Smog and Emissions Testing in Virginia
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 emissions 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 garaged in Arlington, Fairfax, Loudoun, Prince William or Stafford counties, 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 every two months to obtain a vehicle registration renewal.
Gasoline-powered vehicles with a model year less than 25 years old as of January in the current calendar year 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, described in the locations section below. 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.
Virginia vehicle inspection customers need only to bring a form of payment with them 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 the date of manufacture. The first smog check must occur once it is five model years old. 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 at (804) 698-4000 and request to change the address where your vehicle is stored or garaged. Doing so can opt you out of the mandatory smog check requirements until you return to your permanent Virginia residence.
Emissions Waivers in Virginia
You can receive an emissions inspection waiver if you incur test-related repairs that exceed the repair cost threshold, currently $815. Keep all receipts from repairs linked to your failing smog certification, and have the repair work done by a certified emissions repair technician at a certified emissions repair facility. This is necessary 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 testing at a licensed smog test station, or use the RAPIDPASS system, an emissions inspection currently costs $28. 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 DMV emissions test, or see if you qualify for a RAPIDPASS test. If you choose to use RAPIDPASS, note that your vehicle cannot 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 complete and 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, obtain the suggested repairs 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.