CA Smog Check Requirements and Laws

January 27, 2012

The law in California requires a CA smog check upon purchasing a new vehicle in order to complete the registration. The local government of California further requires the seller to issue the buyer a certificate for smog check. If your tests for the CA smog fail, then you will need to make the necessary repairs until it can pass the test.

CA Smog History

California was considered to be the "smog capital" in the US several years ago. This was due to the quality of air in Los Angeles before. With the coined name "smog capital", the residents have begun worrying about their environment and health in the 1960's.

Because of this concern for the health of the people and for the environment, the local government has come up with a solution which is actually a law regarding emission controls in the year 1963. In fact, it is the first state to pass this kind of law. Eventually, other states in US followed their example. The government still strictly implements these laws today.

CA Smog Law

The smog law of California requires smog inspections of all vehicles. The smog law also exempts particular vehicles from the said inspection. These CA smog exempt vehicles include hybrid and electric vehicles, diesel-powered vehicles manufactured in the year 1998 or earlier, vehicles weighing more than 14,000 lbs, gasoline-powered vehicles manufactured in the year 1975 or earlier, motorcycles, and trailers.

On the other hand, if a vehicle is manufactured six years from today or less, the law does not require an owner to obtain a smog check certificate. Instead, the owner needs to pay for an abatement fee of $24 every renewal period which is every year. If your vehicle does not fall under any of the categories above, and you live in one of the populous counties in California, you need to have a smog inspection to obtain a biennial smog check certificate.

With regard to transferring or selling a vehicle, the CA smog law states that for a four-year old vehicle model or less, there is no smog certificate required for an official transfer of ownership. However, the seller needs to pay a transfer fee of $8. Conversely, for a five-year old vehicle model and up, a seller must provide the latest smog certificate evidencing the successful inspection of emission. Again, there are some exemptions to this rule on transfer. If the transfer is made within the second degree of consanguinity, meaning the transfer is made between the spouse, the child, the grandchild, the parent, or the grandparent, no certification is required from the transfer. A seller is also exempted from the smog certificate if the owner is able to register and file a registration in addition to the smog certification within first three months. In addition to that, a seller may also be required to pass a smog inspection report as proof and evidence.

CA Smog Fail

If a vehicle fails in the smog inspection, the owner has to get the necessary parts repaired before having it retested. You cannot complete the registration of the vehicle unless you pass the smog test.

Related Questions and Answers

Will a CA Smog Check Test Only Station be Cheaper?

A CA smog check test only station can be cheaper, but pricing varies by location. In California there are businesses that only perform smog checks, these are referred to as Smog Check Only shops. It is also legal to get your vehicle checked by an auto repair business that is licensed to do smog check tests. Pricing is set by each individual business, so the only way to find the best deal is to call around in your area. In general, the pricing will be fairly consistent. It is possible to find specials, so check around when inspection time rolls around.

Does the California DMV Require a Smog Check Every Year?

It is not necessary to get a California DMV smog check every year. The requirements vary by county, so check with your local authorities. The majority of counties require a smog check every other year. If the car is six years old or less, the owner will be assessed a smog abatement fee, but will not be required to have the vehicle tested. Registration renewal notices are sent in the mail and will indicate if a smog test is required for renewal. There are certain types of vehicles that have a permanent exemption from smog testing. Electric cars, natural gas powered vehicles, hybrid vehicles, motorcycles or gasoline powered vehicles dated 1975 or older are not required to be tested.

How Long Does it Take for a Car Emission Inspection?

A car emission inspection should take less than 30 minutes. The length of the line will drastically affect the time needed to get the test done. There can often be wait times of up to 45 minutes, just to get the test started. The actual testing itself takes roughly 15 to 20 minutes. If you have a four wheel or all wheel drive vehicle, it may take an additional five minutes. If possible it is best to go during work hours. Avoid Mondays and Fridays, as they tend to be the busiest days. The first and last day of a month are normally quite busy as well.

Can I Give My Car a Smog Check at Home?

No, under no circumstances can a person do a car smog check at home. Checking a vehicle's emissions requires specialized equipment that is expensive and fairly large. It would impractical and not cost effective to check emission levels at home. In addition, there would be issues of credibility. The state requires emission testing to be done by a state testing facility or a certified third party. Testing results would be questionable at best if a person was allowed to do their own smog checks. Fees are set by each individual station, so call around to find the best deal. The pricing tends to be fairly consistent, but it is possible to find some bargains.

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