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How to Sell?

How to Sell a Car That Won’t Pass Smog Test?

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Written by: Michael Becker
Last Updated:

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Quick Answer:

The simplest method to sell a car that fails a smog test is through online platforms like Peddle, Wheelzy, or CarBrain. These companies purchase cars regardless of their condition, with the only requirement being the Certificate of Title.

Furthermore, you will receive payment within 24-48 hours of accepting the offer, and there are no hidden fees.

If time permits, selling the car privately is an option, although locating a buyer could be a bit tricky. Additionally, you may need to complete extra paperwork to complete the sale and safeguard yourself from any liability.

Key Takeaways:

  1. Repair or Seek Waivers: Repairing issues that cause smog failure is advisable but emissions waivers are available if repairs exceed cost thresholds.
  2. Bill of Sale: To reduce legal liability, use a notarized addendum and sign an “as-is” bill of sale when selling a car that failed smog.
  3. Best way to sell: Online platforms like Peddle, Wheelzy, and CarBrain purchase vehicles that failed smog tests, arrange free towing, and provide same-day payment.
  4. Private sales: Selling privately takes more time and effort and limits the pool of buyers, but platforms like CarGurus or Autotrader are options.

Best for Older & Damaged Cars

Peddle logo

Buys used, damaged or junk cars

Free tow and no hidden fees

Pays by ACH trasfer or check

Top Pick for Junk Cars

Wheelzy logo

Free, no-obligation cash offers

Offers free paperwork service

Pays on the spot upon pick up

Highly Rated by Customers

CarBrain logo

Excellent customer service ratings

Honors guaranteed offer for 7 days

Can pick up a car within 48 hours

Great for Low-Mileage Cars

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Gives a real offer in 2 minutes

100% hassle-free online process

Free car’s Value Tracker available

Best Places to Sell a Car that Won’t Pass Smog Test:

1. Sell Car Online

Online car-buying companies usually buy all types of cars, even those that won’t pass smog tests.

How to sell a car online:

  1. Fill out an online form – provide car details (make, model, trim) and mileage, and describe the condition.
  2. Accept the offer – you will get an instant cash offer, which will be valid for 7 days.
  3. Schedule pickup – the company will pick up the car within 24-48 hours, free of charge.
  4. Provide signed Title – at the time of pickup, provide the agent with a signed Title. The company will take care of the ownership transfer for you.
  5. Accept the payment – you will get paid by check or cash at the time of the car’s pickup.

Best companies to sell a car online:


Peddle Summary

  • Sell used, damaged or junk car nationwide
  • Free towing within 48 hours after offer
  • Receive payment upon car collection
  • Get free online quote – offer valid 7 days
  • Instant quote available on (855) 925 4302
  • No obligation to accept the offer

Peddle is an online car-buying company that buys all types of vehicles, including:

  • Cars with failed smog test
  • Cars with missing or broken parts
  • High mileage cars
  • Accident damaged cars
  • Junk cars


Wheelzy Summary

  • Wheelzy stores are open 7 days a week
  • Get offer in minutes – (855) 510-1108
  • Free towing of your car from your location
  • Instant payment via cash or check

Wheelzy is a well-known car-buying company that is also a great place to sell your car that won’t pass a smog test.

Benefits of considering Wheelzy include:

  • Free car pick-up service
  • Same-day payment
  • No fees
  • There is no expiry date on the price offer


CarBrain Summary

  • Call for a free quote – (844) 407-2200
  • Get cash for your car in under 48 hours
  • CarBrain buys cars in over 7 conditions
  • Up to 7 days to accept CarBrain’s offer
carbrain points

Once you accept the offer, CarBrain will arrange to pick up your car for free and pay you within 48 hours of accepting your offer.

Other benefits of using CarBrain include:

  • Free online quote
  • Free car pick-up
  • Easy selling process

2. Sell Car Privately

On average, selling a car privately takes 52 days, involving steps such as cleaning, photographing, pricing, listing, responding to inquiries, facilitating test drives, and handling paperwork.

However, the timeframe for selling a car that fails a smog test can be considerably lengthier owing to a more limited pool of potential buyers.

To sell your car swiftly and without hassle, you might want to explore options such as Peddle, Wheelzy, or CarBrain.

Best places to sell your car privately:

how to sell a car privately

How To Sell A Car That Won’t Pass Smog Test:

1. Make Repairs To Pass The Smog Check

The most straightforward option is to repair your car as needed to bring emission levels back within legal limits. Some repairs that can help “clean up” exhaust emissions include:

  • Replacing oxygen sensors
  • Cleaning fuel injectors
  • Replacing spark plugs and ignition wires
  • Fixing leaks in the EVAP system
  • Replacing catalytic converter

Focus on addressing any issues called out on vehicle inspection reports related to the emissions system. Retest after repairs to confirm you now pass.

2. See If You Qualify For A Smog Check Waiver

Some state programs provide emissions waivers if the cost of repairs exceeds a specified waiver threshold.

For example, Pennsylvania offers a one-year waiver if needed repairs cost over $150. California provides options like a $500 minimum expenditure waiver.

Review waiver eligibility criteria for the state you are selling in. Submit receipts from qualifying emissions-related repairs already completed or estimates for future repairs.

With an approved waiver, you can sell the car without needing to pass another smog test.

3. Get Planned Non-Operation Car Status

In some states, it’s prohibited to sell a vehicle without passing a smog test, even with an agreement between buyer and seller.

In these areas, you must inform the DMV that the vehicle won’t be driven on state roads, typically known as Planned Non-Operation status.

Selling a vehicle marked as Planned Non-Operation is legal, but the new owner cannot legally use it on state roads until it passes a smog inspection and receives a smog certificate.

After obtaining this, the buyer can request the DMV to lift the Planned Non-Operation status, usually for a fee.

4. Disclose Issues And Sell The Car “As-Is”

When selling a used car privately, it’s advised to use an Addendum to the Purchase Agreement to disclose issues like a failed smog test.

An Addendum allows you to clearly document the specific mechanical defect or situation that the buyer is aware of and willing to accept by purchasing the car “as-is”.

This gives you a stronger legal defense if the buyer later tries to sue, claims you defrauded them, etc.

Example of disclosing the issue:

“Buyer affirms vehicle did not pass most recent smog check on [DATE] due to [REASON]. Buyer accepts vehicle AS-IS knowing repairs are needed to bring emissions into compliance.”

Make sure to use a notarized addendum when documenting a smog failure disclosure. Copy the buyer on any emissions repair invoices or waivers you may have.

Take photos proving the accurate odometer reading at sale if available.

Save copies of documentation for 3-5 years after selling.

5. Sign the Bill of Sale

Even if it’s not legally mandated in your state, it’s wise to execute a bill of sale when selling a car that won’t pass the smog test.

This document legally transfers the car’s ownership from you to the buyer and shields you from any liability for incidents or issues that arise post-sale.

Furthermore, it’s important to also specify in the bill of sale that the car is being sold “as is,” indicating that the current state of the car, including all known and unknown faults, is being accepted by the buyer.

Once the sale is finalized, the buyer assumes full responsibility for the car’s condition.

the safest way to sell a car

Is Smog Test and Emissions Test the Same Thing?

A smog test, also known as an emissions test, is an examination of the exhaust emissions from your vehicle. It measures the levels of certain gases like hydrocarbons, nitrogen oxides and carbon monoxide that are released from the tailpipe.

States have set legal limits on the allowable amounts of these pollutants. Smog tests are performed at official test centers using specialized equipment.

If your vehicle produces emissions over the limit, it fails the smog test. Passing an emissions test is typically required in order to register and drive a vehicle legally within a state.

Generally, the testing procedure takes about 20 minutes to complete and can cost between $10 and $30.

What States Require Emissions Testing?

As of 2024, a total of 25 states have some form of mandatory smog testing before a vehicle can be sold or registered.

However, even within states that require testing, the specific test protocols can vary from county to county. For example, California as a whole requires smog testing but standards are more strict in densely populated areas like Los Angeles versus rural locations.

It is best to contact your local DMV office to confirm smog test requirements.

States that require sellers to provide a valid smog test:

New JerseyRequired
New MexicoRequired
New YorkRequired
North CarolinaRequired
Rhode IslandRequired
West VirginiaRequired

Required Paperwork to Sell a Car

The documents needed for a private car sale vary by state, but a Certificate of Title is universally essential in the United States.

Depending on your state, you might also need to notarize a bill of sale and undergo a VIN inspection.

To establish your vehicle’s value and reassure buyers of its upkeep, it’s recommended to perform a VIN check, gather all maintenance records, and include the owner’s manual in your documentation.

can you sell a car without a title

How to Protect Yourself When Selling a Car That Won’t Pass Smog Test?

Understand that when you sell a used vehicle in “as-is” condition it shifts liability for any repairs or issues after sale fully to the buyer.

How to reduce the risk of legal liabilities:

  • Ensure the buyer understands that the car can’t be legally driven on public roads.
  • Make sure to notarize all paperwork.
  • Provide records of ownership history if available.
  • Provide failed smog test report.
  • Avoid “cleaning up” visible defects, which could be seen as hiding issues.
  • Use clear “as-is” language on the bill of sale paperwork.

By being transparent about known facts related to the emissions failure from the start, you give the buyer adequate details to make an informed purchase decision.

How To Prove Buyer Was Informed of Smog Test Failure?

In addition to a notarized emissions problem disclosure and “as-is” language on paperwork, a few other proactive steps can prove the buyer’s awareness. These include:

  • An emailed copy of the failed smog check results was sent to the buyer.
  • Text messages or emails from buyers indicating they understand the issues.
  • A recorded test drive session where you note the check engine light is on.

Multiple forms of proof showing the buyer knew about the need for emissions-related repairs, along with their signed acknowledgment, will prevent a legal comeback.

How To Transfer Title To Document Sale

When selling a used car to either an individual or dealer, properly transferring title is a key step. Ensure the title certificate correctly lists the buyer’s name so legal ownership changes hands after the transaction.

Both seller and buyer should fill out their sections on the rear of the title form. Typically, the seller provides their signature and the odometer reading, while the buyer provides their name/address along with a signature accepting responsibility for the vehicle.

Transferring title formally documents that the as-is vehicle sale took place on a specified date.

This provides you added legal protection in case there are any disputes later on related to implied warranties.

Will the Buyer be Able to Register the As-Is Car?

Once sold, registration depends on state regulations around emissions system compliance. In some states, buyers can apply for registration and pay any applicable taxes/fees using the title signed over by the seller, along with smog failure documentation.

In stricter emissions regulation areas, the buyer may need to complete repairs and pass an emissions test at their own cost before getting license plates in their name.

Either way, make sure to formally transfer ownership by signing over the title to match the documentation of the as-is sale.

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Michael Becker


About the author:

Michael Becker is a car enthusiast and expert who has been working in the automotive industry for over 15 years. He started his career as a salesperson at a local dealership, where he learned the ins and outs of the car market. Then he moved on to flipping cars for a profit.

Michael has also helped many of his relatives and friends to sell their cars, using his knowledge and skills to get them the best deals. He will guide you through the process and help you avoid the common pitfalls.

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