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Chilton Auto Answers: Vehicle Inspections State By State

Rusty beat up car

There are federal EPA air pollution and DOT safety regulations that all cars, trucks, and other vehicles are required to meet to be sold in the United States when new. However, once sold each state has its own way of making sure your vehicle meets them. In 11 of the 50 states, there is no form of smog or safety inspection required, ever. A periodic vehicle safety inspection for road worthiness is not required in the majority of states. In 32 out of the 50 states a smog test is needed in some areas on a regular schedule.

A few states that don’t require yearly safety inspections do require an official look over the vehicle on initial registration, transfer of ownership, or when registering from another state. It is hard to find exactly what is to be inspected for these less common exams, so check with your local DMV.

Chilton dug into the websites of each state’s motor vehicle or transportation department to bring you this rundown of requirements, state by state. Remember though, smog check requirements can vary by zip code, city, or county as well.

Alabama – There are no smog tests or annual safety inspections here, however the DMV will look over the car on an ownership change. No details were found online for that DMV inspection.

Alaska – Cars and trucks in Alaska take a beating thanks to the bad roads, weather, and salt, but there are no safety or smog inspections. There is not even a VIN number check for registration.

Arizona – The urban areas of Phoenix and Tucson do require periodic smog checks, but the rest of the state does not. There are no safety inspections anywhere in the state.

Arkansas – This state has no inspections or smog checks.

California – Every two years, most cars will need a smog check in 41 out of 58 counties, though often times it is just a scan of the OBDII system for reported trouble. You can look up your county’s requirements here. There are no safety inspections, but there is a VIN verification for registration done by the DMV or an authorized agent.

Colorado – No periodic safety inspections, but the DMV will perform a VIN verification for registration. If you live or work in Boulder, Broomfield, Denver Douglas or Jefferson, a smog test is required, plus parts of Adams, Arapahoe, Larimer, and Weld.

Connecticut – There is no safety inspection, but the DMV will verify the VIN for registration. There is a cursory check when transferring registration between owners or bringing a car in from out of state. Every two years a smog check is required.

Delaware – A smog test and safety inspection is required every two years. The DMV check all light, tests the brakes, checks windows for cracks (small crack allowed in windshield), inspects tires, tests wipers, checks mirrors, looks for fuel leaks, tests horn, listens to exhaust, and tests door, hood and trunk latches. Common failures include: Hood scoop opening more than 3” tall, bumper more than 22” above the ground. The full list is here.

District of Columbia – Smog test and inspection required every two years. Commercial vehicles, taxis, limos, and for-hire vehicles need to have a safety inspection every year.

Florida – No periodic state smog or safety inspection. Vehicles from other states will have their VIN verified before transferring registration.

Georgia – No periodic state smog or safety inspection. Atlanta residents need a smog test every year.

Hawaii – No annual smog check, but periodic safety inspection. The inspector will check steering, brakes, tires, fuel system, exhaust, lights, mirrors, speedometer, odometer, windows, and seat belts for function and wear. A PDF of the inspector’s manual is on their DOT website.

Idaho – No periodic state smog or safety inspection. Residents in Ada and Canyon counties get periodic smog tests. Vehicles from other states will have their VIN verified before transferring registration.

Illinois – No periodic state smog or safety inspection. Chicago and St. Louis, MO. area residents need smog checks every other year, and cursory safety inspections are done by the emissions inspector.

Indiana – No periodic state smog or safety inspection. Residents near Chicago, as well as Lake and Porter Counties, need a periodic smog test. Vehicles from other states will have their VIN verified before transferring registration.

Iowa – This state has no inspections or smog checks.

Kansas – No periodic state smog or safety inspection. Vehicles from other states will have their VIN verified before transferring registration.

Kentucky – This state has no inspections or smog checks.

Louisiana – Annual smog tests only required for residents near Baton Rouge. Annual safety inspection (unless you pay for a two year inspection sticker) where inspectors will examine brakes (including parking brake), lights (cannot have cracked lenses of tape on taillights), mirrors, windows, seatbelts, speedo/odometer, and rust through into passenger compartment. Headlights must be 24” above the road and less than 64”, and taillights 15” above but not more than 72”. The entire list is here.

Maine – Annual smog tests only required for residents in Cumberland County. VIN and safety inspection yearly, and on 1996 and newer cars they will check the OBD system for trouble codes too. Inspector checks lights, brakes, safety gear, and no major rust, but it can vary widely and the book is 200 pages. You can read the whole rule book here.

Maryland – No annual safety inspections, but there is one when ownership is transferred.  A smog test is done every two years in 13 out of 23 counties, plus the Baltimore metro area. You can get specifics on their website.

Massachusetts – Every year your vehicle is subject to both safety and emissions inspections. Safety inspections examine the brakes, lights, and steering, but there are also rules about raising and lowering vehicles. More details are listed here.

 

Michigan – This state has no inspections or smog checks.

Minnesota – This state has no inspections or smog checks.

Mississippi – This state has no inspections or smog checks.

Missouri – Only St. Louis area residents must get smog checks. Every other year your vehicle must pass a safety inspection, including proper function of lights and brakes, proper suspension motion, seatbelts, cracked windows, and other criteria. There is also a maximum bumper height of 22” for passenger cars and 27” for light trucks. You can check out the rules here.

Nebraska – This state has no periodic inspections or smog checks. Vehicles from other states will be inspected when first registered here.

Nevada – There are no periodic safety inspections. Areas of Clark and Washoe county require residents to have smog checks. Vehicles from other states will have their VIN verified before transferring registration.

New Hampshire – Annually you must pass an inspection of the brakes, lights, steering, windows, wiper, horn, and defroster. You can get more information here. Vehicles less than 20 years old must also have a smog test every year.

New Jersey – No periodic safety inspections, but smog tests every other year.

New Mexico – No periodic safety inspections. Residents of Bernalillo county near Albuquerque need periodic smog tests. Vehicles from other states will have their VIN verified before transferring registration.

New York – Annual safety inspection and smog test. The safety inspection covers all the bases including seatbelts, glass and tint, tires, brakes, lights, and more. The details are all on this site. Cars 26 years old or older don’t need smog tests.

North Carolina – Annual smog test in the 48 most populated counties for cars made in 1996 and later. The required annual safety check is basic covering lights, brakes, horn, tires, and the like. You can get the details here.

North Dakota – This state has no inspections or smog checks.

Ohio – No periodic safety inspections, but smog tests every other year if you live in the Cleveland area.

Oklahoma – This state has no inspections or smog checks. Vehicles from other states will have their VIN verified before transferring registration.

Oregon – No state safety inspection or smog test, but Portland and Medford area residents must get periodic smog checks. Vehicles from other states will have their VIN verified before transferring registration.

Pennsylvania – Annual safety checks are required, and in heavily populated counties there is a periodic smog test. The inspection is basic, with tires, brakes, lights, rust through, and the like inspected. You can read the over 100 page inspection guidelines here.

Rhode Island – There are both safety and smog inspections every two years. The safety check includes brakes, lights, steering, seat belts, tires, exhaust system, structural  rust, wipers, horn, and windows. You can read a more detailed list here.

South Carolina – This state has no inspections or smog checks.

South Dakota – This state has no inspections or smog checks.

Tennessee – There are no state safety inspection or smog tests. Residents of Davidson County, Hamilton County, Rutherford County, Sumner County, Williamson County, and Wilson County need smog tests every year.

Texas – There are no annual smog requirements, but there is a safety inspection.  The state inspection includes VIN verification, tires, brakes, lights, exhaust system, steering, seat belts, and more. The whole checklist is here. Residents of urban areas, like Houston, Dallas-Fort Worth, Austin, and El Paso, also need an annual smog test.

Utah – There are no state safety or smog inspection. Residents of Davis, Salt Lake, Utah and Weber counties need a smog test every two years.

Vermont – Every year there is a state smog and safety inspection. The DMV inspects tires for proper size, checks trunk and floor for rust, checks structural body mounts, and makes sure the muffler is “certified”. The whole list is here.

Virginia – There is an annual state safety inspection. The inspection checks the usual things, plus mixing bias ply and radial tires can fail you, or a driver’s seat that isn’t bolted securely. You can see the list here. Counties in the area of Washington, D.C. also have an annual smog test.

Washington – No state safety inspection or smog test, but Clark County, King County, Pierce County, Snohomish County, and Spokane County residents must get periodic smog checks. Vehicles from other states will have their VIN verified before transferring registration.

West Virginia – Every year the state will check the integrity of windows and body panels, make sure the mirrors are present, test the horn and lights, check the brakes, tires, and steering, and make sure the exhaust isn’t too loud. You can read the detailed inspection manual here. There are no smog tests.

Wisconsin – No state safety inspection or smog test, but Kenosha, Milwaukee, Ozaukee, Racine, Sheboygan, Washington, or Waukesha County residents must get periodic smog checks. However, only cars made in 1996 and later need to be tested.

Wyoming – There are no state safety inspection or smog tests. Vehicles from other states will have their VIN verified before transferring registration.

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One Response

  1. Mindy Jollie says:

    That’s good to know that Washington smog inspections are determined by county, not by the state. My friend has to get their car inspected for emissions in order to renew their registration. They’ll have to find a place that will perform the inspection when they’re available.

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