Do Hybrid Vehicles Require a Smog Check

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California requires that most vehicles are inspected by licensed smog check locations every 2 years depending upon where you live.  However certian vehicles have been exempt from smog checks and this include hybrid vehicles.  A simple easy to understand document which explains what tests are required for what vehicle can be found here.

Basially these are the rules in summary:

  • Hybrid vehicles are exempt from all smog checks until 2014.  
  • Vehicles that are from 1975 or earlier are also exempt because they do not have the equipment which enables testinga and because there are so few vechicles of that type on the road that they do not account for a large percentage of the pollution produced by vehicles.
  • Deisel cars build prior to 1998 are exempt as well although new deisel vehicles are tested.  In addition to the standard test there is also an EVAP test to check that the evaporative system is functioning and a visual smoke test.
  • Electric cars like hybrid cars are exempt from smog checks.  Unlike hybrid vehicles this exemption never expires because electric vehicles do not have tailpipe emissions.  Both hybrid and electric cars sill produce green house gases except that these gases are produced by the electric plants which provide electricity to the batteries of hybrid and electric vehicles.
  • Natural Gas Vehicles are exempt for any vehicle less that 14000 pounds for the first 6 years.  This is because the quality of manufacture is so high that these vehicles produce very few emissions.  After 6 years it is possible that some engine parts may fail and therefore smog testing is required.
  • Other vehicles such as rotary engines, motorcycles, off-road vehicles are also exempt.

How Long are Hybrid Vehicles Exempt from Smog Checks

Hybrids have a standard combustion engine and an electric motor. The requirements for hybrid vehicles are different from combustion engine vehicles mainly because the technology to smog test hybrid vehicles had not been developed when the cars became popular.  Normally, most vehicles must be smog checked with an ownership change and biennially after the vehicle is 4 years or older.  However, if you own a hybrid vehicle then you are exempt from a smog check with a change of ownership and also the first biennial smog check.  This exemption ends December 2014. 

The ODBII Smog Test and Hybrid Vehicles

The Bureau of Automotive Repair (BAR) manages the smog check program in California.  All during 2014 they have been testing ODBII smog check machines.  These machines test a vechicle using only the on board computer.  The current smog check requires an idle and talipipe test.  Since the combusion engine in hybrid cars never idles the standard BAR 97 test cannot be used for hybrid vehicles.

A Short List of Popular Hybrid Vehicles Exempt from Smog Checks

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

What If You Get a Notice to Smog Check Your Hybrid Vehicle

There have been cases where owners of hybrid vehicles have received smog check notices.  In most if not all cases these notices are sent in error.  You should contact the DMV at 800 777-0133 to arrange for the registration to be completed without a smog check.  In some cases this may mean taking your vehicle to a location where it can be verified as a hybrid.   If you don't want to call the DMV great information on registering your vehicle in California and smog test requirements can be found at the DMV website.

When Hybrid Smog Checks Begin Where Do I Take My Vehicle

When the exemption for hybrids expires, you will most likely be directed to take your hybrid to a STAR certified smog check station.  This location must have an ODBII emission testing machine in order to smog check your hybrid.  To find a location that has an ODB II machine enter a city or zip code here:

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If the location has an ODBII machine the icon will appear.  You can also find coupons and great deals by clicking on the smog check location in the smog check location list.  It also does not matter whether you take your vehicle to a test only or a test and repair either will be able to smog check your hybrid vehicle. The only special case is when your vehicle has been "DIRECTED".  Your notice in this case will give you special instructions to go to a STAR station.  In this case you must go to a STAR certified location to get your hybrid vehicle smog checked but this STAR station can be either a STAR smog test only or STAR smog check and repair.

When I Do Get My Hybrid Smog Checked What Will It Cost

Smog checks vary in prices from region to region.  However, since hybrids will not require a full smog check but instead an ODBII only smog check it is possible that testing your hybrid might not only be less expensive but also take much less time. 

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