California State Smog Inspection

We can do state Smog Inspections on most vehicles, first come first serve so come on down.

When a Smog Inspection is Required

Currently, smog inspections are required for all vehicles except diesel powered vehicles, electric, natural gas powered vehicles over 14,000 lbs, hybrids, motorcycles, trailers, or vehicles 1975 and older.

Vehicles registered in areas subject to the biennial smog certification program are required to submit evidence of a smog certification every other renewal period. Owners of vehicles six or less model years old will pay an annual smog abatement fee for the first six registration years instead of being required to provide a biennial smog certification. The registration renewal notice mailed to you by the department will indicate if a smog certification is required. If a smog certification is required and you have not had a smog inspection, you may still pay your registration fees to avoid any late fees. However, you will not receive your new registration or year sticker until the smog information has been received by DMV.

NOTE: Upon initial registration, nonresident and specially constructed vehicles 1976 and newer require smog certification. The six or less model years old rule does not apply to these vehicles.

When you transfer a vehicle that is four or less model years old a smog certification is not required. (Determine the oldest-qualifying year model by subtracting three from the current year.) A smog transfer fee will be collected from the new owner. When a vehicle is more than four model years old, a seller must provide evidence of a current smog certification except when one of the following occurs:

  1. The transfer occurs between a spouse, domestic partner, sibling, child, parent, grandparent, or grandchild.
  2. A biennial smog certification was submitted to DMV within 90 days prior to the vehicle transfer date (a vehicle inspection report may be required for proof of certification).

A biennial smog certification was submitted to DMV within 90 days prior to the vehicle transfer date (a vehicle inspection report may be required for proof of certification).

Does my vehicle qualify for a smog exemption?

Smog inspections are required unless your vehicle is:

  • Hybrid
  • 1975 year model or older
  • Diesel powered
  • Electric
  • Natural gas powered and has a Gross Vehicle Weight rating of 14,001 lbs. or more.
  • Motorcycle
  • Trailer

Which counties require a smog inspection for the registration renewal?

Counties that Require a Smog Inspection for Vehicle Registration Renewal

  • Alameda
  • Butte
  • Colusa
  • Contra Costa
  • Fresno
  • Glenn
  • Kern
  • Kings
  • Los Angeles
  • Madera
  • Marin
  • Merced
  • Monterey
  • Napa
  • Nevada
  • Orange
  • Sacramento
  • San Benito
  • San Francisco
  • San Joaquin
  • San Luis Obispo
  • San Mateo
  • Santa Barbara
  • Santa Clara
  • Santa Cruz
  • Shasta
  • Solano
  • Stanislaus
  • Sutter
  • Tehama
  • Tulare
  • Ventura
  • Yolo
  • Yuba

There are six counties that require smog certifications within certain Zip Codes only. These counties are: El Dorado, Placer, Riverside, San Bernardino, San Diego, and Sonoma.

My car is new. Am I still required to get the biennial smog inspection?
Vehicles registered in areas subject to the biennial smog certification program are required to submit evidence of a smog certification every other renewal period. Starting January 1, 2005, owners of vehicles six or less model years old will pay an annual smog abatement fee for the first six registration years instead of being required to provide a biennial smog certification. The registration renewal notice mailed to you by the department will indicate if a smog certification is required. If a smog certification is required and you have not had a smog inspection, you may still pay your registration fees to avoid any late fees. However, you will not receive your new registration or year sticker until the smog information has been received by DMV.

NOTE: Upon initial registration, nonresident and specially constructed vehicles 1976 and newer require smog certification. The six or less model years old rule does not apply to these vehicles

Counties that require biennial smog inspections are listed above.

A family member gave me a car. Is a smog inspection required?
If you acquire a vehicle that is currently registered in California from a spouse, domestic partner, sibling, child, parent, grandparent, or grandchild, you are entitled to an exemption from the smog inspection. Other family members or relations are not exempt and are required to obtain a smog inspection certification.

For more information read “Transfer a Vehicle Between Family Members.”

What if my car fails the inspection?

DMV cannot provide technical information or advice in this area. We recommend that you call the Bureau of Automotive Repair (BAR) toll free number at 800-952-5210. You may be eligible to participate in the Voluntary Accelerated Vehicle Retirement Program (also known as the old vehicle buy back program).

When a car is sold, who is responsible for the inspection?
The seller is required to provide the buyer with a valid smog inspection certification at the time of the sale or transfer. Smog certifications are good for 90 days from the date of issuance.

The inspection is not required on a transfer if a biennial smog certification was submitted to DMV within 90 days prior to the vehicle transfer date (a vehicle inspection report may be required for proof of certification).

Note: Smog certifications are not required for transfers that occur for any motor vehicle that is four or less model years old. (Determine the oldest-qualifying year model by subtracting three from the current year.) A smog transfer fee will be collected from the new owner.

What You Need to Know Before Buying a Vehicle from Out-of-State
The Bottom Line
If you are a California resident and acquire a new car, truck or motorcycle from another state, it must be certified to meet California smog laws in order to be registered here.

Aren’t All Vehicles California Certified?
Not all new vehicles are manufactured to be sold to California residents or businesses. Many manufacturers make vehicles to be sold in the other 49 states. These vehicles (49-State) are made with smog equipment that meets federal emission standards, but not California standards. 50-State or California certified vehicles are made to be sold to California residents.

What Is Considered a New Vehicle?
California law considers any vehicle with less than 7,500 miles on the odometer when acquired by a California resident or business to be a new vehicle. This holds true whether or not the vehicle has been registered in another state. If you acquire a new vehicle from another state, you may not subsequently drive it to accumulate over 7,500 miles to circumvent the law. DMV cannot accept an application to register the vehicle, and you cannot register or operate the vehicle in California.

ExceptionsAs usual, there are a few exceptions included in the law. As a California resident or business you may be able to register a 49-State vehicle if you:

  • Obtained it as part of a divorce or inheritance settlement.
  • Purchased it to replace a vehicle stolen while you were using it out of state.
  • Purchased it to replace a vehicle which was destroyed or made inoperative beyond reasonable repair while you were using it out of state.
  • Were on active military duty outside California, and you registered the vehicle in the state of your last military service.

Check the Label
To find out whether a car or truck is California Certified, check the emission label under the hood. For a motorcycle check the headset or frame. The label should read that the vehicle conforms to California regulations, or that it is legal for sale in California.

Does This Apply to Someone Moving to California?
If you are moving to California from another state, you may register a new federally certified vehicle in California if it was first registered by you in your home state, or for military personnel, in your last state of military service. When applying for vehicle registration in California, you must provide evidence of your vehicle’s previous registration and that you were a resident of the other state when you acquired the vehicle.

Vehicles Purchased From Out of the Country
California has special requirements for vehicles imported from other countries (including Canada and Mexico). It may be very costly and in some cases impossible to modify these vehicles to meet California emission requirements and/or federal motor vehicle safety standards. For example, vehicles manufactured to be sold in Europe (gray market vehicles) less than two years old are not legal for registration or use in California.

For More Information Regarding…

  • California residency and vehicle importation laws and requirements, contact the Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) Technical Compliance Section at (916) 657-6795, or go to Buying an Out of State Vehicle.
  • The California Smog check program, contact the Bureau of Automotive Repair (BAR) at (800) 952-5210.
  • California smog laws, gray market vehicles, and 49-state vehicles, contact the California Air Resources Board (ARB) at (800) 242-4450, by email at helpline@arb.ca.gov, or visit ARB online.