California Cash for Clunkers Program

2016 California Cash for Clunkers Program

The State of California’s “Cash for Clunkers” car buyback program called CAP (Consumer Assistance Program) is operated by the Bureau of Automotive Repair (BAR). The State of California BAR program is available in all locations across California and the goal is to promote clean air by removing older vehicles that are currently operating in California.

In addition to the CAP operated by BAR and  run by the California state government, there are also local auto retirement programs in a few select areas via local air districts.

We understand this can be confusing but we have tried to organize the information below to answer your questions and help you select your best option.


Goal of the program

The goal of the BAR program is to provide a cash incentive to retire older polluting cars. The BAR program payout is a capped at $1,000 ($1,500 low income) and is an incentive based amount not based on the true market value of your car.

5 Key Considerations for California car owners.

Question 1.
Has Your Car Passed Smog Test?

YES – If your vehicle passed smog you may wish to get a quote from a private car buyer or donate your car to help children in need.

If your car has passed Smog Inspection then you must be considered low income to sell your car using the BAR program. See what household income level is considered low income.

If your car passed Smog Inspection and is 1995 or OLDER you should research the local air district programs.

NO – My Car Failed Smog – go to Question 2

Question 2.
Is your car running and driveable?

YES – To sell your car to the state you must drive it to a local dismantler.

NO– If your vehicle is not driveable BAR can’t buy it but you still have options.
1. Have it repaired then retire it via BAR.
2. Sell your California clunker for cash to a buyer that wants it for used parts. These buyers pay you on spot and will tow your car for free.
3.Donate your car.

Question 3.
Is your car registered in California?

YES – In order to be paid to retire your vehicle it must have a current California registration and must have been continuously registered in CA for the past two years (note:the registration must not have lapsed for more than 120 days during those two years).

NO – If your vehicle is not registered in California you can still sell your car for cash to a private buyer as long as you have the title or donate your car to help children in need.

Question 4.
How quickly do you need your cash?

6 to 8 weeks – State BAR Program: Check payment takes 6 to 8 weeks.
The State of California program requires a paper application which will be processed within 30 days. After the thirty day application processing period if you are approved you will receive a letter with the information on where to drive your car for retirement. Based on this information it is probably safe to assume this process will take anywhere from 45 to 60 days on average to receive your payment from the date you mail the BAR form.

24 to 48 Hours – Private Buyers: Check payment within 24 to 48 hours.
If you need quick payment you may want to consider selling to a local car buyer that will buy your car and provide free towing. Private car buyers pay quickly, usually within 24 to 48 hours once you agree on price.

After reviewing the above considerations most car sellers will find they fall into one of the following six scenarios:

1. You Failed a Smog Test and want to sell your car via BAR. Learn more
2. You Passed a Smog Test but are considered low income and want to sell your car via BAR. Learn more
3. You Failed a Smog Test are considered low income and want to repair your emission system.Learn more
4. You live in certain Air Districts and have an older car (usually 1995 and older) and want to retire your car and get cash. Learn more
5. Your car is not eligible for the BAR program and you may want to speak with a local car buyer that will be interested in buying your car.
6. Your car may be worth more than the BAR program is offering and you want to speak with a local car buyer to check the wholesale market value of your car.


2016 CAP Form

Access the 2016 State of California Department of Consumers Affairs Consumer Assistance Program application form (PDF file).

Para obtener una solicitud en español, llámenos al 800.952.5210


What does California consider “low income” ?
If you are not sure what is considered low income you can check the income table to see if your household income is considered “low income” for the purposes of this program. To qualify for the low income benefits you may also need to provide income verification.

Vehicle Retirement

Selling a Vehicle for Cash

State of California BAR program

If you want to speak to someone about the program or check on your application call 1-866-272-9642. Para obtener unasolicituden español, lláme a BAR al 866.272.9642.


Has your vehicle FAILED the latest Smog Check Test?
The State’s recently enhanced Consumer Assistance Program (CAP) was developed by the ARB in consultation with BAR and provides $1,000 per vehicle and $1,500 for low-income consumers for unwanted vehicles that have FAILED their last Smog Check Test.

Here are the basic requirements for cars that have FAILED SMOG TEST

  • Vehicle must be driveable (Note: If your vehicle is not driveable or doesn’t meet the other requirements listed below you may wish to contact a private California clunker car buyer that will buy your car and provide free towing)
  • $1,500 to applicants that meet low income requirement (See income chart below)
  • $1,000 to applicants that DO NOT meet the low income requirements (See income chart below)
  • Applicant for reimbursement must be the Registered Owner or Joint Registered Owner
  • Vehicle is NOT a new California Registration
  • Vehicle ownership is not currently being transferred to a new owner
  • Vehicle is registered to individual not a business or charity
  • If a “Salvage Vehicle” then must be registered with Salvage Title
  • Vehicle must have been continuously registered in CA for past two years
  • Vehicle must be currently registered in CA
  • Vehicle must be a Car, Van, Truck or SUV weighing less than 10,000 pounds
  • Applicants are limited to one vehicle retirement per 12 month period or two vehicles per 12 month period if retired vehicles are jointly registered to applicant and another party

The vehicle must also meet certain Vehicle Equipment Requirements and Vehicle Operational Requirements.

Vehicle Equipment Requirements

  • All doors
  • Hood lid
  • Dashboard
  • Windshield
  • At least one side window glass
  • Driver’s seat
  • At least one bumper
  • Exhaust system
  • All side and /or quarter panels
  • At least one headlight, one taillight, and one brake light

Vehicle Operational Requirements

  • Vehicle must be driven to a CAP-contracted dismantler under its own power.
  • Vehicle engine starts readily through ordinary means without the use of starting fluids or external boost batteries.
  • Vehicle drivability is not affected by any body, steering, or suspension damage.
  • Vehicle is able to drive forward a minimum distance of 10 yards under its own power.
  • Interior pedals are operational.

You must be able to drive the car to one of the approved dismantlers.

If your vehicle meets the requirements you can download the application.

Has your vehicle PASSED the latest Smog Check Test ?
The State’s recently enhanced Consumer Assistance Program (CAP) was developed by the ARB in consultation with BAR and provides $1,500 for low-income applicants that are willing to retire unwanted vehicles that have PASSED their last Smog Check Test.

Here are the basic requirements for cars that have PASSED SMOG TEST

  • Vehicle must be drivable (Note: If your vehicle is not driveable or doesn’t meet the other requirements listed below you can get a free quote from a local California clunker car buyer that will buy your car and provide free towing)
  • Applicant must meet low income requirement (See chart below)
  • Applicant for reimbursement must be the Registered Owner or Joint Registered Owner
  • Vehicle is NOT a new California Registration
  • Vehicle is registered to individual not a business or charity
  • If a “Salvage Vehicle” then must be registered with Salvage Title
  • Vehicle must have been continuously registered in CA for past two years
  • Vehicle must be currently registered in CA
  • Vehicle must be a Car, Van, Truck or SUV weighing less than 10,000 pounds
  • Applicants are limited to one vehicle retirement per 12 month period or two vehicles per 12 month period if retired vehicles are jointly registered to applicant and another party

The vehicle must also meet certain Vehicle Equipment Requirements and Vehicle Operational Requirements listed above.

You must be able to drive the car to one of the approved dismantlers. Please see the list of approved dismantlers for closest location.

If your car is not driveable or doesn’t meet the other requirements listed below you may wish to contact a private California clunker car buyer.

How are Low-Income Consumers Determined ?
Wondering what income level is considered low-income ? Household income that is less than or equal to two hundred twenty -five percent (225%) of the federal poverty level, as published in the Federal Register by the United States Department of Health and Human Services. To calculate your eligibility take the income number for your household size below and multiply by 2.25. Your total household income must be equal to or less than the amount you calculate to be considered low-income for this program. To qualify for the low income benefits you may also need to provide income verification.


2015 Federal Poverty Levels

Family Members Annual Household Income 225% Calculated Level
1 $11,770 $26,482
2 15,930 35,842
3 20,090 45,202
4 24,250 54,562
5 28,410 63,922
6 32,570 73,282
7 36,370 81,832
8 40,890 92,002

table source : Annual Update of the HHS Poverty Guidelines – 2015 Federal Register

You can visit ARB’s Enhanced Fleet Modernization Program website. For information on CAP, visit the website or call BAR at (866) 272-9642 or visit www.smogcheck.ca.gov.

Download the current BAR vehicle requirements checklist.

Local California Air Quality District Buyback programs

Sell your clunker to a local California air district VAVR program.

Local programs are available only in areas where a local air district has established a program.

Has your vehicle PASSED the latest Smog Check Test?
If your vehicle has PASSED its most recent Smog Check, or if your vehicle is not subject to Smog Check, you may be eligible for a local air district VAVR program.
The following Districts are currently administering vehicle retirement programs.

  • Antelope Valley Air Quality Management District – 1995 vehicles and older. District includes the northeast portion of Los Angeles County. For more information, visit the Antelope Valley AQMD or call 1-800-717-7624.
  • Bay Area Old Car Buy Back and Scrap Program – 1-855-343-7314 1994 and older vehicles
  • San Luis Obispo County Air Pollution Control District – 1993 and older gasoline vehicle or 1984 through 1992 model year for diesel – For more information, visit the San Luis Obispo County APCD or call the Car Buy Back Program at (800) 717-7624.
  • Santa Barbara County Air Pollution Control District – 1993 or older – For more information, visit the Santa Barbara County APCD or call the Car Buy Back Program at 805-961-8814.
  • Mojave Desert Air Quality Management District – 1995 and older vehicles – For information, visit the Mojave Desert AQMD or call the Car Buy Back Program at (800) 717-7624.

The State of California and the Air Resources Board (ARB) do not administer VAVR programs. The ARB is responsible for developing the regulations that provide guidelines to local air districts that optionally choose to administer VAVR programs.

 Vehicle Repair

Cash for Emissions Repairs in California

If your vehicle has a FAILED SMOG TEST and applicant meets the low income requirement (See table above) applicant may be eligible for up to $500 towards emission repairs to attempt to make vehicle pass SMOG TEST.  To get more information about repairs call 866.272.9642 for more information. Para obtener una solicitude n español, lláme a BAR al 866.272.9642.

If your car is not driveable or doesn’t meet the other requirements listed below you may wish to contact a private California clunker car buyer. Download the current BAR requirements for repair assistance.

DISCLAIMER: Please Note these are all voluntary programs and terms may change at any time. Information provided here is to the best of our knowledge and is provided as a free resource to site visitors. Programs mentioned above are subject to change and to termination due to funding constraints.

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