Cash for Clunkers

Tara Hornor
Written byTara HornorUpdated - October 19, 2023
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

Using the Vehicle Retirement Program

When your car has reached a specific mileage or age, or if it is in a pretty bad state, there is no amount of fixing that can put the car back into its previous condition. Thankfully, you have options.

You could retire the car and sell it off for cash. But how exactly can you do this? This article will help you compare the California vehicle retirement program with other options.

Requirements for the California vehicle retirement program

There are several requirements that your car has to meet in order to be eligible for the retirement program in the state of California. Keep in mind that if your car doesn’t qualify for the vehicle retirement program, you have other options as stated in the next section.

The Vehicle Retirement Program

SMOG test and income level

There are two viable options for retiring your vehicles depending on your Smog test results and your income level.

Option #1: If your car fails a SMOG TEST in California, you can qualify for $1500 if your household income is 225% of the poverty level or less. You can also receive $1000 if you can make more than that income level.

Option #2: If your vehicle passes the car smog test, California will provide you with $1500 for the vehicle retirement program if your income level is below or at the same household income level as option 1 requires. The smog inspection must have been completed within the past 180 days.

Qualified car problems

The main reason why this program was established was to remove the cars which contribute to pollution in the state of California. Your car should have problems related to an EGR system fault or Check Engine Light, etc.

However, just to clarify things, your car is permitted to have other concerns with it, as long as it is still running on its own and can drive at least a short distance (30 feet). However, the intention is to get the pollution-causing vehicles away from the roads around the state.

Vehicle registration issues

If you want to sell your car, then you should be aware of the fact that your car has to be registered in California for the past two years without any gaps of coverage for 120 days or even more. This is to deter out-of-state people from taking advantage of the program and retiring their cars in California instead of in their very own home state.

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Required car parts

Unlike car recycling, your vehicles have to be in a certain condition to get cash for old cars in the California vehicle retirement program. As stated in the rules, the vehicle must have

  • a dashboard,
  • doors,
  • hood lid,
  • windshield,
  • at least one side window,
  • at least one bumper,
  • driver’s seat,
  • all side panels,
  • the exhaust system,
  • at least one headlight
  • at least one brake light,
  • at least one tail light
  • no damage/ problems with the suspension
  • no damage/ problems with the body,
  • functional pedals.

The Vehicle Retirement Program

Other options than the vehicle retirement program

Unfortunately, for many junk cars, the above criteria rule them out. Fortunately, there are a lot of organizations that can lend you a hand. Cash for Clunkers is the easiest and quickest one that can absolutely support you with this endeavor.

If you are wondering how to go about the process of exchanging old cars for cash, you are not alone. There are plenty of car owners who are still unfamiliar with this opportunity of turning your junk car into cash.

To help you with your old car selling experience, you can make use of the Checklist from Cash for Clunkers for pre-selling requirements. Download the file right before you engage and make transactions for your junk car for a cash deal.

The Vehicle Retirement Program

To help you better understand the program, watch the following video from Cash for Clunkers:


Cash for Clunkers also offers reliable services related to buying used or junk cars. Should you be interested in used cars and making money from them or simply want us to help you get cash in hand from your old junker, visit Cash for Clunkers today for more information.

You’ll get an instant top-of-the-market quote that you are under no obligation to take. But if you do decide that the cash amount is right for you, we will then help you with every other step necessary, including providing a free tow!

The Vehicle Retirement Program





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