El Dorado Hills, CA - California has a long, and deservedly proud history of leading the rest of the United States in environmental concerns. One of the widest nationally recognized initiatives on the state’s part is its smog check requirements, which initially required vehicles manufactured after a certain year to comply with regulations regarding their exhaust systems, and eventually grew to require testing of certain vehicles emissions, to ensure they were in compliance with state regulations.

Smog Check Station

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1943 - First recognized episodes of smog occur in Los Angeles, though it takes a few years for scientists to figure out that cars are the culprit. For now, a chemical plant is suspected as the cause of the brown hue in the San Fernando Valley skies. In October, county supervisors appoint a Smoke and Fumes Commission to study the dense smoke.

In the years from 1979 to 1984, California administered an inspection network in the South Coast Air Basin, allowing contractors overseen by the state to conduct millions of emissions and safety inspections on vehicles that were being bought or sold, or otherwise going through a change of ownership. At this time, the only time a vehicle had to be inspected was during a change of ownership, or if the vehicle was being brought into and registered in California for the first time. Vehicles didn’t yet need annual inspections to remain deemed road worthy.

1984 - The California Smog Check program goes into effect to identify vehicles in need of maintenance and to assure the effectiveness of their emissions-control systems.

1999 - “AB 1105” made additional changes to the program. It authorized but did not require the Bureau of Automotive Repairs (BAR) to exempt vehicles up to six years old from the biennial smog check and gave the agency authorization to except additional vehicles by low-emitter profiling (Schwartz). It also created additional changes to the repair assistance program and provided BAR with increased flexibility for how much to pay drivers whose vehicle failed the smog check so that the vehicle may be scrapped. This program was called "Cash for Clunkers".

2015 - A bill proposed in California would allow classic car owners to cut a check to the DMV for $200 to get out of the state’s notoriously strict smog test. But naturally, it’s a bit more complicated than just paying off the Golden State.

Any car in California built on or after 1976 has to undergo a smog test every two years (not so for pre-76 cars, which is one of the reasons my 1976 BMW 2002 is now living in Florida).

AB550 seeks to amend that law to allow vehicles 30 years or older to bypass the test, but only after a series of steps.