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Not all vehicles must get a smog check. Additionally, some vehicles only need a passing smog check when they are being sold or being registered in California after previously being registered in another state. Whether or not a vehicle needs a smog check depends on the type of vehicle, the model-year, and the area in which the vehicle is registered.
Under California vehicle emissions control laws and regulations, you must get a smog check for your car in the following cases.
Most vehicles registered in California are required to pass a smog check every two years. Your annual Registration Renewal Notice lets you know when you need to get a smog check.
Counties that Require a Smog Inspection for Vehicle Registration Renewal
|Orange||Sacramento||San Benito||San Francisco||San Joaquin|
|San Luis Obispo||San Mateo||Santa Barbara||Santa Clara||Santa Cruz|
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.
Following is a link to determine which links are included:
When you sell a vehicle in California, the seller is responsible for getting a smog certificate prior to completing the sale. Smog certifications are not required for transfers that occur for a gasoline powered motor vehicle that is four or less model years old. (Determine the oldest-qualifying year model by subtracting three from the current year) the four or less model years old rule does not apply to diesel powered vehicles. A smog transfer fee will be collected from the new owner.
When you bring a vehicle into California to be registered, you are required to get a smog certificate prior to registration. Some vehicles are not required to obtain a smog check inspection for registration purposes:
- Vehicles that are six or less model-years old are abated from the biennial smog check inspection requirement. For vehicles with registration renewals due in the 2008 calendar year, the abated years include 2003 through 2008.
- Vehicles that are four or less model-years old are abated from the smog check inspection requirement upon change of ownership and transfer of title transactions with the Department of Motor Vehicles. In 2008, the abated years are 2005 through 2008.
As of April 1, 2005, the 30 year rolling exemption was repealed. 1976 and newer vehicles are now required to have smog check inspections for biennial registration renewals, change of ownership transactions and initial registration in California.
Vehicles being initially registered in California that were previously registered in another state are exempt from the biennial smog check inspection requirements if the vehicle is a 1975 or older model. All 1976 to current year vehicles are required to obtain a smog check certificate of compliance prior to initial registration in California.
Smog inspections are required unless your vehicle is:
- Gasoline powered 1975 year model or older
- Diesel powered manufactured prior to 1998 or with a Gross Vehicle Weight rating (GVWR) of more than 14,000 lbs
- Natural gas powered with a GVWR rating of more than 14,000 lbs.
No, a smog inspection certification is required.
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, diesel powered vehicles manufactured in 1998 or after with a Gross Vehicle Weight rating (GVWR) of no more than 14,000 lbs, 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.
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.“
Information from California Department of Motor Vehicles
We hope you have found this Smog FAQ useful! Please feel free to schedule an appointment if you are in need of a smog check or vehicle registration!