Vehicle Safety Inspections

Daily Policy Digest

Regulatory Issues / Auto Regulations

Wednesday, August 21, 2002

Over 60 million registered motor vehicles in 20 states are subject to mandatory periodic safety inspections. The economic argument for mandatory inspection relies on the idea that vehicle maintenance reduces the accident rate and therefore provides external benefits. However, a new study in the Southern Economic Journal suggests that this is not the case.

Inspections do not significantly decrease the number of old cars on the road.

Moreover, inspections do not significantly increase the amount of revenue that repair companies earn.

Putting these two observations together, the researchers conclude that inspections do not improve the quality of vehicles on the road. If inspections did improve quality, then either old cars would be pulled off the road because of safety failures or people would need to spend more money on repairing their automobiles. Since neither occurs, inspections fail to reach their goal.

The authors suggest that oversight of inspectors is weak. A Washington Post investigation found that in a recent year, about 600 out of 4,300 inspection stations in Virginia issued no rejection stickers at all. Massachusetts officials claim that monitoring the inspection performance of licensed garages is prohibitively expensive. Additionally, other studies show that inspection stickers can be readily obtained on the black market for as little as $40.

Source: Marc Poitras and Daniel Sutter, "Policy Ineffectiveness or Offsetting Behavior? An Analysis of Vehicle Safety Inspections," Southern Economic Journal.

The Automotive Service Association lobbies against rolling emission and inspection laws and the deletion of automobile inspection from state codes. Classic car builders beware. Keep in touch with your legislators.

Gasoline powered car safety inspection and emission regulations state by state.


No emissions or safety inspection required to register vehicles.


No safety inspection.


Municipality of Anchorage: 1968 and newer vehicles owned by a person that lives in the MOA, including Fort Richardson, Elmendorf AFB, Indian, Chugiak, Eagle River, Girdwood and Eklutna.

Fairbanks North Star Borough: newer vehicles owned by a person that lives in the FNSB, including Eielson AFB, Fort Wainwright, Salcha and North Pole.



A bill (H.B. 2357) to exempt qualified collectible vehicles 15 years old and older from the state's mandatory emissions inspection and maintenance program passed unanimously in the Arizona House Environment Committee one week ago. (Feb 2005)

Vehicles registered outside Phoenix or Tucson metro areas are not required to be tests for emissions. Vehicles inside these areas are subject to the following regulations: Unless specifically exempted, all 1967 and newer vehicles (including diesels) that are registered in the metro Phoenix (Area A) or Tucson (Area B) emission test areas must receive an emissions inspection no more than 90 days prior to registration.

Your registration renewal application from the Motor Vehicles Division will say "Emission Test Required" when it is time to have your vehicle tested.

If you work in the emission test area, but register outside of the area, Arizona law requires that you have the vehicle inspected in the area to which you commute. Automobile dealers are responsible for having vehicles emissions tested prior to sale. You will be notified by Motor Vehicle Division when you need to re-register your vehicle and if it is due for emissions testing.

Vehicles to be tested must enter the inspection station under their own power. They may not be on or pulling a trailer.

Exempted Vehicles

Model year 2001 or newer, except reconstructed, vehicles Model year 2003 or newer original equipment alternative fuel vehicles, Model year 1966 and older vehicles, Apportioned vehicles (licensed in more than one state), Electric powered, golf carts or vehicles with engine displacement of less than 90cc, Vehicles leased to a person residing outside the emission control areas, Vehicles transferred between dealers (wholesale)


No emissions or safety inspection.


California has no safety inspection.


California has a sniffer test semi-anually and at resale time. Exempt from that test are cars less than five years old and '75 model year and older. Motorcycles and diesel cars of any year are exempt too. Tampering with emissions equipment is illegal.

There's also a restricted license which is available for any model year, which includes a limitation to 2500 miles per year and no vehicle use other than to and from car shows or races, and/or participation in cruise events.

There is a kit car scheme, too, which provides for the registration of new kit cars with a title dated according to the year the car most resembles. The catch to that seems to be that there are only 500 such tags available each year.


Colorado has no Safety Inspection.


Vehicles are divided into two groups for purposes of emissions. 1981 and older, 1982 and newer. 1981 and older are tested yearly with an idle test. 1982 and newer have a more complex test but only every two years. These tests apply in a 7 county area around the Denver metro area.


Rolling 25 year rule on emissions. No safety inspection.


All vehicles must be safety inspected, no exemptions. Vehicles newer than 1967 must be tested for emissions yearly.


No state safety inspection (peace officers may safety inspect vehicle when stopping for violation). Emissions testing required in Northern Ada County- vehicles newer than 1964 must be tested yearly.


No safety inspection.

Emissions required in some counties.


No Safety Inspection.

For the 2005 test season, all 1981-2002 model year gasoline powered cars and light trucks (up to 8,500 lbs gross vehicle weight rating) registered in the following counties require an emission inspection: Cherokee, Clayton, Cobb, Coweta, DeKalb, Douglas, Fayette, Forsyth, Fulton, Gwinnett, Henry, Paulding, and Rockdale.  Rolling 25 year rule. 


No Safety Inspection.


Clark, Floyd, Lake and Porter counties require emissions tests and tampering inspections every two years for 1976 and newer passenger vehicles and trucks with a gross vehicle weight rating (GVWR) of 9,000 lbs. or less.


No Safety Inspection


Vehicles 1967 and older require no testing. Newer vehicles (but more than 4 years old) must be tested (at no charge) in the following counties: Cook, Dupage, Lake, Kane, Kendall, McHenrie, Madison, Monroe, St. Clair, Will.


No emission or safety inspection required.


Emissions testing required in some counties for vehicles newer that 1967. Safety inspection data unknown.


No safety inspection required. Vehicles of model years 1980 or newer and garaged in the Baton Rouge area must be tested for emissions compliance.


26 year rolling emissions and safety testing.


Annual safety inspection required. No emissions testing.


No safety, emissions inspections.


No safety or emission inspection required.


Stopped emissions testing in 1995. Will restart soon (2007?) in the 8 Detroit Metro counties. No safety inspection.


All vehicles must be safety inspected each year. Cars older than 1983 are emissions exempt.


Emissions inspection required on vehicles newer than 1973. Safety inspection required.


Safety inspections required all cars. Emissions required all vehicles. Exemption unknown.


Emission? Safety inspections required every two years.


Vehicles older 25 years do not require emissions inspection. Safety inspection required each year.


No emission or safety inspection required.


No emission or safety inspection required.


In Churchill County, Nevada no smog restrictions. Checks every 2 years in clark (las vegas) and washoe (reno) counties. Smog checks are required on all gasoline and diesel powered cars and trucks, 1968 and newer, based in most areas of Las Vegas and Reno.


Emission testing is required for vehicles which are registered in or commute into Bernalillo County, have a gross vehicle weight rating of 1,000 - 10,000 pounds, and are model year 1975 or newer. The vehicle must pass three test components: pollution control equipment (catalytic converter), exhaust gas analysis, and visible emissions or smoke. Effective January 1, 2004, 1975-1985 model year vehicles require a test each year while 1986 and newer vehicles remain on an every other year test cycle. New vehicles are now exempt for two registration cycles (up to 4 years).

No safety inspection


Vehicles older than 35 years are not required to be inspected. All motor vehicles registered in North Carolina must be inspected annually for mechanical safety. The DMV oversees the inspection process. "The objective of the inspection is to make sure the motoring public is safe." A North Carolina vehicle safety inspection is required within 10 days of receiving a North Carolina license plate or by the last day of the month printed on the inspection window sticker. The annual cost of the sticker is $9.25. The North Carolina vehicle inspection can be performed at any of the 7,500 licensed inspection stations throughout the state. Most service stations, automobile dealerships and vehicle repair garages are licensed inspection stations.

If a vehicle fails the safety inspection, it cannot be operated beyond the expiration date on the current sticker. However, the owner will have 30 days to repair any safety defects and qualify for a re-inspection at no additional cost, provided the owner repairs the defects and presents a receipt of the initial inspection at the same inspection station. If the inspection sticker expires after the initial inspection but before re-inspection, the owner may request a single-trip permit from the DMV to drive the vehicle to the inspection station for re-inspection.

Inspection items include:
Steering mechanism
Windshield wipers
Turn signals
Rear view mirrors
Exhaust system
Window tint

Emissions Inspection:

The emissions inspection is performed in conjunction with the annual safety inspection and costs $19.40. Diesel-powered vehicles and motorcycles are exempt. Vehicles that fail the initial inspection qualify for re-inspection within 30 days at no additional charge, provided the owner repairs the defects and presents a receipt of the initial inspection.

Any motor vehicle, model year 1975 and newer, registered in these nine counties must pass an annual emissions inspection: Cabarrus, Durham, Forsyth, Gaston, Guilford, Mecklenburg, Orange, Union, Wake,

Window Tinting: Vehicles with after-factory window tinting must pass the 35 percent visible light requirement during an annual vehicle safety inspection. In addition to the annual safety inspection fee, there is a $10 charge for any vehicle that has an after-factory tint. If you have any questions about window tinting, contact your nearest DMV Enforcement Office, or call (919) 733-7872.


State safety and emissions inspections not required.


Emissions testing: The Portland Metro area experiences more severe air quality problems and denser population than the Medford area so the cut off for vehicle testing is 1975 while Rogue Valley has a rolling 20 year rule. Other areas have no requirement. No vehicle safety inspection.


No safety inspection.

Emissions: Vehicles older than 25 years are not required to be inspected. Others must be tested every 2 years.


Vehicles driven less than 5,000 miles each year are exempt from emissions testing (must pay for a sticker each year). Currently, vehicles registered in the Philadelphia region (Bucks, Chester, Delaware, Montgomery and Philadelphia counties) and the Pittsburgh region (Allegheny, Beaver, Washington and Westmoreland counties) are required to undergo an annual emissions inspection prior to receiving a new safety inspection sticker. Subject vehicles include gasoline-powered, 1975 and newer vehicles up to 9,000 pounds (GVWR). Vehicles registered as classics, antiques, collectibles, street rods, or specially constructed are exempt from the emissions inspection.

All vehicles subject to yearly safety inspection. In counties where emissions is not tested, safety inspection must include tampering inspection of the car emissions systems. There are special rules for modified or kit vehicles.


No emissions, safety inspections.


Cars older than 25 years are emissions exempt. All cars must be safety inspected every 2 years.


No safety or emissions testing.


Emissions test required. Safety inspection required in some counties.

Emissions Testing

Residents of Davidson, Rutherford, Sumner, Williamson and Wilson counties in Middle Tennessee and residents of the city of Memphis in West Tennessee must have their vehicles pass an emissions inspection prior to registration or registration renewal. Inspection is not required for vehicles of model year 1974 and older in Middle Tennessee. However, an inspection is required for vehicles of all model years in Memphis.


Emission inspection required for vehicles between 2 and 24 years old. Emission inspection not required in some counties. Safety inspection required for passenger cars, no time limit. (Cars licensed as antiques exempt.)


Safety inspection required on virtually all cars. Emissions required in counties along the Wasatch Front for vehicles newer than 1967 model year (vehicles newer than 5 years are exempt).


All cars safety inspection yearly. Emissions inspection 1996 and newer.


Emissions testing every two years if your vehicle is garaged in the counties of Arlington, Fairfax, Loudoun, Prince William, or Stafford, or the cities of Alexandria, Fairfax, Falls Church, Manassas or Manassas Park. Cars older than 25 years do not require emission inspection.


No safety inspection. Emissions testing required every two years in some counties. In Clark, King, Pierce, Snohomish and Spokane areas, most vehicles must pass a emissions test every two years, even if the vehicle is certified in another state. Vehicles less than five years old and vehicles more than 25 years old do not require inspection.


West Virginia requires a routine safety inspection every twelve (12) months. Vehicles may be inspected at any official inspection station licensed by the West Virginia State Police. When a vehicle passes the inspection, a sticker valid for twelve (12) months will be placed on the inside of the windshield. It is illegal to drive a vehicle without a valid inspection sticker.


Certain counties require emission testing for model years after 1967, safety inspection not required.


No emissions or safety inspection requirement.