How to sell a PNO car in California?
July 8, 2018 10:21 PM   Subscribe

Putting my car in PNO status (planned non-operation) "seemed like a good idea at the time" but is making the sale awkward.

I have an old car that I put in planned non-operation status last year, because I wasn't driving it, and I didn't have the mindshare at the time to start looking for a buyer. I also cancelled the insurance on it.

I recently found a buyer, so that's great. Unfortunately, the PNO status is throwing a wrench in the works. It looks like this needs to happen to complete the sale:

1- Paying the registration fee to rescind PNO status and get a new registration.
2- Getting a smog check.
3- Transferring ownership

It looks like (3) is independent of (1), as in, it can be done legally. However, (2) is a prerequisite for (1), so that seems to present a catch-22 because I won't be able to legally drive the car even to the smog check station. (To make it more annoying, it looks like I can't do step 1 online... so I'll have to mail in a slip of paper with a payment.)

I'm guessing the compromise is:
a- I send the payment
b- I wait to receive a slip of paper that says "you paid"
c- Armed with that slip of paper and an expired registration, I drive to a smog check station and get that done. (I will also need to pay for short-term insurance so I can drive it.) If I'm stopped, I will at least have a reasonable and truthful story for what's going on.
d- The smog check result is now in the system, so I get a new sticker.
e- Transfer ownership

Are there better plans than this? I could also negotiate with the buyer to get them to do the smog check themselves while the car is in that limbo status, of course. Just wondering if there's something obvious (or a useful technicality) that I missed and which may make this whole thing easier.
posted by pantufla_milagrosa to Grab Bag (8 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Selling it in PNO would get a discount because they don't actually know if it'll smog. I'd bet that the cost of registering and smogging is less than that discount.

So, your plan sounds like the path of least resistance, but give the DMV a call. You'll be on hold for a while, but they're supremely nice and knowledgeable.
posted by rhizome at 10:43 PM on July 8, 2018

Response by poster: There may be a further snag, which is that a valid smog certificate is always a prerequisite for selling a car:


I should indeed call the DMV.
posted by pantufla_milagrosa at 10:52 PM on July 8, 2018

Is getting it towed to a smog check place an option? Assuming you're fairly certain it will pass smog? That way you could keep it PNO but have the smog check hurdle cleared.
posted by brainmouse at 11:24 PM on July 8, 2018 [1 favorite]

There is a special one-day temporary permit you can get from the DMV to drive to the smog test - I believe it's even free.
Provided the car passes, couldn't you just sell it while still in PNO (while providing proof to the buyer that the vehicle passes smog), and leave all the registration costs to the buyer?
posted by kickingtheground at 11:31 PM on July 8, 2018 [2 favorites]

The DMV permit kickingtheground referred to is called the Vehicle Moving Permit, which will allow you to go get your car smogged (among other reasons for this permit).
posted by andrewesque at 5:58 AM on July 9, 2018 [3 favorites]

Could you get a tow truck to take it to the smog check?
posted by derbs at 10:39 AM on July 9, 2018

This is unrelated to your question, but be prepared to wait on hold a *long* time if you don't call first thing in the morning (like right as soon as they open the line at 8 AM). The California DMV is absolutely slammed at the moment (presumably from all the people getting RealID-compliant licenses) so expect things to take a lot longer than they might otherwise.
posted by Aleyn at 2:17 PM on July 9, 2018

Response by poster: Thanks for the suggestions.
I ended up with the rationale that PNO status is pretty independent of the sale (after all, once the title is transferred, the registration is void and the buyer has 10 days to get their own, so renewing it would just be wasted money).

Since getting a smog certificate was a requirement for the sale, I just had to do that. I got insurance on the car, and I just braved the trip to the nearby smog check station (a friend of mine told me that PNO had an exception for that, but yes, it looks like I would have had to get a special permit, which I didn't... So that happened not-quite-legally).
posted by pantufla_milagrosa at 8:53 PM on July 9, 2018 [1 favorite]

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