We Can’t Sell Our Car Without a Smog Certification. – Ashley

“Dear Steve,

Looking for some advice on an upside down car. My hubby and I have a 2004 honda crv. the car is actually “technically” paid off, we have the pink slip, however we have a regular loan through our credit union with a payment of $341/month and a total balance of $8,000.

So its not a car loan, but that is how we financed the car. Our plan was to sell the honda to a private party for approx. $5-$6,000 according to kbb. of the money we got for the car we were going to take $2500 and use it to buy a used car.

we were then going to take the reamiaing balance from the sale, approx. $3,000 and along with additional money we have saved we were going to pay off the $8000 loan.

There by freeing us of our $8,000 debt and freeing up $341/ month to use to pay off other debts. However, we owe past registration and tickets on the honda and were told we need to get a smog check before we could sell it to a private party.

So when we went to do that, the total for past registrati on was $803.00 (ouch!!) and the smog check we were told couldn’t be done until the check engine light in the car was diagnosed.

Well, of course the diagnostic came back that we were gonna have to replace this and that and the total with the smog was going to be $2,700! Not what we wanted to hear!!!

So, now we don’t know what to do! It hardly seems worth it to put in $3,000 into this car. Remember we were planning on selling and taking the remaining money to put towards the loan in order to help pay it off.

Well now, with $3000 in repairs and such and after purchasing a used car for aprox. $2500, that leaves us no money to put towards the loan!!! 🙁 Our ultimate goal was to just pay off loan!!!

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Please help! Any suggestions!!?? We don’t want another car payment, not sure what our options are? Any suggestions or thoughts would be appreciated!!

thanks so much,


car broken

Dear Ashley,

The past due governmental debt for registration is not going to go away so you will have to pay that.

But I’m not convinced the $2,700 bill for the other repairs is realistic. If you have not already done so, take your can to a local neighborhood mechanic, and not one of the major dealers. Dealers charge top dollar and charge using the estimate book even if it takes less time.

Ultimately, the best way to move ahead is to get as much value out of the car as possible and dealing with the necessary repairs and doing that affordably seems like the most logical way to move forward.

Do You Have a Question You'd Like Help With? Contact Debt Coach Damon Day. Click here to reach Damon.

Otherwise, you will have a car you will knowingly have to sell in “as is” condition, if your state will even allow you to do that. But just making an assumption you live in a state like California, here is what they have to say.

When a vehicle is more than four model years old, a seller must provide evidence of a current smog certification except when one of the following occurs:

The transfer occurs between a spouse, domestic partner, sibling, child, parent, grandparent, or grandchild.

A biennial smog certification was submitted to DMV within 90 days prior to the vehicle transfer date (a vehicle inspection report may be required for proof of certification).
Smog certifications are good for 90 days from the date of issuance.

The seller is required to provide the buyer with a valid smog inspection certification at the time of the sale or transfer.

So not matter how you look at this, you are going to have to get the smog issue fixed and stay current with your registration to avoid future penalties.

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In essence the money you saved by not dealing with these car issues was in fact already spoken for by the needed repairs. You just had not spent it yet.

I’m not sure if that made sense so let me try again. When you forgo required expenses and repairs you just push off into the future, expenses you need to deal with today.

A logical consideration would be to fix the car up and keep it.

Please post your responses and follow-up messages to me on this in the comments section below.

Damon Day - Pro Debt Coach

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Steve Rhode is the Get Out of Debt Guy and has been helping good people with bad debt problems since 1994. You can learn more about Steve, here.
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