A smog check is only required in designated states, cities, and counties, usually in conjunction with the vehicle registration process. Your Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) will alert you if an emissions test is required.
Each emissions testing program is governed differently, but in general the following vehicles are exempt from testing:
- New vehicles that are four or fewer model years old.
- Electric-powered vehicles.
- Diesel-powered cars.
- Farm vehicles.
- Vehicles only used for exhibitions or parades.
- Older vehicles. Connecticut, for example, exempts vehicles 25 years or older, while Colorado gives a pass to vehicles with two-stroke engines manufactured prior to 1980.
Smog Check Notifications
Most emissions programs require vehicles to be tested every two years. Smog check notifications are generally sent out at least one month prior to the expiration date of the vehicle’s emissions test certification.
Your vehicle must pass an emissions test before the due date posted on your notification. The DMV will deny your car registration application if you fail to comply.
What to Bring to the Smog Test
Your car must be tested at a state-certified inspection station. For locations in your area, visit the emissions program’s website. Usually, locations don’t make reservations but many do offer estimated wait time information.
Arrive at the test station with:
- Your current car registration.
- Your drivers license.
- Proof of car insurance.
- Payment for the smog test. Call for accepted forms of payment. Not all stations accept credit cards.
Passing or Failing the Emissions Test
If your vehicle passes, you’ll receive a vehicle inspection certification form. File this in a safe place. Depending on your state, you may need it for verification when registering with the DMV.
If your vehicle fails the emissions test, your testing inspector will hand you a Vehicle Inspection Report (VIR) detailing why your vehicle failed. You will then need to have the car repaired and re-tested within a designated period of time.
If your vehicle fails the re-test, even after all recommended repairs have been made, you may qualify for a waiver. This in turn will allow you to register the car without passing the smog test.
Does your city or state require emissions testing before vehicle registration?