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Getting a Smog Check in California

  • In California, not all cars are required to get a smog check. Some cars will only need a smog check when they are being sold or being registered in California for the first time after having been registered in another state.

    Whether or not a vehicle needs a smog check depends on the type of vehicle, the model-year, and the area in which the vehicle is registered. The following general information outlines whether or not you'll need a smog check, but DMV smog- test exemptions may apply.

    • Change of Ownership Areas and Basic and Enhanced Areas

      Most areas of California require cars to get a smog check once every two years, when being registered in California for the first time, and when being sold. These areas in California are called Basic and Enhanced Areas.

      On the other hand, Change of Ownership Areas require a smog check only when the vehicle is being sold or initially registered in California. To find out which type of smog check area you live in, you can call the Department of Consumer Affairs/Bureau of Automotive Repair toll-free at 1-800-952-5210 or check the DMV ZIP Code Locator.

    • Does My Vehicle Need a Smog Check?

      The California Department of Motor Cars (DMV) will notify you on your DMV Renewal Notice form whether you need to get a smog check in order to reregister your car. Along with that notification will be a small insert that tells you everything you need to know about California's Smog Check Program.

    • No Smog Check Required on Sales within Immediate Family

      The only time when a smog check will not be required when a vehicle undergoes a change of ownership is when the car is being sold or transferred between certain family members—parents, grandparents, children, grandchildren, siblings, or spouses.

    You can find out more about CA smog check regulations at the DMV website.

    Note: This article was accurate when it was published. Please confirm all details directly with the CA DMV. You can visit the CA DMV website or call 1-800-777-0133 for general drivers license and registration information.

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