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Clean Car emission requirements

What is the Clean Car Law?

The Clean Car Law (RCW 46.16A.060) requires vehicles across Washington State to be certified to California emission standards. Starting with 2009 models, vehicles must meet these strict clean air standards to be registered, leased, rented, licensed, or sold for use anywhere in Washington.

Types of vehicles that must meet Clean Car standards

  • All new passenger cars, SUVs, vans, and pickup trucks with a model year of 2009 or newer must be certified to California emission standards. New vehicles that don’t meet California emission standards cannot be registered, leased, rented, licensed, or sold for use in Washington.
  • Used vehicles must be certified to California emission standards if:
    • The vehicle is a 2009 or newer model.
    • The vehicle has less than 7,500 miles on the odometer.
    • The new owner is a Washington resident.
    • The vehicle isn’t exempt (see below).

Exempt vehicles

The following types of vehicles aren’t required to be certified to California emission standards:

  • 2008 or earlier vehicle models.
  • Passenger vans and buses with a Gross Vehicle Weight Rating (GVWR) greater than 10,000.
  • Heavy-duty cargo vans and trucks with a GVWR greater than 8,500.
  • Previously-registered vehicles with more than 7,500 miles at the time of sale.
  • Vehicles purchased by a nonresident before establishing residency in the state of Washington, regardless of the mileage on the vehicle.
  • Vehicles transferred by inheritance or as a result of divorce, dissolution, or legal separation.
  • Vehicles acquired and used by Washington residents while they were members of the armed services stationed outside of Washington on military orders.
  • Vehicles to be registered and used only outside the state of Washington.
  • Vehicles only available for rent to a final destination outside of Washington.
  • Military tactical vehicles.
  • Emergency vehicles, if the public safety agency has demonstrated to the Department of Ecology’s satisfaction that there isn’t a California emissions-certified vehicle available to meet the agency’s needs.

How to confirm a used vehicle is certified

When you register a used vehicle, you may be asked to complete a California Emission Compliance/Exemption Certification form to confirm the vehicle is certified to California emission standards.

To find out if the vehicle is California certified, look at the Vehicle Emissions Control Information (VECI) label in the engine compartment. You may register the vehicle in Washington if the label states that the vehicle is certified for any of the following:

  • California emission standards (CARB certified).
  • Sale in all 50 states (50-state certified).
  • Sale in the northeast.

What to do if your vehicle doesn’t meet emission standards

If you purchased a new or used vehicle and cannot register it in Washington because it isn’t certified to California emission standards, you can:

  • Work with the dealership you purchased the vehicle from to see if they are willing to unwind the sale.
  • Sell the vehicle to a non-Washington resident so they can register and use it in another state.
  • See if a dealership will accept the vehicle as a trade-in so they can sell it to a non-Washington resident.

Buyer’s responsibility

It is the buyer’s responsibility to make sure a vehicle meets California emission standards. Out-of-state dealers or individuals aren’t required to ensure the vehicles they sell meet these standards.

Frequently asked questions

Do vehicles certified to California emission standards have to be emission tested?

No. The Washington State Legislature exempted 2009 and newer vehicles that are California certified from emission testing.

Are all hybrid vehicles certified to California emission standards?

No. Be careful when purchasing a new gas-electric hybrid vehicle from an out-of-state dealer or third party because the vehicle may not be certified to California emission standards.

Can I take a vehicle that doesn’t meet California emission standards to a repair facility or make changes to it so I can register it in Washington?

No. Vehicle makes and models are certified by the California Air Resources Board (CARB) before they are manufactured. Non-CARB certified vehicles cannot be retrofitted or altered to be certified. In fact, making changes to the emission control system of any vehicle may be considered tampering, which is illegal under both Washington and federal law.

If the Manufacturer’s Certificate of Origin (MCO) or Manufacturer’s Statement of Origin (MSO) says a vehicle is “certified for sale in all 50 states,” is “50-state certified,” or is “certified for sale in the northeast,” does it meet California emission standards?

Yes. “Fifty-state” vehicles meet both California and federal standards. Vehicles certified for sale in the northeast are also certified to California emission standards. Both types of vehicles may be registered in Washington.

Related laws and rules

See also:

Washington Healthcare Finder
Access Washington – official state government website