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How to Smog Checking Used Cars Before Selling Online

by recycler on April 19, 2011

Check your state laws!

Before you sell or register your car in a new state, you may have to have it smog tested first. These mandates are part of the Clean Air Act of 1997, but they do depend on where you are located, as each state will have different requirements. But how and where can you get your car tested before selling it?

Read on past the jump to find out!

How Do I Know if I Need to Smog Check My Car?

As we have said, each state has different rules and regulations regarding smog testing before a title transfer—so check your own states requirements before you do anything—but for most states cars that were bought new within four years (i.e. four years old or less) will not require a smog check before selling it or registering it in a new state. If the buyer requests a smog test, it is the buyer’s responsibility to pay for the test unless a different agreement is made between you and the buyer.

Generally speaking, if the car is older than four years but younger than 30 years, a smog check is required before selling/registering, and this time at the seller’s expense. Most states, however, do not require a second smog test if the car had already been smogged within 90 days of the sale or registration. And if the car is older than 30 years, no smog check is required (the thought being: you kind of know what you are getting at that point and no repairs can make necessary adjustments for an older car).

Keep in mind, there are no standard requirements across the board; each state is different. For example, in Tennessee, you only need to smog your car before registration if you live and drive in large cities. This is why it’s so important to check your state laws for specific requirements and guidelines. Some states, like Massachusetts, allow private contractors to run the smog check for individuals, while others, like New York, provide state-run smog test facilities.

The Test Itself

Most smog test business, in California anyway, will offer a test only—and they are usually fairly upfront and direct about this fact. If you fail a smog test (based on state requirements) and need to have your car repaired before you can transfer the title or register it, you will have to take the car to a mechanic. Smog Checking facilities usually do not offer an emissions correction.

The test usually only takes about a half hour to an hour and can run anywhere from $30 to $80, depending on where you are located. Some places will allow drop-offs, while others will require that you make an appointment first. Before you register or attempt to sell your car and transfer the title, be sure to get the smog check out of the way. For one, it will cut down on multiple trips to the DMV (or BMV)—a mistake I know firsthand!—but it will make your sale go a lot smoother if you can present smog test results while negotiating a transaction. If you have a buyer and then fail the test, you lose a lot of negotiating power…which means you might lose lots of money!

It’s a quick and painless process, so it’s best just to get it out of the way. Just make sure you check your own state laws to do it right (and without wasting extra time or money).



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