Car Inspection in New Hampshire
The New Hampshire Division of Motor Vehicles (DMV) requires vehicles to undergo regular vehicle inspections to ensure their safety and low environmental impact. The NH inspections are comprised of:
- A vehicle safety inspection, required for all vehicles.
- A vehicle emissions inspection and smog test, required for vehicles model year 1996 and newer.
Whether you are new to the state, or a resident looking to renew your registration, you must submit your vehicle to the inspection process. We’ll help you determine the appropriate steps to follow for your particular situation.
New residents to the state must get their vehicle inspected at an official authorized inspection station within 10 days of registering your vehicle with NH DMV. The processes for each type of inspection (safety and/or emissions) are outlined below.
Once your inspection is complete, you will receive an NH vehicle inspection sticker that will be valid for the same amount of time as your vehicle registration. You must have your vehicle re-inspected annually, within 10 days of the end of your birth month. If you are registering an antique vehicle, your sticker expiration will always be in the month of April (see “NH Safety and Emissions Requirements” below).
Below are the requirements and processes for New Hampshire vehicle inspections. For other helpful information for new residents, please visit our guides on title transfers in New Hampshire and applying for a New Hampshire driver's license.
The New Hampshire Division of Motor Vehicles (DMV) requires safety and emissions inspections to be done within 10 days of registration or renewal of all cars, trucks, and motorcycles. Inspections must be done annually and completed by the end of your birth month (i.e. if your birthday is September 19, you need to have your vehicle re-inspected by October 10). Exceptions to this rule are motorcycles, antique vehicles, and company-owned vehicles (see below).
You must complete a vehicle safety and emissions inspection if:
- You are new to the state and want to register your car with the New Hampshire DMV for the first time.
- You purchased a new vehicle and the dealership did not perform the inspection for you.
- You purchased a used vehicle and you need to register it in your name with the New Hampshire DMV.
- Your current inspection sticker is about to expire.
Once your vehicle is inspected, you will receive a vehicle information report (VIR) with the results of your test, which are automatically uploaded to the New Hampshire DMV. A new inspection sticker will be affixed to your windshield that will include your vehicle’s information and its next inspection date.
Motorcycle Vehicle Inspection Requirements
Unlike other vehicles, motorcycle inspections are not completed in the owner's birth month. The NH DMV requires that motorcycles be registered before mid-year and inspected within 10 days of that registration.
- Standard motorcycle registration must be completed before July 1, annually.
- Motorcycles registered as antiques (40 years old or older) must be completed by July 1 every 2 years.
Antique Vehicle Inspection
If you register your vehicle as an antique with the New Hampshire Division of Motor Vehicles, you will no longer perform inspections during your birth month. Vehicles registered as antiques must follow the below inspection schedule:
- Vehicles less than 40 years old must be completed every year in the month of April.
- Vehicles more than 40 years old must be completed every biennially in the month of April.
Company-Owned Vehicle Inspections
Vehicles owned by corporations have a different timeline for getting their vehicles inspected. The month in which the inspection is required is determined based upon the first letter or number of the name of the company.
Non-descriptive words like “the” or “a” that come before the actual company name will not be considered for the purposes of assigning an inspection month. Example: "The Acme Corporation" will be considered to start with "Acme" as the first word.
The inspection months are as follows:
- January - Letters A and B, and number 1.
- February - Letter C, and number 2.
- March - Letters D and E, and number 3.
- April - Letters F and G, and number 4.
- May - Letters H and I, and number 5.
- June - Letters J, K and L, and number 6.
- July - Letter M, and the number 7.
- August - Letter N, and number 8.
- September - Letters O, P and Q, and number 9.
- October - Letters R and S, and number 0.
- November - Letters T and U.
- December - Letters V, W, X, Y, and Z.
Both the vehicle safety inspection (required for all vehicles) and the emissions inspection (if applicable for your vehicle—see the Introduction above) will be done at the same time as part of the same inspection.
New Hampshire Vehicle Safety Inspection
To ensure that your vehicle is in safe working operation, and does not pose a danger to yourself or other drivers, the state requires a vehicle safety check on your car’s interior and exterior components. Inspectors will be checking the following parts of your vehicle:
- Steering mechanism.
- Front end and suspension.
- Brakes and parking brake.
- Tires and wheels.
- Windshield wipers.
- Exhaust and fuel system.
- Vehicle lights (e.g. headlights, brake lights, turn signals, etc.).
- Windshield and windows, including glazing.
- Rearview mirrors.
- Odometer and speedometer.
- Registration information, including:
- Vehicle identification number (VIN).
- Registration certificate.
- License plates.
NH Smog and Emissions Testing
The purpose of the smog check and emissions testing portion of the vehicle inspection is to ensure that your vehicle does not emit excessive pollution and that its own detection system functions correctly. The emissions test applied to New Hampshire vehicles is the On-Board Diagnostics test (OBD).
Vehicles required to get an OBD test, along with the rest of the inspections, are:
- Gas-fueled light duty vehicles (up to 8500 lbs.) manufactured since 1996.
- Diesel-fueled light duty vehicles (up to 8500 lbs.) manufactured since 1997.
The OBD test checks the computer in the vehicle, which can tell a mechanic if the emissions control system is working properly. If your vehicle fails the OBD test, you will have 60 days to repair the problem.
Only vehicles owned by the federal government are exempt from New Hampshire safety and emissions inspections.
There are no exemptions for vehicle safety inspections or emissions inspections for vehicle owned by private individuals or companies EXCEPT electric vehicles*. Other than those, all vehicles must pass both inspections before being registered or renewing a registration.
* Learn more about electric vehicles and, more specifically, the perks of owning eco-friendly vehicles, over at our section on green driver incentives.
You may complete your vehicle inspection at any state licensed inspection station or automobile dealership. Inspection stations are required to post a notice of approval from the state of New Hampshire.
Because vehicle inspections in the state of New Hampshire are conducted by private businesses, the fees and forms of accepted payment will vary. Most inspection stations charge between $20 and $50 to perform inspections.
You can search the inspection station guide to find local inspection stations and compare prices.
If you are out of state with your vehicle when it is due for inspection, you may apply for a 30-day permit by submitting a written request to the NH DMV by fax at (603) 271-1061, or by mail to the following address:
NH Dept. of Safety
DMV - Registration
23 Hazen Drive
Concord, NH 03305
Your vehicle may not pass the safety or emissions inspection for the following reasons:
- One of the physical components of your vehicle is broken (i.e. headlights don’t work, windows are cracked or broken, steering mechanism is broken).
- Your on-board computer is “not ready” to be tested due to recent repairs or a battery disconnect (this can typically be corrected and reset with a week of normal driving).
- Your vehicle isn’t communicating with the OBD testing system.
- Your “check engine” light is on.
If you fail either inspection, you will receive a Vehicle Inspection Report (VIR) that lists the cause of failure for your mechanic to diagnose and fix. You will have 60 days to get your vehicle repaired and successfully pass a retest.
If you do not repair your vehicle and pass an inspection within 60 days, the mechanic who performed the inspection is required to inform the NH DMV electronically that your vehicle has not been repaired or passed inspection.
Emissions Economic Hardship Waiver
You may be eligible to apply for an economic hardship waiver if you meet both of the following qualifications:
- Your vehicle passed its safety inspection but failed its OBD emissions inspection.
- You cannot afford the necessary repairs.
The purpose of the waiver is to give you time to save money and make repairs when you can afford them and have your vehicle retested. It is up to the New Hampshire Division of Motor Vehicles (DMV) as to whether or not a waiver will be granted.
To apply for a waiver, you must request a waiver application by calling NH DMV at (603) 271-0352. On the application, you’ll need to provide the following:
- A full description of all other vehicles you own.
- An estimation of the number of miles you drive every year.
- The name and address of your employer (if applicable).
- A list of all annual income sources.
- An explanation as to why you cannot afford the repairs on your vehicle.
- Your signature.
- At least one copy of an estimate of repairs from a recognized state inspection repair technician.
Send all documents to the address on the form.
You will be notified by mail as to the decision regarding your waiver.
- If you are approved, the waiver must be kept in your vehicle at all times.
- If you are NOT approved, you must repair your vehicle and complete a retest.