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Selling or Buying a Vehicle and the California Smog Check

1. I am buying a vehicle, do I need a smog check?

Section 24007 (b) (2) of the Vehicle Code states it is the responsibility of the seller to provide a valid smog certificate at the time of delivery of the vehicle. There is no provision in the law to sell a vehicle "as is." Therefore the seller is always responsible for the smog certificate even if they mention the car is sold "as-is" because the law doesn't recognize the "as-is" policy. If you are buying a vehicle, make sure to ask the seller for a smog certificate. You will not be able to register your vehicle without it.

A California smog certificate is valid for 90 days.

2. I am selling my vehicle, do I need a smog check?

As discussed in question 1 above, Section 24007 (b) (2) of the Vehicle Code states it is the responsibility of the seller to provide a valid smog certificate at the time of delivery of the vehicle. There is no provision in the law to sell a vehicle "as is." Therefore the seller is always responsible for the smog certificate even if they mention the car is sold "as-is" because the law doesn't recognize the "as-is" policy.

If a seller sells his/her vehicle with out a valid smog certificate, the buyer may pay for any repairs necessary to get the car to pass the Smog Check and may end up taking the seller to Small Claims Court to recover their costs.

To avoid running into problems, if you plan on selling your vehicle, obtain a smog inspection first. A California smog certificate is valid for 90 days.


3. I am buying a vehicle from Out-of-State; will it pass the California smog check?

It's true, there is a difference with California legal and Federal legal emissions requirements. And, for the most part California is stricter. However, a vehicle which is equipped with at least the federally required emissions components will pass a California smog inspection, as long as the vehicle's exhaust emissions fall within California's limits.

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California Smog Check and Registration Questions

1. Do older vehicles need smog checks?

Effective 04/01/05: Under the old law, 1975 and subsequent model year vehicles became exempt from Smog Check when they turned 30 years old. A 1976 model year vehicle was exempt in 2005, a 1977 in 2006, etc.

Under the new law... commenced April 1, 2005, exempt from smog check requirements are any motor vehicle manufactured prior to the 1976 model-year. All vehicles 1976 and newer vehicles will be tested according to state emission law. This law repeals the 30-year rolling exemption.

Vehicles with diesel engines, vehicles with two-cycle engines, vehicles with engines smaller than 50 cubic inches of displacement, electric vehicles, and motorcycles are exempt from the Smog Check program.

To determine your vehicles actual model year, you can check on the front driver side door jam for a decal indicating your vehicle's production date and weight specifications.

2. I own a new vehicle, when will I need a smog check?

Vehicles four or six model years old and newer are not required to have a biennial Smog Check performed until their fifth/seventh year. However, these vehicles must have a Smog Check performed if the vehicle is sold or being registered in California for the first time during that time.

3. How often does the DMV require smog inspections?

The DMV requires smog inspection for 90% of vehicles, biennially. Some vehicles registered in rural areas are only required to complete a smog inspection during Change-of-Ownership and initial registration in California.

To determine the type of smog check program you are in, you may call the Bureau of Automotive Repair at (800)952-5210.

4. I am moving to California from out of state, will my vehicle pass the California smog inspection?

As discussed in question 3, section an above, there is a difference with California legal and Federal legal emissions requirements. And, for the most part California is stricter. However, a vehicle which is equipped with at least the federally required emissions components will pass a California smog inspection, as long as the vehicle's exhaust emissions fall within California's limits.

5. My vehicle is currently out of state, how can I renew it's registration with out a California smog check?

Unless your vehicle is currently in Nevada or Mexico, you will not need a California smog inspection in order to complete the registration process. Do not obtain a smog inspection in another state; it will not be valid in California.

Simply fill out and sign DMV's "Statement of Facts" form explaining that your vehicle is out of state and the registration tags will be mailed to wherever the car is currently located. You can obtain a "Statement of Facts" form by calling the California DMV at (800)777-0133.

6. I can't make the DMV Registration deadline, what can I do?

Go ahead and pay the DMV your vehicles registration fees and get your "half way papers" (Not valid registration, but an attempt to show responsibility, plus not be charged late fees). You may then explain to the DMV agent your vehicle's repair/smog situation and ask for at least a 30 day Temporary Registration Tag. You can post this Document on your vehicle's rear window, and drive your vehicle legally for 30 days or more; depending on the Temporary Tags you are given. In the mean time you need to attempt to resolve your vehicle smog situation.

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Test-Only Smog Check

1. What are the differences between the Test Only smog inspections and the regular smog inspections?

Test-Only stations, as the name suggests, can only test vehicles and are not allowed to perform smog related automotive repairs. A Test Only station's main obligation is to insure a non-bias and accurate smog inspection. If your vehicle fails the smog inspection and requires repairs to pass, they must be conducted at a State Certified Test and Repair smog station.

The State of California uses the following three strategies to determine whether a vehicle is Test-Only designated or not:

1. Gross polluters (vehicles which have failed a previous smog inspection with very high emission readings)

2. High Emitter Profile vehicles. These are vehicle types designated by the Bureau of Automotive Repair as having high chances of failing the smog inspection.

3. A random sample of the vehicles on the road.

If your vehicle needs a Test-Only inspection don't be alarmed. Simply locate a convenient test center and proceed with the inspection. The smog technician conducting the test can inform you of any serious issues. There are several Test-Only centers throughout California.

2. Why does my vehicle need a Test Only smog check?

The State of California uses the following three strategies to determine whether a vehicle is Test Only Smog Check designated or not:

1. Gross polluters (vehicles which have failed a previous smog inspection with very high emission readings)

2. High Emitter Profile vehicles. These are vehicle types designated by the Bureau of Automotive Repair as having high chances of failing the smog inspection.

3. A random sample of the vehicles on the road.

If your vehicle needs a Test-Only inspection don't be alarmed. Simply locate a convenient test center and proceed with the inspection. The smog technician conducting the test can inform you of any serious issues. There are several Test-Only centers throughout California.

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