California Steps Up Gross-Polluter Vehicle Retirement Program

Follow John

Tailpipe Emissions

Tailpipe Emissions

Enlarge Photo

Not only do old cars pollute more than new ones, they pollute a lot more. According to a rule proposed by the California Bureau of Automotive Repair, fully “75 percent of vehicular pollution is caused by just 25 percent of the vehicle fleet" in the state.

Those vehicles were built before 1995, meaning they didn't have to meet emissions standards anywhere as tight as current limits. The state has more than 3 million pre-1995 cars registered, some with failing emissions control systems, many owned by low-income drivers.

Removing these "gross polluters" from the roads when they fail their biannual smog checks (required for cars six years old or more) is one of the most cost-effective ways available to the state to reduce vehicle emissions.

California also offers financial assistance to low-income owners that is restricted to repairs that bring the car into compliance with the emissions limits for its model year.

Now, under proposed rules issued late last month, the state is proposing to expand its Fleet Modernization Program, which currently offers bounties for owners to retire cars that fail their smog checks.

The expanded program would add trucks, sport-utility vehicles, and vans. It would also expand eligibility to more than 10,000 vehicles that are in between smog checks. It would be relatively cheap, as these things go: $12 million in the first year, $14.4 million a year thereafter.

Roughly 22,000 vehicles a year are now scrapped under the program. It operates similarly to last summer's Cash For Clunkers program, which offered bounties for trading in older vehicles with low fuel efficiency for new, higher-mileage ones.

Owners of gross polluters can apply to the Bureau of Auto Repair (BAR) for a letter of approval to scrap the vehicle. When they turn in the vehicle at a BAR-approved dismantler and receive proof that it has been scrapped, they receive a payment of $1,000 to $1,500. Air-quality advocates hope the bounty can be raised to $2,000 per car.

Early retirement programs have long raised fears among car collectors that the state would target collector cars--there's no argument that Sixties muscle cars are highly polluting--but California consistently stresses that the program is voluntary.

No smog checks are required in California for cars built before 1976, when the first catalytic converters were installed on new cars.

Nor are they required for hybrid cars, motorcycles, diesel cars built in 1997 or earlier, large diesel trucks, or cars with two-stroke engines or engines smaller than 0.8 liters.

[EFMP at Taking the Hill via All Car Advice]

Follow Us

Comments (4)
  1. My '77 Camaro gets 10 miles to the gallon and the emissions equipment is gone, and I have no intention of ever retiring it.

  2. Well it’s too bad the Author has not do any research or has any evidence to prove that older cars produce more emissions than newer vehicles, my 1966 Chevelle has a 2005 motor in it that runs cleaner than the vehicle you drive.
    Another point I might ad is that “Older Vehicles” such as classic cars are not used as a daily driver and are mostly used on weekends with less than 5000 miles a year driven on our roads and highways.
    It’s time to go back to school and do your homework before you spout off all this nonsense you speak of.

  3. @Bill Cooper: I'm sorry, but that's simply not true--unless that 2005 motor also has a 2005 catalytic converter fitted to the exhaust system. If so, I commend you. But I know very, very few hot rodders or owners of 1950s and 1960s cars who will retrofit catalysts to their later engines.

    And absent that modern catalyst, a modern port fuel-injected engine produces no more than 1 to 3 percent the criteria emissions (HC, CO, and NOx) of a carbureted pre-catalyst engine.

  4. I recently had my car smoked and the test results came back with good scores, but I got no certificate because my car was identified as a gross polluter. Now I have to have a referee give me a certificate if it passes his test. There are only small handful of referees in the San Diego area. I think this is such a terrible thing to have to go thru. The car is a 1988 Toyota Camry and within the last 2 years, have had a brand new converter installed and new muffler and yet the car has been condemned in my opinion. It is not fare! John Williamson

Commenting is closed for old articles.

Get FREE Dealer Quotes

From dealers near you

Find Green Cars


© 2015 Green Car Reports. All Rights Reserved. Green Car Reports is published by High Gear Media. Send us feedback. Stock photography by izmo, Inc.