Consumer Assistance Program Frequently Asked Questions Factsheet

What is the Consumer Assistance Program?
The Consumer Assistance Program (CAP) provides financial assistance for qualified owners whose vehicles fail their biennial (every-other-year) Smog Check. The statutory authority for CAP is found in the Health and Safety Code and is implemented through Regulations adopted by the Bureau of Automotive Repair (BAR). Participation in CAP programs is limited to available funds.

What kind of financial assistance is available?
CAP offers two options for consumers whose vehicles fail their biennial Smog Check:
  • Repair Assistance Program: Qualified motorists can receive up to $500 in emissions-related repairs to help their vehicles pass their Smog Check inspection. Approved applicants must take their vehicles to a Gold Shield repair station for repairs. Gold Shield stations are licensed Smog Check facilities that are independently owned and under contract with the State of California. These stations must meet higher testing and repair standards than regular test and repair stations.
  • Vehicle Retirement Program: This Program is available to motorists who want to voluntarily retire their vehicle rather than repair it. Eligible consumers receive $1,000 in exchange for their vehicle. Approved vehicles must be driven to one of the state’s authorized dismantlers and pass a visual and operational inspection before the car is purchased and crushed.
How do I qualify for Repair Assistance?
Motorists may qualify for Repair Assistance in one of two ways:
  • Income Eligible – Motorists whose household incomes are at or below 225% of the federal poverty guidelines qualify for up to $500 in repair assistance. Qualified consumers must pay the first $20 towards diagnosis and/or emissions-related repairs.
  • Test-Only Eligible – Certain vehicles are required to have their Smog Check inspections done at stations that perform only tests, and no repairs. If your vehicle’s DMV registration renewal notice requires a Test-Only inspection, your vehicle may qualify for up to $500 in repair assistance. Qualified consumers must pay the first $100 towards diagnosis and/or emissions-related repairs.
How do I know if I’m income eligible?
The CAP application includes an income-eligible table for applicants to determine if they meet the income requirements.

Where can I get an application?
You can obtain a CAP application by visiting the BAR Web site at or by calling the Department of Consumer Affairs Consumer Information Center at 1-800-952-5210.

How do I apply?
You must first submit an application, and have it approved, making you and your vehicle eligible for the program. Do not have any repairs done until your application has been approved. You will then receive an approval letter with a list of participating stations where you can have your vehicle repaired or dismantlers where you can take your car to have it retired.

How long will it take to process my Vehicle Retirement application?
You will receive a written response regarding your eligibility for the program within approximately six weeks.

The state used to pay consumers $500 to scrap a vehicle and now it’s offering $1,000. Why?
The program restarted on September 1, 2004. This year’s budget for Vehicle Retirement is smaller than in previous years, and that is why the state started with offering $500 to consumers to scrap their vehicles. However, to achieve the full potential of the emission-reduction benefits, the state is offering a higher dollar amount to encourage more motorists to retire their high-polluting vehicle.

Can someone who already retired their vehicle at $500 be paid the difference of the increased amount?
Only eligible vehicles retired after March 15, 2005 will be paid $1000.

How is CAP Funded?
CAP is funded from a portion of the $12 Smog Abatement Fee, which is paid annually at the time of registration by owners of newer vehicles during the six-year period in which their vehicles are exempt from the biennial Smog Check requirement. The Legislature appropriated the money in the current budget, $4.5 million for Vehicle Retirement and $12 million for Repair Assistance.

What is a Test-Only station?
Test-Only stations are privately owned Smog Check stations licensed by BAR to inspect and certify most vehicles, including Gross Polluters. Test-Only stations are prohibited from providing any repair service.

What is a Gross Polluter?
Gross Polluters are the worst polluting vehicles on the road and pollute much more than
a typical failing vehicle. Vehicles produce half of the smog in the state, and although
Gross Polluters represent only 10 to 15 percent of all California vehicles, they are
responsible for over 50 percent of vehicle smog.

Why are vehicles directed to Test-Only stations?
In order to comply with the federal Clean Air Act of 1990, California law requires BAR
to identify vehicles for inspection at Test-Only stations. Test-Only stations help to
separate test functions from repair functions, thus eliminating the possible conflict of
interest between the two.