Can I Sell A Car That Won’t Pass Smog In California?

can i sell a car that won't pass smog in california

A few months ago, my dear friend wanted to sell his old, used 1994 Range Rover. Upon contact with the buyer, he found out that his client can’t register the car until it passes the smog test. He then had to face a lawsuit which obviously took a huge toll on all his resources. 

Can I sell a car in California that won’t pass smog?

Without a valid smog certificate, you cannot sell a car that won’t pass smog in California. Your sale will be null and void. The DMV will inform the buyer that the registration is not valid and it requires a smog certificate. The buyer has the option to ask you to get the smog certificate or take the vehicle back. 

Is it illegal to sell a car that won’t smog in California? 

Firstly, you are legally obliged to provide the buyer with a smog certificate at the time of sale. The said certificates are mandatory for all sales of gasoline-powered vehicles that are four or more model years older. This model rule doesn’t apply to diesel-fuelled vehicles, though a smog certificate is still required. 

It is to be noted that the buyer should also be informed that the smog certification provided by you is only valid for 90 days after the issuance date. 

Now, you might be wondering, are there any exceptions? 

According to DMV (Department of Motor Vehicle), California, your vehicle does not need a smog inspection if your:

  • Gasoline-powered vehicle is a 1975 year model or older (This includes motorcycles and trailers.)
  • Diesel-powered vehicle is a 1997 and older year model OR with a Gross Vehicle Weight of more than 14,000 pounds.
  • Powered by natural gas and weighs more than 14,000 pounds. 
  • An electric vehicle.
  • Gasoline-powered and less than eight model-years old. 

What happens if I don’t smog my car before selling it?

If the aforementioned exceptions do not apply to your vehicle and you sell it without a smog certification, then the sale is illegal and void. 

When a used vehicle is sold in California, the seller is legally responsible for making sure to provide the buyer with a smog certificate. There is no provision in the law allowing a seller to sell a vehicle “as is.” 

The buyer must submit the certificate of compliance (smog certificate) to the Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) when transferring the registration of the vehicle.

According to California law, you are either legally obligated to take back your vehicle or pay for the repairs to allow the passage of smog. 

Here’s some practical advice which I gave to my friend mentioned in the beginning: 

Negotiate. Negotiate with the buyer. Your best bet is to take back your vehicle. We’ll discuss your other options towards the end of this article. Hold tight. 

Whatre the legal provisions? 

Section 24007 (b)(2) of the California Vehicle Code provides that it is the responsibility of the seller to provide a valid smog certificate at the time of delivery of the vehicle. 

Do I need to get a smog certificate in California even if my car has been inspected in another state? 

Yes, even if your vehicle has been inspected in another State, you need a California smog check. If you’re moving to California or registering your car there, you need to get a California smog test done, otherwise, your car won’t get registered and you wouldn’t be allowed to be driven on the roads. 

How long does a smog test take? 

Typically, it takes 20-30 minutes to have your car checked for smog passing. 

How do I sell a car that won’t pass smog?

You cannot sell your car if it won’t pass smog because the buyer won’t be able to register it. 

If your vehicle doesnt pass smog, you have two choices: repairing the faulty components or stop driving your car. 

However, the repair costs to make a vehicle pass smog can cost as low as a hundred dollars to tens of thousands of dollars. It’s hard to tell because the repairs may be for changing smaller parts like spark plugs and filters or it could be something huge like replacing a catalytic converter, which costs a lot. 

Where can I sell my car if it doesn’t pass smog?

I know I said that it’s illegal to sell a car that won’t smog in California, but there are certain foolproof methods to do it, while still staying under the ambit of law, at your own risk, of course. 

Show the DMV that your buyer is okay with buying a car without a smog certification IN WRITING. 

Heres how to do it: 

Create a document that will be separate from your bill of sale which should specifically mention that the buyer is okay with buying the car without having a smog test done. 

Have the signature on the document attested to by a notary. 

Submit it to the Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) while you inform them of your sale. 

Another way to sell your car without a smog check is if youre sure that it wont hit the road after the purchase.

If that happens to be true in your case, you can get a Planned Non-Operation Filing (PNO) which reassures the DMV that the vehicle won’t be used on the road after selling. 

If your vehicle has a PNO in place, you can legally sell it without a smog check. 

Planned non-operation (PNO) means that the vehicle will not be driven, towed, stored, or parked on public roads or highways for the entire registration year.

If youre okay with your car being sold for way cheaper than the conventional price, I have another method for you. 

Like California, certain states want the vehicles that produce a lot of harmful emissions to get off the road, as soon as possible. For that, they buy them from those who want to sell their cars for cheap. 

According to the Bureau of Automotive Repair, California has a $1500 incentive of Consumer Assistance Program Vehicle Retirement which is named California Cash for Clunkers Program.

You can avail this, but for that, you need to fall into the criteria list. Your gross household income must be less than or equal to 225% of the Federal poverty level, according to The Bureau of Automotive Repairs, California. 

In addition to that, the vehicle that youre selling must be currently registered with the DMV with a valid, unexpired registration sticker OR have all fees paid to the DMV and have a registration that has not been expired more than 120 days.

In order to be paid to retire your vehicle, it must have been continuously registered in California for the past two years.

Another way to sell your car without a smog certificate is to sell it to your family or relatives.

Yes, in California, you are legally allowed to sell your used vehicle to any of your relatives including spouses, partners, siblings, children, parents, grandchildren, or grandparents-without a smog certificate. Aunts, uncles, cousins, etc aren’t covered under the exception. 

The point to be taken care of is that the vehicle must already be registered in the State of California and nowhere else. 

These are all the ways you can sell your car without a smog test. Your car may be sold for less than you expected but hey, at least it’s better than not selling your old car at all or worse, getting sued by your buyer and spending more.

As we come to the end of this article, it’s evident that even though on paper it’s illegal to sell a car that won’t pass smog in California, there are loopholes and incentives that you can always avail. 

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