Smog & Emission Checks in Washington DC
Vehicle inspections can seem like a hassle sometimes, but it is a vital process that is designed to maintain your car's safety and performance while at the same time making sure that your vehicle's emissions are not polluting the air that we all breathe.
In the District of Columbia, motorists are required to have their vehicles inspected before registration, and the inspection must be renewed every two years. (NOTE: New cars are exempt from initial inspection.)
Vehicle inspection services conducted by the Department of Motor Vehicles are designed to make sure that vehicles that produce a high level of pollution, or those that are unsafe, are not registered and driven on the public roads. The inspection station produces a diagnostic report that can assist your mechanic in repairing any problems that are discovered during the process.
The safety and emissions inspection of a motor vehicle can't be transferred to another owner. When you purchase a car, you must have it inspected again even if the current inspection has not expired.
The actual inspection of your car should only take about 10 minutes. The bulk of your time will be spent waiting in line. The best time to go to the Inspection Station is in the afternoon, following the lunch rush, on Wednesday, Thursday or Friday. If you are a senior citizen, you will receive expedited service when you arrive at the inspection station.
The inspection fee varies according to the type of vehicle, but for a typical passenger car that isn't brand new, it's $35 for two years. You will pay this fee when you register your vehicle or renew its registration.
NOTE: To save time waiting in line, you can now schedule an inspection appointment online.
Private vehicles need to be inspected every two years. The fees for inspection, reinspection, and any late fees are collected when you get the car registered. If you don't have your vehicle inspected before the previous inspection's expiration date, you will be charged a late fee of $20 for every one-to-30-day period.
As an added convenience, you can renew your registration right there at the inspection station. In order to renew a vehicle's registration, it must still be owned by the same owner. If you bring your registration renewal notice with you to the inspection station, it will speed up the process.
So, what happens when you have taken your car down to the inspection station, waited in line, and had your car inspected―only to have it fail?
If the defect is minor, you will receive a "pass with warning," and you will not have to go through reinspection. However, the repairs must be made before the next time the car is scheduled for inspection.
If your vehicle fails inspection, a "failed inspection" sticker will be adhered to your windshield. You will also be given inspection sheets containing specific information about what repairs will be necessary for the car to pass inspection.
In this case, you will be required to have the car repaired and reinspected within 20 days of the failure notice (the reinspection is free the first two times). If you don't come back within the 20 days, you will be charged a late fee of $20 for each one-to-30-day period. If your vehicle should need to be reinspected a third time, you will be charged an additional $25 reinspection fee.
If you've spent more than $820 in emissions repairs and your vehicle still can't pass the test, the DMV will grant your vehicle a waiver. However, an emissions-certified mechanic must have completed the repairs, and you'll have to provide receipts for the repair work.
If you are away from the area and won't be able to make it home in time to complete a required inspection, you may have the inspection done in a state that offers the testing. You'll then need to provide proof that you passed the test (the testing center should provide you with a certificate) before you can renew your registration.
While it may be frustrating to be stuck behind a vehicle that is clearly in violation of the emissions standards, the district doesn't offer a way to report the vehicle to authorities.
If you have any questions or concerns about the inspection process, you can direct them to the resolution coordinator at the inspection station. The DC DMV also has answers to frequently asked questions about vehicle inspections.Local Smog Check Stations
Other Topics in This Section
- Register Car
- Registration Renewal
- Registration & Insurance
- Replacing a Lost Registration
- RV & Motorhome Registration
- Custom Built Car Registration
- Boat Registration and Licenses
- Title Transfers
- Replacing a Lost Title
- Salvaged Vehicles
- Special Vehicles
- Drivers with Disabilities
- License Plates & Placards
- Smog & Emission Checks
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