What Are the Car Inspection Laws in California?
Every vehicle owner in California must meet the state’s requirements when it comes to regular inspections. A car requires an inspection before the owner may register it in California, and California inspection requirements focus almost exclusively on emissions standards rather than mechanical safety. If you plan to move to California or purchase your first vehicle in California in the near future, you should know what to expect when it comes to your inspection requirements. California also has different emissions inspection standards in different counties. Drivers can go online and search by zip code to find their local emissions testing requirements.
Exceptions to the Vehicle Inspection Laws in California
Virtually every new vehicle will need to meet state and local inspection requirements, but some vehicles are exempt. Any gasoline-powered vehicle model year 1975 or older does not need to meet emissions inspection requirements. Diesel-powered vehicles model year 1997 and older also do not need to meet these requirements. Electric vehicles and motorcycles do not require inspections.
Many vehicles that are six years old or newer are exempt from the usual inspection requirements, but owners of such vehicles typically must pay a $20 smog abatement fee for each year of exemption. This exemption requirement does not apply to diesel-powered vehicles newer than model year 1998 and weighing less than 14,000 pounds, nonresident vehicles, or specially constructed vehicles model years 1976 or newer.
How to Handle Your Vehicle Inspections
California requires emissions testing for any vehicle registration renewal. Most inspection facilities in the state automatically transmit inspection data to the Department of Motor Vehicles, but it is a good idea to keep a copy of your emissions inspection results until you complete the registration or registration renewal process.
If you recently moved to California with an out-of-state vehicle or plan to purchase an out-of-state vehicle while living in California, you will need to go through the emissions inspection process to register your vehicle in the state. Any California smog test station, smog check and repair center, or STAR certified smog station can conduct an official smog test so long as the vehicle is used with at least 7,500 miles registered or qualifies as 50-state emissions certified.
Vehicle owners must have all appropriate documentation in order to complete the vehicle registration process in California. This includes submitting to and completing an emissions test and purchasing an individual auto insurance policy that meets California’s minimum coverage requirements. California requires drivers to carry a minimum of $15,000 in bodily injury liability coverage to a single person and $30,000 total accident liability coverage for a single accident. Drivers also generally have the option to purchase more extensive insurance with additional types of coverage, but more coverage will mean higher monthly premiums.
Penalties for Inspection Violations
If your vehicle fails a smog check or emissions inspection, you must pay for the necessary repairs or modifications to make the vehicle compliant. If you fail to have an inspection done on time, your registration will likely expire, potentially leading to a citation for expired registration on top of fines and other legal penalties.
If a driver cannot afford necessary repairs, some state assistance programs offer up to $500 for repairs to help a vehicle meet state emissions standards. Some vehicle owners may also qualify for vehicle retirement programs that helps ensure safe vehicle recycling while offering financial aid for a newer vehicle.
Keeping vehicles in good working order and ensuring regular emissions testing for all vehicles in California helps keep the air cleaner and healthier. It also helps to ensure vehicles on the road remain safe; regular inspections help identify issues with a vehicle early, potentially catching small problems before they turn into more severe and more expensive problems.