Smog Check and Car Inspection in Washington DC

Certain vehicle inspections are important when registering your vehicle for the first time or renewing your registration with the Washington, D.C. Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV).

These inspections include:

  • Emissions inspections are required for all vehicles within the District of Columbia.
  • Safety inspections are required only for commercial and for-hire vehicles.

New to Washington, D.C.

New residents have 30 days to register their vehicles after they move to Washington, D.C. An emissions inspection (and safety inspection, if applicable) must be completed prior to registering your vehicle. You should also note:

  • You may be required to show proof of residency if the vehicle is not already registered in Washington D.C. (lease/mortgage, utility bills, etc.).
  • Vehicles may be charged a $20 late fee for every 30-day period that the inspection is not completed.

D.C. Vehicle Inspection Requirements & Exemptions

The inspection you require depends on the type of vehicle you own. Be sure to complete your D.C. DMV inspection BEFORE your sticker expires; otherwise, you may be subject to late fees.

Emissions Inspections

All vehicle types are required to get smog and emissions inspections. Reasons for inspections include:

  • You are new to D.C. and want to register your car with the Washington, D.C. Department of Motor Vehicles for the first time (must be completed within 30 days).
  • You purchased a used car that has an expired D.C. inspection sticker (or no sticker).
  • Your D.C. inspection sticker is about to expire (renewal notices are sent 60 days prior to expiration):
    • Private passenger/not-for-hire vehicles must be inspected every 2 years.
    • Commercial vehicles must be inspected every year.
    • For-hire vehicles (e.g. limousines and taxicabs) must be inspected every 1 year.

Safety Inspections

The following vehicles are required to get safety inspections:

  • Commercial vehicles must be inspected every year.
  • For-hire vehicles (taxis, limousines, etc.) get inspected every 1 year.
  • Salvage vehicles—jump over to our salvage vehicles guide for further details on requirements for a salvage title.

D.C. Emissions Inspection Exemptions

The only vehicles that are exempt from emissions inspections are privately-owned passenger vehicles that have been:

  • Manufactured before 1968.
  • Designated as a zero emissions vehicle.

While new vehicles generally do not need smog and emissions inspections, they are not exempt, and you can be ordered to get the vehicle inspected by law enforcement or department of motor vehicle officials.

When you purchase a new vehicle for private use only, the vehicle will receive an inspection sticker that is good for 4 years.The vehicle will not require an inspection unless otherwise ordered by law enforcement or DMV official.

Completing a Smog & Safety Test

A valid Washington, D.C. vehicle inspection sticker is required to register your vehicle. While all vehicles are required to obtain a smog and emissions inspection, only commercial and for-hire vehicles must also get an safety inspection.

If your registration is expired, go to your DMV service center to receive a temporary registration which is valid for 5 days. You will be required to provide:

  • Vehicle registration.
  • Valid driver's license.
  • Proof of insurance.
  • Proof of residency (if the vehicle is not already registered in Washington D.C.).

Once your registration is current, or if it has yet to expire, go to the D.C. emissions and safety inspection station. Vehicles are inspected on a first come, first serve order unless you schedule an appointment with the inspection station. Once there:

  • Present your vehicle renewal notice or expiring inspection sticker.
  • Have your registration information with you in the vehicle.
  • Follow all the instructions given by the inspector.
  • All fees for the inspection(s) will be collected as part of your registration fee.

The types of tests and specific parts that will be inspected will be determined by your inspection station. When the vehicle inspection is completed:

  • If your vehicle passes, you will receive a new vehicle inspection sticker(s) that is valid for 2 years. Take the new inspection sticker back to the DMV service center to register your vehicle.
  • If your vehicle fails, you will be given a failed inspection sticker, and the vehicle must be repaired and retested within 20 days.

You are allowed 2 free inspections during that time period; otherwise, you will be required to pay a late fee.

Email Reminders

E-mail reminders are sent out 60 days before the sticker expiration. You may sign up to receive an e-mail reminder from the Washington, D.C. Department of Motor Vehicles when your inspection sticker is about to expire by providing:

  • Driver's license number.
  • Social Security number.
  • First and last name.
  • Date of birth.
  • E-mail address.

The DMV's inspection renewal page provides a link through which to supply your e-mail address to receive your inspection reminder.

Washington, D.C. Vehicle Inspection Fees

The DMV Inspection fees (including late fees) are calculated as part of your registration fees. The fees include up to 2 free re-inspections if your vehicle fails. The 2 free re-inspections must be completed within 20 days after the initial test. After that, you must pay the inspection fee again.

  • New vehicle inspection sticker only: $10.
  • Private passenger inspection: $35.
  • For-hire vehicle inspection: $35.
  • Commercial vehicle inspection: $35.
  • Re-inspection fee: $35 (if done AFTER 20 days).
  • Replacement inspection sticker: $10.

Late Fees

Failing to complete your vehicle inspection when required will result in a $20 late fee for every 30-day period you fail to complete your inspection. Late fees will accumulate each month, but are capped at $480.

D.C. Vehicle Inspection Stations

All vehicle inspections are conducted at the D.C. DMV's central testing center:

Inspection Station
1001 Half Street, SW
Washington, D.C. 20024

The station is open Tuesday through Saturday, and has designated hours for its winter and summer seasons. Inspection times are:

  • Winter hours (September to June): 7 a.m. to 3 p.m.. Tuesday through Saturday and Wednesday 8 a.m. to 3 p.m.
  • Summer hours (June to September): 6 a.m. to 2 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday and Wednesday 7 a.m. to 2 p.m.

The times when you may appear during either winter or summer hours vary depending on the type of vehicle you own:

Private Passenger Vehicles:

  • Winter hours: 7 a.m. to 3 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday and Wednesday 8 a.m. to 3 p.m.
  • Summer hours: 6 a.m. to 2 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday and Wednesday 7 a.m. to 2 p.m.

Commercial Vehicles:

  • Winter hours: 7 a.m. to 3 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday and Wednesday 8 a.m. to 3 p.m.
  • Summer hours: 6 a.m. to 2 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday and Wednesday 7 a.m. to 2 p.m.

For-Hire Vehicles:

  • Winter hours: 7 a.m. to 3 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday and Wednesday 8 a.m. to 3 p.m.
  • Summer hours: 6 a.m. to 2 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday and Wednesday 7 a.m. to 2 p.m.

Inspections are done on a first come, first serve basis, unless you schedule an appointment. Senior citizens may drive straight to the inspection lane.

Out-of-District Vehicle Inspections

If you are at least 75 miles outside of D.C. and unable to return before your sticker expires, you must complete an out-of-district inspection. The emissions standards under which you have your vehicle tested while away must match those of D.C. law.

Contact the D.C. DMV if you have any questions.

To complete your out-of-district inspection:

  • Take your vehicle to an automobile dealership or certified repair service center and ask for an emissions test.
    • If the jurisdiction does not offer emissions testing, get an On Board Diagnostic (OBD) test.
  • Have the results of your test printed on a work order with the letterhead of the dealer or service center you took your vehicle, which includes the following information about your vehicle:
    • Vehicle identification number (VIN).
    • Tag number.
    • Year.
    • Model.
    • Make.
    • Current mileage.
  • Send the work order with a return address to the D.C. DMV either by:
    • Fax: (202) 729-7186 (include “Attn. Station Manager" on the fax).
    • Mail:
    Attn. Station Manager
    D.C. Department of Motor Vehicles
    DMV Inspection Station
    1001 Half Street, SW
    Washington, D.C. 20024

Once the DC DMV receives and reviews the results of your inspection, it will renew your inspection sticker for 2 years and send the sticker to the return address you provided.

Failed Washington, D.C. Vehicle Inspections

You will be given a vehicle inspection report at the end of your inspection that lists what you need to have fixed before reappearing. The inspection report should be presented to your mechanic so that he/she knows exactly what to fix.

If you are given a warning for a minor defect(s), you will be allowed to register or renew your vehicle, but you must fix the defect before your next inspection.

If you fail your inspection, the inspector will issue you a failed inspection sticker that will be attached to your windshield. You will have 20 days to fix your vehicle and have it retested. If you fail to retest your vehicle within 20 days, then you must pay a late fee.

Reasons for Failing an Inspection

Unable to Test

An inspector may rule your vehicle as unable to test before even beginning the inspection for any of the following reasons:

  • Excessive smoke from your vehicle.
  • Visible damage to exhaust.
  • Audible exhaust leak.
  • Signs of leakage (engine oil, transmission, brake fluid, coolant, etc.) on the lane.
  • Bald or otherwise unsafe tires.
  • Ineffective or inoperable brakes.
  • Red engine light is illuminated on the dashboard.

Failure by Vehicle Type

Examples of common reasons for inspection failures may be found by reviewing the D.C. DMV's checklist for your type of private passenger vehicle or for-hire vehicle. If you know your vehicle has a problem, make sure to address it before your inspection deadline.

D.C. Smog and Emissions Testing Waiver

If your vehicle has repeatedly failed the smog and emissions inspection, you may apply for an inspection waiver good for 2 years. To be eligible:

  • You must have had at least $921 worth of repairs done on your vehicle by a certified mechanic in an attempt to pass the emissions test.
  • You must present receipts to D.C. DMV officials showing the amount and type of work done.

After the waiver period of 2 years, you will be required to undergo the inspection process.

D.C. Temporary Registration Tags

You may apply for a temporary registration tag that is valid for 45 days so that you have time to get your vehicle inspected if:

  • You are a D.C. resident and need to complete an inspection on your vehicle before you can transfer its out-of-state registration to Washington, D.C.
  • You're a D.C. resident who just purchased a used car that doesn't have a valid Washington, D.C. inspection sticker.

To apply for a temporary tag, you must go to your local DMV office and:

You may only qualify for a temporary tag on your vehicle once; you cannot apply for a second temporary tag. You must complete your DMV inspection and all other necessary procedures for registering your vehicle before the current temporary tag expires.


Certificate of Title/Temporary Tag Application
Title and register your vehicle with the Washington D.C. DMV.

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