Cash for Clunkers

Tara Hornor
Written byTara HornorUpdated - April 15, 2024
Tara Hornor
Tara Hornor

Tara Hornor is an experienced writer and entrepreneur with over two decades of experien... | See full bio

John Rush
Edited and Fact-Checked byJohn RushEditor
John Rush
John Rush
Automotive Content Accuracy Auditor|||

With over four decades of experience, John Rush is a highly accomplished business owner... | See full bio

California Cash for Clunkers

Cash for Clunkers California 2024 | We Buy Old & Junk Cars

Navigating the process of selling an old junk car can be a daunting task. From the challenges of finding a genuine buyer to setting a fair price, many car owners often find themselves at a crossroads. In this article, I’ll explain the struggles I had when trying to sell my old car before I found out about the “Cash for Clunkers” program. I’ll explain the process of the California buyback program and how it offers a hassle-free solution for those looking to part ways with their old cars. If you’ve ever felt overwhelmed by the idea of selling your junk car, Cash for Clunkers might just be the answer you’ve been searching for.

First, let’s start with exploring the differences between the state program and the Cash for Clunkers private program. 

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How to Sell a Used Car in California: The State California Program (CAP)

You can get cash for junk cars in California through the state program similar to the infamous Cash for Clunkers initiative. California’s Bureau of Automotive Repair’s (BAR) Consumer Assistance Program (CAP) provides customers who are eligible with optional assistance for repairs and/or a vehicle retirement option to help California’s air quality improve. This gives vehicle owners cash for junk cars in California to put toward fuel-efficient improvements or a newer vehicle.

However, to be able to participate, one must meet strict eligibility requirements (detailed below) and the program’s availability of funds each fiscal year (July 1st – June 30th). The time required to process your request and receive payment is estimated to be approximately 6-8 weeks once the application is received. 

If you need cash for a junk car fast and just don’t have that sort of time, a private company, Cash for Clunkers in California, is an alternative program available that only takes approximately 48-72 hours to be paid. Cash for Clunkers program accepts any vehicle, no matter the condition, and provides free towing and cash on the spot, no matter your location in California!

Below is a short video outlining the criteria required to participate in a state program and the options to consider: 

Learn more about the state program and how to junk a car in California with the detailed information below in this infographic:

California Vehicle Retirement Program Criteria

Criteria #1- Is it Operating?

Does your car start without a jump
and is your car running and drivable?

Criteria #2 - Is It Registered?

Your car must be currently registered in California.

Criteria #3 - Failed Emissions?

Has your car failed a smog test?                To qualify you must have failed your
last emissions test.

Criteria #4 - The Exception

Are you considered low income? If so, you can sell your car even if it doesn’t pass SMOG tests.

Timing of Payment? #5

Process from start to finish should take approximately 6 to 8 weeks!

Need Cash Faster than 90 Days?

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California Vehicle Buyback State Program FAQs

In this FAQ section, I’ll dive deep into the state program, laying out its features so you easily understand if you are eligible for it. Let’s explore some frequently asked questions:

Question 1. Operating: Is your car drivable?

To sell your car to the State you must be able to drive it to a local dismantler.

Since your car is not drivable you are ineligible to participate in the state program. If your car is not drivable or doesn’t meet the other requirements listed below you may wish to contact a private California clunker car buyer.

Question 2. Registration: Is your car currently registered in California? 

The vehicle must be currently registered with the DMV with a valid, unexpired registration sticker OR have all fees paid to the DMV and have a registration that has not been expired more than 120 days.
In order to be paid to retire your vehicle it must have been continuously registered in CA for the past 2 years.

(Note: The registration must not have lapsed for more than 120 days during those two years).

The vehicle may also be eligible if proven to have been primarily driven in California for the last two years and not have been registered in any other state or country in the last two years. Evidence in the form of auto repair invoices or insurance payments is required to meet this exception.

If you need a temporary operating permit (TOP) to drive an unregistered car for one day to the dismantler location
learn more here.

Since your car is not eligible for BAR please click here for information on selling to a local car buyer via the private California Cash for Clunkers option. Call Now or get a Free Instant Offer

Question 3. SMOG: Has Your Car Failed a Smog Test?

Your vehicle must have failed its most recent Smog check inspection to be eligible for the state program. 

Since your vehicle passed a Smog inspection your car is not eligible for BAR. Please click here for information on selling to a local car buyer via the private California Cash for Clunkers option. Call Now or get a Free Instant Offer.

See exceptions below:

  • Income Level: Are you considered low income? If so you can sell your car even if it passes SMOG. To qualify for low income benefits you must provide full household income as noted on this income verification form. 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:
    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.
    View the current Federal Poverty Guidelines here.
  • 1997 and older vehicles: Is your car model year 1997 or OLDER? You should research the local air district programs.

Question 4. Timing of Payment

If based on this information, you are eligible to sell your car to BAR you should have one last consideration which is timing of payment:

Once your application is reviewed and approved expect payment in 6-8 Weeks.

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. Cash for Clunkers in California connects you to an instant offer with local car buyers who pay quickly, usually within 24 to 48 hours! Local cash buyers make offers based on market values and are not using government tax revenues to purchase cars so their offer may be less than the $1,000 incentive offered by BAR. You can call them or get a Free Instant Offer.

The State of California Buyback Car Program offers both a paper application or online application which should be processed within 30 days.

After approximately 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 submit the BAR form.

Question 5. How Many Times Can You Retire A Car In California?

California allows you to retire only 1 as a sole owner or 2 vehicles if you are joint owners via CAP over the past 12 months.

Download the current BAR vehicle requirements checklist.

If you need payment quicker and easier or if you fail any of the necessary criteria that the state California Car Buyback Program demands, local California car buyers are buying both running and non-running cars and will pay you cash for a junk car in California within 2 or 3 days.

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How to Get Cash for Junk Cars in California Quickly

Need Cash Faster than 90 Days? Get a FREE Instant Offer from Cash For!

Cash for Clunkers is a private junk car and used car buying business, and their California cash for cars process is much easier and quicker than the state program. Their process only takes 3 quick steps with them handling the majority of the work, and picking  from any location in California for free!

California Cash for Clunkers 3-Step Process

Cash for Clunkers offers a simple and efficient three-step junk car buying process, ensuring a smooth and hassle-free experience for customers. Here’s how it works:

  • Provide Information and Accept Offer

    To kickstart the process, you need to provide some basic details about your clunker, such as its make, model, year, and overall condition. You can easily do this by contacting Cash for Clunkers through our anonymous online form or by calling their helpline. Once they have the necessary information, their experienced team will assess your vehicle and provide you with a fair and competitive offer. If you’re satisfied with the offer, you can proceed to the next step.

  • Schedule Towing

    After accepting the offer, Cash for Clunkers will work with you to schedule a convenient time for towing your vehicle. The process is as convenient as possible. On the scheduled day, a professional tow truck will arrive at your location to pick up the clunker. This step involves no effort on your part, as the experienced team handles all the heavy lifting and logistics.

  • Get Cash for Cars Immediately

    When the tow truck arrives to collect your clunker, it’s time for the final step. You will hand over the necessary paperwork, such as the vehicle title, registration, and any other required documentation (if you have it). Once the paperwork is completed, Cash for Clunkers will provide you with cash immediately, right on the spot. There’s no waiting or unnecessary delays, allowing you to walk away with cash in hand and the peace of mind that your clunker has been taken care of.

    If you don’t have a title or other paperwork, don’t despair! Cash for Clunkers has access to a national database so that they can access a lost title for you – this way you don’t have to wait for a new title to be shipped to you before selling. This means that within 24-72 hours, you could have your junk car removed from your property with cash in hand to spend however you desire.

Get Cash for Junk Cars in Cities Across California

It doesn’t matter what area of California your junk car resides. They will provide free towing to pick up your clunker!

With their efficient and customer-centric approach, ability to tow from any location, and acceptance of any type of vehicle and condition, you can effortlessly get rid of your junk car while receiving a fair value for it. So, if you are looking for a faster way to get cash for junk cars in California than through the state program, contact Cash for Clunkers today!

Cash for Clunkers Reviews

We understand how some people have skepticism towards private programs, suspecting them of being untrustworthy. Yet, we knew there were several great companies to consider, and made it our personal mission to do the homework. Not only did we find reputable companies, but industry leaders with whom we could partner to help people quickly and easily sell their vehicles. In an effort to add even more transparency with the companies that made our final cut, we went through hundreds of their reviews. Consolidating all the feedback, clearly outlining pros and cons. Giving you insights from actual customers on the experience you can expect and why these top partners are industry leaders:


  • The overarching sentiment is clear: customers genuinely value the efficiency and convenience these services offer.
  • Many commend the transparent instructions and the reliable pick-up service.
  • The professionalism of the drivers stood out. One client noted, “I was very impressed with the entire process. Everything went exactly as I was told it would.
  • Another reviewer remarked, “Losing my car for good was emotional enough, but having a great option like this to sell it was wonderful
cash for clunkers reviews


  • Some feedback pointed to dated online documentation, which led to minor confusion.
  • Some experienced a change in the offer at the eleventh hour but felt the overall experience remained positive.
  • There were sporadic concerns about the condition of cars post-pick-up and the consistency of certain local towing companies.
  • One user stated: “There was a hiccup and they missed the first scheduled pickup appointment. But they quickly rescheduled and it was surprisingly smooth.”

cash for clunkers second review

The TrustPilot reviews above say it all! As you can see from our extensive research and review, if you are looking to get cash for your vehicle quickly and painlessly, these partners we trust and connect you with are truly industry leaders. They provide not only the best cash offers but also incredible customer service.

Cash for Clunkers FAQs

Since the Cash for Clunkers program has gained significant attention, offering a compelling alternative for car owners looking to part with their old vehicles, people had a ton of questions regarding it. Let’s explore some of them:

Is Cash For Clunkers Legit?

Absolutely! Cash for Clunkers now is a private vehicle buying service designed to connect sellers with local cash buyers near you who will collect your vehicle and pay cash on the spot!

Does California still have Cash for Clunkers?

Yes,  the “Cash for Clunkers” program is available in California. This initiative remains active and is designed to assist car owners in trading their older, less fuel-efficient vehicles for cash incentives. 

How much can I get for my old vehicle?

The amount varies based on the type and condition of the vehicle being sold. Based on general industry standards, you might expect anywhere from $500 to $5,000, but this is a broad estimate. It’s always best to consult specific platforms or experts for a more accurate valuation.

What happens to my old vehicle once I trade it in?

Vehicles traded in under the program are typically recycled, scrapped, or potentially repaired and sold depending on the condition.

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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