The DMV office IS good for something!!!!
So, I found a good reason to go to the DMV office now, to check if the moped you just bought has been registered. They won't tell you a name but they can a least tell you if it has been registered or not. I found out mine in fact had been registered and I am starting to realize now that if you buy a ped and the person ISN'T the registered owner and/or they don't know the laws, odds are it was probably registered before.
What I mean by this is, if you go to check out a moped and the person doesn't have the actual registration card with them or is not the original owner, I can almost guarantee that it has been registered before. The reason I say this is because if the bike in question has been in California since it was produced, it's pretty unlikely that no one registered it, especially if it changed hands a few times.
For both my bikes this has been the scenario, seller has purchased the bike from another party. The other party has told the seller that "mopeds don't need to be registered, they are like bicycles" so then when they go to sell it, they say the same thing. My guess is this same pattern happens every time the moped in question is sold and what ends up happening is whoever registered it new has their name on it, even though it has probably been sold to multiple parties after them, since moped registrations are for life.
The end result is, whenever I even think about going to check out a moped, I am going to bring the reg230 print out with me. That way, I just assume it's been previously registered and have them sign over release of the moped right then and there. THEN I check the DMV office if it has been registered or not. And then of course I send in the paperwork via postal mail to have it done right! That way, if I find out its already registered, I have the paperwork to take care of it and I won't have to go back and get the seller to fill out the paperwork again. Since it's most likely already registered, this is the best way to go.
KEY THINGS TO REMEMBER
MOPEDS HAVE TO BE REGISTERED IN CA AND PROBABLY ARE!
Odds are, if a moped from the 1970s-80s has been in the state of California for a while or since it was produced, it probably is in fact registered. If the person tells you they "don't know" or "you don't have to register them" then it probably is registered and they didn't even know about it (that or they are lying). The only way to assume it hasn't been registered is if they are the original owner (brand new off the assembly line) and didn't register it or if it is from another state and sold here for the first time. Either way, I'd still get them to sign the reg230.
Just bring the reg230 with you just incase
Even if they say they are in fact the original owner, bring the reg230 with you anyway. If they didn't steal the moped, they shouldn't feel weird about signing it off when you buy it. If they tell you "you don't have to register it" explain to them the law and get them to sign it anyway. That way, if you do indeed find out they were wrong or lied about the registration, you've still got their john hancock that proves they released the bike over to you. again, they DO NOT have to be the registered owner and are not in any sort of trouble by signing it off to you. It's just a signature from them that says they sold it, period. It's like a bill of sale but you don't need one!
Again, there is nothing wrong with buying a moped without paperwork
You don't need paperwork to buy a moped in California and on top of that, you don't even need a bill of sale or to have purchased it from the original owner. All you need is for the seller who sold it to you to sign the "release of ownership" over to you in the reg230. This goes for any mopeds you currently own. If someone tries to low ball you because it doesn't have paperwork, explain the laws to them. Or you could always simply fill out the paperwork, get it in your name and then sell it. It's really easy!
Moped Registration Is For Life
Once its in your name, it stays that way! Unlike a car or motorcycle that you have to pay every year to keep registered, a moped is registered for life. There is no sticker you have to get or fees you have to pay. So, once it's in your name CONGRATULATIONS! If someone registered it new and sold it without transferring the registration then it is still in the original owners name. No problem though, you just have to get the seller to sign it over to you, NOT THE ORIGINAL OWNER.