CNRSW Fleet and Family Support Center - Naval Base San Diego - Information and Referral Services
3005 Corbina Alley
Building 259
San Diego, CA 92136

Phone 619-556-7404
Phone (DSN) 312-526-7404
Fax 619-556-7435
Fax (DSN) 312-526-7435

Mon - Fri 7:30 a.m. - 4:30 p.m.
Sat - Sun - closed
Holidays - closed

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Motor Vehicles

Registration and licensing requirements

State laws vary when it comes to motor vehicle insurance requirements, licensing and registration. The term vehicle generally includes automobiles, motorcycles, vans, trailers and boats regularly parked or garaged overnight. Service members and their families will want to understand their state’s laws on registration and licensing before moving to a new state. Visit the Motor Vehicle Services page for links to state-specific websites.

Motor vehicle laws

State and local laws regulate the operation of motor vehicles, and these laws can vary by location. Many states regulate the following:

  • Seatbelt use
  • Child safety seats
  • Motorcycle operation
  • The use of cellphones and other digital devices while driving

Learn more about motor vehicle laws in your state at the State Laws page.

Installation Specific Information

Registration & Licensing Requirements

California State law requires you to have sufficient liability insurance and a valid driver’s license in order to operate a vehicle. The term “vehicle” generally includes automobiles, motorcycles, vans, trailers and boats regularly parked or garaged overnight. Further, your vehicle must be properly registered. Even though you are in the Military, you may be required to register your vehicle in-state and obtain an in-state license within a few months of moving. Access complete information on insurance, driver’s licensing, and where and how to register your vehicle by visiting the State Department of Motor Vehicles website.

State Laws

You and your passengers must always wear seatbelts while driving, you will be ticketed and issued heavy fines if seatbelts are not secured. State law requires that all children under 6 years of age be properly restrained in child seats. Some states also require younger, smaller children to sit in the back seat.

Motorcycles and their operators are subject to special laws. If you own and operate a motorcycle, you must comply with those laws. Visit the State Department of Motor Vehicles website for more information.

Many States and local jurisdictions have strict laws about the use of cell phones and other digital devices while driving. Research these laws on the State Department of Motor Vehicles website. Tickets will be issued and fines assessed for violating these laws. Hands-free devices must be used while operating a motor vehicle on ALL military installations worldwide.

Obtaining a California Driver's License

There are seven Department of Motor Vehicle (DMV) locations in the San Diego area. The DMV maintains that lawful family members are entitled to the same nonresident status as their active duty sponsors. Therefore, the DMV has determined that a California driver's license is not required of a family member as long as the following criteria are met: 

  • The family member's home state driver's license remains valid.
  • The family member is age 18 or older.
  • The family member does not establish permanent residency in California.
  • The family member is not employed for compensation for the purpose of driving a motor vehicle.

Registering Vehicles in California

If the service member wants to register his or her vehicle in California then the DMV has a special form to be filled out by the service member to receive a military rate on the basic annual registration and vehicle fee.

The three-state rule applies in California - a person cannot be a resident in one state, have a driver's license in another, and have his/her car registered in a third state.

If you are going to register your car in California, you may have to pay an additional transportation fee which can be found on the California DMV website. Some vehicles must be fitted with emission control devices.

Out-of-state vehicle registration for military personnel is valid until the regular expiration date. Upon expiration, the vehicle registration may be renewed in your home state or an application can be made for a California vehicle registration. DMV will request the out-of-state title, last issued registration and the license plates.

An odometer disclosure is required to register or transfer a motor vehicle. The law authorizes the DMV to refuse to register, renew or transfer a vehicle when the odometer reading is not provided.

Registering Vehicles on Base

A smog certificate and proof of car insurance is also required to register vehicles. This applies whether your vehicle is registered in California or out of state. You must register your vehicle with the base within 60 days of transfer. Exemptions:

  • Vehicles older than 1975
  • Hybrid Vehicles
  • Diesel Vehicles

Liability insurance is mandatory in California, and you must be insured for a minimum of $15,000 bodily injury (per person), $30,000 bodily injury (per accident), and $5,000 property damage (per accident).


If you ride a motorcycle on a military installation, you must wear an ANSI-approved helmet with the chin strap firmly fastened, shoes or boots with leather sides and hard rubber or leather soles, full finger gloves, full-length trousers and a long-sleeve shirt or jacket. You must also have the headlight on while driving.

All motorcycle drivers must attend a motorcycle safety course. Rider must obtain a Motor Safety Card from the motorcycle safety course.

Cell Phones

Defense Department installations enforce cell phone restrictions for all drivers on military bases. The regulation states that anyone driving a motor vehicle on a DoD installation cannot use a cell phone unless the vehicle is safely parked or the driver is using a hands-free device.

Associated Links

Navy Official Home Page
Generally applicable service wide information.

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