When is a California Smog Check Required?

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.

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

  • Gasoline
  • Propane
  • Natural gas
  • Diesel
  • Methanol / Ethanol fuels
  • Hybrid powered motor vehicles

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. Prepare your smog check checklist ahead of time.

8 Years & Newer Exempt - Currently, smog inspections are required for all vehicles except diesel powered vehicles 1997 year model and older or with a Gross Vehicle Weight (GVWR) of more than 14,000 lbs, electric, natural gas powered vehicles over 14,000 lbs, motorcycles, trailers, or gasoline powered vehicles 1975 and older.

4 Years & Newer Exempt (Vehicle Transfer) - Smog check exemption includes gasoline powered motor vehicles 4 or less model years old whenever a vehicle is being bought or sold, unless ARB (Air Resource Board) determines that including the 5th and 6th model-year vehicles in the exemption would prohibit the state from meeting the requirements of the federal Clean Air Act. This smog exemption does not apply to diesel powered vehicles.

Out-of-State Vehicles - The six year or four year smog check exemption is not applicable to vehicles which have been brought in from out of state and require initial registration in California. Both diesel and gasoline powered out-of-state vehicles require a smog check for initial California registration, and every two years thereafter. See exemptions below.

1975 & Older Exempt - Under the old smog laws, 1975 and subsequent model year vehicles became exempt from Smog Check when they turned 30 years old (30-year rolling exemption). A 1976 model year vehicle was exempt in 2005, a 1977 in 2006, etc.

As of April 1, 2005, exempt from smog check requirements are any motor vehicle manufactured prior to the 1976 model year. All vehicles 1976 and newer vehicles will be tested according to state emission law. This law repeals the 30-year rolling exemption.

Others Exempt: Also exempt from the State of California Smog Check program are:

  • 2 wheel motorcycles
  • Diesel cars & trucks (1997 & older)
  • Diesel trucks (over 14,500 GVW)
  • Title transfer between a spouse, domestic partner, sibling, child, parent, grandparent, or grandchild.
  • A smog certification was submitted to DMV within 90 days prior to the transfer date.

Diesel Smog Check - All 1998 & newer diesel powered vehicles weighing under 14,500 GVW will need a diesel smog check. The diesel smog test will not include the emissions test portion of the regular inspection. There will be no tailpipe emissions test. Dynamometer testing will not be part of the diesel smog check inspection. Your vehicle will not be driven on the dynamometer during the diesel smog check. Instead the Diesel smog check will focus on a visual inspection of your vehicle's emissions/smog components, a system check of the On Board Diagnostics (OBD II) system, a visual smoke check for excessive black smoke, and an EVAP functional test. Diesel cars and trucks which fail the diesel smog test will have their vehicles repaired at a diesel repair shop.

Hybrid Vehicles (HEVs) Require Smog Test: A hybrid electric vehicle is defined as any passenger vehicle that uses an electric motor as a part of its propulsion system, as well as an internal combustion engine.

As of April 15th 2015 Hybrid-Electric vehicles are required to undergo a smog inspection biennially when the registration renewal is due, during initial registration, and anytime a change-of-ownership occurs (unless a smog inspection was conducted within 90 days of the sale date). HEVs are administered the BAR-OIS smog test. HEVs are not adminsitered the BAR-97 smog inspection (no tailpipe test). How is the BAR-OIS smog test done?

All hybrid electric cars and trucks are required to get smog tested. Some HEV models are also built as non-hybrids. For example the Tahoe, Camry, Civic, and Escape.

The following vehicles are a few of the makes and models of hybrids required to have a smog check administered for CA DMV registration purposes.

  • Chevy Hybrid Tahoe - all years
  • Honda Insight - all years
  • Honda Civic Hybrid - all years
  • Lexus Hybrid RX, GS, LS - all years
  • Toyota Prius - all years
  • Toyota Hybrid Camry - all years
  • Toyota Hybrid Highlander - all years

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