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How Long Does A Smog Certificate Last

How Long Does A Smog Certificate Last

Living in California means familiarizing yourself with the state’s strict vehicle emissions laws. As a car owner, one question that often comes up is “how long is my smog certificate valid for?” Here is a quick visual guide to summarize the validity period:

RequirementDescriptionValidity PeriodNotes
Biennial Smog Check– Required for gasoline, hybrid, and alternative-fuel vehicles older than 8 years
– Not required for vehicles 8 model years and newer
Every 2 yearsBiennial checks align with vehicle registration renewal.
Change-of-Ownership Smog Check– Required for selling vehicles over 4 years old
– The seller is responsible for providing a valid smog certificate at or before sale
Valid for 90 days from the date of issuanceThe buyer should receive a valid smog certificate during the sale. Exemptions for family transfers.
New Residents– Required for out-of-state vehicles being registered in California
– Must be completed within 20 days of establishing residency
Upon establishing residencyRegister at the DMV with a valid smog check certificate.
New Vehicles– Exempt from biennial smog checks for first 8 model years
– Smog abatement fee paid instead
First 8 model yearsAfter 8 years, biennial smog checks are required.
Out-of-State Short Visits– Valid out-of-state registrationUp to 20 daysNo smog check required for short visits.
Out-of-State Long Visits– Register and perform a smog check if staying longer than 20 daysUpon vehicle registrationRegister at the DMV and provide a valid smog check certificate.
Understanding Smog Certificate Validity and Requirements in California

Related Articles To Read:

When Smog Checks Are Required in California

Whether and how often you need to get a smog inspection depends on your vehicle’s age and type. The DMV sends notices when a current smog certificate is required.

  • Newer gasoline/hybrid/alt-fuel vehicles are exempt from regular smog checks:
    • 8 years or newer – never need biennial smog checks
    • 4 years or newer – don’t need smog checks for registration renewals
  • Older vehicles need periodic inspections:
    • 4-8 year old vehicles need smog checks every 2 years
    • 1975 or newer vehicles need checks when ownership changes
  • Smog checks take around 20 minutes at certified test centers
  • Cost is approximately $50 depending on your area

I’ve created tables below summarizing the vehicle smog check requirements and certificate validity periods to make it easier to determine what applies to your situation.

Biennial Smog Check Requirements

Vehicle TypeModel YearRequirement
Gas/Hybrid/Alt-Fuel8 years or newerExempt – Only for ownership transfer
Gas/Hybrid/Alt-Fuel4-8 years oldRequired every 2 years
Gas/Hybrid/Alt-Fuel1975-4 years oldRequired every 2 years

Change of Ownership Smog Check Requirements

Vehicle TypeModel YearRequirement
Gas/Hybrid/Alt-Fuel4 years or newerExempt from smog check
Gas/Hybrid/Alt-Fuel1975 or newerSmog check required

Smog Certificate Validity Timeline

  • Smog Test – Takes 20-30 minutes
  • Smog Certificate Issued – Valid for 90 days
  • Use Certificate to Renew Registration – Covers next 2 years
  • New Smog Test Required at Next Renewal Period

What if My Car is from Out-of-State?

If you moved to California from another state and brought your vehicle, you still need to follow the smog check guidelines. Any gasoline vehicle model year 1975 or newer that stays in California over 20 days must complete a smog inspection to register.

Some key steps when moving in your vehicle:

  • Get a temporary registration permit prior to driving into California
  • Transfer your out-of-state title/registration to California
  • In some cases, modifications may be needed to meet stricter emission standards
  • Use smog exemptions only if eligible based on situation

Check the DMV website for the most up-to-date details on registering out-of-state vehicles.

Renewing Registration with a Valid Smog Certificate

As long as you have submitted a valid smog certificate to the DMV within the last 90 days, you can renew your registration for another two years. The test data is saved in the DMV system to verify compliance.

In some cases, they may request you show proof if records were unavailable when you tried renewing. But typically the process is straightforward if your smog check was done properly and recently.

The key is making sure you do not let your smog certificate expire before submitting it with your renewal application. As long as it was issued in the prior 90 day window, you are all set registration-wise for another two years!

Key Takeaways

  • Smog certificates are valid for 90 days from test date
  • Submitted certificates cover registration renewal for next 2 years
  • Requirements vary based on vehicle age and type
  • Out-of-state vehicles entering California need smog checks
  • Renewals just need a valid certificate from the last 90 days

Following California’s vehicle emissions testing requirements helps improve air quality for all residents. While smog checks may be inconvenient, they ensure our vehicles run cleanly.

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Picture of Steve Momot - Author

Steve Momot - Author

Steve, a seasoned expert in the automotive industry, formerly held a car dealer license in Florida. With extensive experience spanning across car trading and mechanical work, he founded Autohitch. His mission? To guide both buyers and sellers through the intricate maze of car purchasing, ensuring a seamless and informed experience. Outside of the automotive world, Steve has a passion for fishing and capturing the beauty of nature through photography.


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