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How to pass your car’s smog check in 2021
Look up your state’s emissions and insurance standards so you know what’s expected.
What is a smog test?
A smog test is a check on your vehicle’s emissions system — the part that is designed to filter out pollutants from your car’s exhaust. The technician does a visual inspection to make sure your emissions equipment is properly installed. Then, depending on the age and model of the car, performs a combination of tests:
- Diagnostics. The technician downloads information from your car’s on-board diagnostic computer, if one is available.
- Two-speed idle test. If your car was registered before 1995, this test checks the emissions coming from your tailpipe while it idles at high and low speed.
- Acceleration simulation. Also on older cars, the technician uses a chassis dynamometer to check emissions while simulating driving conditions.
How do I pass a smog check?
If your state requires a smog check, follow these steps to get your certificate:
- Find a reputable smog check station. Your state’s website may have a list of stations that are certified to perform the tests.
- Set a time to get your test done. Most stations don’t require you to make an appointment, but it’s a good idea to call ahead and check.
- Bring your car, your registration renewal notice and payment for the test.
- The technician performs the test on your car and prints out a Vehicle Inspection Report (VIR) with your results.
- If you’ve passed, and you live in a state that allows it, you may be able to complete your registration on the spot. You’ll be charged an extra fee, but it might be worth it to you if it means skipping a trip to the DMV.
- If your state doesn’t allow you to complete your registration at the smog check station, take your VIR and registration renewal notice to the DMV to register your vehicle.
What should I do if I fail the smog check?
You won’t be able to register your car until you pass a smog check, but if you fail, you have some options:
- Repair your car. Take your vehicle to a licensed emissions mechanic and have the car repaired until it passes a smog check.
- Dispute the smog check. In some states, you can dispute the smog check and ask for a second opinion, especially if you have an unusual vehicle or the emissions parts are hard to find.
- Apply for financial assistance. Some states offer financial help to repair your car. For example, California’s Consumer Assistance Program offers up to $500 to offset repairs to your car’s emissions system.
- Apply for a waiver. If you failed and had repairs done and you still can’t pass a smog check, you can sometimes apply for a waiver for that year.
- Apply for an exemption. Most states have a list of cars that are exempt from smog checks. For example, in Nevada, if your car is older than 1967, you don’t have to pass smog to register.
Do smog test results affect car insurance?
No. But in the 33 states with emissions requirements, passing your smog check determines whether or not you can register your car, which you’ll need to get insurance.
Your emissions test has nothing to do with your insurance rates. Your insurance rates won’t be negatively affected by a failed emissions test either.
Which states require smog tests?
Currently 33 states require smog tests, often only in counties within the state’s urban centers.
|Arizona||Every two years||$12.25-$25.00||Arizona only requires emissions tests on the following vehicles of residents who live in or commute to Phoenix and Tuscon:|
|California||Every two years||$29.95-$69.95||All vehicles except:|
|Colorado||Every two years||$15-$25||All non-diesel vehicles except:|
|Connecticut||Every two years||$20||All vehicles except:|
|Delaware||Every two years||$0||All vehicles except:|
|Georgia||Annually||$25||All vehicles except:|
|Idaho||Annually||$11||All vehicles except:|
|Illinois||Every two years||$20|
|Indiana||Every two years||$0||Indiana requires smog tests on the following vehicles of residents who live in or commute to Clark, Floyd, Lake or Port counties:|
|Maine||Annually||$12.50-$18.50||All vehicles except:|
|Maryland||Every two years||$14||All vehicles except:|
|Massachusetts||Annually||$35||All vehicles except:|
|Missouri||Every two years||$24||Missouri requires smog tests on all 1996 model year or later vehicles and 1997 model year or later diesel vehicles that weigh less than 8,500 lbs which are registered in the following parts of the states:|
|Nevada||Annually||Varies||Nevada requires smog tests on vehicles registered to owners residing in Clark and Washoe counties that meet the following criteria:|
|New Jersey||Every two years||$0|
|New Mexico||Annually||$15-$25||New Mexico requires the following vehicles registered to owners residing in or commuting to Bernalillo county for 60 days or more per year to pass a smog test:|
|New York||Annually||$11-$27||All vehicles except:|
|North Carolina||Annually||$30||North Carolina requires all vehicles registered in 22 counties to be smog tested, except:|
|Ohio||Every two years||$0-$18||Ohio requires the following types of vehicles registered in seven counties for smog testing:|
|Oregon||Every two years||$10-$21||Oregon requires the following vehicle types registered in Portland or Medford for smog testing:|
In Portland, this requirement applies to all 1975 model year or newer vehicles. In Medford, this requirement applies to all vehicles manufactured within the last 20 years
|Pennsylvania||Annually||Varies||All 1975 model year or newer vehicles except:|
|Tennessee||Annually||$9||All 1975 model year or newer gas and diesel vehicles except:|
|Texas||Annually||$11.50-$24.50||All gas-powered vehicles between two and 24 years old.|
|Utah||Every two years or Annually||$20-$30||Cars five years old and newer are required to pass a smog test every two years, and cars six years old and older are required to pass annually. The following vehicles are not required to pass a smog test:|
|Virginia||Every two years||$28|
|Washington||Every two years||Varies||All vehicles except:|
|Washington, D.C.||Every two years||$35||All vehicles except:|
|Wisconsin||Every two years||$0|
If you live in one of the 33 states that require smog checks, getting your test can seem like one more dreaded task to complete your registration. But the test should take less than 30 minutes.
And if you live in a state that allows it, you can sometimes complete your registration at the smog check station, allowing you to skip the DMV. Registration time can also be a great reminder to do some insurance comparison shopping to make sure you’re still getting the best deal on your car insurance.
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Frequently asked questions about smog checks
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