Understanding emissions testing requirements to renew a car registration is beneficial for drivers in South Carolina, although vehicle inspection is not required for residents of the state. Regular smog check on vehicles ensures cars are not creating excessive pollution affecting the air and water. Car emissions increase air toxicity and contribute to global warming. Performing periodic smog checks and maintaining a smog check history helps vehicles run smoothly and maintain clean air and water in the state.

South Carolina Emissions and Smog Check Requirements

There is no emissions testing required for vehicles in South Carolina, but residents should be aware of standards in other U.S. states. A smog test is required if a resident moves from South Carolina to another state in the future. Cars must meet smog certification requirements and undergo vehicle emission testing to apply for or renew a car registration. A state car emission test is designed to meet state and federal emissions standards, regulated on the federal level by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). The EPA recognizes regular auto emissions testing as a way to maintain clean air and water throughout the U.S. At the state level, the South Carolina Department of Health provides information on air emissions and supports fuel efficiency and using alternative transportation.

Smog Check Exemptions in South Carolina

There are no vehicle emissions testing requirements in South Carolina, so residents are exempt from smog certification standards. For out-of-state vehicle emissions testing, certain situations allow residents to request an exemption or extension on an emissions inspection. Acceptable circumstances for safety and emission exemptions vary by state and may include a car being repaired or from out-of-state. Exemptions may also be given to residents who are students or military members. South Carolina residents moving to a state with testing requirements should become aware of exemption and extension information in that state.

Out-of-State Emissions Testing

For an out-of-state smog check in order to renew a car registration, the vehicle must meet certain standards. South Carolina residents should anticipate a car emission test if they move to a state that requires inspections. Most emissions testing locations use an on-board diagnostics test for vehicles based on the model year and type of vehicle. The standard for model years varies on a state-by-state basis.

A safety and emissions test requires a scanner to connect with the on-board diagnostics computer of a vehicle to gather information about the parts controlling emissions. If the parts are not working properly, the vehicle is likely releasing emissions levels that are too high. During the emissions check, an inspector may also look for tampering on the vehicle and check the gas cap and tailpipe. A vehicle inspection checks for parts of a vehicle that have been modified, resulting in higher emissions released by the car. Tailpipes and gas caps may be inspected because if they are not secure or do not function properly, higher levels of gasoline vapor could be released, resulting in more air emissions.

Emissions Waivers in South Carolina

In states with emission test requirements, owners of vehicles that fail an inspection may be required to pay for repairs and redo the emissions test. Most states requiring a vehicle inspection give out waivers to owners who have paid a certain amount on emission repairs for a vehicle. An emissions waiver allows the car registration to be renewed for a period of time, as long as the owner of the vehicle shows receipts for the emissions repairs at the DMV. Emissions waivers only apply to South Carolina residents if they move to a state requiring inspections.

Testing Fees in South Carolina

The price of a vehicle inspection varies in South Carolina. Since smog certification is not necessary to renew a car registration in the state, there are no designated locations for residents to use. Instead, local auto shops may administer checks. Call these shops to inquire about rates, 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 out-of-state emissions testing, inspections can cost up to $30. For example, a smog test on newer cars in Colorado is $25, while a test on newer cars in Maryland is $14. Smog check prices are lower in states with reduced emission requirements.

Where to Perform an Emissions Check in South Carolina

For states requiring emissions testing locations can be found by contacting the local DMV office for information. In South Carolina, an emissions check can be completed at regular auto service locations. Search online for “emissions testing near me” to find auto service businesses that perform the procedure. You can call the shops to compare inspection rates and get information.

Failing a Smog and Emissions Test

If a car fails vehicle emissions testing in South Carolina, the smog certification will reveal why the car did not pass. You may 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 a vehicle inspection, a car must be inspected and serviced regularly. Before a car emission test, be sure the Malfunction Indicator Lamp (MIL) light is off. If the light is on during a test, the vehicle will automatically fail. If visible smoke is being released from a car or the MIL is on, the vehicle most likely has a high emission level.


Last updated on Tuesday, March 10 2020.