Frequently Asked Questions



Smog Information
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 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:
  • The transfer occurs between a spouse, domestic partner, sibling, child, parent, grandparent, or grandchild.
  • 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).

Smog certifications are good for 90 days from the date of issuance.

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Does my car need a smog check?
Smog inspections are generally required during a vehicle's initial registration in California and once, every two years, thereafter. This inspection cycle will continue for as long as the vehicle is registered in this State. Smog Inspections are also required anytime a vehicle is sold or bought in California. During a title transfer the Department of Motor Vehicles will not allow a vehicle to be registered unless it is presented with a valid smog certificate. There are special testing procedures for vehicles, which are classified as "Gross Polluters". These include Test Only and State Referee inspections. If your vehicle requires a Test Only or Referee inspection, your DMV paperwork will advise you of it.

The Smog Check Program applies to 1976 and newer passenger vehicles and trucks powered singly or in combination by:

  • Gasoline
  • Propane
  • Natural gas
  • Methanol / Ethanol fuels
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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
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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.

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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).

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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.

Follow this link to determine which Zip Codes are included.

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No, a smog inspection certification is required.
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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.

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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."

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Source: Please visit http://www.dmv.ca.gov/vr/smogfaq.htm for more information.
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