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California Vehicle Retirement: What There Is To Know!

California Vehicle Retirement

Many people hang on to old and unreliable vehicles because they don't like paying for a ride or are insecure about their eligibility for a good car. There are many reasons to put off retiring an old car but that is inevitable. But time will come when that old vehicle will not only be a safety hazard for you, your passenger, and other motorists you may come across but also a hazard to the environment due to its failing emission. That being the rationale behind the California Vehicle Retirement program.

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California Vehicle Retirement Program 2021


The State of California crafted a vehicle retirement program, which is also known as CAP (Consumer Assistance Program) or BAR (Bureau of Automotive Repair) Program that promotes clean air by removing dilapidated vehicles still operating in California. This is done by California offering to buy the clunkers.


The Vehicle Buy Back Program offers this program both to low income and above income vehicle owners with a flat rate of $1500 and $1000 respectively. This California Vehicle Retirement program aims to help improve the air quality in California.


CAP (Consumer Assistance Program) is available in all locations across California and in addition to this California vehicle retirement program operated by BAR and run by the state government, there are also available local vehicle retirement programs in a few chosen areas through local air districts.


The estimated time it takes to process upon giving the request and receiving payment is about  6 to 8 weeks. But if sellers need to sell fast to get the cash, local California car buyers are buying both running and non-running cars and will be able to pay within 2 or 3 days.

What are the requirements to retire a car in California?


If you wish to qualify for the California vehicle retirement or BAR program here is a list of requirements to qualify:


Applicant Requirement:


  1. The first requirement for the California Vehicle Retirement is that you must be the registered owner and vehicle ownership is not currently being transferred to a new owner. The vehicle must be registered to an individual not a business, government agency, or nonprofit organization.


  1. You must have a gross household income less than or equivalent to 225% of the Federal poverty level.


  1. You must not have retired another vehicle as a sole owner OR must not have retired more than 2 vehicles as a joint owner within the past 12 months.


Vehicle Requirement


  1. The vehicle must be a passenger vehicle, like a truck, SUV, or van with a gross vehicle weight not exceeding 10,000 pounds.


  1. To qualify for the California Vehicle Retirement Program or CAP your car must be running or can start without a jump (without the use of starting fluids or external boost batteries).


  1. The vehicle must have current registration with the DMV, complete with a valid and unexpired registration sticker, or have settled all fees to the DMV and have a registration that has not expired for more than 120 days.


  1. Must have continuous registration in California for the past 2 years and registration during those 2 years must not have expired for more than 120 days. It comes with an exception if the vehicle was primarily driven in California for the last 2 years and not registered in any other country or state also those past 2 years. 


The proof is required by presenting auto repair invoices or insurance payments that will support your claim. Ask the DMV if you need a temporary operating permit (TOP) to drive an unregistered car for a day to the dismantler location.


  1. If your ride is a “Salvaged Vehicle” then it must be registered with a Salvaged Title.


  1. Must have failed the Smog test. The exception is for low-income families and if your vehicle is a 1997 model or older then you can inquire regarding the local air districts program. You may be able to apply for a California Vehicle retirement program through the Voluntary Accelerated Vehicle Retirement Program (VAVVRR).


Local Air District Buyback Program


Here are the implementing districts with California vehicle retirement plans through VAVVRR with corresponding info and contact number according to the California Air Resources Board (CARB). CARB is one of 6 boards, depart., and offices that are under the California Environmental Protection Agency:

  • Antelope Valley Air Quality Management District (includes the northeast portion of Los Angeles County). Accepts 1997 vehicles and older  For more information, visit them or contact 1-800-717-7624.
  • Bay Area Air Quality Management District (Old Car Buy Back and Scrap Program accepts 1996 and older vehicles) Visit them or call 1-855-343-7314.
  • San Luis Obispo County Air Pollution Control District accepts 1995 or older cars, pick-up trucks, or vans. For more information, visit them or contact the Car Buy Back Program at (800) 717-7624.
  • Santa Barbara County Air Pollution Control District. Accepts 1994 or older vehicles. For more information, visit them or contact the Car Buy Back Program at 805-961-8814.
  • Mojave Desert Air Quality Management District. Accepts 1997 and older vehicles – For more information, visit them or call the Car Buy Back Program at (800) 717-7624.


  • South Coast Air Quality Management District – For more information, visit them or call (909) 396-3170.
  • Ventura County Air Pollution Control District – For more info, visit them or call (800) 717-7624



The State of California and CARB do not administer the VAVVRR programs. But CARB is responsible for the development of the regulations that provide the guidelines to local air districts that optionally choose to implement VAVVRR programs as an alternative to the California Vehicle Retirement Program by BAR.


If you did not meet the requirements for the BAR or VAVVRR program, you may still sell to a local car buyer through the private California cash for clunkers option.


How do I retire my car in California?


Application Process for California Vehicle Retirement Consumer Assistance Program


  1. The first step is to determine your gross household income info and once you have it you can proceed to check your income eligibility by using the income eligibility calculator. You will also be able to determine your incentive amount. 


  1. The second step is to review your eligibility requirements, which are based on the incentive amount you will be applying for. It will either be the $1,000 or $1,500 incentive.


  1. After the first 2 steps, you will now be able to submit your online application. After submitting the online request a confirmation notice will be displayed. The notice will give you your CAP ID number and other important information. Do not forget to print or email the confirmation notice for your records.


  1. A letter of eligibility or eligibility will be mailed to you to give notice of whether or not your application is approved or denied for the California Vehicle Retirement program. You still have a chance to be reevaluated if you are able to resolve the denial reason. 


All you have to do is submit the new documentation within 30 days from the date of your notice of ineligibility. Address to: Attention: CAP, 10949 N. Mather Blvd, Rancho Cordova, CA 95670


  1. After receiving notice of eligibility you may now take your vehicle to a BAR-contracted auto dismantler for California vehicle retirement. Schedule an appointment with the dismantler. Find the approved dismantler near you.


In the event that you are unable to submit an online application, you can always call the Department of Consumer Affairs’ Consumer Information Center at (800) 952-5210 and request an application form be mailed to you. But take note that applying online is a faster process.


If you will be applying for the $1,500 incentive of the California Vehicle Retirement program, you will be required to submit documentation to verify your household income before your application will be processed. If documentation is required you will be mailed a notice.


You can submit this documentation after submitting your application to help avoid potential delays and expedite the processing of your application. For a list of appropriate reporting options and guidance on how to apply your records, visit the Household Income Eligibility Guidelines page.


CAP Application Status


After submitting your application you will be able to check your California Vehicle Retirement Program CAP Application Status (click here).


Are there programs to help buy a car?


There are fortunately grants and loans for income-qualified Californians who need help to buy a car. In 2018, the Clean Vehicle Assistance Program was implemented through a collaboration sponsored by California Climate Investments, between Beneficial State Foundation and the California Air Resources Board. Its mission is to make environmentally-friendly vehicles available and affordable to all.


The Clean Vehicle Assistance Program offers personal grants of up to $5,000, and affordable financing to aid income-qualified Californians lease or even purchase a new or used hybrid or electric. Eligible applicants may also receive loans with low-interest rates (at an interest rate of 8% or less) through the preferred lending partner of the program, Beneficial State Bank. 


Built for the low-income and marginalized families of California, the program is available to all residents of California who meet the criteria for income eligibility. With the California Vehicle Retirement Program and the Clean Vehicle Assistance Program, you can now stop worrying about putting off the retirement of your dilapidated vehicle. You can now have the confidence you need to finally retire your car, you just need to know where to find the help that you need.

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