In 2008, the state developed an enhanced Massachusetts vehicle inspection program called the Massachusetts Vehicle Check. As part of the annual emissions inspection program, the state tests vehicles for safety and smog, in accordance with the model year. In most cases, vehicles must undergo emissions checks in addition to a safety inspection if the vehicle was manufactured after 2001.

If a vehicle fails a smog or safety inspection, vehicle owners must make all necessary repairs before retesting the vehicle at the original testing center. Vehicle registration renewals cannot be completed if a vehicle has failed an inspection. To learn more about vehicle emissions testing in MA, review the sections below. 

Massachusetts Emissions and Smog Check Requirements

Drivers must complete a car inspection in Massachusetts once per year before the inspection due date. Additionally, a smog test is a requirement for vehicle model years 2001 and newer. Both safety and emissions tests are overseen by the Vehicle Safety and Compliance Services Department under the state Registry of Motor Vehicles (RMV).

While all vehicles must undergo a safety inspection, only certain vehicle model years must undergo a test for emissions. Currently, there are two different emissions tests which vehicles must undergo. Those tests are as follows:

  • On-board diagnostic test (OBD) – for passenger vehicles manufactured after 2003 with a gross vehicle weight rating of less than 8,500 lbs. and medium-duty vehicles built after 2007 with a gross vehicle weight rating of between 8,501 and 14,000 lbs.
  • Opacity test – for medium and heavy-duty diesel vehicles without a built-in OBD system and with a gross vehicle weight rating of more than 10,000 lbs.

Additionally, a vehicle safety inspection is a requirement for all cars in the state. A safety inspection includes the following 14 tests and takes about 12 to 15 minutes to complete:

  • A check of the vehicle’s registration certificate, vehicle identification number and license plates
  • Parking and service brake test
  • Exhaust system test
  • Steering and suspension testing
  • Horn sound test
  • Windshield wipers, glazing and glass check
  • Rear view mirror check
  • Lighting devices test
  • Tire and wheel check
  • Bumpers, fuel tank and fenders inspection
  • Seat belt test
  • Fuel tank cap inspection
  • Altered vehicle height check
  • Airbag inspection

Note: If your vehicle fails its safety or emissions test, you may challenge the results by completing an Inspection Station Complaint Form and mailing it to the RMV.

Smog Check Exemptions in Massachusetts

All vehicles must undergo a vehicle safety inspection, but certain vehicles are exempt from the smog portion of the test. Vehicles exempt from Massachusetts emissions testing include new vehicles (for up to one year of the sale or lease date), electric vehicles, diesel vehicles built before 1984, tactical military vehicles and motorcycles or motorized bicycles.

Additional vehicles with smog test exemptions include the following: diesel vehicles older than 15 years of age or manufactured before 1997 and diesel vehicles manufactured before 2007 with a gross vehicle weight rating of more than 10,000 pounds.

Out-of-State Emissions Testing in Massachusetts

If you will be out of state when your MA car smoke and safety test is due, you have two options for completing the inspection. You may complete your car inspection before you leave the state or complete the test from out of state if the state you are visiting offers vehicle inspections. If you complete a smog inspection in another state, you must submit your vehicle for an inspection within 15 days of returning to Massachusetts, or within 3 days if you cannot complete the test while out of state.

To complete a safety and smog test from out of state, you must complete an Out-of-State Verification for Vehicle Inspection Form (T21307). You must submit the form to the following address:

Vehicle Safety and Compliance Services
P.O. Box 55892
Boston, MA 02205-5892

Emissions Waivers in Massachusetts

If a non-commercial vehicle fails its Massachusetts car emission test, the vehicle owner may be eligible for a Waiver of Emissions Standards for the smog portion of the test, but not the safety inspection. The smog test waiver remains valid until the vehicle’s next annual inspection. However, vehicle owners must make emissions-related car repairs before they may qualify for a waiver. To obtain a smog inspection waiver, car owners must spend at least $880 on repairs for vehicle models less than 5 years old, $780 for vehicles between 6 and 10 years old or $680 on repairs for vehicle models over 10 years old.

Alternately, drivers of vehicles that fail an emissions check may request an Economic Hardship Repair Extension if the vehicle needs to undergo costly emissions-related repairs before it can pass an inspection. The Repair Extension provides drivers with a 1-year extension to help them save money for repairs or finding a replacement vehicle. However, vehicle owners cannot request an extension for the safety portion of the inspection. Furthermore, car emissions test repairs must be at least $1,320 for vehicles manufactured in the past 5 years, $1,170 for vehicle models 5 to 10 years old and $1,020 for vehicle models over 10 years old.

Note: To obtain a smog testing waiver or exemption, vehicle owners must visit a Motorist Assistance Center (MAC) to submit all repair and inspection records.

Testing Fees in Massachusetts

The Massachusetts smog check price is $35 for non-commercial vehicles, the cost of which includes the annual safety inspection. Labor may be an additional charge for commercial vehicles.

Vehicles used to transport students must be submitted for a semi-annual 7D vehicle inspection, which costs $35, in addition to the annual non-commercial inspection fee of $35. However, motorcycle safety inspections are $15 annually.

Where to Perform an Emissions Check in Massachusetts

To complete a car inspection, you must visit any of the 1,900 licensed emissions testing stations throughout the state. Each MA emissions testing center accepts vehicles based on the vehicle’s type, gross vehicle weight rating and chassis, so it is important to find an inspection station that is capable of inspecting your class of vehicle.

Failing a Massachusetts Smog and Emissions Test

If a vehicle fails its safety and smog test, vehicle owners must perform all necessary car repairs before the vehicle may undergo a retest. In most cases, vehicles fail an inspection for the following reasons:

  • Engine misfires
  • Issues with the catalytic converters
  • Poor-fitting gas caps and evaporative controls
  • Issues with exhaust gas recirculation valves
  • Malfunctioning components that regulate the air and fuel ratio

If a vehicle fails a smog test, car owners must bring the vehicle to a Registered Emissions Repair Shop or MAC to perform all emissions-related repairs. Smog testing MACs are available in the following areas:

  • Beverly
  • Fall River
  • Hyde Park
  • Shrewsbury
  • Bourne
  • Fitchburg
  • Medford
  • Tewksbury
  • Braintree Framingham
  • Pittsfield
  • West Springfield

When seeking vehicle repairs to meet emission test requirements, car owners must provide the repair technician with the Vehicle Inspection Report (VIR) and Emissions Repair Form (if applicable). Motorists who receive an emissions testing repair form must have the repair technician complete the form and the driver must submit it during the vehicle re-inspection.

Note: Drivers who complete all emission test repairs within 60 days of the initial inspection will receive one free retest at the original testing facility. Drivers must pay a fee for any additional inspections. In addition, drivers must retain all repair-related receipts in the vehicle until passing the inspection.

Last updated on Tuesday, March 10 2020.