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Vehicle Emissions Testing in California

Emissions Testing

For the majority of California residents, having a car is a necessity. Aside from properly registering and titling a vehicle, many residents in counties across the state will also have to pass emissions test for their vehicles. Whether or not you have to undergo an emissions test depends on your resident status, what type of vehicle you drive and where in California you reside.

Emissions Requirements

Not every vehicle needs a smog check. See the list below for vehicles which are exempt from emissions check regulations in California:

  • Gas-powered vehicles from 1975 and older
  • Gas-powered vehicles weighing more than 14,000 pounds
  • Diesel-powered vehicles from 1997 and older (or weighing more than 14,000 pounds)
  • Electric-powered vehicles
  • Hybrid vehicles
  • Motorcycles
  • Trailers
  • Vehicles six years old or younger (vehicles in this category require a $20 smog abatement fee; after six years, regular smog check requirements apply)

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If you are a new resident in California, you are required to bring your vehicle to a smog check station prior to applying for a car registration transfer. Once your vehicle passes the smog check, you will be issued a smog check certificate. Bring this document with you when visit your local California DMV office to transfer your out of state car registration and car title.

If you are a California resident, you will have to get smog checks prior to getting car registration and renewing your registration.

If you are selling a vehicle in California, you are required to provide the buyer with smog check certificates so the buyer can process his or her DMV car registration.

If the car you are selling is four years old or younger, then you do not have to provide a smog check certificate. In this case, the new owner is responsible for getting a smog certificate.

Where to Get Emissions Testing Done

If you are required to get a smog check to register your vehicle, you will need to visit a smog inspection site. When processing your car registration renewal, check your registration renewal notice to see if you are required to renew your smog check certificate. Typically, emissions check recertification is required every two years.

Smog checks are conducted at STAR stations, which meet specific requirements set by the Bureau of Automotive Repair (BAR). There are different types of STAR stations:

  • Test-Only Stations: Licensed to perform smog inspections but not repairs.
  • Test-and-Repair Stations: Licensed to perform smog inspections and necessary repairs.
  • Repair-Only Stations: Licensed to diagnose and repair vehicles failing tests at test-only stations.

At your smog check, you will need to present certain documents prior to beginning the inspection process. Required documentation include:

  • Drivers license
  • Proof of minimum liability insurance
  • Car Title (unless vehicle is under lien)
  • Car registration
  • Smog inspection fee (varies by county)

Once you have passed your smog check, you can continue with the car registration process. To learn more about how to register cars in California, visit the Car Registration page.

Click here to renew your car registration today.

Smog Check Specifics and Penalties

Smog checks take place at STAR smog check stations and are divided into two parts:

  1. The visual test involves a technician checking that there is no blue or black smoke coming from the vehicle’s tailpipe.
  2. The machine test connects the vehicle to a smog check machine, at which point it must pass each of the various codes.

If a vehicle fails either the visual or machine smog check test, you will need to repair the issue prior to getting car registration. recommends renewing your car registration from a secure and reliable source. Using a company that you trust is important, and one that makes keeping your information confidential a priority. has partnered with eTags to give you the quickest and most efficient way of getting your registration.

Fill out the form above to renew your car registration.

If you don’t get your vehicle emissions checked, then you cannot renew your car registration.

The cumulative effect of not passing a smog check is missing your registration renewal date. Late car registrations involve a number of fees, including:

  • Percentage of standard renewal fee
  • Flat late fee
  • Flat California Highway Patrol (CHP) late fee

Late car registration fees also increase the longer you wait to renew your registration. Moreover, driving with expired car registrations will result in additional fines, along with a potential suspended license and/or registration.

Renew your car registration online today!

Submitted by EO154192 on 8th Mar 2016

I must correct you on some of

I must correct you on some of your posted information regarding California Smog Check Inspection procedures and protocol. You stated "The visual test involves a technician checking that there is no blue or black smoke coming from the vehicle’s tailpipe." This is only part of the visual inspection. The visual inspection is to be performed by the technician to 1.Verify correct installation and functioning emission control devices i.e. air pump is connected and the drive belt if applicable is installed and the pulley turning, 2. No equipment is missing or modified such as a pcv valve removed and a bolt stuck in the end of the hose and another stuck in the valve cover, 3. Any aftermarket equipment is appropriately exempted by the California Air Resources Board and approved for that particular vehicle, 4. Any aftermarket Catalytic Converters have approved Executive Order (EO) numbers and match the test group of the vehicle found on the emissions label, 5.Cite any defective components including broken vacuum lines and wires, etc. EVEN still I am sure I am missing a thing or 2 on my list. You catch my sentament how ever I am sure. The visible smoke test is actually a FUNCTIONAL test and only recently added. So please don't lead people to believe if their vehicle is not smoking it is ok.

Submitted by David Gordon on 16th Aug 2015

If I payed my fees in full

If I payed my fees in full and then got my smog done . Will my tags be sent to me automatically or do I have to go back to my D.M.V. office to get them ?

Submitted by Gudjonsson on 17th Dec 2014

I am visiting here for 6

I am visiting here for 6 months from Washington and need to get my Wa tabs for my car but need an emission test. Can I get an emission here in Ca for Wa tabs?

Submitted by jewlz on 19th Sep 2014

I need to extend the

I need to extend the temporary operating permit. The smog check has not been done due to the vehicle needing more repairs and parts. How do I extend the permit? It was unable to be fixed in the amount of time allowed. thank you

Submitted by SamPhillips on 4th Sep 2014

I am an out of state student

I am an out of state student and I want to keep my car registered in the state that I am from(Illinois), but I need to get an emissions test on my car here in CA. How do I go about doing this?

Submitted by ljchipr on 9th May 2016

I have the exact same

I have the exact same question-- I need only an emissions test not a smog test . Were can I get that done (for Illinois) while in CA/San Diego area?

Submitted by omnj0155 (not verified) on 23rd Jan 2013

my truck is in Seattle

my truck is in Seattle Washington can i pay registration fees get my tag and smog trk when trk returns to calif. ??

Submitted by rlovison (not verified) on 9th Jul 2011

Emission test site still not

Emission test site still not working. Last told in March, 2011

Submitted by (not verified) on 26th May 2011

I am temporarily moving to CA

I am temporarily moving to CA from TX. If my vehicle needs to be inspected before I move back, what are my requirements?

Submitted by Anonymous on 16th Mar 2011

I am bringing my car (2001

I am bringing my car (2001 Mitsubishi Mirage) from Connecticut to California. Is there is any recommended test/service center in Connecticut which can do the emission and smog testing, so that I can confirm my car is emission and smog compliant demanded by the state of California

Submitted by Anonymous on 7th Mar 2011

Your link to emission test

Your link to emission test locations is not working. Please fix. Thanks.

Submitted by Anonymous on 2nd Mar 2011

I am purchasing a 2008 truck

I am purchasing a 2008 truck in Alabama and driving it home to California. What do I need to do as far as smog certificate or do I do anything? Please advise.

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