California Emissions

The state of California requires an emission test for many original registrations as well as alternate registration renewals. Notices are mailed to vehicle owners and indicate if they are required to have an emission test and when they should be completed by. It will also inform you if your vehicle needs to have a smog test at a test only station.

Vehicles that require an emission test

Vehicles are required to receive an emission test if they are not listed in the exempt list. They are also required to have a test if they are registered in a county other than the six that require smog inspection. These counties are El Dorado, Placer, Riverside, San Bernardino, San Diego and Sonoma.


All emissions test are only valid for 90 days and they are required when you are ready to reinstate a registration that has been suspended. They also required when you are looking to obtain an original vehicle registration or a registration renewal. Car dealers who are selling a used car are required to submit a vehicle emissions test for the vehicle that they are selling to the new owner. However, it is up to the buyer to get one if they are purchasing it from a private individual.


  • There are some instances when a vehicle is exempt from a smog test:
  • If it is a diesel vehicle
  • Electric powered vehicles
  • Weighs more than 14,000 pounds and is gas powered
  • Is a hybrid
  • Is a motorcycle
  • Is a trailer
  • If it was made in 1975 or before

For vehicles that are less than six years old, you are not required to have an emission test carried out. However, you will be required to pay an annual fee of $24 for smog abatements, unless your vehicle was custom-built after 1976.

Emissions test fees

Because the state of California does not regulate their fees, each testing station may have a variety of fees.

Emissions test failures

If your vehicle does fail the emissions test, you should contact the Bureau of Automotive Repair in order to learn what you need to do in order to repair your vehicle. It is possible that you will be able to participate in a program called the voluntary accelerated vehicle retirement program that the government has set up.

There is also a program called the consumer assistance program that may help finance the repairs that your vehicle needs if it does fail the emissions test. You could be able to collect $500 in order to help pay for the repairs that are needed.


If you do purchase your vehicle from another state, you should check with the DMV in order to determine whether your vehicle is required to undergo an emissions test before you can register it.

You can also submit your registration if you are out-of-state by submitting your registration fees and having the emissions test done when you return. If the vehicle is less than four years old, you will not need to get an emissions test done when you transfer it, but the new owner will be required to pay a small transfer the.