California has some of the strictest air quality standards in the United States, and smog checks are a key part of keeping those standards in check. But when did California start requiring smog checks for vehicles?

The answer is that California began requiring smog checks as early as 1966, with the passage of its Air Resources Board’s (ARB) Vehicle Inspection Program. The program was designed to reduce emissions from older cars and trucks by having them inspected and repaired if necessary.

Over time, this program evolved into what we now know as the Smog Check Program, which requires all vehicles registered in certain areas to pass a periodic inspection before they can be legally driven on public roads. The program is still going strong today, ensuring that Californians have clean air to breathe.

What exactly are smog checks?


Smog checks are state-sponsored programs that identify vehicles that emit excessive tailpipe emissions. These projects, which began immediately after the passage of the Clean Air Act in 1966, aim to reduce air pollution and vehicle emissions while also improving regional air quality in order to comply with local emissions rules.


What happens if you fail a smog check?


In most circumstances, failing a smog check means you won’t be able to renew your vehicle’s registration, making driving illegal until you pass the smog check test. Once your vehicle has passed inspection, you can renew your registration and drive legally.


What is the cost of a smog check?


A smog check might cost anything from $30 to $60 on average. When your vehicle passes the smog test, the smog check administrator gives you a state-issued sticker to display on your dashboard as proof that it has passed the smog test.


In California, who is in charge of the smog check program?


The California Smog Check Program is administered by the California Department of Consumer Affairs Bureau of Automotive Repair (BAR), and there are over 7,000 state-licensed and independently-run smog check stations throughout the state.


The California STAR Program certifies Test-Only Stations, Repair Stations, and Test-and-Repair Smog Check Stations that want to certify high-polluting automobiles.


In the state of California, who requires a smog check?


Vehicles manufactured in 1976 or later are required to participate in the biennial smog check program in participating counties under the California Smog Check Program. If you live in one of the following California counties, you must have a smog inspection when renewing your Department of Motor Vehicles vehicle registration: Alameda, Butte, Colusa, Contra Costa, Fresno, Glenn, Kern, Kings, Los Angeles, Madera, Marin, Merced, Monterey, Napa, Nevada, Orange, Sacramento, San Benito, San Francisco, San Joaquin, San Luis Obispo, San Mateo, Santa Barbara.