West Coast

What is CA DMV doing for Greener Driving?

For better and for worse, California tends to lead the pack when it comes to environmental issues, and that’s certainly the case when it comes to the California DMV. Luckily, rather than a whole series of unaffordable fines and fees, the DMV tends to use a little more carrot and a little less stick to encourage more environmentally sound driving. Here are a few of the programs they have in play:


California uses a decal system, offering drivers white and green decals. White decals are awarded for zero-emission and low emission vehicles. Automobiles manufactured after 2003 can qualify upon application based on exhaust emission levels. Green decals are awarded for AR PZEV and TZEV vehicles, being autos meeting, respectively, the state’s “Advanced Technology Partial Zero Emission” standards, or “Transitional Zero-Emission” standards. You can apply to the DMV at any time for the decals.

Decal Rewards

If you have a decal on your car, you’re able to reap certain privileges while out on the road. The big one is free parking, which is kind of a big deal in many West Coast cities.

In some cities, decaled autos are allowed free parking. Sacramento will reward you for a 100% electric car with free parking and recharging in certain designated spots. San Jose will offer free parking to anyone with a white or green decaled car purchased in San Jose. Hermosa Beach offers free parking at any meter for 100% alternative fuel-powered autos. Finally, Santa Monica offers free parking at any meter for white, green and ZEV cars.

HOT Exemption

HOT stands for High-Occupancy Toll. HOT exemptions allow you to drive on HOT toll roads without having to pay a dime. There are exceptions based on federal prohibitions, but this generally makes it a lot cheaper to get up and down the coast.

Financial Assistance for Repairs

If you can bring your auto up to code for safer emissions, you can collect up to five hundred dollars to help with the smog check through the Consumer Assistance Program. Not all vehicles can be brought up to code, of course. If your car just isn’t going to make the cut, there are always…

Cash Incentives to Buy a New Car

Hybrids are pricey. But, there are programs that should help to ease the financial burden just a bit. If you own a vehicle that isn’t really worth repairing or selling, you can voluntarily retire it for a cash incentive of $1,000 to $1,500. It’s not exactly a free hybrid, but it’s quite a bit more than the seventy, eighty bucks you’d probably collect for selling it to a scrapyard.

In addition to the programs offered directly through the DMV, there are also countless discounts available through insurance providers. Not every insurer sees the value in green driving, of course, so you will have to shop around, but if you’ve made an effort to drive a car that’s a little kinder to the environment then it’s worth looking for an insurance provider who will acknowledge that. Along with taking traffic school online, going green is one of the easiest ways to lower your insurance costs in the state of California.

Usually when California rolls out some new eco-friendly initiatives we all get a little stressed wondering what new fees we’re going to have to pay for not watering our lawns with filtered water. In the case of green driving incentives, however, there’s little to complain about.