Smog Inspections in California

Emissions testing in California must be successfully completed before a vehicle can legally be driven in the state. There are several rules for a smog check that must be followed for the proper operation and registration of vehicles. A CA vehicle inspection must be performed in many instances before a driver can operate his or her car on the road. It is important for drivers to understand the smog test, including what it measures and its purpose, when purchasing a vehicle. California vehicle emissions testing is implemented by the Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) to ensure pollution levels stay manageable throughout the state. A California smog check history for a vehicle may need to be retrieved by the DMV to confirm it has passed the test and can legally be driven. The CA emissions inspection may be required to be performed again if the vehicle did not pass at one time or has been modified since the last testing occurred. To learn more about finding emissions testing locations in California, the purpose of the test and when it must be completed, review the following informative sections below.

What is the California smog check?

The California smog emissions test is required for completion by owners and upon vehicle registration renewal to ensure all cars are meeting the smog requirements set by the state. Residents wonder, “Where are car inspections near me?” can search for sites that can help with the successful completion of a smog test. Locating emissions testing locations in CA so a smog test completion certificate can be awarded can be mandatory for a new driver attempting to register his or her vehicle in the state, depending on the car’s characteristics.

The DMV will not award a renewal of registration or a new registration of a car if the owner has not taken a vehicle in to complete a smog and emissions check or if the vehicle has failed the test. The purpose of the California smog test is to ensure vehicles are not excessively polluting the environment or releasing harmful emissions into the atmosphere excessively. To successfully complete an emissions check, a car owner must bring the vehicle to an approved location after finding a facility and making an appointment for the test. The approved smog test conductor will complete a form that gives the DMV specific information on how the car performs and the smog emitted by the vehicle. If the vehicle successfully passes the California smog check, the car owner can turn the form into the DMV along with other paperwork and fees to successfully register the vehicle in the state.

When Emissions Testing is Required in California

A smog and emission check is not required for every vehicle or for every registration renewal in the state. Emissions testing in California is not required for diesel powered vehicles that are 1997 model year and newer or that have a gross weight of 14,000 pounds or more. A smog check does not need to be performed to register an electric or gas vehicle that has a gross weight of 14,000 pounds or more. Additionally, an emissions test is not required for trailer, motorcycles or gas vehicles that are 1975 model year or older.

A CA smog certificate must be submitted by a car owner every other year with the registration renewal if he or she lives in an area in the state that participates in the biennial smog certification program. A list of the counties that require the biennial smog certification is available online and includes Alameda, Santa Barbara, Santa Clara counties and more. A smog certification requirement is mailed to residents of these areas along with the request to renew registration. The registration fee can be paid without the submission of a smog certificate so no late fees are accrued. However, a smog check must be completed and the certificate submitted to the DMV to receive an updated registration document and license plate sticker.

A vehicle that is transferring ownership between family members (including a spouse, child, grandchild, grandparent, domestic partner or sibling) does not require a smog test if the car is currently registered in the state of California and has already passed the emissions check. No vehicle inspection or smog test is required for a car that transfers ownership and is four years old or newer and gas powered. Additionally, a smog test in California is not required if a car transfers ownership but a smog certificate has just been submitted to the DMV within 90 days of the transfer. An emissions inspection is not required for electric vehicles, no matter the model year.

How do I find a California emissions testing near me?

If a vehicle emission test is required, a car owner may ask, “How do I find car inspection near me in California?” To locate emissions testing locations that are convenient, residents can search online or contact the DMV to ask about approved inspection facilities. To obtain a valid smog check certification, a car owner must visit a DMV-approved station to have the smog certificate paperwork completed. In 2013, California implemented STAR stations to assist with completing thorough California emissions testing for residents who need a smog certificate to register their vehicles or renew registrations with the DMV.

The registration renewal notice reviews the types of emissions testing site that can be used to successfully complete the smog inspection requirement. A smog check in CA must be done at either a STAR station, Gold Shield or Test Only station. By consulting with the DMV or reviewing the registration renewal request sent in the mail, a vehicle owner will learn which emissions testing locations are valid for his or her situation. To learn about the different requirements of the California DMV to register a vehicle, download our informative and detailed guide.