Submitting your vehicle to emissions testing is typically required by motor vehicle departments when drivers go to obtain a new vehicle registration or renew their credential. The purposes of conducting a smog check prior to getting a new or renewed registration card is improving air quality and reducing the possibility of harmful vehicle emissions, thus protecting the environment and the health of the public.

Though state DMVs set the guidelines for getting registration credentials, smog checks are generally governed by agencies responsible for vehicle inspections and environmental protection. The process of performing vehicle emissions testing in Arizona, for instance, is administered by the state Department of Environmental Quality (ADEQ) in cooperation with the AZ Department of Transportation.

There are generally several factors which determine whether your vehicle will need to pass a DMV smog check or not, including its year and make, the state or county where it was registered and more. Note that certain vehicles may be exempt from undergoing a smog test, however, this usually depends on the circumstances. Learn more about how to perform a car emission test and find out whether there are any emissions testing locations near you in the sections below.

For more state-specific information, please visit your state’s Smog Testing and Emissions Inspections page:

Select a state to begin:
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Smog Testing and Emissions Inspections Requirements

Whether your vehicle will be subject to an emissions inspection or not usually depends on various factors, such as its model year, as well as the state or county of residence. Note that whether you are required to obtain a smog test certificate or not should be indicated on your vehicle registration renewal notice, provided you have received one.

For instance, completing DMV emissions testing in California is currently a mandatory step for all vehicles, except for drivers who own diesel-powered vehicles that are model year 1997 and older or vehicles that have a gross weight of more than 14,000 lbs, motorcycles, electric vehicles, natural gas-powered vehicles over 14,000 lbs, as well as gasoline-powered vehicles 1975 and older. Motor vehicles may also be subject to different car emissions tests, based on the type of the car.

Motorists in New York State, for example, will be required to conduct either an On-Board Diagnostics Generation II (OBDII) Inspection or a Low Enhanced Inspection. Note that drivers must keep their vehicles properly maintained at all times, otherwise they may fail the testing, which will then lead to various auto registration issues.

Exemptions From Emissions Testing

There are certain cases where performing auto emissions testing may not be necessary per state motor vehicle laws. Exemptions from emissions inspections will also differ from state to state or from county to county.

Per Arizona laws, for instance, a vehicle inspection will not be required for almost all vehicles within the five most recent model years. However, drivers with a reconstructed and specially constructed vehicle will still need to undergo a smog check. Also, motorists whose cars have been registered outside of an Air Quality Control area, including metro Phoenix and Tucson may be an exception to this rule.

In addition to this, military members who have been deployed out of state or overseas may be eligible to apply for a military exemption, provided the vehicle in question will not be in use. Under California laws, however, a smog check certificate will be required even for members of the U.S. Armed Forces. Prior to completing a vehicle emissions testing, it is best to contact a nearby DMV location or an emissions station and seek detailed information about the procedure.

How to Complete an Emissions Testing

In order to perform a required DMV smog check, you will first need to find a nearby emissions testing location and provide specific documentation. If you are wondering how to find a smog test station nearby, note that certain states, such as Arizona, provide you with a list of conveniently located centers on their official websites.

When conducting emissions testing, you may also need to present specific documents, depending on your country of residence. Arizona drivers requesting a vehicle inspection, for instance, must complete a series of steps which include but are not limited to:

  • Arranging payment for the applicable fees.
  • Bringing their key for locking gas tank (if applicable).
  • Presenting their vehicle registration, title certificate or bill of sale (if required).

Other documents may apply as well, depending on where you live and your circumstances. Remember that fees may also vary based on your location. Therefore, it is best to conduct in-depth research via the internet or call an emissions testing center and obtain as much information as possible beforehand, thus avoiding any inconvenience.

Last updated on Tuesday, March 10 2020.