How Much Does A Smog Check Cost in California?

In California, smog check prices will range from $40 to $150 depending on the location, type of vehicle, local competition, and several other factors we will describe.

Below are some real advertised smog check prices as of June 2019. Keep in mind that this is the lowest possible price and expect to pay $15 to $50 more for trucks, vans, older cars, STAR directed, and other options.

CityAdvertised Special for Smog Check Price
San Jose, CA$29.75 + Certificate for Year 2000 and Newer (without STAR Directed)
Pleasanton, CA$29.75 + Certificate for Year 2000 and Newer (without STAR Directed)
Concord, CA$31.75 + $8.25 FOR Certificate for 2000 or newer cars
Stockton, CA$19.75 + $8.25 Certificate for 2000 or newer cars
Bell Gardens, CA$40 out the door for Year 2000 and newer
San Francisco, CA$40 + $8.25 Certificate
Santa Cruz, CA$48 Out the Door
San Diego, CA$29.75 + Certificate

Year of Vehicle as a Smog Test Price Factor

There are 3 main types of smog tests conducted in California.

Model Year of VehicleType of Smog Check
1976-1995In Enhanced Areas:
Visual Check and BAR-97 EIS With Dynanometer + LPFET “EVAP” Test In Most Cases, otherwise 2-speed Idle Test
In Basic and Change of Ownership Areas:
Visual Check and 2-speed Idle Test
1996-1999In Enhanced Areas:
Visual Check and BAR-97 EIS With Dynanometer In Most Cases, otherwise 2-speed Idle Test
In Basic and Change of Ownership Areas:
Visual Check and 2-speed Idle Test
2000 and newerIn All Areas:
Visual Check + ODBII Test

Vehicles with a model year of 2000 and newer require an ODBII test. This consists of a visual and a functional test. For the purposes of this article, the OBDII functional test is simpler (and quicker) than what is required for a tailpipe emissions test, so these are smog checks are generally less expensive than those conducted for older vehicles. There’s no need for the vehicle to get on the dynanometer so the test can be conducted more quickly. That’s why smog stations are willing to provide discounts for vehicles Year 2000 or newer.

Make and Model of Vehicle

Aside from the year of vehicle, the make and model have a strong impact on the price quoted for a smog check.

Here are some examples:

Larger trucks like the Ford F-350, the GMC Sierra or Silverado 3500, or Ram 3500 are medium duty trucks. They will require a different test procedure than light duty trucks.

Mid-engine Porsche’s like the Boxster will require a car lift, and removal of the engine cover to perform a proper visual inspection. This will take additional time for the technician and most stations will charge extra for this. Many smog stations will not have not a car lift, so call ahead if you are aware of this characteristic. Note that ALL smogs in California, whether STAR Certified or not, are required to have a visual inspection component. Some smog stations will skip this step, but it is part of the official requirement.

Location Impacts Smog Check Procedures

California has 3 classifications for areas for smog tests: Change of Ownership, Basic, and Enhanced. These areas require different test procedures as described. California provides a Zip Code Area Lookup to determine smog check area.

Local Competition Affects Smog Check Prices

Smog check prices vary throughout the state because of the amount of local competition. If there is a high density of smog stations in a particular areas, competition will be fierce and you can see offers of $20 to $30 for a smog check. Typically these are excluding the DMV Certificate, so expect to add between $8 to $10 in addition to the price listed on the coupon.

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