How Much Is a Smog Check, and How Are They Completed?

Whether you have a single vehicle or you’re building a fleet, it’s important that you keep up with all of the latest safety and regulatory requirements that could impact your operating costs. One such expense that can creep up on you is smog inspections. 

The smog certification process was created to help reduce air pollution and ensure that vehicles don’t emit too many harmful substances into the air. Many states require a smog test at a qualified smog station to obtain a vehicle registration.

Here’s everything you need to know about this important process, including the impact it will have on your wallet:

Understanding the cost of smog checks for your service vehicles

Smog tests are relatively inexpensive, at least when you’re only paying for a couple of them for your personally owned vehicles. However, the costs can quickly add up if you own a small business fleet.

How much is a smog check?

In the United States, smog check stations typically charge between $30 and $60 per vehicle. Many states charge an additional certificate fee, which is usually $10 or less. This fee covers the cost of a sticker or certificate, which you’ll need to display on your vehicle.

Factors that impact smog inspection costs

Several factors can influence the cost of your smog inspection, including the type of vehicle you have, the state you reside in, and the type of inspection order.

Typically, smog stations will charge more to test a diesel-powered vehicle than a gasoline powered vehicle.

How much should a smog check cost in California?

According to the California smog check program regulations, dealers can’t charge more than $50 for a smog test. That said, they can charge an additional fee for the sticker or certification you’ll receive if your vehicle passes.

Navigating smog check requirements for your business fleet

Currently, 29 states have state-wide smog testing requirements. A few others have implemented smog testing on a county-by-county basis.

Not all vehicles require a smog test. Each jurisdiction sets its own rules for which vehicles require a smog inspection and which are exempt. Generally, older vehicles are excluded. In California, for instance, vehicles manufactured before 1975 don’t require a smog test. 

Most states also make electric vehicles exempt from smog tests, as these don’t produce harmful exhaust emissions. Certain diesel vehicles and those above a certain gross vehicle weight rating (GVWR) may also be exempt.

The frequency with which you need to get a smog check performed varies by state as well. Some states require testing every six months, while others require them annually or every other year.

The impacts of smog test requirements on small businesses

Private and commercial vehicle owners must get their vehicles tested in accordance with state and local laws. It’s especially important for small businesses to work these costs into your budget, to avoid fines and ensure that you’re accounting for all expenses related to managing your fleet.

Additionally, you should consider investing in a fleet-tracking solution that includes vehicle-monitoring capabilities. Such a tool can help you quickly identify and address potential problems with your vehicle exhaust system before your car fails a smog test.

Issues with the exhaust system can cause smog issues. Generally these issues will trigger a DTC code, which Force Fleet Tracking will alert you of in plain English. With this, you can get ahead of smog issues before your smog inspection and avoid fines and service delays.

💡Learn more about how to reduce downtime with Force’s vehicle maintenance software for small businesses.

What do I need to bring for a CA smog check?

To obtain a smog check in California, you only need to bring your current vehicle registration. You’ll need to have the test performed twice per year in accordance with CA smog check program requirements.

The smog check process: what to expect for your service vehicles

During a smog test, inspectors will:

  • Visually inspect catalytic converters
  • Perform a gas cap pressure test to check for fuel leaks
  • Conduct an on-board diagnostic test
  • Test vehicle emissions with a tailpipe probe
  • Perform an idle test
  • Place the vehicle on a dynamometer

A smog test typically takes around 15–30 minutes. If your car passes, you can obtain your certification and be on your way. However, if it fails, you’ll have to schedule repairs with a certified repair center, which is referred to as a “STAR station” in some jurisdictions.

Scheduling smog tests is quite convenient, even for small, home service businesses. However, actually taking your vehicles there and waiting for the test to be performed can disrupt productivity and hinder your ability to serve your customers. The negative impacts can be even more pronounced and costly if your commercial vehicles fail the test. 

With that in mind, it’s a good idea to proactively plan your appointments to maximize service vehicle availability.

Finding the right locations for your business’s smog checks

When scheduling testing for your fleet vehicles, make sure you book an appointment at a certified smog check station or STAR station. Using a certified testing station ensures that your vehicles are properly inspected so you can maintain compliance, avoid fines, and keep all your fleet vehicles in commission.

After verifying that a provider is certified, find out whether they offer bulk discount pricing for small business fleets. Also, see if they can expedite the process to minimize your fleet downtime or perform after-hours or weekend testing to avoid disruption to your fleet capacity.

Finding a great smog testing partner can help you keep costs down while ensuring that you can adequately serve your customers.

How Force can help reduce your smog check costs

Want to save on smog checks? Check out Force Fleet Tracking, the fleet-tracking solution designed for small businesses.

Without your fleet, your business is at a standstill. And for a small business, that can be mean a huge (preventable) loss to revenue. That’s why it’s so important to proactively monitor maintenance and DTC issues using a reliable GPS tracking software like Force Fleet Tracking. Through proactive maintenance and monitoring, Force alerts you when it’s time for a smog check, tire check, engine check, and more, so you can keep your fleets on the road and your clients returning. 

Our plug-and-play device is cost-effective, user-friendly, and easy to install. In addition to preventing costly maintenance issues, Force can also help you monitor vehicle idling and reduce fuel waste and vehicle management costs.

Cut costs, improve fleet visibility, and better serve your customers with Force.

💡Looking to improve your fleet operations? Discover the top GPS fleet-tracking systems of 2023 and find the one that best suits your business needs.

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Published August 10, 2023