2007 Honda Civic can't pass smog in CA? What should I do?

I have a 2007 Honda Civic hybrid with 180k miles on it. It can’t pass smog check due to needing a new Catalytic Converter and battery issues. I’ve been to a few shops and been quoted $2000 to get it up to code (which is too expensive for me).
I bought the car used 4-5 years ago with 70k miles on it for $11k and am pretty disappointed. There’s body damage to the front and rear bumper too. I feel like I should just sell it but I don’t think you can sell a car that can’t pass smog in California.

What is my best option?:

  1. bite the bullet and spend $2000 to fix it and pass smog. If I do this, realistically how many more miles should I expect to get from it.
  2. Find a way to sell it and get something? How do I do this? What can I expect to get for it?
  3. Does CA have exceptions to their smog check laws? What are they? The car runs (not great) but it works.
  4. Something I’m not thinking of? It just feels silly to dump that much money into a car with that many miles on it.

"I’ve been to a few shops and been quoted $2000 to get it up to code (which is too expensive for me)."

Can you give a better break down (some details) of what is needed for $2,000?
That can’t be just for a cat and battery, right?

It is. Just a replacement catalytic converter and replacement hybrid battery. Both those things are really expensive.

It sounds like the vehicle is pretty much worthless as it is now. ( worthless may be a little harsh but definitely hard to sell at this point) If you spend the 2000.00 and it passes inspection that should give you a year to decide what to do. It is easy to spend that much on auto repair for almost anything. Also with a fresh inspection sticker your trade or selling situation is much better.


That $2000 for the cat and the replacement hybrid battery pack . . . that’s parts AND labor?

If so, sounds extremely reasonable to me

Those battery packs are very expensive, and a California-legal cat is also very expensive

Your car only gets a plug-in “smog test” . . . correct?

I’m asking, because I’m a mechanic, living and working in the Los Angeles area, and I do smog inspections, but for a fleet, not the private sector. And I’m familiar with the regulations for my area. But I know that not all California areas have exactly the same regulations

If I may ask, what part of California are you in?

May I assume you have a P0420 catalytic converter efficiency code, and it comes back if you clear the code?

Was any diagnosis performed . . . besides reading codes . . . to determine that the cat itself was indeed the problem, and not something else?

I’m not going to go into this . . . unless somebody wants me to . . . but a P0420 doesn’t always mean that the cat and nothing else is the actual problem. That’s where proper diagnosis comes in

If it’s any consolation, I can confirm that those Civic Hybrid battery packs don’t last all that many years. You got 180K out of yours, which is a lot more than some other guys got.

I live in East LA (El Sereno, by Alhambra). That was the quote for parts and labor. I think my car only gets the plugin (not sure). Honestly, I don’t remember the code. I went to two different places and they both said it was the cat.

These two places, do they deal with hybrids on a regular basis ? This might be worth paying a Honda dealer for a diagnostic to actually know what you need.

No, they don’t. Yeah. I should go to the dealer. Any idea what they charge?

The diagnosis should be in the neighborhood of $150, an hour’s shop time (rates vary regionally).
The repair will probably exceed the quotes you’ve been given by the private shops… but it comes with the diagnostic fee, so who knows, I might be wrong.

Yeah, that hybrid battery pack cost is something they don’t tell you in the sales brochure. It’s expensive.

Other than getting a second opinion I will add;
1- You can still sell the car to someone, you will have to disclose that it would not pass smog and put it in writing that they knew this before buying/selling the car
2- I think it is the BAR program; I know the program would offer you some cash to junk an older car that does not pass smog. I think their budget is somewhat limited and they do this each year until they run out of money. But worth checking into it. You have to dig on the CA DMV site.

Ok, thanks guys! What’s a reasonable price to ask for a 2007 Honda Civic with those issues and body damage and 180K miles? Also, any suggestion on used cars for around $7k?

In fair condition with average mileage it would be worth about $3500. Banged up with a bad hybrid pack and cat converter… good luck.

In Calif there’s a limit to the amount you have to pay to fix your car if it won’t pass smog. I think it is something like $500 max. After you pay $500 in repairs, you pass and get your registration whether it passes smog or not.

There’s a limit to the number of times you can do this, but it sounds like you haven’t even done it once yet, so I doubt you’ll have to pay more than $500 in repairs to register your car. Try surfing over to the Calif Bureau of Auto Repair website, you might be able to decipher the rules yourself. If not – and I’ll warn you they don’t make any attempt to provide this information in any clear form to the taxpaying public for some reason – you can phone them up, tell them your situation, and they’ll explain it to you.

Also suggest you surf to the RockAuto website and price out the cats they have that fit your car. You need to find one that is marked as California compliant. There may be a cheaper version available using that path than you are being quoted. Make sure whatever you do , if you decide to repair this car, to use a Calif compliant cat. They’ll ask you for your paperwork at the smog testing place.

You are right, you can’t transfer title so you can’t sell it until is passes smog. After it passes you have a certain time limit to sell it. The Calif DMV has that info. Unfortunately they seem equally unwilling to make that info clear to the taxpayers.

In Calif there’s a limit to the amount you have to pay to fix your car if it won’t pass smog. I think it is something like $500 max.

In Nevada we have a waver program. To be eligible for a 1 year waver you must make a repair towards the vehicles problem, if the catalytic converter replacement is $900 you must pay $900. I would view that as a $500 minimum.

I think the car deserves a new/refurbished battery pack . . . as needed

And it also deserves to get that P0420 fixed . . . whether it’s the cat or not

It’s only 8 years old and is in southern California, so presumably no rust. Should have several good years left, after the repairs

Based on the age and mileage, I don’t have a reason to doubt it needs the battery pack

Same thing goes for the cat

But, as was mentioned already, best to pay for diagnosis to confirm those items are needed

You can sellit on ebay to someone in a state where they don’t have smog inspections.

Ok, this is great information. THANK YOU. If the $500 stipulation is true, can somebody provide me with a website or phone number where I can get started on that?

@GeorgeSanJose , give us a link to the $500 maximum repair expense program.

If you have $7k to spend on a new used car, then you have that to spend on repairs. Getting this repaired may be your best option. Getting another used car opens another can of worms.


What sort of regular maintenance has been done on this car since you purchased it?
How often and regularly has the oil been changed?
How about other maintenance as recommended by the manufacturer?

Please respond. These are important questions to consider before making decisions.