Emissions testing to renew or apply for a car registration in Iowa is not required for residents. However, drivers should understand smog test standards in other states and reasons for regular vehicle inspection, particularly if they are moving to a state that requires these types of inspections. Regular vehicle emissions testing in Iowa ensures vehicles are releasing the lowest possible level of emissions. Car emissions increase air toxicity, contribute to global warming and affect the water supply. Meeting these standards in Iowa, although not required, helps contribute to clean air and water in the state.

Iowa Emissions and Smog Check Requirements

Smog check requirements and emissions testing do not apply to vehicles in Iowa, but residents should be aware of out-of-state inspection standards. A smog test will be necessary if a resident moves from Iowa to a state that requires vehicle emissions testing. In these states, car pollution requirements must be regularly met in order to apply for or renew a car registration. Out-of-state emissions testing is designed to bring cars in line with pollution standards on the state and federal levels. Recognizing regular auto emissions testing as a way to maintain clean air and water in each state, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) sets emission standards at the federal level. Additionally, the Iowa Department of Natural Resources tests air quality throughout the state, encouraging sustainable vehicle practices to lower emissions. Performing these tests as an Iowa resident supports these initiatives in the state.

Smog Check Exemptions in Iowa

No emissions testing standards exist in Iowa, so residents are exempt from smog check requirements. For out-of-state vehicle emissions testing, special circumstances that vary by state allow residents to request an exemption or extension on an emissions inspection. Situations allowing an auto emission test, test exemption or extension may include a car being repaired or coming from out of the state. Exemptions may also be granted if the resident is a student or military service member. Iowa residents moving to a state with testing requirements should understand the exemption and extension standards in that state.

Out-of-State Emissions Testing

For an out-of-state smog test to renew a car registration, a vehicle is inspected at one of the emissions testing locations within the state. Meeting certain emissions testing standards is required for the vehicle. Iowa residents should expect inspections if they are moving to a state that requires vehicle emissions testing. Most states use an on-board diagnostics test to check emissions based on the model year and type of vehicle. Each state has a different standard for inspections based on model year requirements, so the threshold in one state may be completely different from that of another state.

During a car emission test, a special scanner receives information from the on-board computer of a vehicle about each part of the vehicle that controls emissions. This auto emissions testing can sometimes provide clues as to the health of a vehicle, as vehicles are more likely to be releasing emission levels that do not adhere to the state standards if their parts are not working correctly. During the vehicle inspection, an inspector may also look for tampering on the vehicle and check the gas cap and tailpipe. A safety and emissions check looks for any tampering and modification to parts of the vehicle that can result in higher emissions. Tailpipes and gas caps may be inspected. If the gas cap is not secure or the tailpipe does not function properly, higher levels of gasoline vapor could be released, resulting in greater air pollution.

Car Emissions Test Waivers in Iowa

For out-of-state emission test requirements, vehicles that fail an inspection should be repaired and the emissions test redone. Most states requiring smog certifications give out waivers to owners who have paid a certain amount of money on repairs. An emissions waiver allows the car registration to be renewed for a certain amount of time, as long as the owner of the vehicle provides receipts for the cost of emissions repairs to a local DMV office. Because there are no emissions inspection requirements in Iowa, waivers are never required for residents.

Testing Fees in Iowa

The cost of emissions testing in Iowa varies because this type of testing is not required in order to renew a car registration in the state and no specific emissions testing centers exist. Instead, safety and emissions tests are administered by local auto service locations. You can compare rates by calling several auto service shops, keeping in mind the average test price in other states. To increase savings, a smog check coupon for an auto shop may be found in local magazines, newspapers or online. For an out-of-state smog check, an inspection can cost up to $30. For example, a car smoke test on newer cars in Colorado is $25, while a test on newer cars in Maryland is $14. Prices are usually higher in states with stricter emission requirements.

Where to Perform an Emissions Check in Iowa

In Iowa, an emissions check can be completed at regular vehicle service shops. Search online for “emissions testing near me” to find vehicle service shops that perform Iowa emission tests. You can also call the auto shops to learn and compare general information among stores. For an out-of-state required inspection, contact a local DMV office for information on testing locations.

Failing a Smog and Emissions Test

If a car fails vehicle emissions testing in Iowa, the vehicle inspection will reveal why the car did not meet the requirements. You may choose to use this information to get the car repaired. Repairs for emissions are generally inexpensive. For states requiring emissions tests, the test must be retaken after the vehicle is repaired. To pass an inspection, a vehicle must be checked and serviced regularly. Before a car emission test, be sure the Malfunction Indicator Lamp (MIL) light is off. If the light is on during an inspection, the vehicle will automatically fail. If visible smoke is being released from a car and/or the MIL is on, the vehicle most likely has a high emission level. The MIL may light up, reading “service engine soon” or “check engine.” In both situations, take the car to an auto repair specialist immediately.


Last updated on Tuesday, March 10 2020.