Smog Check and Car Inspection in Virginia

SUMMARY: Virginia Safety and Emissions Programs

Vehicles in Virginia must undergo an annual safety inspection, and eligible vehicles in qualifying areas require emissions testing before vehicle registration and every 2 years after that. In some cases, an emissions test extension is granted. New residents are subject to the same requirements, unless your vehicle has undergone an emissions inspection in a qualified state within the last 12 months.

The Virginia Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) works with the Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) and the Department of State Police to govern both safety inspections and emissions testing in the state. Read on for more information about these programs, including which vehicles must be tested and how often, where to go for vehicle testing, and what to do if your vehicle fails either inspection.

New Virginia Residents

If you've recently moved to Virginia, your vehicle must undergo a/an:

  • Safety inspection: Must be conducted immediately; you can be ticketed for not having a valid inspection sticker on your windshield, regardless of how long you've been in the state.
  • Emissions check*: Must be conducted on eligible vehicles before registration (you have within 30 days of moving to the state to register your vehicle).

* Your vehicle doesn't have to undergo an emissions inspection for vehicle registration if it was inspected in a qualifying state within the last 12 months. Refer to Virginia's new resident guide to see if your former state qualifies.

Refer to Completing a Vehicle Inspection below for information on how to have your vehicle inspected for safety and emissions.

Inspection Requirements & Exemptions

Vehicle Inspection Requirements

Safety Inspections

All vehicles in Virginia except those listed under “Inspection Exemptions" below must undergo annual safety inspections.

Emissions Inspections

When registered in one of the qualifying counties/cities listed below, the following vehicles must undergo emissions inspections prior to registration and every 2 years after that:

  • Gasoline-powered passenger- or property-carrying vehicles:
    • Must be fewer than 25 model years old on January 1st of the current year.
    • Must weigh fewer than 10,000 lbs.
  • Diesel-powered passenger- or property-carrying vehicles:
    • Must be model year 1997 or newer.
    • Must weigh 8,500 lbs. or fewer.

Qualifying areas include:

  • Counties:
    • Arlington.
    • Fairfax.
    • Loudoun.
    • Prince William.
    • Stafford.
  • Cities:
    • Alexandria.
    • Fairfax.
    • Falls Church.
    • Manassas.
    • Manassas Park.

Inspection Exemptions

Safety Inspections

The following vehicles are exempt from safety inspections:

  • Antique vehicles that are at least 25 years old and registered as antique with the DMV.
  • Any trailer with an actual gross weight* of fewer than 3,000 lbs. unless the trailer has brakes. All trailers with brakes must be inspected.

* “Actual gross weight" refers the combined weight of the trailer and its cargo.

Emissions Inspections

The following vehicles are exempt from emissions testing:

  • Any vehicle being registered for the first time in a qualifying county that has been previously inspected in another qualifying state within the last 12 months.
  • Any vehicle being titled for the first time in Virginia with a Manufacturer's Certificate of Origin (MCO).
  • Gasoline-powered passenger- or property-carrying vehicles:
    • At least 25 model years old before January 1st of the current year.
    • Weighing more than 10,000 lbs.
  • Motorcycles.
  • Diesel-powered vehicles that are:
    • Older than model year 1997.
    • Over 8,500 lbs.
  • Vehicles powered solely by:
    • Electricity.
    • Compressed or liquefied natural gas.
    • Solar energy.
  • Hybrid vehicles of the following makes and models:
    • Toyota Prius model year 2007 and earlier.
    • Honda Insight model year 2007 and earlier.
    • Toyota Prius model year 2010.

Completing a VA Vehicle Inspection

Safety Inspections

Currently, the Virginia State Police are unable to provide a complete list of Virginia safety inspection locations due to constant changes; however, most new car dealerships and repair shops provide safety inspection services. Generally, these official inspection stations display white signs stating as such in blue letters.

For more help finding Virginia state inspection locations near you, contact your local Safety Division Area Office.

Once you find a station, bring in your vehicle with the applicable fee:

  • Motorcycles: $12.
  • Trucks weighing 26,000 lbs. or over: $51.
  • Transportation vehicles equipped to carry more than 15 passengers: $51.
  • Tractor trucks: $51.
  • Passenger, light trucks and any other vehicle: $16.
    • This includes trailers and motor homes.

VA state inspection stations provide inspection stickers for your windshield once your vehicle passes inspection.

Failed Safety Inspections

Your inspector will talk with you about why your vehicle failed; it's your responsibility to have the necessary repairs made and have your vehicle reinspected.

Emissions Inspections

Choose from among Virginia inspection stations near you using the state's Emissions Inspection Station Listing and bring:

  • Your vehicle registration renewal notice.
  • Payment for your fee ($28 maximum).

Once you pass the emissions inspection, you'll receive a Vehicle Emissions Inspection Report; VA inspection stations also report the results electronically to the DMV.

NOTE: If you don't have enough time to have your vehicle inspected before your registration expires, the DMV MAY grant you 1 extension. Contact the DMV at (804) 497-7100 for more information.

Failed Emissions Inspections

You must have your vehicle repaired and retested. You're granted 1 retest for free if you have your vehicle repaired and bring it back for retesting within 14 days.

About VA Safety and Emissions Programs

Safety Inspections

You can find the complete Virginia state inspection checklist on the Virginia State Police's safety web page. The inspection consists of checking the most common safety components of a vehicle, such as:

  • Brakes and parking brake.
  • All lights, including headlights.
  • Signal devices.
  • Steering and suspension.
  • Tires, wheels, and rims.
  • All mirrors.
  • Horn.

Emissions Inspections

Two-Speed Idle Test

The two-speed idle test checks for hydrocarbons and carbon monoxide at 2,500 RPM and curb idle.

This test is reserved for vehicles:

  • Model year 1980 and older.
  • Weighing 8,501 lbs. to 10,000 lbs.

Acceleration Simulation Mode (ACM) Test

The ACM uses a dynamometer and runs the vehicle at 15 MPH and 25 MPH, measuring nitric oxide, hydrocarbons, and carbon monoxide.

Generally, this test is reserved for vehicles model year 1981 and newer weighing up to 8,500 lbs., but some vehicles—such as those with all-wheel drive, full-time four-wheel drive, and traction control—might not be eligible.

On-Board Diagnostic, Generation II (OBDII) Test

The OBDII works with a vehicle's computerized engine management system to notify drivers and technicians of emissions control system problems.

OBDII is reserved for vehicles:

  • Gasoline-powered, model year 1996 and newer (8,500 lbs and under).
  • Light-duty diesel-fueled, model year 1997 and newer (8,500 lbs and under).

Learn more at the On-Board Diagnostic System FAQ page.

Virginia Incentives for Eco-Friendly Driving

As mentioned above, certain eco-friendly vehicles—such as those powered solely by electricity or solar power—are exempt from emissions testing.

For more information on even more green driving perks such as high occupancy vehicle (HOV) lane access, state and federal tax incentives, and even auto insurance discounts for eco-friendly driving, visit our page on green driver incentives.

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