Having moved here on April 1, 2003, my WA car registration is about to expire.
Here's what I had to do to renew it:
1. Went to the WA Emission Inspection station this morning. I arrived at 9:06; there was no waiting. The inspection process took all of two minutes, total, and cost me $15.
2. At work, I logged on to http://dol.wa.gov and entered my credit card number to pay the $33.75 renewal fee.
That was it. The inspection results were automatically electronically transmitted to the Department of Licensing; this ties in to their Web site and allows you to renew your rego online. I can't believe how easy this was.
I don't know if California's changed, but I used to remember having to drive around to different service stations, hoping that someone had the time and inclination to do a smog test. This resulted in a piece of paper which you had to mail in to the DMV along with a check... ugh. Took far longer, cost a lot more money.
Update: If you've never been to a WA Emissions Inspection station, it's kind of like a Jiffy Lube combined with a Bay Bridge toll plaza. You enter through a parking-garage style gate; you take a ticket. Then, you get in one of 4 lanes; each lane has a little booth where the operator sits, plus a roller-sort-of-thing that can allow a car's wheels to spin in place. You hand the operator your ticket, $15, and your registration, they barcode-scan the label on your car door, check your fuel tank cap, and you sit in a little booth for a minute while they do their thing. You then drive away with a receipt. It's all highly organized - much better than the Arco station on Shattuck where I used to get my Saturn smogged years ago.