California has the strictest emission regulations in the country. Among other clean air requirements in the state, California registration renewal requires a smog check to ensure emission equipment on vehicles continues to function properly and have not been altered since the last inspection.
Some vehicles are not required to meet smog requirements. These include:
- Vehicles that are 1975 or older models that are powered by gasoline
- Vehicles that are 1997 or older models that are diesel powered and have a Gross Vehicle Weight of 14,000 lbs. or more
- Vehicles that are natural gas powered with a Gross Vehicle Weight of 14,000 lbs. or more
- Electric vehicles
Vehicles that are gasoline-powered, hybrids, and alternative-fuel vehicles that are 1976 and newer model years require a Smog Check, with two exceptions:
- Six model-year and newer vehicles do not need a biennial (every other year) inspection
- Four model-year and newer vehicles do not need a change-of-ownership inspection
What is California’s Smog Check program and what does it entail? What happens if your vehicle does not meet smog requirement and can you renew registration without smog?
What is the Smog Check Program?
The Smog Check program is a statewide program administered by The California Department of Consumer Affairs’ Bureau of Automotive Repair (BAR). Vehicles are inspected at more than 7,000 licensed and independent service stations throughout California.
The purpose of the Smog Check inspection is designed to identify cars that are producing excess emissions so they can be repaired to meet statewide standards.
Pricing of Smog Check inspections will vary according to the site selected, however, each will include an $8.25 certification fee that funds the program.
A Smog Check is usually completed in 20 to 30 minutes.
What Happens if Your Vehicle Does Not Meet Requirement?
If your vehicle does not meet standards, you will be given an opportunity to get the repairs done that will bring your vehicle into compliance. Once re-rested after repairs, and if the vehicle passes the Smog Check, it will be certified compliant.
Can you renew registration without smog?
It is important to keep in mind that if your vehicle either has not been inspected or has failed its Smog Check test, you can still start your California registration renewal either online or in person.
This allows you to avoid any associated late fees. It is equally important to remember that you will not receive your renewed registration or your updated year sticker until the DMV has received your Smog Check verification.
The point is, even if you haven’t completed the required Smog Check or if your vehicle didn’t pass the test, you can and should renew your registration in a timely fashion to avoid penalties. You should also remember that your Smog Check certification is valid only for 90 days following inspection.
The State of California has an entire website devoted to the Smog Check program. There is a complete section dedicated to Smog Check frequently asked questions.