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How to pass your car’s smog check in 2020

Look up your state’s emissions and insurance standards so you know what’s expected.

Updated

Fact checked
When it’s time to renew your vehicle registration, your renewal notice will indicate whether or not you need a smog check, also called a smog test. Most states require your car to pass the test for registration, but usually only if you reside in or commute to an urban area. And with the rules, standards and requirements varying from state to state, it’s important to understand what your state requires and how to navigate your vehicle’s emissions test.

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:

  1. Find a reputable smog check station. Your state’s website may have a list of stations that are certified to perform the tests.
  2. 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.
  3. Bring your car, your registration renewal notice and payment for the test.
  4. The technician performs the test on your car and prints out a Vehicle Inspection Report (VIR) with your results.
  5. 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.
  6. 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.

StateFrequencyCostRequirements
ArizonaEvery two years$12.25-$25.00Arizona only requires emissions tests on the following vehicles of residents who live in or commute to Phoenix and Tuscon:
Phoenix:

  • 1967-1980 model year vehicles
  • 1967 model year or newer diesel vehicles
  • Vehicles weighing more than 8,500 lbs
  • 1981-1995 model year all-time 4×4 or traction control vehicles weighing less than 8,500 lbs

Tucson:

  • 1967-1995 model year vehicles
  • 1967 model year and newer diesel vehicles
  • Heavy-duty vehicles weighing greater than 8,500 lbs
CaliforniaEvery two years$29.95-$69.95All vehicles except:

  • 1975 model classic cars or older
  • Vehicles less than seven years old
  • 1997 model year and older diesel vehicles
  • Electric/hybrid vehicles
  • Motorcycles
  • Trailers
ColoradoEvery two years$15-$25All non-diesel vehicles except:

  • Vehicles less than nine years old
  • Electric cars and hybrid-electric vehicles less than seven years old
  • 1975 model year and older vehicles with collector plates
  • 1976 model year and newer vehicles with collector plates since 2009
  • Horseless carriages, street rods, farm vehicles, kit cars and motorcycles
ConnecticutEvery two years$20All vehicles except:

  • Electric Vehicles, not including hybrids
  • Motorcycles, motorbikes and mopeds
  • Vehicles with a composite title
  • 2014 model year and newer vehicles
  • 1992 model year and older vehicles
  • Vehicles not designed for highway use
DelawareEvery two years$0All vehicles except:

  • Vehicles weighing more than 8,500 lbs
  • 1967 model year or older vehicles
  • 1997 model year or older diesel vehicles
  • Motorcycles or mopeds
  • Vehicles less than six years old
GeorgiaAnnually$25All vehicles except:

  • Vehicles weighing more than 8,500 lbs
  • Diesel or alternative fuel vehicles, not including hybrids
  • Vehicles designated as antique or collector vehicles
  • Motorcycles, recreational vehicles and motorhomes
  • Vehicles made in a model year 25 years old or older than the current test cycle
IdahoAnnually$11All vehicles except:

  • 1981 model year or older vehicles
  • Vehicles not registered or used in Ada County, Idaho
  • Motorhomes and motorcycles
  • Vehicles older than four years old
  • Vehicles weighing less than 1,500 lbs
  • Vehicle’s registered as Idaho “Old Timer” or Classic vehicles
  • Vehicles registered on a prorated basis
  • Electric and hybrid vehicles
  • Vehicles weighing more than 14,001 lbs
IllinoisEvery two years$20
  • Vehicles older than four years old
  • 1996 model year and newer vehicles
  • 2007 model year and older vehicles weighing between 8,501 and 14,000 lbs
IndianaEvery two years$0Indiana requires smog tests on the following vehicles of residents who live in or commute to Clark, Floyd, Lake or Port counties:

  • 1976 model year or newer vehicles
  • Vehicles weighing less than 9,000 lbs
  • Vehicles with an engine displacement over 200 cubic centimeters
MaineAnnually$12.50-$18.50All vehicles except:

  • Vehicles driven 1,000 miles or less per year
  • Low-speed and experimental vehicles
  • Motorcycles and mopeds
  • Antique vehicles
  • Farm tractors, fish trucks, wood trucks and island vehicles
  • 1996 Subaru models
  • 1996-98 Mitsubishi models
  • 1996 Volvo 850 Turbo
  • These 1996 Chrysler models:
    • Avenger
    • Sebring
    • Talan, Cirrus
    • Stratus
    • Breeze, Intrepid
    • Concord
    • New Yorker
    • LHS
    • Vision, Neon
  • 1996-2003 Ford medium heavy-duty trucks weighing more than 8,600 lbs
MarylandEvery two years$14All vehicles except:

  • 1976 model year or older vehicles
  • Vehicles weighing more than 26,000 lbs
  • Electric or diesel vehicles
  • Motorcycles
  • Vehicles registered as a farm truck, farm truck tractor or farm-area vehicle
  • Historic or antique vehicles
  • Vehicles two years and older
  • Hybrid vehicles three years and older
  • Vehicles registered to senior citizens over age 70
  • Class N street rod vehicles
  • Vehicles with metal disabled registration tags and driven less than 5,000 miles per year
MassachusettsAnnually$35All vehicles except:

  • New vehicles
  • Mopeds, motorcycles and all-terrain vehicles
  • Electric vehicles
  • 2000 model year or earlier vehicles that do not emit visible smoke
  • Diesel vehicles over 15 years old and weighing less than 8,500 lbs
  • 2007 model year or older diesel vehicles weighing up to 10,000 lbs
  • 2008 model year or older non-diesel medium-duty vehicles
MissouriEvery two years$24Missouri 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:

  • St. Louis City
  • St. Louis County
  • Franklin County
  • Jefferson County
  • St. Charles County
NevadaAnnuallyVariesNevada requires smog tests on vehicles registered to owners residing in Clark and Washoe counties that meet the following criteria:

  • Vehicles owners residing in the urban areas of Clark or Washoe County
  • All gas-operated passenger cars, trucks, RVs and motorhomes
  • Diesel vehicles weighing less than 14,000 lbs
  • 1968 model year or later vehicles
  • New vehicles older than two years
  • Hybrids older than five years
New HampshireAnnually$20-$50t
  • 1996 model year or later vehicles
  • 1997 model year or later diesel vehicles weighing less than 8,500 lbs
New JerseyEvery two years$0
  • Gasoline, diesel, or bi-fueled vehicles six years and older
  • 1997 model year or newer diesel vehicles weighing less than 8,500 lbs
New MexicoAnnually$15-$25New 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:

  • Vehicles five years and older
  • Gas-electric hybrid vehicles
  • 1984 model year vehicles or newer weighing less than 10,000 lbs
New YorkAnnually$11-$27All vehicles except:

  • Vehicles 25 years or older
  • New vehicles less than two years old
  • Electric vehicles
  • Motorcycles
  • Diesel vehicles weighing less than 8500 lbs
  • Vehicles with historical plates
  • Homemade or custom vehicles refurbished in the upstate area
North CarolinaAnnually$30North Carolina requires all vehicles registered in 22 counties to be smog tested, except:

  • New cars less than three years old
  • 1996 model year vehicles or earlier
  • Diesel-operated vehicles
  • Registered farm vehicles
OhioEvery two years$0-$18Ohio requires the following types of vehicles registered in seven counties for smog testing:

  • Vehicles weighing less than 10,000 lbs
  • Diesel vehicles weighing less than 10,000 lbs
  • Hybrid vehicles
  • Vehicles 25 years old or newer
OregonEvery two years$10-$21Oregon requires the following vehicle types registered in Portland or Medford for smog testing:

  • Gas vehicle
  • Alternative fuel vehicle (AFV)
  • Hybrid vehicle
  • Diesel vehicle weighing less than 8,500 lbs

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

PennsylvaniaAnnuallyVariesAll 1975 model year or newer vehicles except:

  • Motorcycles
  • Vehicles driven less than 5,000 miles annually
  • New vehicles driven less than 5,000 miles
  • Vehicles registered as antique, collectible, classic or street rods
TennesseeAnnually$9All 1975 model year or newer gas and diesel vehicles except:

  • Motorcycles
  • New cars in their first year
  • Vehicles weighing more than 10,500 lbs
  • Electric vehicles weighing less than 8,500 lbs
  • Vehicles with antique registrations
TexasAnnually$11.50-$24.50All gas-powered vehicles between two and 24 years old.
UtahEvery two years or Annually$20-$30Cars 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:

  • Motorcycles
  • Vehicles two years old and newer
  • 1968 model year vehicles, registered in Cache County
  • 1967 model year or older vehicles, registered in Davis, Salt Lake, Utah, or Weber counties
  • Diesel vehicles
VermontAnnuallyVaries
  • 1996 model year or newer gas-powered vehicles
  • 1997 model year or newer diesel vehicles weighing less than 8,500 lbs
VirginiaEvery two years$28
  • Gas-powered passenger vehicles less than 25 years old
  • 1997 model year or newer diesel passenger and property-carrying vehicles that weigh less than 8,500 lbs
WashingtonEvery two yearsVariesAll vehicles except:

  • Electric vehicles
  • 2009 model year or newer gas-powered vehicles
  • Hybrid vehicles with a rating of 50MPG or more in the city
  • Clean fuel vehicles
  • Gas-powered vehicles older than 25 years
  • Motorcycles, street rods and motor-driven cycles
  • Farm vehicles
  • Vehicles sold from a Washington automotive dealer
  • Collectible vehicles (owners must fill out and submit a Collectible Vehicle
    Certification for Emission Test Exemption, Form TD-420-810.)
  • 2007 model year or older diesel vehicles weighing less than 6000 lbs
  • 2007 model year or newer diesel vehicles
Washington, D.C.Every two years$35All vehicles except:

  • Vehicles four years old and newer
  • Motorcycles, mopeds and motorized bicycles
  • Zero-emissions vehicles
  • 1968 model year or older non-commercial vehicles
WisconsinEvery two years$0
  • 1996 to 2006 model year gas-powered vehicles, weighing less than 8,500 lbs
  • 2007 model year and newer gas- and diesel-powered vehicles weighing less than 14,000 lbs

Bottom line

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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