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How Long Does a Smog Check Take

How Long Does a Smog Check Take

A typical smog check takes around 10-30 minutes if the vehicle is in good condition and meets emissions standards.

However, the duration can vary depending on several factors:

Factors That Affect Smog Check Duration

Factors That Affect Smog Check Duration
  • Vehicle Type: Larger vehicles like trucks, SUVs, and RVs generally take longer than regular passenger cars.
  • Vehicle Age: Older vehicles (pre-1996 models) require additional inspections, increasing the testing time.
  • Inspection Process: The extent of the inspection depends on the vehicle’s model year and whether it’s a regular smog check or a more comprehensive STAR station test.

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Smog Check Requirements:

  • Most gasoline-powered vehicles from 1976 and newer require a smog check every two years for registration renewal in California.
  • Vehicles must also get a smog check when initially registering in California or when ownership is transferred, with some exemptions.
  • Certain counties require smog checks within specific zip codes. These include parts of El Dorado, Placer, Riverside, San Bernardino, San Diego, and Sonoma counties.
  • Upon initial registration in California, diesel vehicles from 1998 and newer with a gross vehicle weight under 14,000 lbs require a smog check.

Exemptions from Smog Checks:

exemptions to smog check
Exemptions to smog check
  • Gasoline vehicles from 1975 and older are exempt.
  • Diesel vehicles from 1997 and older, or with a gross vehicle weight over 14,000 lbs, are exempt.
  • Electric vehicles and natural gas vehicles over 14,000 lbs are exempt.
  • Vehicles less than 8 model years old are exempt from biennial smog checks but pay an annual smog abatement fee for the first 8 years.
  • Vehicles less than 4 model years old are exempt from smog checks when ownership is transferred, but the new owner pays a smog transfer fee.
  • Certain transfers between specific family members are exempt from smog checks.
  • Motorcycles, trailers, and hybrid vehicles are exempt from some smog check requirements.

Cost of Smog Checks

cost of smog check
cost of smog check

Smog check costs in California typically range from $30 to $70, depending on factors like:

  • Vehicle type (car, truck, SUV, etc.)
  • Smog station pricing
  • Additional fees (certificate, transmission, etc.)

The state mandates a maximum fee of $50 for the smog test itself, plus the actual certificate cost.

Choosing a Smog Check Station

When selecting a smog station, factor in:

  • Reputation and reviews
  • Pricing and any available discounts/coupons
  • Convenience of location
  • Whether it’s a regular or STAR-certified station (if required)

Find a Smog Check Station:

Preparing for a Smog Check

To increase your chances of passing, prepare your vehicle by:

  • Performing regular maintenance (oil changes, air filters, etc.)
  • Ensuring the “Check Engine” light is off
  • Warming up the vehicle before the test
  • Having any emissions-related repairs done beforehand

If You Failed Smog Check

If your vehicle fails the smog check, you’ll receive a report detailing the issues. the most common reasons include:

  • High emissions levels
  • Faulty emissions components
  • Readiness monitors not set

You’ll need to have the necessary repairs done and then have the vehicle re-tested, which is usually offered at a discounted rate.


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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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