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What to know about California's consumer programs to combat smog

In an effort to reduce smog, the state of California will buy your old clunker car and will pay certain motorists to fix their polluting vehicles.

October 14, 2012|By Scott J. Wilson, Los Angeles Times
  • California's Bureau of Automotive Repair through its "vehicle retirement" program will pay $1,000 for any running car, SUV, van or truck weighing less than 10,000 pounds. The agency also offers up to $500 to fix cars that have failed a smog check and are owned by low-income Californians.
California's Bureau of Automotive Repair through its "vehicle… (Irfan Khan, Los Angeles…)

To fight smog, the state of California is giving out cash. It will buy your old clunker car and will pay certain motorists to fix their polluting vehicles. Here's how the programs work:

• The Bureau of Automotive Repair will pay $1,000 for any running car, SUV, van or truck weighing less than 10,000 pounds. The amount is boosted to $1,500 if your income is below a certain level (a family of four earning less than $51,860, for example, would qualify). "The idea is to get older, polluting cars off the road," said bureau spokesman Russ Heimerich.

• To qualify for "vehicle retirement" — the name of the buyback program — the car or truck has to have been registered in California for the last two years and cannot have been branded as dismantled or salvaged by the Department of Motor Vehicles. You can retire just one vehicle through the program per year.

• The vehicle must start by normal means (jumping it with a battery is not good enough) and must be driven to a state-approved dismantler under its own power. The vehicle must have all doors, a windshield, a dashboard, at least one side window glass and at least one bumper, one headlight, one taillight and one brake light.

• Separately, the "repair assistance" program, also run by the Bureau of Automotive Repair, offers up to $500 to fix cars that have failed a smog check and are owned by low-income Californians (using the same definition as in the vehicle retirement program). Vehicles with "tampered" emission control systems are ineligible.

• To apply for either plan, call (866) 272-9642 or go to http://www.smogcheck.ca.gov and select "Consumer Assistance Program."

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