Every other year, California vehicles are required to undergo a Smog Check. This check will be completed at a Smog Check station, and drivers will receive a certificate with the pass or fail status of their check.
You’ll need to keep this certificate handy as it’s necessary for your vehicle registration renewal. So what do you do about a lost smog certificate? Here’s what you need to know.
California Vehicle Smog Check
Almost every vehicle on California roads is required to pass a Smog Check. However, you may be exempt if your car is:
- Older than a 1975 model and gasoline-powered.
- Older than a 1997 model and diesel-powered or weighs more than 14,000 pounds.
- Weighing over 14,000 pounds and natural gas-powered.
- Newer than 8 years old.
If none of those categories fit, you’ll need a Smog Check. You’ll also need to have a smog inspection before selling a vehicle as you’ll provide a smog certificate to the new owner of your car.
Smog inspections are carried out at DMV-approved locations across California–you can search online or visit the DMV website for a list of these locations. These inspections cost between $30 and $70, depending on:
- Your zip code
- The type of vehicle you own
- The type of inspection required for your car
Smog Check prices are not regulated by the state of California, so it may not hurt to do a bit of shopping around before bringing in your vehicle.
In some cases, you may receive notice that your car must be brought to a STAR station. This is usually the case if your vehicle has previously failed inspection. You can find STAR station locations on the DMV website.
Smog Inspection Certificates
Whether your vehicle passes or fails the Smog Check, you will be issued a certificate with information regarding the test. Should your vehicle pass, you’ll simply keep this certificate in your glove box or another safe place–you’ll need it to sell your car or renew your registration.
If your vehicle does not pass inspection, the best course of action is to contact California’s Bureau of Automotive Repairs. They can best advise you on the following steps. Ideally, you’ll qualify for California’s financial assistance program, which will pay up to $1,500 to help you repair or retire your car.
Should the state of California or law enforcement need to access your Smog Check results, and you don’t have the certificate handy, don’t worry. The results of your test are stored electronically in the Vehicle Information Database.
But in some cases, you may need to replace a lost smog certificate. Fortunately, this is quite easy to do.
Replacing a Lost Smog Certificate
If you’ve misplaced your smog certificate and need it for donation, sale, or registration of your vehicle, you will need to return to the station which conducted the test. Only they will be able to issue you a new hard copy of your certificate.
If you no longer live near this station, you can typically call the smog check station and they will send you a copy, but this may require a fee. In unusual cases, it may be more affordable and convenient to simply have a new Smog Check conducted.
If you have no plans to sell your car, but you have a lost smog certificate and your registration is due for renewal, contact the DMV. In some areas, your DMV may be willing to access the electronic information available instead of requiring a physical certificate.
Not all counties will allow this and remember that it is your responsibility to keep track of your certificate. If not in your glove box, store your smog certificate in another safe place in your home where it will be accessible when needed.
Summary: Smog Check Certificate
If you have a car registered in California, you’ll most likely be required to pass a Smog Check. Upon inspection, you’ll be issued a certificate that’s necessary to provide to the DMV if you are registering or selling your car.
Should you happen to misplace it, a lost California smog certificate can be replaced at the station where your car was inspected.