Sell a Car in California: Smog Rules and Regulations to Abide by

January 27, 2012

To sell a car in California, smog standards need to be upheld. California has always been progressive when it comes to the environment, so it's no surprise that the state is home to the toughest smog standards in the country. Whether you live in Los Angeles County or Yolo County, you will have to obtain a California Smog Certification and a California Release of Liability when selling a car before the sale can go through.


Your first step as the seller is to have the car inspected, as it is required to sell the car with a valid California Smog Certificate,which is good for 90 days from the date on the document. The main exemptions from this requirement come if the car model is four years old or younger, if the car is being transferred between family members, or if you have already submitted a smog inspection certification less than 90 days before the sale. There are also a few scenarios where you are exempt from the smog certification and charged either a smog abatement fee or a smog transfer fee instead. Visit the website of the California Department of Motor Vehicles to see if you fall under one of those categories.


The actual smog inspection is done by analyzing only the car's exhaust. Once the analyst has reviewed the data that has come out of your vehicle's exhaust, they will make a diagnosis of your engine and whether your car needs work to reduce its emissions. Look for a certified smog tester in your area and visit more than one to make sure you are getting good service and a good price. The Bureau of Automotive Repair can be a helpful place to visit should the car you need to sell fail the smog inspection.


Another important issue that affects car sellers in California is liability. By transferring the liability of the vehicle to the new owner, it is them that will be held accountable for making sure the car conforms to the smog regulations and other rules. Don't make the mistake of ignoring this form, otherwise you will continue to be liable for the car. Everything from performance to parking tickets. Even though you no longer own the car. This release form can be downloaded from the website of the California DMV or you can file online directly from the website. Remember you must submit the form within five days of the sale of the car and it is the law to do so.


There is a lot to think about when you sell a car, and more-so in California because of the smog rules and the liability law. But as long as you follow these rules and check in with the California DMV before you put your car up for sale, you can ensure factoring in the cost of any smog certifications when deciding on your asking price, as well as knowing no sale falls through at the last minute because these certifications were not met.



Related Questions and Answers

Why can't You Sell a Car in California with a Smog Certificate After 90 Days of Obtaining it?

The state DMV provides guidelines for selling cars that are more than four model years old with a California smog certificate. The DMV states that the effective period for a smog certificate is 90 days. Beyond that, a smog certificate will not be effective for selling the car. The intention of this law is to provide for ensuring that cars sold to new owners have been recently inspected for emissions. Some exceptions to the 90-day smog test rule exist for cars transferred between family members.

Does the California Bureau of Automotive Repair Do Smog Checks?

The California Bureau of Automotive Repair does not do smog checks. This state agency assists drivers with information about where to go for smog checks. Smog checks are done at specifically credentialed state stations. Some vehicle owners may need to visit a "Test-Only" station depending on the age and model of their vehicle. Test-Only stations only do smog checks and do not do repairs. Other vehicles may be able to get smog checks done by other qualified and state certified shops.

What's the Most Common Reason for Failing to Meet California Smog Check Requirements?

The most common reason for vehicles failing California smog check requirements, according to some top mechanics, is that the vehicle's comprehensive emissions system is not able to effectively "scrub" enough contaminants from the exhaust. A part of the vehicle, called a catalytic converter, cleans exhaust as it passes through the system to remove CO, NOx and other elements. When the emissions system is compromised, or when poor quality oil and gas contribute more pollutants, a vehicle may fail the California smog check.

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