Summer is finally here, which means it’s time to get outdoors and breathe in some of that fresh, smog-ridden California air! While we may have gotten used to having smog around, it’s not really the best for us or for the environment, seeing how it’s air pollution and everything. That’s why the DMV institutes a smog and emissions test for drivers in California. In California, most vehicles are required to be smog checked every 2 years to ensure they’re not harming the air quality. To help you out, we’ve compiled some info about smog inspections in California, including forms and fees you'll need to provide.
For counties requiring a smog inspection, the CA Department of Motor Vehicles employs a biennial smog certification program. This means that your qualifying vehicle must undergo a smog check every two years. Your registration renewal reminder should indicate whether it’s time for your smog inspection.
As with most rules, there are a few exemptions to the smog check rule.
California requires all vehicles to have a smog inspection except:
In addition to vehicle exceptions, there are also zip code exceptions to the smog check rule. The following counties require smog checks in certain zip codes only:
If you live in one of these counties, but aren’t sure if your zip code is exempt, enter your zip code here to determine if smog checks are required for your vehicle and where to find the nearest smog check station.
If your vehicle is six-years-old or less, you do not have to have your vehicle smog checked every two years. Instead, you’ll need to pay an annual $20 smog abatement fee for your first six years of registration. After these first six years, you will be subject to your regularly scheduled smog checks to make sure your car is up to standards.
The smog abatement fee does NOT apply to:
Alright, now let’s get to the good stuff: HOW to complete a smog check.
Depending on your situation (and what your registration renewal reminder indicates), you'll bring your vehicle to one of the following California Bureau of Automotive Repair (BAR) station locations:
You must present your:
Once your vehicle passes inspection, you'll receive a smog inspection certificate to present to the CA DMV when you register or renew your vehicle registration. Generally, most smog check stations also report inspections to the DMV electronically. This helps in case you want to renew your registration via mail or online. PS: Fees vary by location. Call ahead for fee and schedule information.
The California Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) requires new residents to bring their vehicles to a smog inspection station for a smog check before registering their vehicles, which must be completed within 20 days of establishing residency. You must then present the smog inspection certificate when registering your vehicle. Even if they're current, out-of-state smog inspection stickers or certificates do NOT satisfy this requirement. Once you've completed your initial smog check, you will then be subject to the standard schedule of re-certification every 2 years.
Uh oh, did your car fail the inspection? Have no fear, the CA DMV recommends contacting the BAR Referee Program at (800) 622-7733. Here, you'll find help with smog check dispute resolution.
Some vehicle owners are eligible for low-income repair assistance via the BAR's Consumer Assistance Program. Contact (800) 952-5210 for more information.
Once you’ve passed your smog and emissions check, you are good to go for registration! However, remember that your smog certification is valid for 90 days upon inspection. You must register your vehicle or renew your registration within this time period. Now, go get ‘em!