County may raise smog check fees to help repair, replace ‘classic’ cars

By: - April 19, 2022 4:09 pm

The program may help decrease smog pollution but put some car owners in a financial bind. (Photo: Ronda Churchill)

An unknown number of vehicles in Nevada bearing license plates designating them as Classic Vehicle, Old Timer, or Classic Rod in order to escape smog emission standards have until the end of the year to make necessary repairs or replace their vehicle. 

Assembly Bill 349, passed by the 2021 Legislature, is designed to close the so-called “classic car loophole,” which allows owners of vehicles with classic plates to bypass smog checks. The new law not only prohibits classic vehicles from being driven more than 5,000 miles a year, the previous standard, but also from being used for “general transportation.” 

“So on January 1, if you have a vehicle that you’ve been registering as a classic vehicle for years and years, you could wind up at the DMV and the DMV could turn you away without a lot of frankly, advanced warning and without a lot of opportunity for that person to save the money to get their vehicle replaced,” Marci Henson, director of Clark County Department of Environment Sustainability, told commissioners on Tuesday.  

The county is considering a pilot program modeled after one in San Joaquin, California, that would offer incentives or rebates to repair or replace vehicles.  

Officials estimate some 30,000 vehicles in Nevada have classic plates, but lack data on how many are legitimately categorized as such.  

Henson says evidence indicates motorists register their cars as classic because “they can’t afford to repair the emissions equipment on those vehicles.  And so that was the only way to get their vehicles registered so that they could get their children to school. They couldn’t make it to work…” 

The legislation contains a “safety net” in the form of a fee that may be added to smog checks in Clark County and Washoe County that would be earmarked to repair and replace non-compliant vehicles, Henson said.

Commissioner William McCurdy says he’s concerned about “disproportionate impact to low income communities,” such as District D, which he represents. He fears the money raised by an additional fee on smog checks “will not come close to being able to meet the real needs of the families who are already strapped to the tee…” and can’t afford to repair or replace their vehicle. 

“And we say, hey, we’ll give you and your family of four or five a rebate for an ebike.”

McCurdy said the program may help decrease smog pollution but create “harm to families…” 

Henson estimated the state could repair 1,000 vehicles with a fund of $850,000 or replace 100 vehicles with a fund of $1.1 million. The county intends to obtain more data before taking action.

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Dana Gentry
Dana Gentry

Dana Gentry is a native Las Vegan and award-winning investigative journalist. She is a graduate of Bishop Gorman High School and holds a Bachelor's degree in Communications from the University of Nevada, Las Vegas.