Is California’s Vehicle Retirement
And Car Buy Back
Program Right For You?

As a part of attempting to reduce the amount of harmful emissions released into the air on a daily basis, the state of California has created a program called the Consumer Assistance Program: Vehicle Retirement. Within this program, residents of California can be given a monetary compensation for retiring vehicles that are more harmful to the environment than the average car. Participants can retire one vehicle per twelve months for compensation, or two vehicles per twelve months if they are joint owners.

Is My Vehicle Eligible For
This Program?

There are certain requirements that vehicles need to meet to qualify for the California Car Buy Back Program. For starters, the vehicle needs to be running. Vehicles that do not start will not be accepted. They need to be able to start on their own, so vehicles that require the use of starter fluids or external battery boosters such as jumper cables will not be accepted either.

If the vehicle runs but not well, the program may still be an option. It only needs to be able to move forward a minimum of 10 yards or 30 feet on its own when it is being tested and evaluated for the program.

The vehicle must be of a type that is typically driven in daily traffic. This includes cars, vans, pickup trucks, and sport utility vehicles. If the vehicle weighs over 10,000 pounds, it will not be eligible for California Buy Back.

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Vehicles Must Have Parts In Place

Vehicles need to have a majority of their parts in place. They cannot be missing parts that would take away their ability to be driven. To qualify for the California Buy Back, vehicles need to have their doors, hood lid, dashboard, windshield, exhaust system, and all of their side and quarter panels. They also need to have at least one side window in place, at least one head light, one tail light, and one brake light. The gas and brake pedals, as well as the clutch for manual vehicles, need to be in place and in working condition.

The parts not only need to be in place, but they need to be in working condition as well. If there is damage to any area of the car, it needs to be minor and in areas that do not interfere with the ability to operate the vehicle. If it's severely damaged a better option might be selling your car to a damaged car buyer or a junk yard.

Vehicles Must Have Failed Smog Check

The vehicles need to have failed their last Smog Check. The Smog Check needs to be failed because of a large issue to show the State that the vehicle is contributing a higher than average level to the amount of air pollution in our society. This means that the test may not have been failed from a small issue such as a non-functioning gas cap or any type of system that has been tampered with.

Vehicle Must Pass DMV Requirements

The vehicles must have been driven regularly in the past. This means that they need to be registered with the State of California and their registration sticker should be up to date. If the stickers are expired, it is required that they have not been expired for more than 120 days and that all fees owed to the Department of Motor Vehicles have been paid in full. The cars should also have a history of being registered with the State of California for at least the past two years. They must not have any breaks in registration longer than 120 days over the course of those two years.

The vehicle must be owned by you and it must have been driven as a personal vehicle. If it was ever used for a business or for a non-profit organization, it will not be eligible for the California Buy Back Program.

These requirements may seem strict, but they are extremely important. When these requirements are met, it shows that the cars that are being retired are an active part of the pollution issue we are facing today. This helps the State of California know that their purchases will be helping them reach their goal of lowering harmful vehicle emissions.

To ensure that your vehicle is eligible, you will need to have it examined and tested at a dismantler that is BAR-contracted. Without this step, you will not be able to participate in the program even if your car meets every one of the eligibility requirements.

Are There Any Income Requirements For The Retirement Program?

There are two different options available for California Buy Back. Option One is the typical, most commonly used option for this program. It has no income requirements and provides its applicants with a monetary compensation amount of $1000 when the vehicle is turned in.

Option Two has a few more requirements that need to be met. It is made for people with low income, and it provides its participants with an extra $500 per vehicle. This brings the total monetary compensation amount up to $1500 per vehicle turned in. This difference is made to help families who are low income get a larger bonus to help them through the difficult financial times that they may be facing.


To qualify for Option Two of the California Buy Back Program, applicants must first meet all of the requirements that are necessary for the Option One program. They must also have a household income that is equal to or under two hundred and twenty-five percent of the federal poverty line. This number changes from year to year, so to determine if your income level is eligible you will want to look at the current federal poverty line and compare it to your annual gross income.

Option Two also has a special opportunity for its lower income participants in regards to vehicle registration history. In some cases, a vehicle can still be accepted into Option Two of the California Buy Back Program even if it has not been registered in the state of California throughout the past two years.

To use this exception, you will need to prove that even though the vehicle was not consistently registered or is currently unregistered, it was continuously and regularly driven in the state of California over the course of the past two years. This can be proven in two different ways.

The first way to prove this is by showing the State of California that you have had insurance coverage on the vehicle during the past two years. This coverage may not have any gaps equal to or longer than 120 days.

The second way to prove that the vehicle has been driven in California on a regular basis is by showing that you have had maintenance or repair work done to the vehicle at least two times during the past two years from an Automotive Repair Dealer within the state of California. You can show this with at least two invoices that show the name, address, and the registration number of the repair shop, the date the repair took place, the type of repair that was done, and your vehicle’s description. These two invoices need to be from two separate years in order to show that the car has been driven in California for those two years, not just one.

If you would like to take advantage of California’s Car Buy Back Option Two, you will need to provide the State with proof of income when you apply to participate in the program. You can verify your income with a variety of forms including tax forms, pay stubs, or proof that you participate in programs that provide other benefits such as public assistance, unemployment, disability, veteran’s benefits, or social security.

How Can I Apply?

To apply for California’s Car Buy Back Program, you will need to either go online or fill out a paper application. You will need to fill out the personal information of the registered owner of the vehicle. You will then fill out the vehicle information and income verification. After applying online, you can take your vehicle to the nearest Bar-approved dismantler. Go over the guidelines to ensure your vehicle will be accepted before making this trip. Do not bring your vehicle to the dismantler until after you have been approved for the program, as the state cannot provide monetary compensation to vehicles that have already been retired. Once you have had your application approved and you have retired your vehicle at the dismantler, you will receive your compensation from the state.

California’s Buy Back Program is a great way to make money on a vehicle that is nearing the end of its time while helping protect our environment at the same time. However, it may not be for everyone. If your car does not meet eligibility requirements for this program, if you believe you can get more money for your vehicle elsewhere, or if you are looking for an option to rid your vehicle with less paperwork, consider contacting SellMax for a quote today. California’s Car Buy Back Program may not be able to help everyone, but at SellMax we can.