Vehicle inspection in the United States
In the United States, vehicle safety inspection and emissions inspection are governed by each state individually. 17 states have a periodic (annual or biennial) safety inspection program, while Maryland and Alabama require a safety inspection on sale or transfer of vehicles which were previously registered in another state. New Jersey discontinued its passenger vehicle safety inspection program on August 1, 2010.
In 1977, the federal Clean Air Act was amended by Congress to require states to implement vehicle emissions inspection programs, known as I/M programs (for Inspection and Maintenance), in all major metropolitan areas whose air quality failed to meet certain federal standards. New York's program started in 1982, California's program ("Smog Check") started in 1984, and Illinois' program started in 1986. The Clean Air Act of 1990 required some states to enact vehicle emissions inspection programs. State impacted were those in metropolitan areas where air quality did not meet federal standards. Some states, including Kentucky and Minnesota, have discontinued their testing programs in recent years with approval from the federal government.
- 1 Jurisdictions requiring periodic vehicle safety inspections
- 2 Jurisdictions requiring a safety inspection only prior to sale or transfer of ownership
- 3 Jurisdictions requiring a safety inspection only when bringing a vehicle from another jurisdiction
- 4 Jurisdictions requiring periodic vehicle emissions inspections
- 5 Jurisdictions requiring VIN inspection
- 6 States without safety, emissions, or VIN inspections
- 7 Summary of Periodic Inspection Requirements for Non-Commercial Vehicles
- 8 See also
- 9 References
- 10 External links
Jurisdictions requiring periodic vehicle safety inspections
- Delaware—annually or biennially, new cars are exempt from inspection for the first five years provided the car remains with the same owner.
- District of Columbia—biennially, the requirement for safety inspection for privately owned cars ended October 1, 2009.
- Hawaii—annually, with the following exceptions: Brand new vehicles receive an inspection valid for two years. Emergency vehicles, school vehicles, rental cars, and vehicles used in public transportation must be inspected every six months. Sticker placed on rear bumper to right on license plate.
- Illinois—According to Illinois EPA, "Ensure your vehicle is safe to operate. Your vehicle may be rejected [for emissions testing] if the test cannot be safely conducted." Emissions testing is required biannually only for vehicles registered in specific counties and zip codes (see below).
- Louisiana—annually. However, as of September, 2012, people in most jurisdictions have the option of getting a sticker good for two years, rather than one, by paying double the usual fee. Note that, in New Orleans, Inspection Stickers are commonly referred to as "Brake Tags"; they are placed on the inside of the windshield, in the lower-left corner of the windshield (on the driver's side). Colors change every year.
- Maine—annually; color of sticker changes annually; Sticker placed in top center of windshield behind rear view mirror.
- Massachusetts—annually. Stickers are placed in the lower right corner of the windshield.
- Mississippi—annually. Sticker placed in lower left corner of windshield. (Effective July 1st, 2015, Mississippi will no longer require annual safety inspections)
- Missouri—biennially, based on the vehicle's model year. Odd-numbered model year renews in odd-numbered year, even-numbered model year renews in even-numbered year. Effective January 1, 2010, vehicles are exempt from safety inspection requirements for the first five years following the vehicle's model year. Vehicles displaying historical plates are completely exempt from inspection.
- New Hampshire—annually, except the first inspection of a new vehicle or upon an ownership transfer is adjusted to expire in the month of the registrant's birthday and is therefore valid for 4 to 15 months. Sticker placed in top center of windshield under rear view mirror.
- New Jersey—annually for commercial vehicles (including taxis, limousines, jitneys, and buses), effective January 1, 2010. Passenger vehicles are exempt from safety inspections, effective August 1, 2010.
- New York—annually. Newly registered vehicles with a current inspection sticker from another state are exempt until the out-of-state sticker expires or for one year after registration in New York, whichever is sooner. Stickers are placed on lower left corner of windshield.
- North Carolina—annually until the vehicle is 35 years of age, at which point inspections are no longer required.
- Pennsylvania—annually for most vehicles; every six months for all vehicles over 17,000 pounds (7,700 kg) GVW, which includes tractor-trailers, most non-articulated trucks, school vehicles (including school buses and school vans), motor coaches, mass transit buses, ambulances, fire department trucks, etc., and even though they fall below that gross vehicle weight, taxicabs and most vehicles that carry passengers for hire. Limousines are inspected annually, although they carry passengers for hire. Annual inspection (AI# serial numbers, which become BI# when AI# is exhausted at 10 million stickers), emission (IM#), and semi-annual (SI#) inspection stickers are color-coded - each type of sticker has its own distinct color which is changed at random every year (for example, colors for stickers expiring from October 2014-September 2015 are as follows: annual inspection-green, annual emissions-orange, semiannual inspection-purple; colors for stickers expiring from October 2015-September 2016 are as follows: annual inspection-red, annual emissions-blue, semiannual inspection-brown). Stickers are placed on the lower left corner of the windshield. The new issue stickers appear in October in time for the January expiration stickers to be available on their first day of issue, which is November 1 of the previous year, for example, stickers bearing an expiration date of January 2016 will be available starting on November 1, 2014 (new stickers are available 3 calendar months before the current sticker's expiration). The annual color change makes it easier for police to be aware of expired stickers. Vehicles bearing antique vehicle license plates are exempt from inspection, but vehicles bearing classic or collectible license plates are subject to inspection. Trailers in excess of 3,000 pounds (1,400 kg) GVW are also inspected annually as are motorcycles.
- Rhode Island—biennially; Newly registered vehicles are exempt from the inspection requirement for 2 years from the date of purchase. Vehicles registered as antiques are subject to safety inspection, but are exempt from emissions testing. Stickers are placed on lower-right corner of windshield.
- Texas—new vehicles are sold with an inspection decal which expires 2 years after the sale of the vehicle. Annually thereafter. The inspection decal is placed in the lower left corner of the windshield near the registration decal. Beginning March 1, 2015, the inspection decal is being eliminated and proof of inspection will be required to renew the registration.
- Utah—biennially for the first eight years, annually thereafter.
- Vermont—annually; inspections are due at the end of even-numbered months only. Inspections performed in an odd-numbered month will receive a sticker for the next even-numbered month (e.g., a car inspected in November 2011 will receive a sticker good until December 31, 2012). Inspection stickers are placed behind the rearview mirror and are color-coded by year.
- Virginia—annually;. Newly registered vehicles with a valid inspection from another state are exempt from inspection until the out-of-state inspection expires. Stickers are yellow and are placed in the lower center part of the windshield.
- West Virginia—annually; color of sticker changes annually; sticker placed in lower right corner of windshield.
Jurisdictions requiring a safety inspection only prior to sale or transfer of ownership
Jurisdictions requiring a safety inspection only when bringing a vehicle from another jurisdiction
Jurisdictions requiring periodic vehicle emissions inspections
- Arizona—biennially, in Phoenix and Tucson metro areas only, depending on age and type of vehicle.
- California—biennially for all vehicles from out-of-state, regardless of age; and all vehicles made after 1975 which are more than six years old (in most ZIP codes and in most major metropolitan areas including Los Angeles, Sacramento, San Diego, and San Francisco).
- Colorado—biennially. Required in Denver, Boulder, and the Front Range. Includes Adams, Arapahoe, Boulder, Broomfield, Denver, Douglas, Jefferson, Larimer, and Weld Counties.
- Delaware—annually or biennially. Older cars registered as antiques are exempt from emissions testing.
- District of Columbia—biennially.
- Georgia—annually for gasoline-powered cars or light-duty trucks (8,500 pounds GVWR or less), required only in the 13 metro Atlanta counties (Cherokee, Clayton, Cobb, Coweta, DeKalb, Douglas, Fayette, Forsyth, Fulton, Gwinnett, Henry, Paulding and Rockdale). The three most recent model year vehicles and those that that are 25 model years or older are exempt from emissions testing. As well as all motorcycles, recreational vehicles (RVs), motor homes and diesel powered vehicles.
- Idaho—required in Ada County and Canyon County only.
- Illinois—biennially after the vehicle is four years old. Required only in the Chicago metropolitan area and eastern suburbs of St. Louis, Missouri.
- Indiana—biennially, required in Lake County and Porter County (Chicago metropolitan area)/Northwest Indiana only.
- Louisiana—annually, only in the Baton Rouge metropolitan area parishes of Ascension, East Baton Rouge, Iberville, Livingtston, and West Baton Rouge.
- Maryland—biennially, required in 13 (out of 23) counties and the independent city of Baltimore. The most recent two model years of vehicles are exempt from emissions testing.
- Massachusetts—annually, as of 2008. Vehicles less than 15 years old must pass an OBD-2 scan for emissions system compliance. Vehicles over 15 years old receive a visual check and must not 'produce visible smoke'. Prior to 2008, an emissions inspection was required biennially based on the vehicle's model year (odd-numbered model years were inspected in odd-numbered years, even-numbered model years were inspected in even-numbered years). Also in 2008, the tailpipe test for 1995 model year and older vehicles was discontinued.
- Missouri—biennially, based on the vehicle's model year, required only in St. Louis City, St. Louis County, St. Charles County, Franklin County, and Jefferson County.
- Nevada—required only in Clark County (Las Vegas) and Washoe County (Reno).
- New Hampshire—annually, except the first inspection of a new vehicle or upon an ownership transfer is adjusted to expire in the month of the registrant's birthday and is therefore valid for 4 to 15 months. Emissions inspection is required only for model year 1996 and newer vehicles.
- New Jersey—biennially. Effective January 1, 2010, commercial vehicles (including taxis, limousines, jitneys, and buses) are subject to an annual inspection. Effective August 1, 2010, new non-commercial vehicles are exempt for the first five years. Used non-commercial vehicles are also exempt for the first five model years, as indicated on the New Car Dealer inspection decal. Used non-commercial vehicles originally purchased outside of New Jersey will receive a decal valid for five years from the model year of the vehicle. Effective August 1, 2010, vehicles exempt from inspection include motorcycles, non-commercial diesel vehicles between 8,500 pounds (3,900 kg) and 10,000 pounds (4,500 kg) GVWR or older than model year 1997 and under 10,000 pounds (4,500 kg) GVWR, diesel trucks between 10,000 pounds (4,500 kg) and 18,000 pounds (8,200 kg) GVWR (subject to self-inspection), farm vehicles, collector vehicles, historic vehicles, trailers, and mopeds.
- New Mexico - biennially, required only for vehicles registered in Bernalillo County
- New York—annually. Newly registered vehicles with a current inspection sticker from another state are exempt until the out-of-state sticker expires or for one year after registration in New York, whichever is sooner. Model year 1996 and newer vehicles are subject to an OBD-II emissions inspection, while older cars receive a visual check of emissions components. Until December 31, 2010, vehicles registered in the five boroughs of New York City, as well as on Long Island, in Westchester County or in Rockland County required a tailpipe smog-test if they are not OBD II equipped (they now receive a visual only check of emissions control devices). All OBD II vehicles in those areas (1996 model year or newer) require only the OBD II test. Any vehicle 26 model years old or more does not require an emissions check of any sort.
- North Carolina—annually, required for vehicles in the 48 (out of 100) most populated counties for model year 1996 or newer vehicles, except brand new vehicles, which get safety inspections only. Non-gasoline powered vehicles and cars 1995 or older and vehicles with a GVWR of more than 8500 lbs. are exempt from emissions inspection. Effective November 1, 2008, no inspection decal is issued upon passing. All state inspection records both emissions and safety are now kept via electronic database, and are required for being awarded new license plates, and/or registration.
- Ohio—currently required only in the Cleveland metropolitan area (Cuyahoga County, Geauga County, Lake County, Lorain County, Medina County, Portage County, and Summit County). Vehicles up to four years old are exempt. Testing is based on an odd-even year system. If a car was purchased in 2000, it is not required to be tested until 2010, if a car was purchased in 2003, then it will need to be tested in 2009. Ohio does not charge a fee for emission testing, due to Ohio's tobacco settlement.
- Oregon—required only in the Portland and Medford metro areas
- Pennsylvania—annually for most vehicles under 9,000 pounds (4,100 kg) GVW. Required in 25 (out of 67) counties. Diesel-powered vehicles are exempt from emissions inspection.
- Rhode Island—biennially.
- Tennessee—annually, in conjunction with registration renewal, excluding new motor vehicles being registered for the first time, vehicles with a designated model year prior to 1975, heavy duty motor vehicles (more than 10,500 lbs. GVWR) and motorcycles. Required only in Davidson County, Hamilton County, Rutherford County, Sumner County, Williamson County, Wilson County, the fee for the vehicle emissions inspection is $9.00. As of July 1, 2014, the city of Memphis no longer requires vehicle emission testing.
- Texas—annually, required only in the largest urban areas: Houston, Dallas-Fort Worth, Austin, and El Paso. Vehicles more than 2 model years old and up to 24 model years old are subjected to the annual emission tests (pre-OBDII automobiles registered in the Houston Metro area and DFW Metroplex are tested using the accelerated simulation mode while 4 wheel drive/all wheel drive automobiles, light trucks, vans, and SUVs over 8500GVW, continue to use the two-speed idle test (Travis/Williamson and El Paso Counties use the TSI test for pre-1996) - anything over 25 model years old - including those registered as an antique or classic (also inclusive of antique and classic motor vehicle displaying year of manufacture license plates where a state issued vanity license plate or previous Texas general issue license plate was used with the motor vehicle is used for registration purposes under the TxDMV Antique or Classic Vehicle Registration), are exempted from emission testing. Motorcycles and diesel vehicles are exempt from any state emissions testing.
- Utah—in its four most populated counties of Weber, Davis, Salt Lake, and Utah, biennially if less than six years old; annually, if older, but not older than 1967; otherwise, none is required.
- Vermont-annually, done at time of State Inspection 1996 and new with OBDII, some cars are exempt
- Virginia—biennially, in conjunction with registration renewal, required only in urban and suburban jurisdictions in Northern Virginia. Newly registered vehicles with a valid inspection from another state are exempt from inspection until the out-of-state inspection expires.
- Washington—required only in urban areas of Clark County, King County, Pierce County, Snohomish County, and Spokane County.
- Wisconsin—biennially, required only in Kenosha County, Milwaukee County, Ozaukee County, Racine County, Sheboygan County, Washington County, and Waukesha County.
Jurisdictions requiring VIN inspection
- Vermont - Required when first registering a vehicle
- California - Required when registering an out-of-state vehicle
- Colorado - Required when registering an out-of-state vehicle
- Connecticut - Required when registering an out-of-state vehicle
- Florida - Required when registering an out-of-state vehicle
- Illinois - The main VIN tag is inspected at emissions testing stations. If the VIN tag is not acceptable or is missing, the vehicle is "rejected" for emissions testing. Emissions testing is required biennually only for vehicles registered in specific counties and zip codes (see above).
- Indiana - required when registering an out of state vehicle
- Kansas - Required when registering an out-of-state vehicle
- Kentucky - Required when registering an out-of-state vehicle
- Nevada - Required when registering an out-of-state vehicle for the first time in the state 
- New Mexico - Required when registering an out-of-state vehicle
- Oklahoma - Required when registering an out-of-state vehicle
- Pennsylvania - Required as part of the annual safety inspection. The inspection procedure only requires checking the main VIN tag. A tracing or visual verification of the VIN by an inspection mechanic or notary is also required when registering an out-of-state vehicle.
- Washington—required only when registering an out-of-state vehicle for the first time in the state, or for rebuilt vehicles.
- Wyoming - Required when registering an out-of-state vehicle
States without safety, emissions, or VIN inspections
- North Dakota
- South Carolina
- South Dakota
Summary of Periodic Inspection Requirements for Non-Commercial Vehicles
|State||Periodic Safety Inspections||Periodic Emissions Inspections|
|Arizona||no||biennially for Phoenix and Tucson metros|
|District of Columbia||biennially||biennially|
|Georgia||no||annually for Atlanta metro|
|Idaho||no||yes for Ada and Canyon counties|
|Illinois||no (not actively checked, see above)||biennially for Chicago and St. Louis metros|
|Indiana||no||biennially for Lake and Porter counties|
|Louisiana||annually||annually for Baton Rouge metro|
|Maine||annually||yes for Cumberland county only|
|Maryland||no||biennially for 13/23 counties and Baltimore|
|Missouri||biennially||biennially for St. Louis metro|
|Nevada||no||yes for Clark and Washoe counties|
|New Hampshire||annually||annually (Model Year 1996 and Newer Only)|
|New Mexico||no||biennially for Bernalillo county only|
|North Carolina||annually||annually for 48/100 counties|
|Ohio||no||odd/even for Cleveland metro|
|Oregon||no||yes for Portland and Medford metros|
|Pennsylvania||annually||annually in 25 of 67 counties|
|Tennessee||no||annually for select Nashville counties/Chattanooga area|
|Texas||annually||annually for large urban areas|
|Utah||biennially||yes for four most populated counties|
|Virginia||annually||biennially for urban and suburban northern Virginia|
|Washington||no||yes for urban areas of select counties|
|Wisconsin||no||biennially for select counties|
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