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California Car Recycle Program – How it works

There are over 1 billion cars on the roads across the globe. And while this number is impressive, it’s also a little bit scary because of the impact that all these cars have on the environment.

If you live in California and want to take a stand against environmental pollution, then read on to find out more about California’s car recycling program.


Is there a car recycle program in California?

Oftentimes, we don’t really have in mind what to do when a car is completely old and no longer suitable to be driven. In fact, many people still drive cars that they bought in the 90s and early 2000s. If people were to dump their old and broken cars in landfills, they’ll pile up in no time and this can put strain on the environment.

Now many states across the United States are following suit which California leading the way, thankfully, cars are no longer being sent to the junkyard but are instead recycled in an environmentally-friendly manner.

California’s Voluntary Accelerated Vehicle Retirement Program

Many cars that are no longer considered safe, or have been written off in an accident or are no longer wanted are soon scrapped by car owners. Now states around the US have set up their own car scrap processing facilities. California is known to be one of these states and was among the first to do so with its vehicle retirement program.

The Voluntary Accelerated Vehicle Retirement program (VAVR) is basically a recycling program, and was established to ensure that automobiles are recycled in an environmentally friendly manner.

Cash Incentives

With this program, participants can get an incentive when they give their old cars over to the recycling facility. The incentive is in the form of cash so that drivers are able to purchase newer, fuel-efficient cars. Its main objective is to reduce the number of old, inefficient cars on the highways.

How does the program work?

California recycle program is an incentive-based program that focuses on improving air quality in California by encouraging people to drive new, more fuel-efficient vehicles or EV instead of those with high emissions.

It ensures that old cars are recycled in an environmentally friendly way. The program is not mandatory and it’s being operated by the Bureau of Automotive Repair.

The process at work here is that if you have an old car and you’re interested in giving it to the government, then all you have to do is visit the Consumer Assistance Program website.

From there, you can apply online for vehicle retirement. Typically, there is an eligibility check and a couple of other steps that you have to take to make sure that your application is accepted.

VAVR Requirments

The requirements are that your vehicle should fail the smog test. The failure shouldn’t be caused by ignition timing adjustment, failed gas cap function test or tampered emission control system. In addition, it should be registered in your name and have a registration sticker.

The vehicles accepted into the program include vans, SUV, passenger cars and trucks. If your car passes all the requirements, you can get a cash incentive of up to $1500. You’ll then have to bring your old vehicle to an authorized dismantler for recycling.

The Alternatives to the VAVR Program

There are many ways can some extra cash and donate the car to other organisations like schools, charities or simply handing your old car to a family member. Here are a list of great ideas you can do with your car today.

  • Selling it to a private auto recycling facility or scrap yard
  • Donating it to a charitable organization
  • Selling it to an auto auction website or local car dealership
  • Selling it for parts via Facebook Marketplace, Ebay or Craigslist.
  • Giving it to a friend or family member
  • Trade it in at a dealership when purchasing a new vehicle
  • Giving to a vocational school for students to use as a learning tool
  • Scrapping the car for cash or metal value
  • Finding a buyer through online classifieds or social media platforms

Final Thoughts

The process of getting a car recycled through California’s Voluntary Accelerated Vehicle Retirement program is not difficult, but it can take a while before you get the cash incentive.

The process is fairly straightforward so as long as you have an old car and don’t want to use it anymore, then there is no reason why you shouldn’t give it away for recycling.


Does California have a program to buy old cars?

Yes, the VAVR program helps motorists to get rid of their old cars. The state government helps with the cash incentive to encourage more people to part with their old cars.

Do you get paid for scrapping a car?

If you give your old car in for vehicle retirement, then you will get a cash incentive of up to $1500. The amount of money that you get depends on your income level.


  • Jen Wheeler

    Jen Wheeler, co-founder of Recycling-Revolution.com, holds degrees from UC Berkeley, Yale, and Stanford. A renowned environmentalist, she's championed sustainable practices at global events and leads EcoBright Solutions, focusing on recycling education and eco-friendly products.

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