California State Referee Requirements and Procedures

Jun 3, 19 by Jorian Goes

California State Referee Requirements and Procedures

There is a statewide network which has a purpose of providing resources to consumers and Smog check inspectors. The special services that fall under the State Referee program are smog check inspection review, parts locator service, law enforcement citations, verification of smog check exemption, inspections for unusual vehicles and repair cost waivers.

Smog Check Inspection Review

This service allows consumers to have a third-party evaluation at a referee station for their smog check inspection.

Parts Locator Service

This service allows consumers assistance in locating parts for their vehicles that are difficult to find. If the referee cannot find the necessary parts they can aid the consumer in determining eligibility for a Limited Parts Exemption and walk them through that process.

Law Enforcement Citations

A referee can inspect a vehicle which was issued a citation for modified emission controls or excessive exhaust noise

In California, it is a law that all vehicles must have an adequate muffler to prevent excessive noise and makes it illegal to have a vehicle that has an exhaust noise level greater than 95 decibels (unless one of the very few exceptions apply).

The referee will conduct a noise level test on the exhaust and if it does meet the standard then you will receive a “Certificate of Compliance” that you must take to the court. However, if your vehicle doesn’t meet the standard then you must have the car repaired to meet the standard.

Inspections for Unusual Vehicles

When you own a specially constructed vehicle, a collector car, or a grey market vehicle you must have it inspected at a referee center. Also, if a vehicle’s engine is changed so it is different than the one originally installed, or vehicles modified for use by individuals with disabilities you may need to have it inspected at a referee center.

A specially constructed vehicle is a vehicle that was built for private use that was not constructed by a licensed manufacturer. These cars can be built from a kit, new and/or used parts, a dismantled vehicle (when reconstructed and does not resemble the original vehicle).

Specially constructed cars won’t have a manufacturer-assigned model-year so they must be inspected by a referee, so the referee is able to establish the model-year and the car’s emissions control system requirements for future smog checks.

A collector car is primarily used in shows, parades, charitable functions, historical exhibitions for display etc. In order to be classified as a collector car, the vehicle cannot be used primarily for transportation. The car must be insured as a collector car. Also, the car must meet one of the following requirements: be at least 35 model years old, be at least 25 model years old with a Historical Vehicle License Plate or classified as a special interest vehicle.

Collector cars must be inspected at a state-authorized referee station, so the referee can confirm the vehicle meets the criteria to be classified as a collector car, confirm proof of insurance and perform a smog check. The referee will provide a certificate of compliance that is sent to the DMV or inform the owner if any emissions repairs are required.

A grey market vehicle is a car imported into California (direct import) that is not manufactured to meet U.S or California standards. These cars are typically not allowed to be used or registered in California.

However, there are requirements to help determine if they are eligible to be used and registered in California. Vehicles that are 1967 model year or older require no modifications or testing to be eligible for registration in California. Otherwise, there are extensive requirements for grey market vehicles which can be found at

Repair Cost Waivers

A referee has the authority to grant a repair cost waiver which allows the consumer to renew registration and gives additional time to have the repairs done. It is important to note that referee centers do not perform emissions repairs of diagnostics but assist consumers by supplying them with the information needed to make repairs easier and ensure the necessary repairs are done.

To be eligible for a repair cost waiver you must fail a smog test at a licensed smog test facility, spend a minimum of $650 on emissions-related repair costs at a licenses smog repair station, have your vehicle tested a second time and have an appointment at a referee station.

Smog Exemptions

If you believe your vehicle is exempt from smog checks then the referee call center can aid you in obtaining a verification of exemption. Some vehicles that are exempt from smog checks are gasoline powered vehicles that are from 1975 or older, diesel powered vehicles from the year 1997 or older, natural gas-powered vehicles, electric vehicles and trailers. It is important to note that hybrid vehicles are not exempt from the smog check requirements in California.