You can usually sell your vehicle with no hassles even if the car has an expired state inspection or emissions sticker. Some state laws may require you to renew your vehicle's state emission inspection before you can legally transfer the title. You also remain liable for all fines incurred by the expired inspection until you can transfer the title to the new owner.
Private Vehicle Sales
You can usually sell your car to any adult willing to purchase the vehicle for a price you negotiate. The lack of a current state inspection sticker shouldn't prohibit you from selling the vehicle as long as you make the buyer aware of the expired sticker. By informing the buyer of the expired sticker it's understood that the buyer is purchasing the vehicle "as is" meaning with any existing defects. A buyer can't sue you or attempt to void the sales agreement later for broken parts on the car.
State Emission Laws
Some states, including California, have vehicle emission laws that require you to have a current state emissions inspection sticker on your vehicle when you sell it. California's vehicle laws require a smog emissions certification for all vehicles sold after January 1, 2005. The only exceptions to these regulations involves the sale of a car that is less than four years old or if you have proof that you submitted a request for smog certificate renewal to the state within 90 days of the sale. The state does not require proof of smog certification when selling the vehicle between immediate family members.
State Lemon Laws
Selling your car with a current inspection sticker can help clear up any ambiguity caused by state lemon laws. Under normal circumstances, state lemon laws apply to new vehicles only or used vehicles sold within a few years of the manufacturing date. Selling your car with a current inspection sticker shows that all its parts are within acceptable working parameters and has no chronic mechanical problems that may cause its operation to fail unexpectedly. If you have any remaining manufacturer's warranty on your vehicle it's essential to get the car properly inspected.
Test Drives and Liability
If you let a potential buyer take your car out for a test drive, remember that you're still liable for any tickets the driver may receive from your vehicle having an expired inspection sticker. These tickets can add up quick if you have multiple interested parties in your vehicle and may also affect the status of your vehicle's registration if a ticketing police officer believes you renewed your registration with an expired state inspection. Be very stingy with the test drives to avoid a mountain of fines.
Jonathan Lister has been a writer and content marketer since 2003. His latest book publication, "Bullet, a Demos City Novel" is forthcoming from J Taylor Publishing in June 2014. He holds a Bachelor of Arts in English from Shippensburg University and a Master of Fine Arts in writing and poetics from Naropa University.