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  • Smog & Emission Checks in Massachusetts

    Introduction

    Massachusetts requires every vehicle registered in the state to have a current vehicle inspection sticker visibly displayed to be legally driven on state roadways. The vehicle check program is jointly administered by the Massachusetts Registry of Motor Vehicles (RMV) and the Department of Environmental Protection (DEP), and it consists of two parts:

    • Safety inspection.
    • Smog check and emissions testing.

    The Massachusetts RMV requires inspection stickers to be renewed every year.

    New to Massachusetts?

    New residents must register their vehicles with the Massachusetts RMV. Once the vehicle is registered, you will have 7 days to complete a vehicle inspection (see below) and get the inspection sticker.

    MA Safety & Emissions Inspections Requirements

    You must complete a vehicle inspection if:

    • Your current vehicle inspection sticker is about to expire (the inspection must be completed by the end of the month in which your sticker expires).
    • You just moved to the state and you want to register your vehicle for the first time with the Massachusetts RMV. You must complete inspection within 7 days of registering your vehicle.
    • You just purchased a used vehicle (make sure to complete the inspection within 7 days of completing your registration).
    • You bought a new car and the dealer did not provide you with an inspection sticker (Inspection must be completed within 7 days if required).

    The vehicle inspection fee is $29. You may contact your closest inspection station (see below) to find out what form of payment they will accept.

    About the MA Vehicle Inspection Program

    Vehicles must undergo both safety and emissions inspections as part of the Massachusetts vehicle inspection program. This way, the RMV ensures that each vehicle on the road is in acceptable driving condition, does not pose a threat to other motorists, and is doing the least amount of environmental harm.

    MA Vehicle Safety Inspection

    The vehicle safety inspection takes roughly 12 minutes to complete, and inspectors will look at 14 aspects on your vehicle, including:

    • Visual overview of your registration certificate, vehicle identification number (VIN), and license plate stickers.
    • Steering and suspension.
    • All rearview mirrors.
    • Brake test (both parking and service brake).
    • Exhaust system (muffler and smoke check).
    • Glass, glazing, and windshield wipers.
    • Vehicle lighting (e.g. headlights, turn signals, brake lights, etc.)
    • Tires and wheels.
    • Fuel tank, fenders, and bumper.
    • Gas cap.
    • Vehicle height (if altered).
    • Airbags.
    • Seat belts.
    • Horn.

    You may review the Massachusetts Registry of Motor Vehicles’ (RMV) inspection FAQ page for additional information regarding the vehicle check safety inspection. If your vehicle fails any portion of the safety inspection, you must have repairs completed immediately (please see “MA Vehicle Inspection Failures” below).

    MA Emissions Inspection

    There are two different types of emissions tests for different vehicles: the on-board diagnostic test, and the opacity (or “tailpipe”) test.

    On-Board Diagnostic Test

    The on-board diagnostic emissions test (OBD) checks your vehicle’s computer communication system, Check Engine light, testing readiness, and engine and emissions control data, among others. The test takes about 3 minutes to complete.

    The following vehicles must successfully complete an OBD emissions test:

    • 2000 to current model year passenger vehicles (e.g. cars, trucks, SUVs).
    • 2008 to current model year medium duty vehicles.
    • 2000 to current model year light-duty diesel vehicles that weigh no more than 8,500 pounds.
    • 2007 to current model year medium-duty diesel vehicles that weigh between 8,501 and 14,000 pounds.
    • 2008 to current model year medium-duty non-diesel vehicles between 8,501 to 14,000 pounds.

    The requirements for passing the OBD vary based on your vehicle’s age:

    • Vehicles model year 2000 and older may have no more than 2 “not ready” non-continuous monitors.
    • Vehicles model year 2001 and newer may have no more than 1 “not ready” non-continuous monitor.

    You may also review the vehicle check’s emissions test results program for additional information regarding:

    • The type of test your vehicle must complete.
    • How your results should compare with other vehicles.
    • Common forms of OBD failures for your particular vehicle model.

    Opacity Test (Tailpipe Test):

    This test is used for diesel vehicles weighing more than 10,000 lbs. that are not equipped with on-board diagnostics systems.

    The tailpipe test, or opacity test, measures the darkness of the smoke coming from the vehicle's tailpipe with an opacity meter. Darker smoke emits more pollution than lighter smoke.

    An inspector will complete the tailpipe test by:

    • Revving the engine several times to make sure it’s working properly.
    • Taking readings from the last three acceleration snaps.
    • Comparing the average of the readings with the emissions standard for the same model year and type of vehicle (different model years and vehicles can have different standards).

    Additional information regarding the emissions and smog check portion of the vehicle inspection program may be found on the Massachusetts Registry of Motor Vehicles emissions overview guide.

    Exemptions for MA Emissions Inspections

    All vehicles must pass the safety inspection every year, but some vehicles are not required to complete an emissions test.

    The following vehicles are exempt from emissions testing:

    • Diesel vehicles less than 8,500 lbs. that were manufactured before 1998 and/or are over 15 years old.
    • Diesel vehicles weighing up to 10,000 lbs. that were manufactured before 2007 and/or are over 15 years old.
    • Non-diesel medium duty vehicles that were manufactured before 2008 and/or are more than 15 years old.
    • Motorcycles and mopeds.
    • Military vehicles.
    • Electric powered vehicles.

    Passenger vehicles (cars, trucks, SUVs) manufactured before 1998 do not get a tailpipe emissions test, but must undergo the OBD test, if applicable. However, vehicles can fail a safety test if there is smoke coming from their tailpipe.

    Construction & Farm Vehicle Exemptions

    Construction and farm vehicles that were not manufactured for use on regular MA roads are also exempt from emissions testing. These include:

    • Construction vehicles used in the actual construction work process (i.e. bulldozers, excavators, motor graders, articulated loader/haulers).
      • NOTE: This does not include pickups or vehicles owned by construction companies to be driven on MA roadways (i.e. semis, dump trucks, cement trucks, etc.).
    • Tractors and off-road farm equipment (does not include pickups or vehicles with farm registration plates driven on MA roadways).

    Click here for a full list of construction and farm vehicles exempt from emissions testing.

    Massachusetts Vehicle Inspection Stations

    Annual motor vehicle inspections may be completed at any state-certified station. To find the nearest station to your location, you may conduct a search through the MA RMV’s Shop Locator.

    Some stations also allow people to schedule an appointment for their vehicle check. Call your chosen inspection station to find out if this feature is available to you.

    Inspections for Vehicles Out of State

    If you’re out of state with your vehicle and its inspection sticker is about to expire, you can either complete an out-of-state inspection if the area you are in allows one, or you can send notice to the RMV that your current location does not perform inspections on out-of-state vehicles.

    The steps for each scenario are outlined below, and you must still have your vehicle inspected in MA when you return to the state. Contact the local RMV if do not know if you are in an area that performs inspections.

    Out-of-State Inspection

    If you are in an area that allows out-of-state vehicle inspections, you must successfully complete an inspection in that area to avoid having your registration suspended.

    Once you complete your inspection, you must do the following:

    • Complete an Out-of-State Vehicle Inspection form (T21307-0712).
    • Attach the results of your inspection to the form (make a copy for yourself).
    • Mail your documents to the address provided on the top of the form.

    Upon returning to the state, you must complete a Massachusetts vehicle inspection within 15 days.

    Non-Inspection Areas

    If you’re in a state that does not perform vehicle inspections (or does not offer inspections for out-of-state vehicles), complete the following steps to avoid registration suspension:

    • Complete the Out-of-State Vehicle Inspection form (T21307-0712).
    • Note on the form that the area you are in does not perform inspections.
    • Mail the form to the address listed at the top of the document.

    Once you return to the state, you will have 3 days to complete a Massachusetts vehicle check at an inspection station.

    MA Vehicle Inspection Failures and Waivers

    If you fail any portion of the vehicle inspection—the safety inspection, emissions test, or both—a rejection sticker will be affixed to your windshield. You will have 60 days to successfully complete a retest after addressing the issues that prevented your vehicle from passing its initial inspection. However, you can still be pulled over and ticketed within this 60-day period (see “Safety Inspection Failure” below).

    Depending on which portion of the vehicle check you failed, you may have to meet some additional requirements before your vehicle will pass its retest (see below).

    Safety Inspection Failure

    While you have 60 days to complete the retest, it is illegal for you to drive a car that failed a safety inspection, which means that at any time you could be pulled over and issued a traffic ticket. You MUST have repairs done to your vehicle as soon as possible in order to avoid being ticketed.

    Therefore, if you fail the safety test, you should:

    • Get your car fixed immediately.
    • Keep all receipts for the repairs that were made to your vehicle.
    • Submit your vehicle for its retest as soon as possible.

    There are no waivers for failing the safety test. If your vehicle can’t pass the safety test, you can’t register it.

    Emissions and Smog Check Failure

    If your vehicle fails its smog and emissions test, you will be given a Vehicle Inspection Report (VIR) and an Emissions Repair Form that must be completed by a repair technician and returned to the inspection station for a retest.

    If your vehicle failed due to a diagnostic trouble code related to your catalytic converter, the catalyst monitor must be “ready” to pass the retest before you attempt it.

    Once you are given your VIR and Repair Form, complete the following steps:

    • Take your vehicle to a certified emissions repair shop.
    • Present your VIR and Emissions Repair Form to the repair technicians (if you’ve lost your VIR, you can download a duplicate copy).
    • Keep all receipts for any repairs done to your vehicle so that you may present them to the inspectors, if necessary.

    Complete your retest no later than 60 days after your initial inspection.

    Challenging a Vehicle Inspection Failure

    If your vehicle failed a safety or emissions check and you disagree, you may challenge the results by completing an Inspection Complaint Form. To do so:

    • Call the RMV Safety and Compliance Department at (857) 368-8130 and request a challenge test.
    • Complete the Inspection Complaint Form and mail it to the address listed at the top of the form.

    Your request will be reviewed, and you may be asked to meet an RMV official at the same inspection station of your initial test or at a neutral station to complete a retest.

    If you PASS the challenge test, you will be given authorization to receive a valid inspection sticker from the station that previously failed your vehicle.

    If you FAIL the challenge test:

    • You will be charged $29 for the test.
    • The rejection sticker will stay on your vehicle until you repair it accordingly and successfully complete a retest.

    Economic Hardship Repair Extension

    If your vehicle requires costly repairs or a major overhaul before it can pass the emissions test, you may be eligible to apply for an Economic Hardship Extension.

    To determine if you’re eligible, you must:

    • Have passed the safety test, or successfully completed a retest within 60 days.
    • Complete any minor emissions repairs that, in addition to the major overhaul, prevented your vehicle from passing.
    • Get an estimate of your repair costs from a certified emissions repair technician (NOTE: If the technician refers you to a specialty repair shop, make sure you get a formal referral to present to the specialty shop).
    • Based on the estimates you received, you must meet the following minimum repair cost thresholds to be deemed eligible:
      • Vehicle no older than 5 years old: $1.282.
      • Vehicle between 5 to 10 years old: $1,132.
      • Vehicle more than 10 years old: $982.

    If you’re deemed eligible, then you will be given a single one year sticker that allows you to legally operate your vehicle while you save to pay for necessary repair before your next inspection.

    To apply for a hardship extension, you must:

    • Take your vehicle to a Motorist Assistant Center (MAC). Schedule an appointment before you appear by calling (866) 941-6277.
    • Present your repair estimate and Vehicle Inspection Report (VIR) to MAC officials.

    MAC officials will have the final say as to whether you will be given a hardship extension:

    • If you are approved, you will be given an authorization to take your vehicle back to the inspection station that failed you previously and be issued a passing sticker.
    • If you are NOT approved, then MAC officials will advise you of your options.

    If you have not received a hardship extension or passed a vehicle emissions retest within 60 days of failing, then the RMV will suspend your registration.

    NOTE: Commercial vehicles, along with vehicles tested as a result of a change of ownership, are not eligible for hardship extensions. For additional information about hardship requirements and eligibility, contact the Motorist Assistance Center at (866) 941-6277.

    MA Smog and Emissions Testing Waiver

    If you have made repairs to your private passenger vehicle or OBD-equipped mobile home and it still failed its emissions and smog check, you may be eligible to apply for a waiver.

    To determine if you’re eligible, you must meet the following requirements:

    • Repairs had to have been made by a registered emissions repair technician.
    • The repair costs, including materials and labor, must meet the following threshold:
      • Vehicles 5 years old and newer: $855.
      • Vehicles 6 to 10 years old: $755.
      • Vehicles 10 years old and older: $655.
    • The emissions control system on your vehicle must be intact and free of any evidence of tampering.
    • Your vehicle must have successfully completed its safety inspection within the last 60 days.
    • The OBD system, or on-board computer, on your vehicle must:
      • Successfully connect and communicate with the station’s computer.
      • Have completed its own self-checks of your vehicle’s emissions control system.
      • Not have any diagnostic code troubles showing, including for catalytic converter failure, engine misfire, or energy storage (hybrid vehicles only).
    • You must be able to provide:
      • Receipts and work orders from the Registered Repair shop that shows the type of work done on your vehicle.
      • Vehicle Inspection Report(s) from your retest(s) and initial inspection (you can download copies, if necessary).
      • An Emissions Repair form that has been completed and signed by a registered repair technician (the form may also be completed online by technicians).

    To apply for a smog and emissions testing waiver, you must do the following:

    • Schedule an appointment to complete an evaluation with the Motorist Assistance Center by calling (866) 941-6277 (you must be pre-qualified based on the requirements listed above before an appointment will be set).
    • Bring all required documents as described in the eligibility section above to your appointment.

    If you are APPROVED for a waiver, you will be given a waiver authorization so that you can receive an inspection sticker from the station that previously failed your vehicle.

    If you are NOT approved for a waiver, MAC officials will advise you of your options. Your registration may be suspended by the Massachusetts RMV if you have not been approved for an emissions waiver or successfully completed a retest within 60 days of failing your initial inspection.

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