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Vehicle Emissions Testing in North Carolina

In North Carolina, a vehicle emissions test is required for many original registrations, as well as for annual registration renewals.


A car, truck, motor home or RV (recreational vehicle) requires an emissions test when:

  1. It is driven mainly in the urban and densely populated areas.
  2. It runs on gasoline.


Emission tests are valid for 10 days after receiving the license plate of the vehicle. A valid test is required to reinstate a suspended registration and to complete an original vehicle registration or registration renewal. Used car dealers are required to issue a valid emissions test for any vehicle they sell. Getting an emissions test is the buyer's responsibility when the vehicle is purchased from a private owner.


A vehicle is exempt from emissions testing when:
  1. It is either a new vehicle, or on its first or second registration.
  2. It is a hybrid-electric vehicle less than five years old.
  3. It is 35 years or older.
  4. It is a motorcycle or a moped.
  5. It is an alternative fuel vehicle.


Any Authorized Emissions Inspection Station licensed by the State can test your vehicle, in the county that you live in. Look for the official sign issued by the Division of Motor Vehicles to authorized testing stations. The test standards and maximum fees will be displayed at the stations. Only select stations deal with light-duty diesel vehicles.


There is a maximum emissions testing fee set by the Division of Motor Vehicles, which ranges between $6.50 up to $30. The fee varies by county, type of vehicle and type of fuel. See Emissions fees for details.


If your vehicle fails the emissions test/OBD (On Board Diagnostic), within four months, you must have the vehicle repaired, after which it must pass the after repairs emissions test. The vehicle can be repaired at the station or elsewhere. A $250 civil penalty is levied if this is not followed and the vehicle is not permitted to renew registration. If your vehicle is unable to meet the emissions standard following the necessary repair work, you may be able to obtain a waiver prior to registration. You shall be eligible for waiver in case you fulfill the requirements to obtain certain waivers.


  • If you are out of state, or if your vehicle is otherwise unavailable for inspection, you can register your vehicle or renew your registration within 10 days of returning to North Carolina.
  • See also Vehicle History Reports.