If your auto fails its biannual smog certification, the State of California has a program that may be able to help.

The Consumer Assistance Program (CAP) provides two options for eligible consumers: repair assistance or vehicle retirement.  Participation is based on meeting eligibility requirements and the availability of funds each fiscal year (July 1 – June 30).

Repair Assistance
Eligible consumers may receive up to $500 in emissions-related repairs at a STAR test-and-repair station if their vehicle fails its biannual Smog Check inspection.
The consumer must meet income requirements to be eligible for assistance.

Vehicle Retirement
Eligible consumers may receive either $1,500 or $1,000 to retire their operational vehicle at a BAR-contracted dismantler site.
To qualify for the $1500 incentive, the consumer must meet income eligibility requirements; their household gross income must be less than or equal to 225% of the Federal poverty level.  If the consumer does not meet the income eligibility requirement or chooses not to submit Income Documents, the consumer will be eligible for the $1000 incentive.

Both options require:

  1. The vehicle must be currently registered with the Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) with a valid and unexpired registration sticker OR have all fees paid to DMV and not have a registration sticker that has been expired more than 120 days.
  2. The vehicle must have been continuously registered with DMV without a lapse in registration for more than 120 days during the two consecutive years preceding the current registration sticker expiration date.
  3. The vehicle must not be undergoing a transfer of ownership.
  4. The vehicle must not be undergoing an initial registration or re-registration into California.
  5. The vehicle must not be registered to a business, government agency, or non-profit organization.
  6. The vehicle must not be junked.
  7. The vehicle must not be total loss salvaged in the process of being re-registered (i.e., salvage retention) in California.

Applicant requirements for repair:

  • You must be the registered owner and have a title in your name.
  • You must not have previously participated in the CAP program with the same vehicle
  • You must pay the total costs associated with the testing and diagnosis of the vehicle to the STAR test-and-repair station performing the repairs.
  • Apply Online and submit Income Documents

Applicant requirements for retirement:

  • You must be the registered owner and have a title in your name
  • You must not have previously participated in the CAP program with the same vehicle
  • Apply Online and submit Income Documents (only required for $1500 incentive)

Once your application has been submitted, you will receive a confirmation.  It will take up to 2 weeks for a repair determination and up to 4 weeks for a retirement determination.  If your vehicle is approved for repair, you will receive an approval letter and will need to take your vehicle to a  STAR test-and-repair station.  If your vehicle is approved for retirement, you will receive an approval letter with a list of BAR-contracted automotive dismantlers.

What to expect at the dismantler (My experience was with Pick-N-Pull, Oakland, CA)
The process of surrendering the vehicle can take up to 3 hours, depending how busy they are.  It is recommended that you call the dismantler before you go to ensure they are still accepting CAP vehicles.  If they are:

  1. Drive to the dismantler
  2. Bring the acceptance letter, vehicle title, and photo ID
  3. Arrange for a ride home
  4. Give your paperwork to the dismantler
  5. Wait while they prepare DMV forms for the surrender and transfer of the vehicle
  6. Sign the forms they have prepared
  7. Wait until they are ready to inspect the vehicle
  8. Drive your vehicle to their inspection area.
  9. Wait while they perform an inspection to verify the vehicle is still operational
  10. If the vehicle passes, they will approve the incentive payment and will print the check in the name of the registered owner
  11. Once the check is issued to you, they recommend waiting 2 hours if you plan to go straight to the bank to cash it.

If you have a vehicle that has failed the biannual smog and it isn’t cost effective to repair it, vehicle retirement through the State of California CAP is a great alternative to junking it.

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