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California Emissions Testing

Emissions testing in California must be done every two years prior to registration renewal. Residents can complete the California smog check at a DMV-authorized site in their county of residence. Vehicle inspections that examine the safety of a vehicle are not required in the state of CA, but you must undergo emissions testing if you want your registration renewed. Continue reading to learn more about the following topics:

  • California emissions and smog check requirements
  • Smog check exemptions in California
  • Out-of-state emissions testing in California
  • Emissions waivers in California
  • Testing fees in California
  • Where to perform an emissions check in California
  • Failing a California smog and emissions test

You must complete your vehicle emissions testing prior to your initial registration.

California Emissions and Smog Check Requirements

As mentioned above, vehicle emissions testing in California must be completed by the majority of drivers every two years. Your auto emissions test can only be completed at a DMV-approved location, and even new residents will need to undergo testing. Smog check fees vary, and in some counties, you will not be required to complete testing. It is important to note that out-of-state smog testing stickers will not be honored in the state of California.

Smog Check Exemptions in California

The emission test requirements in California vary from county to county, but if you need to take your test, the state will send you a notice in the mail. You can also find your DMV smog check notice printed on your registration renewal notice. California emission testing is not required for the owners of the following vehicle types.

  • Motorcycles
  • Electric vehicles
  • Natural gas-powered vehicles in excess of 14,000 pounds
  • Gasoline-powered vehicles produced after 1975
  • Diesel-powered vehicles produced before 1997 or weighing in excess of 14,000 pounds

As previously mentioned, CA smog test requirements vary by county. In the counties below, the emissions inspection process only needs to be completed by citizens who reside in specific zip codes:

  • San Diego
  • Riverside
  • San Bernardino
  • El Dorado
  • Sonoma
  • Placer

As always, if your vehicle needs testing, you will be notified by the state.

Out-of-State Emissions Testing in California

New residents must complete the California DMV emissions testing process within 20 days of moving to the state. Smog check inspection documents from other states will not be honored, so you will need to present your California certificate before registering. After your first safety and emissions test, you will receive a notice every two years when the time to renew arrives. If you are new to the state, it is important to note that the state of California does not require your vehicle to pass a safety test before you can renew your registration.

Emissions Waivers in California

Emissions testing may be too expensive for many individuals, and the state does provide financial assistance to low-income and elderly drivers who qualify. This assistance can be used to cover both vehicle emissions testing and any necessary smog-related repairs. You may download a CA safety and emissions test waiver application for assistance at the Bureau of Automotive Repair website. If you qualify, you may be able to receive up to $500 worth of assistance from the state of California.

Testing Fees in California

You do not have to pass the car emission test in California every two years if your car or truck is six years or younger. However, you will have to pay a $20 smog test abatement fee for your first six years of ownership. You must undergo auto emissions testing every two years once these six years are over. The owners of the following vehicles are not eligible for smog abatement, and will need to renew their vehicles every two years as needed.

  • Diesel-fueled vehicles that weigh less than 14,000 pounds and were produced in 1998 or later.
  • Specially constructed vehicles that were produced in 1976 or later.
  • Vehicles owned by nonresidents.

You will need to pay the car smoke test abatement fee each year until your initial six years come to an end. Drivers of older vehicles will be required to contact their local DMV for current testing prices, but most inspection fees are between $29.95 and 69.95 depending on the geographic location and car type.

Where to Perform an Emissions Check in California

Undergoing an emissions inspection in CA is relatively simple. At the time of your vehicle inspection, you will need to present the following items to a Bureau of Automotive Repair (BAR) station:

  • License
  • Title
  • Registration
  • Proof of car insurance

A smog test can be performed at any of the following locations:

  • Star Stations – These stations meet or exceed the state BAR standards. You may be required to visit a Star Station if your vehicle emits a high volume of pollution.
  • Test-and-Repair Stations – Non-Star station that test and repair smog-related vehicle issues.
  • Repair-Only Stations – Auto emissions testing is not performed at these stations, only repairs.
  • Test-Only Stations – These stations can only perform smog testing.

You will receive your smog certification certificate once your vehicle passes inspection. You must present this certification when you go to renew your registration. All drivers will be required to pay a smog test fee, however, since fees vary from location to location, you will need to call ahead for additional information. The vast majority of locations will also electronically send the results of your test directly to the DMV.

Failing a California Smog and Emissions Test

Your smog check history will impact your ability to renew your registration, and if you fail your test, you will need to make the necessary repairs to your vehicle. To dispute the results of your safety and emissions test, the California DMV recommends calling the BAR Referee Program for additional information. If you have difficulty finding a mechanic, state DMV locations can provide you with a list of businesses that perform emissions repairs.

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