In California, cars are required to undergo smog tests to ensure they don’t release excessive pollutants. The government administers this test, commonly referred to as a smog check or emissions test. In places like California, if you’re selling your car, it has to pass the smog test. However, you have options. So, in this post, I will explain the ways I have been able to sell a car that won’t pass smog in California.
Historically, California, particularly Los Angeles, has struggled with severe smog. In 1967, California established the California Air Resources Board (CARB). CARB enforces stricter emission standards than the national norms set out by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). Other states have adopted CARB’s rigorous standards.
Now, onto my car: I own a Prius. Unfortunately, the catalytic converter was stolen, and the main battery is showing signs of wear, resulting in the car revving and displaying a warning. This means it won’t clear the smog test. Recently, the check engine light illuminated, and after consulting a mechanic, I learned that a new catalytic converter was required, setting me back $1200 for parts and labor. The car had impressively low mileage, and aside from the above-mentioned issues, it was in decent condition. I managed to get rid of it without passing smog in CA.
Now, while you are aware that potential buyers might have concerns regarding the smog test, you would like to sell it as is. So, is it possible to sell it for parts or maybe have the buyer acknowledge the condition with a signed agreement? Or is smog clearance essential for the buyer? This article will walk you through how to sell a car that won’t pass smog in California.
How to Sell a Car That Won’t Pass Smog in California
A check engine light or issues with your car’s emissions might make it hard to sell. Maybe you had a smog check in the past and it didn’t pass. Keep reading to find out how you can fix this issue, which many others have faced too.
Your Vehicle Might Be Exempt
Vehicles that are gasoline-powered and date back to 1975 or older, diesel vehicles from 1997 or older, or those with a weight exceeding 14,000 pounds are exempt from the smog requirement. Similarly, natural gas-powered vehicles weighing over 14,000 pounds, electric vehicles that produce zero emissions, and gasoline-powered vehicles that are less than 8 model years old also fall under this exemption. However, the latter category must pay an annual smog abatement fee.
Also, if your vehicle has undergone a smog check within 90 days of its purchase, a second check isn’t mandatory for a title transfer within that timeframe. Titles can also be processed between 60 days before and 90 days after the registration expiration date. So, you can sell a car that won’t pass smog in California.
Title transfers among family members or from an individual to their estate after their passing don’t require a smog check. Even transferring from a deceased owner to an heir can avoid the smog check under certain conditions.
Use Unconventional Ways to Pass a Smog Check
The simplest way to sell a car is to pass smog in California. We already know that, but since you can’t pass smog, you might want to consider unconventional ways. First, pay a visit to a local garage to find a workaround. However, this won’t work if you have previously used a state referee for smog checks.
You can also use pure ethanol or methanol to lower HC and CO levels, but manipulating the test with these additives is illegal. A safer alternative is using CARB-approved parts. These parts come with a higher price tag, but they can offer long-term savings by avoiding expensive hot smog tests. Another loophole is residing in counties like El Dorado and San Diego, which don’t mandate smog checks. Also, products like CRC’s Guaranteed to Pass Emissions Test Formula can lower emissions, acting as a potent detergent to clear out engine deposits.
Junk the Car
Take a look at some of the complaints that come after you sell a car that won’t pass smog in California without doing the right thing.
“I sold my vehicle without a smog check, and now the purchaser is demanding compensation for repairs.”
“I parted with my car without conducting a smog test, and the towing agency is pursuing legal action against me for storage fees.”
“I transferred ownership of my car without a smog check, and it was seized half a year later. Now, I’m facing debt collection.”
“A child was injured by the car I sold without a smog check, and I’m being implicated in the lawsuit.”
The root of these issues is the California regulation that prohibits the registration of a car without passing a smog inspection. Often, buyers of such vehicles have no plans to rectify the issues and officially transfer the title. They might operate the car without proper registration or insurance, all while the vehicle remains registered in your name. This can go unnoticed for several months or even years, making it a cost-effective alternative to car rentals.
The ideal scenario would be to find a buyer who intends to quickly get the car to pass a smog check, avoid having it towed due to a lack of registration, and ensure its legal transfer and tax payment after repairs. However, it might be tough to find such a buyer.
While selling a car without a smog check in California is possible, it might come with risks. All being said, the recommended way to sell a car that won’t pass smog in California is to market it as a salvage vehicle. The new owner will have to turn the salvage title into a rebuilt title to make it roadworthy again. Once you declare it junk, it is no longer roadworthy, and it takes away any future liabilities from you.
California DMV Release of Liability Form
When you sell a car in California, you should use the DMV’s release of liability form. This form notifies the DMV that you’re not responsible for any parking tickets, traffic violations, or legal actions related to the car after the sale date. If you live in a state that follows California’s emissions rules, search for your state’s name and ‘release of liability form’ to find out if you need to fill out a similar document.
Read also: How to Turn a Rebuilt Title to a Clean Title