Can I Sell a Car That Doesn’t Pass Smog in California?

You cannot sell a car that doesn’t pass smog in the state of California. The California Department of Motor Vehicles requires that all vehicles be smogged before they are sold, with the exception of vehicles that have never been registered and are under four years old. The only other cases for vehicles exempt from this law is when the vehicle is already more than 20 years old. As long as your vehicle meets these requirements, you’re eligible to sell it to without getting it smogged first!

If you’re selling a car in California, it must have a current smog certificate to complete the sale.

When you’re selling a car in California, there’s a lot to consider. You have to make sure the title is clean, do a history check, and even arrange an inspection with the DMV before getting your vehicle out on the market.

The good news is that California doesn’t require private sellers to have a smog certificate to sell their cars. However, there are some important details you should know about this exemption:

  • Vehicles that are four years old or older don’t need smog certificates when they’re sold or registered. If you’ve got an older car that doesn’t pass its smog test, you can still safely sell it without worrying about failing inspection or paying for repairs.
  • You must disclose whether your vehicle has been issued two (or more) smog certificates within the past two years on your Certificate of Title Assignment/Application for Duplicate Title (REG 227). This isn’t required for vehicles over four years old.

Smog certificates are good for 90 days from the time of testing.

If you’re selling a car that doesn’t pass smog in California, you can still sell it—but the buyer will be on the hook for getting it to pass. In this case, and in any other situation where the car isn’t currently passing smog, they will have to get a “waiver of repair” by meeting certain conditions.

First, they must wait 30 days after purchasing the vehicle before retesting for smog certification. Second, the buyer is limited to fewer than five smog test attempts within those 30 days. Third, if the failed vehicle has not been registered since January 1st of that year (when it would have required its annual inspection), then you (the seller) need to disclose that information to the buyer before completing the sale.

If all goes well and your vehicle passes its next smog test with flying colors, then your buyer has 90 days from when they took their most recent test to complete registration and transfer title of your old car into their name.

Vehicles 20 years or older are exempt from smog inspections.

If you’re selling a vehicle that’s more than 20 years old, you have no need to worry about passing a smog inspection. If your vehicle is eight years or younger, however, it will be due for its first smog check.

If you live in California and are selling a car that’s between 20 and eight years old, then congratulations—you’re almost finished! You’ll need to pass a smog inspection before the sale is finalized, but at least it won’t be tough to find someone who can give your vehicle the once-over: there are over 8,000 registered Smog Check stations in California alone.

If your vehicle doesn’t pass its smog test (and we sincerely hope it does), you can still sell it as long as you provide the buyer with a statement of facts indicating that the car didn’t meet emissions standards when it was inspected. This statement will detail why the car failed and how much repairs would cost to bring it up to code; keep in mind that if you choose to make these repairs yourself prior to selling the vehicle, then your car will be exempt from future smog inspections.

After all of this hard work, there’s just one step left to do before we dive into our favorite part—the paperwork!

Cars four or less model years old do not need smog checks.

So, if you’re thinking of buying a car from a private seller or at a dealership, you should always pass on any vehicle that’s more than four years old. In most cases, these cars won’t come with current smog certificates.

You can sell a car that doesn’t pass smog in California if the car is older than four years.

You can sell a car that doesn’t pass smog in California if the car is older than four years.

  • If the car is at least four years old and doesn’t pass smog, you can sell it to a salvage buyer. These buyers will pay you cash for your vehicle even if it doesn’t work or run.
  • You can also sell your vehicle that doesn’t pass smog at an auction. There are several auctions in California, such as Copart in San Diego where you can list your car online and bidders will bid on your car online.
  • You can also try selling the vehicle to a dealer or a private party, however keep in mind that dealerships may not want a vehicle that does not pass smog and may not give you much money for it. Also, lenders like banks do not lend on vehicles that do not pass smog so most people who get financing will be unable to purchase the vehicle from you because their lender won’t approve it. Additionally, private parties are more likely to buy vehicles they know they won’t have any trouble registering themselves with their local DMV office since they need proof of ownership before they complete registration of the vehicle with their local DMV office (they need the title).
Steven Hatman
Steven Hatman

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