
posted by buggzzee23 at 3:24 PM on October 25, 2006 [1 favorite]

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