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What Happens if I Sell a Car Without Smog

What Happens if I Sell a Car Without Smog

Selling a Car Without a Smog Test in California

In California, it is illegal to sell a car without providing the buyer with a valid smog certificate.

The state has strict regulations in place to ensure that vehicles meet emission standards and contribute to cleaner air quality.

Here’s what you need to know about selling a car without a smog test in California.

Relevant Articles to Read:

Is It Illegal to Sell a Car Without a Smog Certificate?

Yes, it is illegal to sell a car in California without a valid smog certificate, with a few exceptions:

  • The vehicle is less than four model years old (e.g., if you’re selling a 2020 model in 2024, no smog test is required).
  • The vehicle is a gasoline-powered model from 1975 or older, or a diesel-powered model from 1997 or older.
  • The vehicle is an electric or natural gas-powered model with a gross vehicle weight rating (GVWR) over 14,000 lbs.

For all other vehicles, the seller is required by law to provide the buyer with a valid smog certificate at the time of sale or transfer.

Selling a car without a valid smog certificate when required can result in the following penalties:

  • The sale may be considered illegal, and the buyer can potentially take legal action against the seller.
  • The buyer may not be able to register the vehicle with the DMV until it passes a smog test, which could lead to additional fees and penalties.
  • The seller may be liable for any costs incurred by the buyer to repair the vehicle and pass the smog test.

While you likely won’t go to jail solely for selling without smog, you can face civil lawsuits, monetary penalties, and the transaction itself may be considered illegal

Important: It is a civil matter, so there is no strict enforcement, but the buyer has recourse if the seller did not disclose the smog issues

Transferring the Title Without Smog Certificate

The California DMV will not allow a vehicle to be registered unless a valid smog certificate is presented during the title transfer process, with a few exceptions:

  • If a biennial smog certification was submitted to the DMV within 90 days prior to the vehicle transfer date, a new smog test may not be required.
  • Certain vehicle transfers between family members (e.g., spouse, domestic partner, sibling, child, parent, grandparent, or grandchild) are exempt from the smog certification requirement.

In most cases, the seller must provide a valid smog certificate to the buyer at the time of sale to facilitate a smooth title transfer process.

Relevant Article To Read: How to Transfer a Car Title to a Family Member in California

To avoid legal issues and ensure a smooth transaction, it is recommended that sellers:

  • Obtain a valid smog certificate for the vehicle before listing it for sale, if required.
  • Disclose the smog status of the vehicle upfront to potential buyers.
  • If the vehicle cannot pass a smog test, consider having it repaired or offering it for sale “as-is” with a clear understanding of the smog issues.
  • Complete the necessary paperwork, such as the Notice of Transfer and Release of Liability, within five days of the sale.

By following the state’s regulations and being transparent about the vehicle’s condition, sellers can protect themselves from potential legal issues and ensure a fair transaction for both parties.

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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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