Vehicle Emissions Testing in California
In California, an emission check is required for many original registrations, as well as for every alternate registration renewal. Renewal notices are sent to vehicle owners, and indicate whether and by what date an emissions test must be completed and if your vehicle needs a smog-check at a test-only station.
VEHICLES THAT REQUIRE AN EMISSIONS TEST
Vehicles that are not listed in the exempt list below, and registered in all counties except six require a smog inspection. In the six counties (El Dorado, Placer, Riverside, San Bernardino, San Diego, Sonoma) tests are required only within certain zip codes.
Emissions tests are valid for 90 days. A valid test is required to reinstate a suspended registration and to complete an original vehicle registration or registration renewal. Used car dealers are required to issue a valid emissions test for any vehicle they sell. Getting an emissions test is the buyer's responsibility when the vehicle is purchased from a private owner.
A vehicle is exempt from smog testing when:
- It is a diesel vehicle.
- It is an electric powered vehicle.
- It is a gas powered vehicle which weighs more than 14,000 pounds.
- A hybrid vehicle.
- A motorcycle.
- A trailer.
- It is made in 1975 or before.
If your vehicle is less than six years old, you will not need to have an emissions test carried out. But you will have to pay an annual smog abatement fee of $24. This does not apply to a custom built car made after 1976.
EMISSIONS TEST LOCATIONS
For an emissions test station that is nearest to you click here.
EMISSIONS TEST FEES
The fees for emissions tests are different at each testing station. This is because the California government does not regulate the fees.
EMISSIONS TEST FAILURES
If your vehicle fails the check, you will need to call the Bureau of Automotive Repair (BAR) at 800-952-5210 for further information. You may be eligible to participate in the Voluntary Accelerated Vehicle Retirement Program.
The government has also set up the Consumer Assistance Program (CAP) to help finance the repair of vehicles that fail the emissions test biennially. Under this program, you could collect $500 from the state to help with the repairs. For more information, check here.
- If you purchase a vehicle from another state, you will need to check with the DMV as to whether it has to undergo an emissions test before you can get it registered.
- If you are out of state, or if your vehicle is otherwise unavailable for inspection, you can register your vehicle or renew your registration by submitting your registration fees. Once you return to California, you will have to get the emissions test done.
- If you transfer a vehicle that is less than four years old, you do not need to get an emissions test done. The new owner will have to pay a smog transfer fee.
- See also Vehicle History Reports.