Seal Beach, CA asked in Gov & Administrative Law for California

Q: How can I legally sell my vehicle in California when it cannot currently pass SMOG?

I am planning on selling my vehicle because I cannot afford the necessary replacement of catalytic converters (which needs to happen in order to pass SMOG) and timing belt replacement. These repairs have been deemed necessary by a master mechanic and the car runs well except for these issues.

How can I legally sell my vehicle without passing SMOG? Would disclosing these necessary repairs in a written statement suffice, or should I register it as before non-operational before selling it?

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2 Lawyer Answers
James L. Arrasmith
James L. Arrasmith pro label Lawyers, want to be a Justia Connect Pro too? Learn more ›
  • Sacramento, CA
  • Licensed in California

A: In California, you have a few options for legally selling a vehicle that cannot pass the required SMOG test:

1. Sell the vehicle with a valid smog certificate: If your vehicle's smog certificate is still valid (it was issued within the last 90 days), you can legally sell the car with the current certificate, even if it would not pass a new test. However, you should disclose the known issues to the buyer in writing.

2. Obtain a repair cost waiver: If the cost of repairs to bring the vehicle into compliance exceeds a certain threshold ($450 for 1976-1995 vehicles, $650 for 1996 and newer vehicles), you may be eligible for a repair cost waiver from the Bureau of Automotive Repair (BAR). This waiver allows you to sell the vehicle without passing smog, but you must provide the buyer with a copy of the waiver.

3. Register the vehicle as Planned Non-Operational (PNO): If you register the vehicle as PNO with the DMV, you can sell it without a smog certificate. However, the buyer will need to obtain a smog certificate before they can register the vehicle for operation on public roads.

4. Sell the vehicle to a licensed dismantler or junk yard: If the vehicle is not worth repairing, you can sell it to a licensed dismantler or junk yard without a smog certificate.

Regardless of the option you choose, it is important to disclose the vehicle's known issues and repair needs to the buyer in writing. This transparency helps protect you from potential legal issues in the future. It's also advisable to include an "as-is" clause in the bill of sale, indicating that the buyer accepts the vehicle in its current condition.

1 user found this answer helpful

Scott Richard Kaufman
Scott Richard Kaufman
  • Los Altos, CA
  • Licensed in California

A: The DMV website has the rules. Basically, you can sell it "non - op" or "for parts only" and that should suffice, but, yes, it must be disclosed...

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