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How to Retire a Car in California: The Complete Guide!

How to Retire a Car in California

No matter how you take good care of your car, there will come a time that it won’t be as useful and reliable as it once was. The car will eventually age, hitting its maximum mileage and no amount of repairs can make it like new again. Now you have to find out how to retire a car in California.

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Sure you can try to fix it, but it’ll just be impractical. It’ll cost you more to repair and replace car parts as they start to fail and wear down. It can cost you even more than your car’s value.


If you come to a conclusion that your car is not worth repairing anymore, then retiring it will be a great option. If you came across this article, it is likely that you’re already considering it but you are not sure how it works. To help you with it, here is our complete guide on how to retire a car in California. 


How to Retire a Car in California – How it Works?


The state of California’s Bureau of Automotive Repair has a Consumer Assistance Program (CAP) that offers qualified consumers repair assistance and vehicle retirement options. One of which is the Voluntary Accelerated Vehicle Retirement program or the VAVR. 


The VAVR is an old vehicle buy back program that aims to help improve California’s air quality. It is no big secret that the older vehicles emit more pollution compared to the newer ones. With this program, the removal of the older, more polluting vehicles are encouraged since it provides monetary or other incentives to those car owners that voluntarily retire their old vehicles. 


The vehicle retirement options currently offer financial incentives for those who wish to retire their cars in California provided that they have met the eligibility requirements. 


Retired vehicles from consumers with household incomes that meet the income eligibility requirement may receive $1,500 while consumers that have household incomes exceeding the income eligibility requirement may receive $1,000. 

How to Retire a Car in California – the Requirements.


One has to meet all the requirements set to be eligible for the vehicle retirement program. One important criteria is that the vehicle has to be registered and titled in your name in the state of California without any lapses of coverage for 4 months or more. 


On top of that, there are other requirements you and your vehicle has to meet before you can avail the VAVR program. 


  • Your gross household income should be less than or equal to 225% of the Federal poverty level. To help you determine if you are eligible for the program and which incentive program you may receive, you can use the Income Eligibility Calculator provided by the California Bureau of Automotive Repair. 


  • You haven’t retired a vehicle as a sole owner or more than 2 vehicles as a joint owner within the past year.    


  • Your vehicle should fail the most recent smog check inspection. The smog test failure should not be caused by a failed gas cap function test, an ignition timing adjustment, or a tampered emissions control system.


If your vehicle is subject to the Smog Check Program, it has to complete an inspection within 180 days or 6 months prior to the date of application. Vehicles that are in model-year 1976 and newer that run on gasoline, hybrid, and alternative fuels and diesel vehicles in model-year 1998 and newer are all subjected to the Smog Check Program. 


  • Your vehicle should be registered with the DMV or Department of Motor Vehicles and should have a valid and unexpired registration sticker. 


If your vehicle holds a salvage title, it should be either (1.) holding a valid and unexpired registration sticker and has been registered with DMV without lapse in registration for more than 4 months during the 2 consecutive years or (2.) it has to be primarily driven in California for the last 2 years and not registered outside of California in the previous 2 years. 


To meet the requirement of criteria number 2, you need to show proof by submitting one of the following:

  • Proof that the vehicle has a continuous insurance coverage in California for the 2 consecutive years prior to the date of application submission. There should be no lapses in the said coverage totaling for more than 120 days or 4 months.

  • A minimum of 2 invoices from 2 separate calendar years prior to the date of application submission from a licensed automotive repair dealer or ARD. The invoices should have the valid registration number and the address of the ARD, the repair or maintenance operation performed to the vehicle description, the date of the repair, and the vehicle’s model, make, year, and license plate number.   


  • Your vehicle should not be undergoing a transfer of ownership, initial registration, or a re-registration into California.  


  • Your vehicle should not be named or registered to any businesses, non-profit organization, or government agency.


  • Accepted vehicles are passenger vehicles, SUV, truck, or van with a gross weight rating of no more than 10,000 pounds.

  • Your vehicle should not be junked. Once you’ve junked your car, it is no longer eligible for retirement. This is because once your application is approved, your vehicle will be subjected to an inspection at a BAR-contracted dismantler. 


Vehicles should be able to run using its own power to the site and be able to start its engine without using external booster batteries or starting fluids. There should also be no damages that can affect its drivability. 


How to Retire a Car in California – How to Apply?

To apply for the vehicle retirement program, you just need to do these following steps: 

  • Check and determine your income eligibility. You can click the link of the income eligibility calculator provided above. 

  • Review all the eligibility requirements prior to applying. Assess if you will be applying for the $1,500 or the $1,000 incentive program. Complete all the needed requirements for the incentive amount you choose. Make sure that the vehicle’s registration or title is readily available before applying.

  • Send your application online. Applying online is encouraged since it may result in faster application processing. Once you successfully submitted your application online, you will then receive a confirmation notice. You have to remember that this notice is important since it includes your CAP ID number and other important details. You might want to email it, save the image, or print it for record purposes. 


For instances where applying online is not possible, you can send your application via mail. To do this, you will have to call the Department of Consumer Affairs’ Consumer Information Center at (800) 952-5210 and request for an application to be mailed to you. A notice will also be mailed to you along with your CAP ID number after your application has been processed.  


How to Retire a Car in California – the Process.

Within 4 to 6 weeks of receiving your application, the BAR will review your application and all its supporting documentation to verify it complete. You may be required to provide some additional documentation to complete the process. A notice will be sent to you if any other documents are required.


If you want to check the status of your application, you can check it online through the CAP status check tool of the BAR. 


If your application has been denied, a notice of ineligibility will be mailed to you including all the requirements that fail to meet.


A letter of eligibility will be mailed to you if your application has been approved. It will include all the details on the incentive amount that has been approved and also the instructions on how to retire your car at a BAR-contracted auto dismantler. You will need to bring your car there before the expiration date that can be found on your eligibility letter. 


Now, if all things are settled and you are ready to retire your car at a BAR-contracted auto dismantler, you need to prepare and bring with you the following documents to the dismantler:


  • The original copy of the eligibility letter.


  • The title of the vehicle. You can contact the dismantler and ask for further instructions if you don’t have the original title with you or if it is issued from another state. 


  • The registration card of your vehicle.


  • Your valid driver’s license or other government-issued ID with photo.


Once the inspection is done and your vehicle passes all its requirements, the dismantler will then issue a check named to the registered owner as indicated on the eligibility letter. 


The Voluntary Accelerated Vehicle Retirement program can be a great help to car owners that want their vehicles to retire. With the aim to lessen air pollution caused by older vehicles, you can’t really say anything negative against it. 


But keep in mind that this program is funded on a yearly basis. If all the funds have been used, you will have to wait another year to file an application. And if you have applied, you have to meet all the requirements and wait patiently as the processing will take about 4 to 6 weeks, or even more. 


If waiting or doing paperwork is not your strongest quality, you can also consider selling your retiring, old car to your local car buyer like the cashcarsbuyer.com  They offer quick cash minus all the hassle and unending requirements. All you have to do is visit our homepage to know how it works and how it’s done. 

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