Everything You Need to Know About Smog Checks

Depending on where you live and what type of car you have, you might be required to get a smog check. A smog check is sometimes referred to as a smog inspection or emissions testing and is designed to help limit air pollution and make sure your car is compliant with certain standards. If you need to get a smog check, you probably have some questions about the process. Read on to learn what you should know about smog checks and how they work.

What is A Smog Check, Explained | Metromile

What is a smog check? 

Smog checks were first created in the state of California in 1984 to help combat poor air quality and air pollution (more on that later). 

As of 1990, The Clean Air Act vowed to reduce toxic air emissions and part of that is through smog checks. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) regulates air emissions in passenger vehicles in the following ways, according to their website:

  • Standards for exhaust and evaporative emissions;
  • Control of hazardous air pollutants and air toxics; 
  • National Low Emission Vehicle Program;
  • CAP 2000 (Compliance Assurance Program);
  • Onboard refueling vapor recovery; and
  • Inspection and maintenance.

But what is a smog check, exactly? A smog check is a type of inspection that looks at a vehicle’s exhaust and pollution risk. According to, a website in collaboration with the Bureau of Automotive Repair (BAR) and the Foundation for California Community Colleges (FCCC), smog checks include the following:

  • A visual inspection, to look over your emissions systems 
  • A functional inspection, which checks out the ignition timing, engine light, exhaust gas, smoke, fuel evaporation, and the On-Board Diagnostic (OBD) system 
  • An emissions inspection with the tailpipe 

After the smog inspection is completed, you’ll get a Vehicle Inspection Report (VIR) which shares the result of the test and if approved, you’ll also receive a certificate that shows you’re in compliance with local authorities. 

Not all vehicles or even all states require a smog check or require that you do all the steps above. Each state has different standards and requirements, so it’s best to check with your local transportation authority such as the Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV). 

Certain states like California have some of the toughest inspection requirements, thanks to the widespread smog making visibility difficult in 1943.  

Changes came about in 1967 with the Mulford-Carrell Air Resources Act, which created the State Air Resources Board. On top of that, the Federal Air Quality Act was passed that same year, allowing California to set its own stricter standards to help combat air pollution. 

How long does a smog check take?

If you need to get a smog check but you’re a busy person and need to fit it in your schedule, you probably are curious and wonder just how long does a smog check take? The good news is the process isn’t too long. Of course, the actual time can vary based on the smog check testing site but in general a smog check should take 20 to 30 minutes. 

How much does a smog check cost?

We all know that owning a car comes with expenses like paying for gas, car insurance, maintenance, repairs — oh and actually paying for the car, either outright or through monthly payments. Well, you can add a smog check to the expense list but the good news is it’s not terribly expensive. 

If you’re wondering how much does a smog check cost, according to, the average cost of a smog check can range from $29.95 to $89.95 depending on where you live and what is required as part of the inspection. 

That’s just the cost of the test though. If you don’t pass the smog check, you may need to pay for repairs. However, there may be limits in place and additional support if you need it. The state of California caps costs at $450 for smog check repairs and you may qualify for a cost waiver if you’re considered low-income. 

It’s important to note that smog check costs can vary based on the provider and state. For example, The Bureau of Automotive Repair (BAR) in California doesn’t regulate prices, so it’s best to shop around to compare prices as you’ll be dealing with private enterprise. However, smog check stations are required to list prices clearly. 

How long is a smog check good for? 

If you’re getting a registration renewal or selling your car, you may need a smog check. Typically, you’ll be notified by the DMV (or similar authority in your state) if a smog check is required. 

You want to bring the notice to the smog inspection and when it’s completed, your smog certificate is typically good for 90 days and should be submitted to the local transportation authority. You may have to pay a smog certificate fee as well, which in California is $8.25. 

If you’re wondering how often you need to get a smog check, that will depend on the state, county, and type of car you drive. For example, in California a smog check may be required every other year as part of the registration process. You’ll want to check with your local state transportation authority on guidelines, but again you’ll likely get a notice if it’s required. 

According to, there are 33 states that require a smog inspection:

  • Arizona: Certain Areas (Phoenix and Tucson)
  • California: All Areas
  • Colorado: Some Areas (Denver and Boulder)
  • Connecticut: All Areas
  • Delaware: All Areas
  • Georgia: Certain Areas (all 13 Atlanta Metro Counties)
  • Idaho: Certain Areas (City of Boise and Ada County)
  • Illinois: Certain Areas (Chicago and East St. Louis)
  • Indiana: Certain Areas (Gary Metro Area)
  • Maine: Certain Areas (Cumberland County, and the Portland Metro Area)
  • Maryland: Certain Areas (all DC Metro and the City of Baltimore)
  • Massachusetts: All Areas
  • Missouri: Certain Areas (Jefferson County and Franklin County)
  • Nevada: Certain Areas (Cities of Reno and Las Vegas)
  • New Hampshire: All Areas
  • New Jersey: All Areas
  • New Mexico: Certain Areas (Albuquerque Metro Area)
  • New York: All Areas
  • North Carolina: Certain Areas (48 Counties – See the NC DMV site for more info).
  • Ohio: Certain Areas (Cities of Akron and Cleveland)
  • Oregon: Certain Areas (Cities of Medford and Portland)
  • Pennsylvania: Certain Areas (Cities of Pittsburgh and Philadelphia)
  • Tennessee: Certain Areas (Cities of Nashville and Memphis)
  • Texas: Certain Areas (Cities of Austin, Houston, Dallas/Fort Worth and El Paso)
  • Utah: Certain Areas (Cities of Ogden, Provo and Salt Lake)
  • Vermont: All Areas (1996 or Newer Vehicles Only)
  • Virginia: certain Areas (all DC Metro and Arlington)
  • Washington: Certain Areas (Cities of Seattle, Spokane, Tacoma and Vancouver)
  • Washington DC: All Areas
  • Wisconsin: Certain Areas (all of SE Wisconsin and the City of Milwaukee)

You’ll want to check with your local state transportation authority to see what current smog check requirements are, as things could change year to year. Also, some vehicles are exempt from the process so you can check out the local requirements to see if and when you need to get a smog inspection. 

How can you pass a smog check? 

If you’re concerned about passing a smog inspection, you want to make sure you’re taking care of your car and doing regular maintenance as required. That means not messing with any of the emission-related equipment and getting your car fixed if the engine light comes on. 

If there are blinking lights, that could be another warning sign that there is an issue that needs to be remedied. Taking good care of your car is the best way to pass a smog check. 

Also, staying on top of the requirements. So if you get a notice, get a smog check ASAP and bring the notice. Go to an approved testing site and get the results. If you’re in California, you can use this tool to find a shop to get a smog test. 

If you don’t end up passing the smog check, you’ll want to take action and get repairs to fix the emission issues. You may be eligible for assistance in your state if you’re low income, such as with California’s Consumer Assistance Program.  

The bottom line 

Getting a smog check is a routine process in many states. Not all states require a smog check though and you may be exempt depending on the type of car you have or where you live. Check with your local transportation authority and if you do need a smog check, shop around for the best places to get one at an affordable cost. 

While you’re keeping up with your vehicle’s requirements to stay in good standing on the road, consider looking into other car insurance options that may be more beneficial for your situation. Metromile offers affordable pay-per-mile insurance that is geared toward low-mileage drivers. Grab your free quote today.

Melanie Lockert is a freelance writer, podcast host of the Mental Health and Wealth show, and author of Dear Debt. She’s a cat mom to two jazzy cats, Miles and Thelonious, an amateur boxer, music lover, and needs coffee to function.

Baby on Board: Driving Safe With Kids in the Car

Driving in and of itself can be stressful (think: road rage, traffic jams, and the frustration of finding a good soundtrack), but add a young passenger into the mix, and the open road can suddenly feel like a war zone.

Whether you’re running errands with an infant or tooling around town with a niece or nephew, it’s important to know the ways to maximize safety. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), motor vehicle crashes are a leading cause of death among kids in the United States: In 2019, more than 600 children 12 and younger died in motor vehicle crashes, and more than 91,000 were injured.

Here are some tips for keeping kids protected in the car:

1. Know the Car Seat Rules. Laws vary from state to state, but based on the latest research, infants and toddlers should always ride in rear-facing backseat carriers until they’re at least two years old or reach the height and weight allowed by the seat manufacturer, according to organizations like the American Academy of Pediatrics. Once kids outgrow the rear-facing seat, they should then use a forward-facing seat with a harness for as long as possible (up to the highest weight or height indicated by the manufacturer). Never put a rear-facing seat in the front of the car — airbags can be deadly to young passengers.

2. Buckle Up the Right Way. Once kids outgrow the forward-facing seats, it’s time to upgrade to a belt-positioning booster until the car’s seat belt fits properly (usually when a kid reaches 4 feet 9 inches and is over the age of five). When kids are big enough for the seat belt to properly fit their frame, lap and shoulder belts are a must, and kids under 13 should stay in the back seat (again, airbags can cause fatal injuries to young children). Buckling up is critical at every stage of life, and it’s an essential rule to implement at an early age: according to the organization Safe Kids Worldwide, only 53 percent of high school students reported always wearing a safety belt when riding with someone else.

3. Eliminate All Distractions. This is seriously scary: one study found that 98 percent (!) of parents driving with a child report being preoccupied for nearly a third of the time they’re on the road. That’s no joke, especially when you consider the fact that distracted driving claimed the lives of 3,450 people in 2016 alone, according to the United States Department of Transportation (NHTSA). Put the phone far out of reach, familiarize yourself with the roads, and forget about primping in the rearview or snacking until you’re safely parked.

4. Pull Over To Deal With Must-Dos. Kids get fussy — it happens. But according to a poll from American Baby in partnership with Safe Kids Worldwide, 55 percent of moms admit to driving above the speed limit in order to make it to daycare or to get home with their crying baby faster. Speeding up and driving hastily is only going to increase your risk for an accident. It’s better to pull over to deal with a mood meltdown and run late than push your luck by accelerating over the limit.

5. Always Stay Close. Leaving kids in the car is always a bad idea, even if you’re just running out for a quick minute. Children die every year from heatstroke — many of whom were left unattended in cars. Allowing children to play near a parked car should be a no-go too. If you’re backing out of the driveway, always take the time to circle your vehicle and make sure no children are in the vicinity and at risk of being hit.

Another important way to protect the whole family is to find a car insurance company that has your back. Visit for a free quote today.

Michelle Konstantinovsky is a San Francisco-based journalist/writer/editor and UC Berkeley Graduate School of Journalism alumna. She’s written extensively on health, body image, entertainment, lifestyle, design, and tech for outlets like Cosmopolitan, Harper’s Bazaar, Marie Claire, Teen Vogue, O: The Oprah Magazine, Seventeen, and a whole lot more. She’s also a contributing editor at Fitbit and the social media director at California Home + Design Magazine. She is an avid admirer of shiny objects, manatees, and preteen entertainment.

8 Weekend Trips from San Francisco Less Than 100 Miles Away

If you live in San Francisco, you’re used to being near the water and enjoying beautiful views of the city. But sometimes you just need to get away for a change of scenery. Given the current Delta variant situation, it’s understandable if you’re not ready to board a plane but want to do something that can be done with a mini road trip. We’ve rounded up the 8 best weekend trips from San Francisco (or even just day trips from San Francisco) less than 100 miles away. 

1. Glen Ellen 

Weekend Getaways In the Bay Area | Metromile

If you’re looking for weekend getaways in the Bay Area, you could go to the small town of Glen Ellen. The former home to author Jack London, the city also has a park of his namesake. It’s located in the Sonoma Valley, so you can enjoy wine and food in a quaint setting. If you want something besides wine, you can dine at the Glen Ellen Inn Grill & Martini Bar and get your fix of a dirty martini or martini with a twist (just no drinking and driving, obviously) while enjoying steak or seafood. You can find more info about Glen Ellen here.

Distance from SF: 50.2 miles

Length of time: 1 hour and 10 minutes one-way 

2. Sausalito 

Weekend Getaways In the Bay Area | Metromile

If you’re looking for day trips from San Francisco, a place nearby that is charming and near the waterfront is the city of Sausalito. You can check out the Spaulding Marine center or the Bay Area Discovery Museum and go to the Seafood Peddler for dinner. You can find more info about Sausalito here.

Distance from SF: 11 miles 

Length of time: 26 minutes one-way 

3. Santa Cruz 

Weekend Getaways In the Bay Area | Metromile

Santa Cruz has a famous boardwalk and is home to a lovely beach to catch some waves or dip your toes in the sand. The boardwalk has roller coasters and games for fun as well as restaurants and bars. On top of that, the city has a Surfing Museum as well. You can find more info about Santa Cruz here.

Distance from SF: 73.1 miles

Length of time: 1 hour and 16 minutes one-way 

4. The Muir Woods National Monument 

Weekend Getaways In the Bay Area | Metromile

If you need a little forest therapy, get yourself to the Redwood forest at Muir Woods, a protected National Monument since 1908. You can be among majestic redwoods, which are considered the tallest living things in existence, and take advantage of six miles of trails. Be sure to grab a parking pass ahead of time at You can find more info about the Muir Woods National Monument here. 

Distance from SF: 16.8 miles

Length of time: 43 minutes one-way

5. Pescadero State beach 

Weekend Getaways In the Bay Area | Metromile

If you’re looking to be near the water in a more secluded area that has dramatic views, consider Pescadero State beach. Pescadero is home to beautiful dunes as well as sandy coves and cliffs to explore. Nearby there’s also the Pescadero Marsh Natural Preserve, a popular place for bird watchers. You can use eBird to track what you see and compare notes. You can find more info about Pescadero state beach here. 

Distance from SF: 47.9 miles

Length of time: 1 hour and 14 minutes one-way 

6. Point Reyes National Seashore

Weekend Getaways In the Bay Area | Metromile

The Point Reyes National Seashore is a charming place to go when considering weekend trips from San Francisco. You can check out the elephant seals or go whale watching or simply go for a swim, a walk on the seashore, or even go kayaking. If you want some culinary delights and are a cheese lover, stop by Cowgirl Creamery or Point Reyes Farmstead Cheese Company. You can find more info about Point Reyes National Seashore here. 

Distance from SF: 37.4 miles 

Length of time: 1 hour and 16 minutes one-way

7. Half Moon Bay 

Weekend Getaways In the Bay Area | Metromile

Half Moon Bay is a lovely coastal city that also is home to a charming downtown area full of art galleries, music, restaurants, and historic buildings. If you go between May and December, stop by the Coastside Farmers Market on Saturday at Shoreline Station. You can also partake in beach activities like paddleboarding or kayaking or simply curl up with a good book on the beach while getting some sun (don’t forget the sunscreen!). You can find more info about Half Moon Bay here. 

Distance from SF: 29.6 miles 

Length of time: 40 minutes one-way

8. Guerneville

Weekend Getaways In the Bay Area | Metromile

Looking at weekend getaways near the Bay Area but want something a little different? Consider Guerneville, an unincorporated community nestled along the Russian River Valley. You could hang out near the river, go fishing, boating, and more. There’s a quirky downtown Guerneville area with shops, restaurants, and a market with a suggestive name called Big Bottom Market, which happens to be home to Oprah’s favorite biscuits. The city has also been an LGBTQ-friendly vacation spot for decades and is a gem for all travelers. You can find more info about Guerneville here. 

Distance from SF: 75 miles

Length of time: 1 hour and 43 minutes one-way

The bottom line 

If you’re looking for weekend trips from San Francisco or just day trips from San Francisco, these eight options offer you various choices depending on what you’re looking for. You can find peace in the woods, or healing near the water, or find some quirky charm in small-town cities nearby. 

If you live in San Francisco or in the surrounding areas, you might be considered a low-mileage driver. If you’re driving mostly on the weekends, check out your rate with pay-per-mile car insurance to see if you could save. 

Melanie Lockert is a freelance writer, podcast host of the Mental Health and Wealth show, and author of Dear Debt. She’s a cat mom to two jazzy cats, Miles and Thelonious, an amateur boxer, music lover, and needs coffee to function.

Why I Work at Metromile: Choosing Meaningful Work

Metromile was Matt Stephens’s first job out of college. His degree in computer science from the University of Michigan gave him options, he said. He looked for jobs in cities he’d like to live in—Boston, L.A., or San Francisco—before accepting the engineering role at Metromile.

“When I interviewed, I thought that the people I spoke to at Metromile, the people who I ended up working with, were far and away the best team that I had talked to,” he said.

Five years and a couple of promotions later, Matt, who’s based in Boston, is a senior iOS mobile developer and also serves as the Squad Lead, relaying updates from the mobile team and coordinating with the rest of the organization.

“One thing we talk about a lot on the mobile team is the ‘fiercely loyal customer’ goal,” Matt said. “What the apps do is they create brand awareness—if you’re in the app store and you’re looking for car insurance apps, we’re among the top results—and I think of myself as adding that extra bit of brand loyalty that can turn a potential user into a joining member of Metromile.” 

Part of building a “fiercely loyal customer” is providing a high-quality product. That motivates Matt to keep innovating and tweaking to deliver on those expectations.

“Just the act of designing and building something out, that’s something I’ve always liked,” he said. “It’s a motivator for me, seeing something I put a lot of hours and thought into actually be usable, it’s a kind of instant gratification. It’s gravy that, working here, it often goes directly to the users.”

That commitment to quality is a feature of the Boston Metromile office, Matt said, along with a warm culture. This is true even now with the whole office working remotely.

“We have a good culture of welcoming people to the Boston office. We’ve had people move to Boston from San Francisco, and every time someone pipes up in the Boston Slack channel to say hello, make introductions.”

Metromile is Matt’s first career job, but it wasn’t his only interview. Metromile stood out because it was clear Matt would get to do meaningful work that he could own.

“At some of the bigger companies, you get the feeling you’re not going to be a very important member of the team. They have 3,000 engineers and they’re hiring for a team that’s going to build out a tiny feature of a very narrowly used product,” he said. “For some people, they want the prestige of that big name on their resume, but none of that really resonated with me. After those big tech interviews, I knew I wanted to be on a team that was small, but doing impactful work.”

It’s sometimes hard to gauge company culture from the interview process, but Matt knew Metromile was where he wanted to be.

“If you like working on your team, that’s crucial,” he said. “Especially on the mobile team, it’s a highly collaborative team. I was the new hire, fresh out of college. They were all eager to teach me the right way to do things, rather than being really protective of their own knowledge. They were more concerned with making sure that I had the tools necessary to do my job well. Ultimately when everyone’s a high-level contributor, it’s better for the entire team than when one superstar is carrying all the weight”

The Cost of Commuting is Higher Than You Think

Have you ever sat down and calculated your commute time or wondered how is my commute to work compared to others? Aside from what it might be costing you in time, there are other negative consequences from commuting than you realize. Read on to learn about the latest average commute time and why the cost of commuting is more expensive than you think. 

The Real Cost of Commuting | Metromile

Average commute time reaches its apex

The U.S. Census Bureau found in 2019 that one-way average commute time hit an all-time high of 27.6 minutes. That’s close to an hour of your day round-trip sitting in your car, using up gas as well as your time. That’s a total of five hours a week and about the same amount of time as a part-time job spent commuting each month. 

That’s a lot of time when you add it all up. If you’ve been thinking “How is my commute to work?” you also need to look beyond the time and consider other factors as well. 

The cost of commuting is high when it comes to your health

The cost of commuting isn’t just about the time you spend or the gas you use to get to and from work. It also has sweeping negative effects on your health.

1.  You’re not moving your body and getting much-needed exercise

For one thing, all the sitting doesn’t help your health outcomes or your waist. The USC Keck School of Medicine found that one round-trip commute of 30 miles increased obesity and waist size, which could increase the likelihood of getting diabetes, stroke, high blood pressure, and heart disease. 

According to findings in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine, commuters who drove more than 15 miles to go to work were less likely to adhere to moderate to vigorous exercise recommendations and were more likely to become obese. Additionally, according to an article for the School of Public Health at Harvard, having a large waist even if you’re not considered overweight can mean you’re at higher risk for negative health outcomes. 

2. You’re less likely to make or stick to your social plans.

Also, when you’re driving so much to get to and from work you may be less likely to go to social activities or hit the gym or an extracurricular activity. All of those things can positively impact your mental health and you might end up ditching them because they add time and resources onto your day due to the cost of commuting. 

3. Your sleep and stress responses are disrupted. 

On top of that, sleep may be tougher to come by with long commute times. One study found that longer commute times led to more disturbed sleeping patterns, such as waking up in the middle of the night, or having trouble falling or staying asleep. ‘Disturbed sleeping’ was defined as experiencing one or more sleep issues three to four times a week. 

If you have long commute times, you may have to wake up earlier to get ready and out of the door, ultimately sacrificing the amount and quality of your sleep. In fact, one study found that a third of commuting time took away from sleep time. All of that can lead to more stress and spiked cortisol, creating a negative feedback loop when it comes to your physical and mental health. 

4. You’re experiencing air pollution at higher rates.

You’ll also have a higher likelihood of being exposed to air pollutants while commuting which could lead to more respiratory issues (not-so-great during a pandemic with a virus that largely affects the lungs). Being surrounded by so many cars and potentially sitting in stop-and-go traffic won’t help.

The overall cost of commuting is financially steep

The average commute time has already hit an all-time high, but the financial costs of commuting are high as well. Here are other common costs to consider when commuting.

1.  Buying a car and maintaining a car comes with a lot of expenses.

Buying or leasing a car costs money upfront or you have to take on auto financing and commit to monthly payments and paying interest for years. You also have to pay for gas, oil changes, tire repairs, and any other maintenance costs. Business Insider reported that commuters spend between $2,000 to $5,000 each year on transportation costs related to commuting. 

2. Time is a non-renewable resource that you can’t get back and commuting has indirect financial costs.

 We’ve reviewed the direct financial costs of commuting, but time is also money and is a non-renewable resource. You can make more money but can’t make more time. The time you spend on commuting can mean working less, having less time for yourself, your family, or your hobbies. That can lead to indirect financial costs like eating out more, grabbing coffee on-the-go, wasted gym memberships and more. 

3. The environmental cost of commuting is fueling climate change (pun intended).

More commuters on the road driving to work means an increase in greenhouse gas emissions. More greenhouse gas emissions have a direct impact on the environment, making the climate change crisis more dire. In fact, according to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) the transportation sector is the biggest culprit, accounting for 29% of greenhouse gas emissions in 2019. You can also consider electric cars to lessen the environmental impact. 

The bottom line

You might think that the cost of commuting is just the amount of time you spend in your car. But the real cost is much higher than you think, affecting everything from your physical and mental health to your social life and the environment. If possible, see if you can work from home or cut down on how often you commute. 

If you do that, you may be considered a low-mileage driver and benefit from pay-per-mile auto insurance. Simply pay an affordable base rate and a few cents for the miles you drive. Many drivers are able to lower their costs and save! Grab a free quote from Metromile to review your potential savings. 

Melanie Lockert is a freelance writer, podcast host of the Mental Health and Wealth show, and author of Dear Debt. She’s a cat mom to two jazzy cats, Miles and Thelonious, an amateur boxer, music lover, and needs coffee to function.

A Step-by-Step Guide on How to Sell a Car in California

Right now the car market is hot, with prices and demand higher than ever. Whether you’re ready to upgrade your current car and buy a new one or simply want to get rid of your extra car that spends too much time in the garage, now is a good time to sell a car. If you live in the Golden State and are selling your car on the private market as opposed to going to a dealership, you want to prepare ahead of time and learn how to sell a car in California. 

How to Sell a Car in California

Step 1: Get your paperwork in order 

Before selling your car, you want to get your paperwork in order and understand what documents you need to make the sale seamless. It’s more than just the car bill of sale in California. 

As the owner of the vehicle, you have the California Certificate of Title, that proves the car belongs to you. When you sell a vehicle, you’ll need to transfer the title to the individual buying your car. 

You’ll need: 

  • Your current vehicle title
  • The signature of the seller and lienholder, if applicable
  • The buyer’s signature 
  • To pay a transfer fee of $15 

You can send your paperwork to the DMV with your payment via mail to:

PO Box 942869
Sacramento, CA 94269

You could also stop by your local DMV office to process everything. 

If you don’t have your title, you’ll need to fill out the Application for Duplicate or Transfer of Title (REG 227). If there are errors in the title, you can use form Reg 101 Statement of Error or Erasure to remedy the issue. Other documents you may need as part of selling your car in California can include:

  • The Vehicle/Vessel Transfer and Reassignment (REG 262) form, which you’ll need to get from the DMV as it’s not online — you can call 1-800-777-0133 to get it mailed to you — disclose the odometer reading on this form 
  • Car bill of sale (California DMV form)
  • Statement of Facts (REG 256), if you’re selling the vehicle to someone in your family 
  • Lien Satisfied/Title Holder Release (REG 166), if you still have a lien on the car, you’ll need it signed by the lienholder to be released and the form must be notarized 
  • Notice of Transfer and Release of Liability, which can be filled out online or mailed (REG 138) and notifies the DMV that you’re no longer responsible for any parking violations or infractions related to the car after the sale — must be completed within 5 days of sale 
  • Vehicle Emission System Statement (REG 139) – valid smog certification must take place within 90 days of the transfer 

Step 2: Get a valid smog certification 

In most cases, you’ll need to obtain a valid smog certification in order to sell a car in California. You’ll need to go to a STAR station, which sets the smog certification standards for California. You can use this tool to find a qualified smog check station. 

The smog certification is valid within 90 days, so you want to make sure it lines up with the timing of the sale. There are certain situations where you may not need a smog inspection. For example, if you have an electric vehicle, your car is less than eight years old or is from 1975 or older, you’re exempt from this process. 

Step 3: Get a vehicle inspection 

Your potential buyer will likely want to get a vehicle inspection to make sure everything is good to go with the car. Though the buyer pays for this process with a trusted mechanic, it’s still something you have to coordinate with the buyer. 

If the buyer doesn’t request an inspection, it can still be a good thing for you to do. If nothing else, make sure you get a CarFax report that shows your vehicle history, including any accidents and major issues. 

Step 4: Set a price range 

Learning how to sell a car in California is more than just paperwork. It’s about selling the car at a price that feels good for you. A price that makes it okay to part with your vehicle. 

As noted earlier, car appreciation has gone up so you want to check out a site like Kelley Blue Book to see what your car is worth these days. It’s a good idea to have a minimum price and maximum price in mind so you have a range to negotiate. 

Step 5: Post your car listing 

After gathering your paperwork, doing an inspection, and setting a price range it’s time to post your car listing and get your car sold! Make sure your vehicle is clean and you take nice photos that clearly show the outside and inside of the car. 

You could use Craigslist, OfferUp, Facebook Marketplace, AutoTrader, or any other site that allows you to sell your vehicle. 

Step 6: Pay for any fees related to selling your car 

You want to sell a car to make money but that doesn’t mean you won’t spend any money. You’ll need to pay any fees related to selling your car. The California DMV website states that you could be on the hook for the following fees:  

  • Duplicate title
  • Transfer
  • Use tax, based on the buyer’s county of residence
  • Registration
  • Penalties

As noted above, the transfer fee is $15. You can find out other potential fee costs here. All of the paperwork and fees must be paid within 10 days of the car sale date. 

Step 7: Fill out the necessary paperwork with the buyer 

When you have a buyer, you’ll need to collect payment and fill out the necessary paperwork with the buyer to make it official. 

You as the seller and the buyer need to fill out form REG 262 which is the Vehicle/Vessel Transfer and Reassignment you need to get from the DMV ahead of time. 

If there is a lienholder, make sure you have the release form ready. You’ll then need to remove the license plates and you’ll both need to report the transfer of ownership to the DMV. 

Step 8: Submit all of your paperwork to make it official 

After filling out the necessary paperwork, you need to submit the transfer documents to the DMV. You can fill out the Notice of Transfer and Release of Liability online within 5 days of the sale. 

In order to complete the process, you’ll need to have the seller’s full name and address, the VIN number, and license plate numbers. Both you as the seller and the buyer need to formally submit documents and pay the required fees to make it official with the DMV. 

The bottom line 

Learning how to sell a car in California can be a process but it can be done with a bit of patience and persistence. Right now, you could get the most out of selling your car and put money back in your pocket. 

If you’re ready to upgrade and buy a new car or simply want to see about other options for car insurance, check out pay-per-mile car insurance, a more affordable way to protect yourself on the road. Grab a free quote to see how much you could save. 

Melanie Lockert is a freelance writer, podcast host of the Mental Health and Wealth show, and author of Dear Debt. She’s a cat mom to two jazzy cats, Miles and Thelonious, an amateur boxer, music lover, and needs coffee to function.

Average miles driven per year by Americans

Have you ever wondered how many miles the average person drives per year? Or how your driving habits compare to others in your state, age group, or gender?

Every year, the US. Department of Transportation’s Federal Highway Administration releases a report analyzing motor vehicle registrations, number of driver licenses, average car mileage, and more. We combed through the latest report and found that:

  • There are now almost 229 million Americans who have licenses, and they collectively drove over 3.2 trillion miles in 2019. That’s enough to drive around the Earth over 128 million times! 
  • The overall number of miles driven by Americans has increased every year since 2011 and is more than double the total miles driven in 1980. This makes sense, as there are more licensed drivers and registered vehicles than ever before.
  • The average driver drives around 13,500 miles per year. That’s over 1,000 miles per month!
  • Americans drive more than twice as many miles in urban areas than in rural areas.
  • Men tend to drive more than women across all age groups, averaging around 6,000 more miles per year.
  • Younger and older individuals (16-19 year olds and 65+) tend to drive about half as many miles as typical working-age individuals.
Average miles driven per year by Americans | Metromile

Average miles driven per year by state

The states with the highest total miles driven per year are easy to guess, as the top 5 (California, Texas, Florida, Georgia, and New York) all fall in the top 8 largest states by population.

What’s more interesting is looking at how many miles the average person drives per year in each state, which we found by dividing the total miles driven by the number of driver’s license holders in each state:

StateAverage car mileage per driver
District of Columbia7,013
New Hampshire11,570
New Jersey12,263
New Mexico19,157
New York10,167
North Carolina16,073
North Dakota17,671
Rhode Island9,961
South Carolina14,941
South Dakota15,541
West Virginia16,876

As you can see, the averages vary a lot, with drivers in the District of Columbia only averaging a little over 7,000 miles per year and those in Wyoming driving almost 3.5 times more at just over 24,000 miles. Below, we’ll dig into some of the potential reasons for this huge difference.

States where people drive the most

When we look at the average miles driven per year, the following states takeing the top spots:

  1. Wyoming
  2. Mississippi
  3. New Mexico
  4. Missouri
  5. Georgia
  6. Indiana
  7. Minnesota
  8. Alabama
  9. Oklahoma
  10. North Dakota 

Unlike the states with the highest total miles, which are largely driven by population, these states likely boast the highest average miles because they tend to be more rural and have fewer alternate means of transportation. In fact, Wyoming — the state where people drive the most — is 99.8% rural, with a rural population density of just two people per square mile.

States where people drive the least

On the other end of the spectrum, the states who drive the fewest miles on average are:

  1. District of Columbia
  2. Rhode Island
  3. New York
  4. Washington
  5. Alaska
  6. Pennsylvania
  7. New Hampshire
  8. Hawaii
  9. Connecticut
  10. Oregon

Unsurprisingly, five of these states are home to cities with the best public transportation — Oregon (Portland), Washington (Seattle), Pennsylvania (Philadelphia), District of Columbia (Washington, D.C.), and New York (New York City). Gas prices might also play a role, as seven of these states fall into the top 20 states with the highest gas prices. Interestingly, while Alaska is by far the largest state in terms of square miles, its drivers boast the fifth-lowest average car mileage in the country.

Average car mileage per year by age group

The Federal Highway Administration also broke down the average annual miles per driver by age group and found that:

  • 16-19 year olds on average drive the fewest miles each year out of all the age groups, with those 65+ following close behind.
  • The age groups that best encompass typical working ages (20-34 and 35-54) tend to drive the most. In fact, these groups drive around twice as many miles as high schoolers and senior citizens.

These statistics shouldn’t be surprising, as the average American drives 16 miles to work each way — which comes out to around 8,384 miles each year just for their commute. Since most 16-19 year olds are still in school and Americans tend to retire when they’re around 64, the oldest and youngest age groups often drive much less than typical working-age individuals.

Bottom line

While it can be fun to see how you compare to other drivers in your state, age group, and gender, did you know many car insurance companies use these factors to determine how much you’ll pay

At Metromile, we think your rate should be based on your actual driving habits — which feels fairer and can actually save you money. In fact, by switching to pay per mile insurance, our customers save 47%* on average compared to what they were paying their previous auto insurer. Get a quote to see how much you could save today.

* Average annual car insurance savings by new customers surveyed who saved with Metromile in 2018.

Different Types of Telematics Devices

What if you could lower your car insurance rate by using a device that monitors your driving behavior? Given the latest technology with telematics devices, you can. Telematics devices help monitor your position, speed, braking behavior, and so much more. Usage-based insurance companies like Metromile use telematics devices in some states to gather accurate data to ensure you get the best rate possible. 

According to the National Association of Insurance Commissioners website, “The use of telematics helps insurers more accurately estimate accident damages and reduce fraud by enabling them to analyze the driving data (such as hard braking, speed, and time) during an accident.” There are various types of telematics devices that blend the use of technology and innovation to create real-world data that benefits users. Here are five telematics devices you should know about.

5 Different Telematics Devices to Be Aware Of | Metromile

1. Black box telematics device

One of the original telematics devices available is often referred to as a black box. This black box connects with your OBD-II or CAN-BUS port. The way it works is that in the black box there is a SIM card as well as a modem that all work together to communicate important info over a cellular network about your driving behavior. Black box telematics devices will have GPS, a port, SIM card, interface for the engine as well as an accelerometer. You’re able to mount your black box in your car and transmit data in an easy and effective way. 

Having a black box may be able to help recover your vehicle faster in case of theft and can provide accurate tracking options for mileage-based insurance

2. Smartphone-based telematics device 

Nearly everyone these days has a smartphone, which makes data tracking easier than ever. Instead of a black box, you could use a smartphone-based telematics device that doesn’t require any installation upfront. 

Using telematics devices that are mobile-first makes it easy on the driver and sends accurate data to the insurer to create rates based on the way you drive. 

3. Bluetooth-powered telematics device

Aside from a black box or smartphone-based app, telematics devices can also include self-powered data transfer through Bluetooth. These types of devices can be mounted in your car on the dashboard and use Bluetooth to collect and submit information about your driving behavior to your insurer. At times you may have connectivity issues with Bluetooth — but in general, these devices send relevant information to servers which can then be used for usage-based insurance programs. 

4. OBD-II Port telematics device 

Another type of telematics device is one that connects to the On-Board Diagnostics II port, which is often referred to as OBD-II for short. This port makes it possible to connect to the car’s computer to help transmit important data about your driving. 

Since 1996, the OBD-II port has been a requirement for all vehicles manufactured in the U.S. Telematics devices that work with the OBD-II port are effective at transmitting your data through cellular networks as part of usage-based insurance. It’s also an easy way to get started and has a low barrier with technology as you simply use the port. You can typically find the OBD-II port under the steering wheel near the dashboard. 

Metromile utilizes OBD-II technology to track speed and motion and relays that information through cellular data.

5. OEM telematics device 

Out of all the telematics devices there is one that is less common but is becoming more popular. It’s built into your car and is referred to as OEM, which stands for original equipment manufacturers. This telematics device uses OEM embedded hardware to transmit driver data. 

Because it uses built-in car sensors, it eliminates the need for any installation. However, telematics devices like this have a lack of regularity and standards making them less popular. 

As technology continues to improve, this type of telematics device which works with built-in materials will be able to help drivers get the most up-to-date data and monitor driving behavior. While it can offer precise data, it also comes at a cost to the manufacturer of the car making some of the other telematics devices more popular. 

The bottom line 

Telematics devices have changed the game for usage-based insurance. Using the power of technology, it’s possible to share relevant driving data to help you get better and more accurate rates if you’re a safe driver. Instead of relying on outdated models for insurance premiums, it’s possible to assess risk and your behavior using telematics devices. As you can see, they come in different forms, each with its pros and cons as it relates to accuracy, installation, and accessibility. 

If you want to experience the power of telematics devices yourself, you can try the Ride Along program with Metromile and snag a free quote to check out your potential savings. 

Melanie Lockert is a freelance writer, podcast host of the Mental Health and Wealth show, and author of Dear Debt. She’s a cat mom to two jazzy cats, Miles and Thelonious, an amateur boxer, music lover, and needs coffee to function.

The Absolute Best Time to Buy a Car

Whether you’re planning your new car purchase in advance or you’re forced into a car purchase because your old car has died, you want to do your due diligence and know how to score the best deal on a new set of wheels. That leads to one question: When is the best time to buy a car? In this guide, we’ll share the best time to buy a car and the best month to buy a car to get maximum savings. Given that car prices have surged during the pandemic, you’ll want any savings you can get.

When is the Best Time to Buy a Car? | Metromile

Best time to buy a car throughout the year

When it comes to the best time to buy a car, there are some times throughout the year that are more advantageous for consumers than others. Why? Because many car dealerships and their salespeople have quotas to meet. They want to get rid of their inventory and meet their goals. 

The best time to buy a car throughout the year includes:

  • The end of the month. Head into the dealership the last few days of the month to grab a great deal. You might get a generous deal if the salesperson wants to meet their quota. You can check out the price online ahead of time and arm yourself with information before heading in for negotiations. 
  • The end of the year. Toward the end of the year, people are busy celebrating the holidays. Car dealerships are ready to ditch their inventory ahead of the new year. That’s why going into a car dealership between December 26 and December 31 could get you the best savings possible. You may get up to 10% in savings or more. If you want to celebrate New Year’s Eve with a new car, go in on the 31st for likely the best day/date to buy a car. 
  • The best month to buy a car is in December. If you’re looking to zero in on a specific month, December is the best month to buy a car. As noted previously, you get the year-end deals but also Christmas and holiday incentives. 

The best day to buy a car is Monday. Have you ever had the Monday blues? Well, that can translate to business and sales too. Car dealerships and salespeople looking to kickstart their week may offer heftier discounts on this day more than others, especially considering many buyers come in on the weekend instead.

Best time to buy a car: holiday edition

People often think of spending the holidays with family, friends, or on vacation somewhere. But did you know some holidays are also the best time to buy a car? It’s true, but some holidays are better than others. If you’re ready to buy a new car, here are the holidays that matter most. 

  • Black Friday — the day after Thanksgiving aka Black Friday is basically a consumer holiday at this point and could help you slash costs on a car. 
  • President’s Day — this three-day weekend may score you some savings on a car. 
  • Memorial Day — this holiday jumpstarts the summer season and can be a good time for deals. 

Labor Day — the end of summer hits and dealers may be ready to let go of some of their inventory before Q4 hits.

When it makes sense to buy a car?

If you’re wondering when is the best time to buy a car, there are other benchmarks to consider as well. For example, if the car has been discontinued recently or there’s been an announcement that the vehicle will no longer be manufactured. 

Of course, you want to look into the reasons why the car will no longer be in production, but it could be one of the best times to buy a car. 

Another good time to buy is at the close of a model year. Car years don’t necessarily match up with calendar years and can have new editions in different seasons. Many new models are released as summer is coming to an end around August or September. So if you’re looking for the best month to buy a car, it could be then. 

Lastly, another great time to buy is if there is a redesign in the works. This means that the current car’s design is getting traded in for a refresh and getting redesigned. Grabbing the current design before it retires may lead to some savings.

Best time to buy a car that’s used

Due to the pandemic cars have been in high demand. On top of that, there’s a chip shortage so there’s less available in inventory. These factors have led used cars to be the hot commodity of the moment, with some used car prices up 30% or higher. In this climate, you want to know when the best time to buy a car is so you can not pay such a high premium. 

Typically, the fall months between October and December can get you the best savings on used vehicles. As noted above, many new models get released at the beginning of summer, so many drivers opt for trading in their used vehicles in order to get something new. 

This influx of new inventory could mean good news for you. It’s also the final quarter of the year and businesses want to close the year strong and get rid of inventory to make space for the coming year.

The bottom line

Buying a new car can be stressful and exciting at the same time. In this economy, it can be quite costly too which is why knowing when to buy a car is a key aspect of getting the most for your money. Remember, the end of the month, the end of a quarter, and the end of the year are your best bets for car savings and incentives. 

If you’re looking for even more ways to save, switching your car insurance might be the right choice. Using pay-per-mile car insurance, it’s possible to pay a low base rate and a small amount for the miles you drive. Wondering how much you could save? Get a free quote with Metromile and try it out for yourself. 

Melanie Lockert is a freelance writer, podcast host of the Mental Health and Wealth show, and author of Dear Debt. She’s a cat mom to two jazzy cats, Miles and Thelonious, an amateur boxer, music lover, and needs coffee to function.

Your Guide to New Jersey Car Registration

If you moved to New Jersey from out-of-state, you’ll have to update your car registration (and get used to someone pumping gas for you, as self-service is illegal). The same is true if you purchase a new car, though in many cases the dealership can handle that part for you. But if you bought from a private party, you’ll need to update your records as well. Regardless of whether you’re new to the Garden State or just scored a new set of wheels, you’ll need to get started with New Jersey car registration. Here’s how to register a car in New Jersey.

How to Register a Car in New Jersey | Metromile

Why is New Jersey car registration required?

Each state law requires you to register your car in the state you live in with the local Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) or transportation authority. In fact, it’s illegal to drive without car registration or expired car registration. 

When you register your vehicle with the state, you’re creating proof of ownership for your vehicle in case you get pulled over and get the dreaded “license and registration, please” from an officer. 

When you register your car, you get a license plate and a sticker that is used to help identify your car and the registration illustrates that you’re the rightful owner of the car.

Who must get New Jersey car registration?

There are generally two scenarios where you must get a car registration: 

  1. You purchase a vehicle in New Jersey and are a resident. 
  2. You move to New Jersey and after becoming a resident need to update your records. 

Typically if you purchase a vehicle at a dealership, you don’t have to worry about that. But if you’re buying used through a third party, you may need to handle the process yourself. 

When you move to New Jersey, you have 60 days to update to New Jersey car registration (unless your current registration expires sooner in which case you should register before the expiration). However, during a Public Health Emergency (hello, COVID), you have 120 days.

What do I need to register my car in New Jersey?

Before getting started with a car registration, you might be curious and wonder “What do I need to register my car in New Jersey?”. What you need to register a car may vary depending on if you simply bought a car or if you’re moving from somewhere else. 

To get started you’ll need:

  • Your vehicle title
  • Your driver’s license and other forms of ID (New Jersey has 6 point ID system
  • New Jersey proof of insurance (either with your insurance card or through the insurer name and policy number) 

If you’ve leased your vehicle or someone else is signing documents you’ll need:

  • Power of attorney if someone is signing documents on your behalf 
  • Dealer reassignment documentation, if required
  • Finance statement and lien holder information 

If you moved to New Jersey and need to update your car registration, you’ll need:

  • 6 points of ID 
  • A transfer permit (which needs to be purchased for $10)
  • To give up your old out-of-state driver’s license to get a New Jersey one

How to register a car in New Jersey?

How to register a car in the Garden State will be a bit different depending on if you bought a vehicle or if you’re a new resident of the state. 

If you just bought a car:

1. Make an appointment with the New Jersey Motor Vehicle Commission (NJ MVC).

2. Bring all the documents listed above. 

3. Fill out Form BA-49, which is the Vehicle Registration Application.

4. Pay title, registration, and sales tax fees. Registration fees and sales tax may vary, title fees can range between $60 to $110. 

If you just moved to the state:

1. Make an appointment with the New Jersey Motor Vehicle Commission (NJ MVC).

2. Buy a transfer permit for $10.

3. Bring all the documents listed above. 

4. Fill out Form BA-49, which is the Vehicle Registration Application and Form OS/SS-UTA which is the Universal Title Application

5. Pay title and registration fees. 

You’ll have 60 days from the time of your move to update your car registration, though that timeframe has doubled to 120 days due to the pandemic. Note, you’ll have less time if your current registration is expiring sooner.

How much does car registration cost in New Jersey?

Registration costs in New Jersey depend on the weight and model of your vehicle. Here’s a breakdown of costs according to the NJ MVC website

  • The rate is $35.50 for a vehicle that is under 2,700 pounds and is from 1970 or older.
  • The rate is $44.50 for a vehicle that is between 2,700 and 3,800 pounds and is from 1970 or older. 
  • The rate is $65.50 for a vehicle that is over 3,800 pounds and is from 1970 or older. 
  • The rate is $38.50 for a vehicle that is under 2,700 pounds and is from 1971-1979.
  • The rate is $49.50 for a vehicle that is between 2,700 and 3,800 pounds and is from 1971-1979. 
  • The rate is $72.50 for a vehicle that is over 3,800 pounds and is from 1971-1979. 
  • The rate is $46.50 for a vehicle that is under 3,500 pounds and is older than two years. 
  • The rate is $59 for a vehicle that is under 3,500 pounds and is within two years old. 
  • The rate is $71.50 for a vehicle that is over 3,500 pounds and is older than two years old. 
  • The rate is $84 for a vehicle that is over 3,500 pounds and is within two years old. 
  • The rate is $71.50 for a vehicle that is a commuter van and is older than two years old. 
  • The rate is $84 for a vehicle that is a commuter van and is within two years old.

Is proof of insurance required to register a car in New Jersey?

In order to register a car in New Jersey, you need to have proof of insurance. You’ll need to bring your New Jersey car insurance when registering your car. 

According to the NJ MVC website, all vehicles registered in New Jersey must have three different types of insurance coverage including:

If you’re looking at your car insurance options, take a look to see if pay-per-mile insurance could be beneficial. Using pay-per-mile insurance, you pay a small base rate each month and pay several cents for each mile you drive. If you’re a low-mileage driver, this can be the way to go to lower your car insurance costs.

The bottom line

If you’ve recently moved to New Jersey or purchased a vehicle there as a resident, it’s time to update your records and get your New Jersey car registration. You want to avoid a lapsed registration and any trouble. While you’re updating your records, you can also check out other car insurance options like Metromile, which was created with the driver in mind. Get a free quote to see your potential savings. 

Melanie Lockert is a freelance writer, podcast host of the Mental Health and Wealth show, and author of Dear Debt. She’s a cat mom to two jazzy cats, Miles and Thelonious, an amateur boxer, music lover, and needs coffee to function.