The Air Check Virginia vehicle emissions testing program operates in 10 highly populated areas of the state and helps to ensure clean air quality by reducing pollution from motor vehicles. Through ordinary smog check stations and an innovative RAPIDPASS emissions test system, Air Check Virginia helps keep the state’s roadways safe and clean. Learn about the smog test options for your vehicle and which counties and cities require annual inspections by reviewing the details below.

Virginia Emissions and Smog Check Requirements

The need for emissions testing in Virginia is determined by the location of your vehicle, which may not be the same as your county or city of residence. If your vehicle is kept in Arlington, Fairfax, Loudoun, Prince William or Stafford county, you must have an emissions test every two years. Vehicles kept in the cities of Alexandria, Fairfax, Falls Church, Manassas or Manassas Park must also have a car emissions test done every two months to obtain a vehicle registration renewal.

Gasoline-powered vehicles with a model year less than 25 years old must have a DMV smog check if the gross vehicle weight rating (GVWR) is 10,000 pounds or less. Diesel-powered vehicles require vehicle emissions testing in VA when they have a model year of 1997 or newer and a GVWR of 8,500 pounds or less.

A smog check can be obtained by visiting a certified emissions inspection station or by driving past a RAPIDPASS on-road emissions test site. While the in-person inspection is more detailed and can help uncover potential emissions system problems, the RAPIDPASS process can be completed in under one second. With either method, your auto emissions testing results upload automatically to the VA DMV database.

Gas-powered vehicles dated 1996 and newer, and diesel-powered vehicles dated 1997 and newer, will undergo On-Board Diagnostic (OBD) emissions tests that connect the vehicle’s computer to the technician’s evaluation tools. These vehicles may also be subject to a regular tailpipe emissions test, where an instrument is inserted into the tailpipe while the engine is running to measure emissions quality.

Older vehicles will receive smog checks via a two-speed idle test or an acceleration simulation test on a dynamometer, or treadmill. These tests measure emissions while the vehicle idles and operates at speeds that simulate normal driving behavior.

To complete an in person inspection, you will need only to bring a form of payment to the smog check station. No proof of registration or insurance is needed.

Smog Check Exemptions in Virginia

Most new vehicles are exempt from emissions testing in VA for the first four years after their manufacturing, as the first inspection must be done when the vehicle turns five year. However, the state reserves the right to require a car emission test on a vehicle of any age that was brought into Virginia after being titled in another state. Most hybrid vehicles are exempt from DMV emissions testing when they obtain an EPA rating of at least 50 miles per gallon during city fuel economy tests.

Out-of-State Emissions Testing in Virginia

If you are temporarily living outside of Virginia emission test areas, but your vehicle is registered in one, you may still have to obtain a VA emissions test to renew your registration. If that is not possible, then you can call the VA DMV and request to change the address of where your vehicle is stored. Doing so can excuse you from mandatory smog check requirements until you return to your permanent Virginia residence.

Emissions Waivers in Virginia

If you fail an emissions test, you will receive a certificate that explicitly states why your vehicle failed the test and how you can repair your vehicle to meet state emission standards. You can receive an emissions inspection waiver if you pay for test-related repairs that exceed the repair cost threshold. Keep all receipts from repairs linked to your failed smog certification, and have the repair work done by a certified emissions repair technician at a certified emissions repair facility.

This is necessary if you wish for your expenditures to count toward the waiver threshold. Vehicles ineligible to receive an emissions inspection waiver in VA include those less than two years old or with less than 24,000 miles, and still under the manufacturer’s warranty.

Testing Fees in Virginia

Whether you opt for in-person test at a licensed smog test station, or use the RAPIDPASS system, an emissions inspection currently costs the same for either method. Although some emissions testing locations offer a smog check coupon or other cost-saving incentives, RAPIDPASS always costs one flat fee.

Where to Perform an Emissions Check in Virginia

Visit a local smog check station for a comprehensive inspection, or see if you qualify for a RAPIDPASS test. If you choose to use RAPIDPASS, note that your vehicle must not have failed its last emissions test cycle or already failed a test in the current cycle. Diesel vehicles are also ineligible for RAPIDPASS emissions testing.

These systems are set up along a roadway, usually an interstate entrance ramp, and measure your vehicle’s speed and emission quality as you pass by. A camera takes a photo of your tag and the system mails you a smog certification notice. If you pass, you must go online to pay for the inspection.

Failing a Virginia Smog and Emissions Test

There are many reasons for failing a Virginia emissions test. Some are minor, such as a simple exhaust leak, while others involve multi-system failures and a high repair bill. If your vehicle fails its first DMV smog check, get the suggested repairs done and go back for a free retest at the original facility within 14 days. If it fails again, see the section above about obtaining a waiver.

Last updated on Tuesday, March 10 2020.