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Smog testing vs. vehicle registration

We currently have an active thread about the difficulties passing the smog tests in California on an older car. We’ve had more than one of these.

We also had a recent thread that discussed the fact that many in California don’t bother to register their cars.

I wonder if in California many people buy used vehicles and don’t register them because they don’t want to contend with the California smog testing. Is California unintentionally promoting failure to register with its stringent emissions requirements combined with its lack registration enforcement?

What say you?

I’ve seen this type of thing happen in other jurisdictions. We had an engineer from Colorado who had an expensive car that would not have met all the local tests. He simply kept driving with his Colorado plates.

British Columbia, Canada has very stringent safety and environmental tests. If the A/C has the tiniest leak and has the old style R12 refrigerant, the whole system has to be rebuilt for R134. On an older car this is not worth doing. Tail pipe emissions are also stringently tested.

The Cali situation seems to be a classic case of unintended consequences of regulation. Clamp down hard on older (likely less affluent) car owners at the emission test station to remove these old polluters from the road. That increases the expense of car ownership for even the cheapest beater to the point of ignoring registration renewal.

Which costs the consumer more? A ticket (or confiscation of the car) for failure to register? Or the repair costs at California shop rates for a car not worth the money? I suspect the fines for lack of registration are lower than the cost of repair or value of the car.

Throw in the requirement for insurance and the extra high price of gas in the state as icing on the cake.

Seems like many people have made their decision and chosen not to register.

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Let me get this straight.

If you live in CA, you can choose to not register your car. Then you never have to get it emissions tested, and never have to pay insurance? And never pay a parking ticket?

Why does anyone register their car?

I bought my '87 Toyota pickup in California. It passed the emissions test for cars built that year, not just for pickups that old (which have a lower standard).

There’s a loophole somehow that allows you to drive without license plates. There may still be some type of registration requirement, perhaps with a different state agency than the DMV. I’ve seen at least one newspaper article that claims that loophole has been closed now. But the fact remains there are many cars on the road without any license plates. Googling “are license plates required in California?” turns up some info probably.

Don’t know about that, those are good issues though.

The car’s vin is presumably visible, so perhaps they can write a parking ticket to the vin number. But since there are no license plates, they can’t write a parking ticket to the license plate number obviously.

The whole license plate thing is a mystery to me. The police will stop you right away for a license plate light that is out, but they don’t seem to care about missing license plates at all.

Where . . . ?

In San Jose?

Not in Los Angeles . . . here you could drive with any number of lights out, and you’ll not get stopped

The police could boot it or tow it, but the owner might just forget the car and get another one. The former owner might even buy his old car back at a police auction.

I got stopped for a license plate light bulb out last fall here in San Jose. Forced to pull off to the side of a road in a very dangerous place, at the bottom of a gully and major freeway intersection, cars buzzing by right and left…

The irony, within a few blocks from that intersection, there’s a car parked in a public parking lot where I park several times a week. I see it there probably half the time. It displays a 2015 registration on its license plates. Has for the past 3 years.

George, you know that’s just an excuse for the cop to pull over people who look like slimeballs…


I do sort of look like those politicians you see on Sunday morning talk shows … lol … maybe you got something there!

I think George gets pulled over, because a 1992 Corolla isn’t exactly screaming :moneybag: . . . and apparently if you live in San Jose, you have to look like this :money_mouth_face:

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George didn’t tell us his other car is a Bentley Arnage. :grin:


People get pulled over for a variety of reasons. When I first got my Dodge Dart GT, complete with those “Ben Hur” spinner wheel covers, I was pulled over in Quebec near Montreal by a young trooper. I did not think I was speeding, but went along with the cop. He asked a lot of questions about the car, never having seen that model before, especially the 273 V8.

He did not give me a ticket, maybe because I answered him in very polite French.

Another time a long haired friend of mine during the 70s was driving his bright yellow VW bug along a highway in the Midwest and was stopped by a trooper. He asked what the charge was and was told “You just looked suspicious”. However, there was no APB out for a bank robber with long hair driving a bright yellow VW at legal highway speed.He felt it would be a waste of time to explain the the trooper the fine points of the constitution.

@cdaquila ……… Me thinks Spam .

It’s spam.

Please search California DMV Official site. When I lived and worked in Southern California in the mid 1970s vehicles had license plates. The laws have not changed. You can choose not to register your car in all 50 states if you are willing to suffer the consequences. I suspect the current lack of enforcement is due to overwhelming excess of people and vehicles. It tends to greatly reduce priority for these infractions.

When you buy a car or truck from a dealer in California, if it’s new, the dealer somehow notifies the DMV and charges you their fees, and sticks a temporary registration document in a plastic pouch and puts it in the lower right (passenger) corner of the windshield. And puts a paper plate with an ad for the dealer in the rear license plate spot. You get a regular plate in the mail from the DMV within 2 months, and you are supposed to put it on asap. But many people don’t put it on, they just keep on driving with the paper plate.

If you buy a used car from a dealer, and that car doesn’t already have a California plate (plates stay with the vehicle forever) then the same thing happens.

All this means there are lots of cars running around with no plates, and it’s very difficult for police to tell which ones are legitimate and which are cheating.

Starting January 2019 dealers will have to put temporary plates on vehicles.

Vehicle registration title transfer and emissions testing are still required in California.

I saw 4 Tesla’s today while doing errands, none of which looked brand new, and none of which displayed any license plates.