How Often is a Smog Check Required in California

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Currently ALLvehicles are required to have smog checks or inspections with the exception of:

  • Gasoline powered vehicles manufactured 1975 and older
  • Diesel powered vehicles manufactured prior to 1998
  • Diesel or Natural Gas powered vehicles of any year with a Gross Vehicle Weight (GVWR) of more than 14,000 lbs.
  • Electric, natural gas powered vehicles over 14,000 lbs.
  • Hybrids, motorcycles, and trailers

The above exemptions do not apply for initial registration in the state. Additionally a smog check is not required if a vehicle is transferred which is four or less model years old. The requirements differ if the transfer is between related parties or if a smog check was recently performed. Check with the DMV for more details.

With the Exception of the Above, It's Not a Question of If but When Your Vehicle Need a Smog Check

Depending upon which area of the state you live and the age of your car the frequency with which you must have your vehicle smog checked varies. These areas are called Program Areas by the Bureau of Automotive Repair (BAR) which administers the smog check program. There are three types of program areas:

  • Enhanced Areas:These areas are the most densely populated areas of the state. Vehicles in this program area within the specified model years are required to be smog certified every two (2) years. A portion of these vehicles are randomly directed to Smog Test Only or Gold Shield stations. These vehicles must also receive an ASM (Acceleration Simulation Mode) Smog Check unless the vehicle is not compatible.
  • Basic Areas:Vehicles in this area must also be tested every two (2) years, however only a TSI or Two Speed Idle test is required as part of the smog check.
  • Change of Ownership Areas:Vehicles in this area require only a TSI test on initial registration or change of ownership depending upon their specified model years

Specified Model Year


The BAR groups vehicles into categories which determine how often a vehicle must be smog checked and whether a smog check is required on initial registration or change of ownership. Basically the rule of thumb is the older the car the more often it requires a smog check until model year 1975 ;). If your car is 4 model years old or less it only needs a check on initial registration in the state. If the vehicle is 5 to 6 model years old a smog check must be done on change of ownership and finally if your car is 7 model years old or older then a biennial smog check is required as well.

Check BAR Model Years.

Comments (1) -

  • I just had my vehicle checked, but I'm considering switching to a CNG car, do you know if I have to get a smog test if my vehicle isn't over 14 thousand lbs?


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