New California HOV Sticker Rules Issued

Share this via:

California regulators have posted the plan for plug-in and fuel-cell electric car owners to get a new single-occupancy HOV sticker – also called a Clean Air Vehicle (CAV) decal  – after the present crop expires on Jan. 1.

(Article updated Oct. 12, 2018)

The new stickers will only be issued for otherwise qualified vehicles that have never had a Califormia CAV decal  or that have green or white stickers issued  on or after Jan, 1, 2017 (plus the handful of cars sold earlier than were never issued the decals).

[Estimated Reading Time: 1 min.]

For owners of qualified vehicles already issued a green or white Clean Air Vehicle decal, the process will be easy. The state will mail pre-filled applications for a new HOV sticker to those owners – and lessees – at the address that is on their original application.  The new decals will be good until Jan. 1, 2022

California Clean Air Decal

Mailings are supposed to begin this month.

Owners who received a red HOV sticker – they have been issued for cars sold since March, 2018 – won’t have to do anything. Those stickers also are good until Jan. 1, 2022.

Stickers issued in 2109 will be a new color (it hasn’t been disclosed) and will be good until Jan. 1, 2023.  The state apparently will change the color annually through 2024, and decals will expire on Jan. 1 of the fourth year after the year in which they were issued (2019 stickers expire on 1/1/23; 2020 stickers expire 1/1/24, etc.)

The program and any stickers still valid at the time will expire Sept. 30, 2025, unless extended by the legislature

(Here’s more detail on the changing Clean Air Vehicle decal rules.)

Remember, only qualified vehicles – mainly EVs, fuel-cell vehicles, plug-in hybrids and dedicated natural gas vehicles  – with stickers issued on or after Jan. 1, 2017, or with no stickers, can qualify. Vehicles with stickers issued before then are out of luck.

The legislature is kicking about 223,000 cars with previously issued Clean Air Vehicle decals out of the carpool lanes  – unless occupied by 2 or more people – after Dec. 31st.

Note: This article was updated 10/12/18 to amplify the CAV decal information and expiration dates and to correct an error: It originally said only vehicles sold on or after Jan. 1, 2017 could get new stickers: In fact, new decals can be obtained for a qualified vehicle no matter when it was sold, as long as it had not previously been issued a California Clean Air Vehicle decal, or has a green or white decal that was issued on or after Jan. 1, 2017.


16 thoughts on “New California HOV Sticker Rules Issued”

  1. Cal air resource board told me there is a pdf list from DMV that lists cars by VIN number which already have a sticker. Is it available to the public? If so, can you direct me.

  2. Question. I purchased my Nissan Leaf Sept 2016. It has valid white HOV stickers. I’m in the process of selling the vehicle. Will the new buyer be entitled to Clean Air Vehicle decals?

  3. Need some advice. I just bought a Tesla 3 on Nov. 26, 2018. I live in CA. It looks like I have 60 days to get my Clean Air Decal (can’t remember where i read that). So, it seems like I should wait to send in my application on January 1, 2019 so that I get a full extra year of the decal. Is that correct?
    I need to wait for my license plates to arrive anyway so it will likely only be a couple weeks extra for me.
    What do you think? Am i interpreting that correctly?

  4. So just to be sure I understand. If I purchase a brand new 2018 Hyundai Ioniq Hybrid (not plug-in), I can apply for a red tag after 1/1/2019 for the greatest benefit. This car is qualified under the old qualifying cars list even though only electric cars are currently qualified. Is this correct??

    • No conventional hybrids qualify. Only cars with plugs or fuel cells (and dedicated -not bi-fuel – natural gas).

  5. The bottom line is, how can we CONFIRM that a given VIN number qualifies for the new sticker without fail (2018Red or 2019 sticker, either one). Dealers do NOT have access to information on HOV access issued, CarFax does not report it, either. THAT IS THE QUESTION. If the special processing unit does not answer their phone, or can not answer to random VIN numbers, then it’s difficult to pull the trigger on the purchase of a vehicle and then simply wish for the best. I’m trying to determine a failSafe procedure to get this done. (We need to sell & buy 2 cars, so I really have to figure it out). @IKE How did you get something in writing?

    • Here’s what DMV says:
      Customers should ask the seller to provide the certificate issued with the decal, just like they should be asking for the title and registration card. They might also ask the seller to obtain the red decal before agreeing to the purchase if that is their primary reason for buying the car.

      I guess that means that if the seller cannot document the issue date of the car’s green or white sticker and won’t make the sale contingent on obtaining a new red sticker, then you should find another car to buy.

  6. John is correct. I have it in writing from DMV and i just purchased a 2012 civic from OKC ( $800 to ship ) and will get my sticker after Jan 1 2019. I am good til I retire and can sell it with 2 years left on the sticker.

    • Grest example of using the rules to your advantage! I presume you are getting a Civic GX (natural gas) – I had a 2007, loved it as a Calif. commuter car. If you can find a Phil or other home natural gas fuel compressor (I sold mine when I sold the GX this past summer) you’ll be sitting pretty!

  7. Do you think if you buy an out of state plug in hybrid (2015 Ford Fusion) that never had a HOV sticker would be eligible for the red sticker right now?

    • It was explained to me early on by a DMV spokesperson that an older vehicle that never had a sticker could still get one. But if getting the new sticker is the only reason you’d buy the ’15 Fusion Energi then I’d try to get an answer from DMV before I went ahead (I will check also and post answer here as soon as I get one).

    • From the DMV: If it is an otherwise qualified vehicle that never had a Calif. Clean Air Vehicle decal before, you can get a new one. Doesn’t matter where the car was originally sold or whether it had another state’s HOV sticker. As long as it wasn’t a Calif. CAV decal, you are good to go.

Comments are closed.