Smog Check and Car Inspection in Virginia
Like many states, Virginia requires most vehicles to be up-to-date on two separate types of tests: one for emissions, and one for safety.
Certain areas in Virginia require your vehicle to pass emissions inspections every 2 years.
Exemptions to the emissions inspection requirement include:
- New vehicles being titled for the first time in Virginia with a manufacturer's certificate of origin.
- Gasoline-powered vehicles of a certain age, whether registered as antique or not.
- Diesel vehicles.
- Vehicles exclusively powered by clean fuel.
- Certain hybrid vehicles.
If you are required to have an emissions inspection, it must be done before you register your vehicle. When registering, if you cannot show proof to the DMV that your vehicle passed the emissions inspection, the DMV can issue a temporary registration. This will allow you time to get your vehicle to pass inspection. This inspection can take place at a Virginia safety inspection locations.
When your vehicle's registration renewal notice indicates that a smog check is required before renewing, remember to take your renewal notice with you to the inspection station. It will speed the process.
Comprehensive information about Virginia's emissions testing program is available from the Virginia Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ), which administers the program.
If your vehicle fails an emission test, you must take it to a garage for emission-related repairs. The garage must be certified by Virginia's DEQ.
If your vehicle fails again and you paid a certain amount in emissions-related repairs, you will qualify for a waiver. The emissions-testing facility will provide you with the paperwork to apply for a waiver.
Reporting a Gross Polluter
As mentioned above, there are several emissions exemptions, and many of them are considered eco-friendly, green vehicles, such as:
- Vehicles that are solely powered by clean fuels, such as:
- Compressed natural gas (CNG).
- Liquefied natural gas (LNG).
- Solar energy.
- Qualifying hybrids*, which include:
- Toyota Prius, model-year 2010.
- Toyota Prius, model-year 2007 and earlier.
- Honda Insight, model-year 2007 and earlier.
- Some diesel-powered vehicles.
*Toyota Prius and Honda Insight drivers might have to annually pay a $2 emissions fee during registration renewal.
For more information about saving money by going green, visit our section on green driver incentives.
Once you have registered a vehicle in Virginia, you must have it inspected immediately for safety. It should meet all requirements for a Virginia state inspection checklist. There is no grace period on this.
If you bought a new vehicle in Virginia, it is exempt the first year you own it. The dealership may conduct an inspection at its discretion. New vehicles purchased out of state and then registered here must be inspected upon registration. Inspections must be repeated annually.
Active-Duty Military and Out-of-State Students
If your safety inspection sticker expires while you are an active-duty military member stationed out of the state, or while you are a full-time student attending college out of state, you do not have to get your vehicle inspected again until you return to your place of residence or business. You can drive an expired vehicle in Virginia while on leave, provided you have a valid out-of-state inspection sticker on it.
There are no extensions granted for safety inspections in Virginia. Carry documentation of your current residency status in case you get stopped by law enforcement.
If your vehicle does not pass safety inspection, a rejection sticker will be placed on the windshield.
The rejection sticker does not protect you from any statute that governs equipment defects, however. You can still get tickets for being in violation of equipment statutes until the vehicle gets repaired and you have a valid inspection sticker.
Restrictions and Exemptions
Local Smog Check Stations
- Neon lights are illegal anywhere in or on your vehicle unless they are covered and unlit while you are driving. The vehicle itself is not considered a cover for lights that are mounted under the vehicle.
- If your vehicle is registered as an antique, it is exempt from safety inspections.
- If you have a medical condition that requires sun shading, you can apply for a waiver of the tinting restriction.
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