Requirements for Registration of a Utility Trailer in California

By Smokey Yokems - Updated March 14, 2018
Horse trailer

In California, all utility trailers must be registered with the Permanent Trailer Idenfitication (PTI) program, which is operated by the California Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV). This is to ensure that all utility trailers used in the state are properly insured, titled and safe for use.

Tip

A utility trailer is a tow vehicle used to transport horses. Trailers used to transport items and utility trailers heavier than 10,000 pounds are not subject to PTI registration.

California Utility Trailer Definition

The California DMV defines a utility trailer as any tow vehicle used for the transport of property or horses. PTI registrations are not issued for commercial household goods carriers, trailers or semi-trailers used for hire, or utility trailers exceeding a gross weight of 10,000 pounds. For purposes of this definition, the weight classification for horse trailers includes the weight of both trailer and horses.

Service Fees

The California DMV collects PTI registration fees every five years. Original plate issue will include an identification card, rather than a sticker, to verify compliance with the program. PTI fees can be suspended without losing the DMV plate record if the owner submits a Certificate of Planned Non-Operation (PNO) when the five-year registration term expires. Expiration dates are maintained on file and renewal fees must be paid in full prior to utility trailer operation.

Ownership Identification and Transfers

Legal ownership of a utility trailer, including identification of all lien holders, is verified during the PTI registration process. Certificates of Title are generated automatically to lien holders and to sole owners by request. Transfers of ownership require either a paper title transaction or a completed and signed Permanent Trailer Identification Certificate, side B. Dealers must provide a Report of Sale – Used Vehicles for all transfers of registration. Fees for transfer are due 30 days from the date of sale.

Vehicle dealers receiving utility trailers into inventory for sale as new must post PTI fees for all that are otherwise registered or licensed with the California DMV. Used trailers must be transferred directly into dealer ownership according to PTI regulations.

California Utility Trailer Requirements

Under California law, drivers towing utility trailers must comply with certain safety requirements. These include:

  • passengers may not ride in a utility trailer
  • vehicles towing trailers must drive in the towing lane
  • vehicles towing trailers may not exceed 55 miles per hour when traveling
  • trailers wider than 80 inches must have amber reflectors on their sides and front and red reflectors on their rears
  • trailers used at night must be equipped with turn signal lights, taillights, stop lamps, and license plate lights

About the Author

Smokey Yokems has been teaching through writing and performance since 1982. Yokems' strength is translation. Her publications include work-for-hire children's stories, corporate video scripts and a tri-annual newsletter for a nonprofit educational foundation in Maine. Yokems holds a Bachelor of Arts in creative writing and performance from Oberlin College/Lesley University.

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