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Is it Required by Law to Get Your Car Inspected? A Guide to Car Inspection Laws in all 50 States

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A car mechanic inspects the engine of a car and makes notes on a checklist while performing a required car inspection. Many states have some form of car inspection in order to satisfy registration requirements.

Getting your car inspected can be a confusing process if you do not know when you are required to have your car inspected or what is even involved in the inspection. Inspections are usually carried out by state operated inspection centers or by privately owned garages authorized by the state’s department of transportation.

Every state has its own set of laws surrounding car inspections including what type of inspection is performed and how often it is required. This guide will cover the inspection laws for all 50 states as well as provide helpful information regarding car inspections.

Alabama

  • A safety inspection is only required prior to a sale or transfer of ownership.
  • Before registering a new car in Alabama, an inspection is required. This can be done at the Motor Vehicle Title and Tag office.

Alaska

  • No inspections of any kind are required in this state.

Arizona

Arkansas

  • No inspections are required in this state, however Arkansas Energy and Environment strongly encourages residents to inspect their own vehicle for any hazards or pollutants.

California

  • Smog checks are required every 2 years by the California Department of Motor Vehicles for most cars. Some cars are excluded from this such as:
    • hybrids,
    • electric vehicles,
    • motorcycles,
    • trailers,
    • natural-gas-powered vehicles heavier than 14,000 pounds,
    • diesel-powered vehicles made before 1997,
    • any vehicle made in or prior to 1975, or
    • any vehicle less than six years old.
  • You can find a Smog Test location site by entering your zip code here.
  • If you live in the following counties of California, you are required to get a smog inspection before renewing your vehicle registration:
    • Alameda County
    • ButteCounty
    • Colusa County
    • Contra Costa County
    • Fresno County
    • Glenn County
    • Kern County
    • Kings County
    • Los Angeles County
    • Madera County
    • Marin County
    • Merced County
    • Monterey County
    • Napa County
    • Nevada County
    • Orange County
    • Sacramento County
    • San Benito County
    • San Francisco County
    • San Joaquin County
    • San Luis Obispo County
    • San Mateo County
    • Santa Barbara County
    • Santa Clara County
    • Santa Cruz County
    • Shasta County
    • Solano County
    • Stanislaus County
    • Sutter County
    • Tehama County
    • Tulare County
    • Ventura County
    • Yolo County
    • Yuba County
  • The smog check is also required for all out-of-state vehicles, even if your previous state of residence also required emissions inspection.
  • A VIN inspection is required when registering a vehicle from out of state.

Colorado

  • The following counties of Colorado are the only ones required to have a smog inspection:
    • Boulder County
    • Denver County
    • Broomfield County
    • Douglas County
    • Jefferson County
  • Parts of Adams, Larimer, Weld, and Arapahoe counties also require a smog inspection. This map shows the program area for Colorado.
  • Cars 7 years or older must be inspected.
  • Newer cars, all-electric vehicles, farm vehicles, motorcycles, or “collector vehicles” (1975 model year or older) do not require an inspection.
  • A VIN check is not required when registering an out-of-state vehicle.
  • The Colorado Department of Health & Environment lists all the information regarding inspection requirements.

Connecticut

  • Only commercial types of vehicles, like taxis, camp vehicles, camping trailers, commercial trailers, grey market vehicles, homemade trailers, service buses, wreckers, school buses, and driver-education cars are required to have a safety inspection.
  • VIN checks are done when registering out-of-state vehicles.
  • Inspections are required throughout the state and must be done by an authorized facility. You can enter your zip code here to find a location. The type of tests done depend on the type of vehicle.
  • Late fees will occur if you allow your vehicle inspection to lapse.

Delaware

  • Vehicles are required to be inspected every 2 years.
  • Vehicles that are 7 years old or newer do not require any kind of inspection.
  • Vehicles being registered for the first time in Delaware are required to have an inspection if it is older than 7 years.
  • There are detailed requirements that are tested such as hood latch function, headlight positioning, and the vehicle’s air scoops mount height.
  • Cars that are from 1967 or older are not required to have an emissions test.
  • The type of emissions check done is dependent on the age of the vehicle.

Florida

  • The state does not require any type of inspection on vehicles.
  • A VIN and odometer verification is required for all out-of-state registrations. A completed form must be submitted to a local tax collector office to have the verification performed.

Georgia

  • Only some Atlanta metro counties require an annual vehicle emissions inspection. Those counties are:
    • Cherokee County
    • Clayton County
    • Cobb County
    • Coweta County
    • DeKalb County
    • Douglas County
    • Fayette County
    • Forsyth County
    • Fulton County
    • Gwinnett County
    • Henry County
    • Paulding County
    • Rockdale County
  • Newer cars (3 years old and newer) and cars older than 25 years old are exempt, as well motorcycles, RV’s, diesel powered vehicles, and motor homes.
  • You can enter your zip code here to find an inspection location close to you in Georgia.
  • This website lists all other FAQ’s regarding Georgia vehicle inspections.

Hawaii

  • Hawaii requires an annual inspection on vehicles. These inspections can be done at any of these locations.
  • Brand new cars do not need an inspection until 2 years after the car was made.
  • The safety inspection is a detailed look at the car. Things inspected include headlamps, fuel system, seat belts, doors, and more.

Idaho

  • Ada and Canyon Counties are the only counties in the state that required an emissions test. This should be done every other year.
  • The only time a VIN check is required is for out-of-state registrations.

Illinois

  • Emissions testing is required for those in the Chicago and metro areas of Illinois. This website can show you nearby testing locations in your area.
  • Cars that are four years old or newer, from 1967 or earlier, motorcycles, diesel-powered or all-electric vehicles, and cars that are exclusively for parades, shows, sports, or races are all exempt.
  • The vehicle will fail the inspection if the VIN number is bad or the car itself is deemed unsafe to conduct an emissions test.

Indiana

  • Porter County and Lake County are the only counties required for an emissions test. This test should be performed every 2 years.
  • Indiana residents can have their vehicle inspected at one of these locations.
  • The inspection requirements only apply to vehicles that were made after 1976 and with a weight of 9,000 pounds or less.
  • Out-of-state registrations will need a VIN inspection.

Iowa

  • This state does not require any inspections on vehicles. The only exception to this is for salvaged vehicles and commercial trucks.

Kansas

  • A VIN inspection is only required when registering an out-of-state vehicle.

Kentucky

  • A VIN inspection is only required when registering an out-of-state vehicle.

Louisiana

  • Residents have the option of getting an annual vehicle inspection, or getting an inspection and paying double the amount to receive a sticker to place on the vehicle that is good for 2 years.
  • The horn, tail lights and floor plan are some of the many items to be looked at during a safety inspection.
  • Baton Rouge metro areas require an annual emissions test.

Maine

  • According to the Maine State Police, the state requires residents in Cumberland County to have an annual emissions test.
  • Annual Safety inspections are required for Maine residents. The inspection looks at a variety of things including headlights, brake pads, exhaust, windshield, and steering.
  • Upon passing the safety inspection, residents will receive a sticker to place on their vehicle stating that the vehicle has passed.

Maryland

  • Safety Inspections are only conducted on vehicles prior to a sale or transfer of vehicle ownership.
  • Vehicles that are older need an opacity test to check the smoke that is produced from the tailpipe.
  • The safety inspection is a very detailed inspection that looks at the horn, brakes, tire pressure, window tint, and more.
  • Maryland residents can find a testing location here by entering their zip code and vehicle classification.

Massachusetts

  • Cars less than 15 years old require an annual emissions test as well as an opacity test. This test includes an OBD2 scan that checks the engine and other systems to verify there are no glitches and parts of the vehicle are “communicating” well with the other parts.
  • An annual safety inspection that tests brakes, horn, windshield, tail lights, tires, wheels, and more is required for all vehicles.
  • Upon passing inspection, residents will receive a sticker acknowledging the vehicle has passed. If the vehicle did not pass, the vehicle owner will receive a rejection sticker and the vehicle will need to be repaired and tested again.
  • Massachusetts residents can have their vehicle inspected at a licensed inspection station.

Michigan

  • This state does not have any inspection requirements.

Minnesota

Mississippi

  • This state does not require drivers to have an emissions test.
  • If a vehicle has tinted windows, it must pass a safety inspection.

Missouri

  • Vehicles under 10 years old and have less than 150,000 miles are exempt from safety inspections.
  • Vehicles registered to operate in St. Louis, St. Louis County, St. Charles County, Franklin County and Jefferson County are required to have an emissions inspection before submitting an application for title and registration.
  • Missouri residents can locate a safety inspection location here.

Montana

  • This state does not require any vehicle inspections.

Nebraska

  • All out-of-state vehicles that are brought into Nebraska are required to have a safety inspection performed.
  • The County Sheriff’s office are the ones who conduct the inspection for $10.
  • Trailers, motorboats, salvaged vehicles, and other types of vehicles are exempt.

Nevada

  • Cars in Reno and Las Vegas are the only ones required to have an emissions test performed.
  • Vehicles that are from 1968 or earlier are exempt as well as motorcycles, hybrids less than 5 years old, and new vehicles during the first 2 years of registration.
  • Out-of-state vehicles are required to have a VIN check.

New Hampshire

  • An inspection is due the month of your birthday when you transfer or buy a new car in the state.
  • If a car is sold to another person, a safety inspection is required.
  • Inspection includes looking at steering, suspension, lights, wipers, exhaust, mirrors, and more.
  • Cars made in 1996 or after are the only ones required to receive an emissions inspection.
  • Vehicles less than 20 years old must have an On-Board Diagnostics (OBD) test as part of the inspection. This test monitors the performance of the engine’s major components.
  • Motorcycles, farm equipment, collector vehicles, trailers and mopeds are exempt.

New Jersey

  • Vehicles in New Jersey are required to be inspected every two years, except for new cars, which need an inspection after five years.
  • You can have your vehicle inspected up to two months prior to the expiration date.
  • Drivers will need to bring their driver’s license, vehicle registration, and proof of New Jersey insurance to an inspection facility.

New Mexico

  • Bernalillo County is the only county that requires an emissions inspection every other year for cars registered in the area or that are commuting in the county.
  • Vehicles from 1982 or earlier, electric cars, and diesel cars are exempt.
  • VIN checks are required for those registering a vehicle from out of state.

New York

  • New York is a strict state when it comes to their vehicle inspections. All vehicles are required to get safety inspection at a DMV-licensed inspection station every 12 months.
  • When a transfer of ownership occurs, an inspection is required.
  • A valid inspection sticker must be displayed on the vehicle. If the sticker is missing or expired, you could be fined as well as receive parking tickets.
  • All vehicles are required to get an emissions inspection at the same time as the safety inspection.
  • The safety inspection is a comprehensive view of many aspects of the vehicle such as brakes, cylinders, suspension, steering, wheels, chassis, and much more.

North Carolina

  • Safety inspections are required for vehicles newer than 35 years old.
  • Emissions testing is required in the following 22 counties throughout the state:
    • Alamance County
    • Buncombe County
    • Cabarrus County
    • Cumberland County
    • Davidson County
    • Durham County
    • Forsyth County
    • Franklin County
    • Gaston County
    • Guilford County
    • Iredell County
    • Johnston County
    • Lee County
    • Lincoln County
    • Mecklenburg County
    • New Hanover County
    • Onslow County
    • Randolph County
    • Rockingham County
    • Rowan County
    • Wake County
    • Union County
  • Cars made from 1995 or earlier, diesel vehicles, and those that have less than 70,000 miles are exempt.
  • There is no provided sticker upon passing an inspection. An approval is stored in an electronic database.
  • Inspection includes a licensed mechanic looking at the tires, exhaust, windshield, brakes, and more.
  • North Carolina residents can locate an inspection station here.

North Dakota

Ohio

  • An emissions test is only required in the Cleveland metro area.
  • Vehicles that are 4 years old or newer are exempt as well as vehicles that are 25 years old or older.
  • Frequency of testing is based on even and odd model years.
  • No safety inspection is required.

Oklahoma

  • Only VIN checks are required for out-of-state vehicles.
  • No other inspections are required.

Oregon

  • Only in the Portland and Medford areas are emissions tests required.
  • Cars that were made in or prior to 1975 do not require an inspection.
  • VIN checks are required for out-of-state and vehicles that are brought into Oregon and registered.

Pennsylvania

  • Emissions inspections are only required for the following counties:
    • Allegheny County
    • Beaver County
    • Berks County
    • Blair County
    • Bucks County
    • Cambria County
    • Centre County
    • Chester County
    • Cumberland County
    • Dauphin County
    • Delaware County
    • Erie County
    • Lackawanna County
    • Lancaster County
    • Lebanon County
    • Lehigh County
    • Luzerne County
    • Lycoming County
    • Mercer County
    • Montgomery County
    • Northampton County
    • Philadelphia County
    • Washington County
    • Westmoreland County
    • York County
  • Diesel powered vehicles are exempt.
  • Windows, electrical systems, lightings, tires, wheels, and more will be looked at during a safety inspection.
  • VIN checks are a part of the safety inspection.
  • A safety inspection must be done when you renew your vehicle’s registration every 12 months.

Rhode Island

South Carolina

  • This state does not require any inspections

South Dakota

  • This state does not require any inspections

Tennessee

  • Annual emissions inspections are only required for vehicles registered in the following counties:
    • Sumner County
    • Hamilton County
    • Rutherford County
    • Davidson County
    • Williamson County
    • Wilson County
  • Before the emissions inspection, the vehicle will undergo a 2 point tampering check. This will inspect the catalytic converter (if applicable) as well as the fuel gas cap.
  • Inspections are performed annually and are done alongside registration.
  • Residents can find nearby inspection stations here.
  • The cost of the inspection is $9.00

Texas

  • All vehicles registered in Texas are required to receive an annual safety inspection.
  • Vehicles in the following counties are required to have an emissions inspection in addition to the safety inspection:
    • Brazoria County
    • Collin County
    • Dallas County
    • Denton County
    • El Paso County
    • Ellis County
    • Fort Bend County
    • Galveston County
    • Harris County
    • Johnson County
    • Kaufman County
    • Montgomery County
    • Parker County
    • Rockwall County
    • Tarrant County
    • Travis County
    • Williamson County
  • Diesel powered vehicles and motorcycles as well as vehicles older than 25 years are exempt from emissions inspections, but are still required to have a safety inspection.
  • Vehicles within 2 years of their manufacture are not required to have an emissions test, but still have to have a safety inspection.
  • Residents can find an inspection station here.
  • During an emissions inspection, the vehicle will receive an On-Board Diagnostic (OBD2) test. This test ensures the vehicle is “communicating” with the systems of the engine properly.
  • The cost of the inspection varies, but the pricing list can be found here.

Utah

  • Utah does not require a safety inspection as a registration prerequisite. However, salvaged vehicles, as well as commercial vehicles, are required to have a safety inspection prior to registration.
  • Emission inspections are only required in the following counties:
    • Salt Lake County
    • Davis County
    • Utah County
    • Weber County
    • Cache County
  • Emissions inspections are required every other year until the vehicle is 6 years old. After that, the inspection is required annually. The exception to this rule only applies to Cache County.
  • Electric vehicles, farm vehicles, motorcycles, military, and vehicles older than 1967 are exempt.
  • Pricing for inspections can be found here.

Vermont

  • Safety inspections are required annually.
  • Emissions inspections are required annually for cars from 1996 or newer.
  • The emissions test will include an On-Board Diagnostic (OBD2) test. This tests the systems communication with surrounding engine systems.
  • VIN inspections are only required for vehicles registering from out of state.
  • Residents can find a DMV inspector in their region here.
  • Inspection of the hood, doors, fenders, mirrors, windshield and many more things will be looked at during the safety inspection.

Virginia

  • If you have a valid inspection sticker from a different state upon registering your vehicle in Virginia, you are exempt from getting your car inspected until it expires.
  • Emissions inspections are required in the following counties and independent cities:
    • Arlington County
    • Alexandria
    • Fairfax County
    • Falls Church
    • Manassas
    • Manassas Park
    • Loudoun County
    • Prince William County
    • Stafford County
  • Motorcycles, all-electric, solar, or natural gas vehicles, vehicles 25 years old or older, and vehicles weighing under 10,000 are exempt from the emissions inspection.
  • According to the Virginia State Police, the Safety inspection includes looking at the bakes, headlights, signals, steering, suspension and much more.

Washington

  • Emissions inspections are required for some parts of Washington including areas in Clark, King, Pierce, Spokane, and Snohomish Counties.
  • Safety inspections are not required in this state.
  • Motorcycles, some hybrid vehicles, diesel vehicles that weigh less than 6,001 pounds or that are from 2007 or newer, and 2009 or newer are exempt from emissions inspections.
  • A VIN check is required if the vehicle is rebuilt or if it is being registered from a different state.

West Virginia

  • Safety inspections are required annually for all vehicles.
  • The average cost of an inspection in West Virginia is $14.66.
  • Inspections can be done at any official inspection station by the West Virginia State Police.
  • New residents have 10 days from the date they title a vehicle to have a West Virginia inspection.
  • If you have a valid safety inspection from New York, Louisiana, Missouri, Mississippi, New Hampshire, Oklahoma, Utah, Texas, and Wyoming, you do not need a new inspection in West Virginia until your current one expires.
  • Any vehicle purchased or otherwise acquired within West Virginia not having a valid inspection sticker must be inspected within three days.
  • Residents must have a valid registration card and a current certificate of insurance in the vehicle at the time of inspection. Failure to provide proper registration will result in a rejection of the inspection.
  • If a vehicle fails inspection for any reason, the station must offer the necessary repair services to the owner. If the owner refuses the services offered, the mechanic is required to place a rejection sticker on the windshield. The rejection sticker will remain on the vehicle until the proper repairs are completed.
  • Inspection includes examining the fenders, bumpers, brakes, exhaust, tire, wheel, horn, windshield wipers, lights, fuel system, seatbelts, and more.

Wisconsin

  • The following counties require an emissions inspection every other year:
    • Milwaukee County
    • Ozaukee County
    • Kenosha County
    • Racine County
    • Sheboygan County
    • Waukesha County
    • Washington County
  • Non-diesel powered cars that are newer than 1996 and are OBD2 compliant need an inspection.
  • A safety inspection is not required.

Wyoming

  • Only a VIN car inspection is required when registering a vehicle from out of state.

Having Your Vehicle Inspected is Just One Part of Staying Safe on the Road

Vehicle inspection laws are designed to make sure that your vehicle is operating properly and safely, but even the safest car and the safest driver can fall victim to other driver’s carelessness.

If you’ve been in an auto accident and need help, contact The Miley Legal Group today. Our experienced legal team of car accident lawyers has a track record of success when it comes to helping car accident victims.

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Written by
Tim Miley
Tim Miley is the founder of The Miley Legal Group. After earning his undergraduate degree in finance at Southern Methodist University in Dallas, TX, Tim attended Duquesne University in Pittsburgh, PA, where he received his Juris Doctorate. Tim is admitted to practice in all courts in West Virginia and is currently a member of the American Association for Justice, the West Virginia American Association for Justice, the West Virginia Bar Association and the Harrison County Bar Association.
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