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How Long Does a Smog Check Last in California

How Long Does a Smog Check Last in California?

California is known for its strict environmental regulations, and one such regulation is the requirement for regular smog checks. These checks are mandatory for most vehicles in the state and aim to reduce air pollution caused by vehicle emissions. But how long does a smog check last in California, and what are the guidelines for getting one? In this article, we will explore the duration of a smog check certificate and answer some frequently asked questions about the process.

The Duration of a Smog Check Certificate

In California, the duration of a smog check certificate varies depending on the type of vehicle and the area you reside in. Generally, most vehicles are required to undergo a smog check every two years. However, certain vehicles are exempt from this requirement, such as electric cars, motorcycles, and hybrids that are less than six years old.

Additionally, the DMV (Department of Motor Vehicles) may require a smog check in the following situations:

1. Vehicle Change of Ownership: Whenever a vehicle changes ownership, a smog check is required, regardless of the previous test date. This applies to both private sales and transfers through the DMV.

2. Registration Renewal: When renewing your vehicle’s registration, a smog check may be necessary if it has been more than two years since the last test.

3. Out-of-State Vehicles: If you bring a vehicle from out of state to California, it must undergo a smog check before it can be registered.

It is important to note that the duration of a smog check certificate may also vary depending on the specific county in California. Some counties have additional requirements, such as biennial smog inspections for specific ZIP codes with higher pollution levels. It is advisable to check the specific regulations in your county to determine the exact duration of a smog check certificate.

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Frequently Asked Questions

Q: How much does a smog check cost in California?
A: The cost of a smog check in California can vary depending on the location and the type of vehicle. Generally, the price ranges from $30 to $80.

Q: What happens if my vehicle fails the smog check?
A: If your vehicle fails the smog check, you will receive a “Notice of Failure” and be required to repair the necessary components to bring your vehicle into compliance. Once the repairs are made, you can have a retest at a certified smog check station.

Q: Are there any financial assistance programs available for smog check repairs?
A: Yes, there are financial assistance programs available for eligible low-income individuals who need to repair their vehicles to pass the smog check. These programs are administered by the Bureau of Automotive Repair and provide financial aid for emissions-related repairs.

Q: Can I get a smog check at any station?
A: No, smog checks can only be performed at stations that are licensed by the state of California to conduct such tests. These stations are often referred to as “STAR” stations and can be identified by the STAR logo displayed at their facilities.

Q: What happens if I don’t get a smog check?
A: Failure to comply with the smog check requirements can result in penalties, such as fines and the inability to renew your vehicle’s registration. It is essential to get a smog check within the specified timeframes to avoid any legal consequences.


In California, a smog check certificate typically lasts for two years for most vehicles. It is crucial to adhere to the smog check requirements to reduce air pollution and ensure compliance with state regulations. Remember to check the specific rules in your county, as they may have additional requirements. By getting regular smog checks, you not only contribute to a cleaner environment but also avoid potential penalties for non-compliance.

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