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FAQs – State Inspections

Q: What states require an annual safety and emissions inspection?

A: Several Mid-Atlantic states require an annual safety and emissions inspection, including: including New York, Pennsylvania, Delaware, and North Carolina.




Q: What states require a biennial safety and emissions inspection (every other year)?

A: Delaware and Missouri.




Q: What about Maryland and Virginia

A: Maryland requires a biennial emissions inspection, but a safety inspection only prior to vehicle sale or transfer (responsibility of seller or transferor). Virginia’s requires an annual safety inspection and a biennial emissions check.




Q: Are there states that require an emissions inspection, but not a safety inspection?

A: Ohio, annual, and New Jersey, biennial.




Q: What about South Carolina?

A: South Carolina requires neither a safety inspection, nor an emissions test.




Q: What states requires auto emissions tests for every vehicle?

A: New York, New Jersey and Delaware.





Q: Where can I get my car inspected in Maryland?

A:  Maryland also requires auto emissions tests at state facilities.




Q: What is the fee for my safety inspection and auto emissions test?

A: Fees vary from state to state. Most states set a maximum fee for the safety inspection and the auto emissions test. Some states set specific fees, but most permit authorized inspection stations to charge either a flat fee or fee based on their hourly rate. Inspections in Delaware, which are conducted by the Department of Motor Vehicles, are free (paid for by taxes).




Q: What do safety inspectors look for?

A: Non-operating or faulty safety equipment, loose or damaged parts, exhaust system components that have been damaged or tampered with, and other unsafe modifications or safety violations. State inspection checklists typically include headlights and stoplights; turn signals; windshields and windows; hood, trunk and door latches; brakes; mufflers, catalytic converters and exhaust pipes; frame; suspension; and bumper height.




Q: How do they test for auto emissions levels?

A: The emissions assessment can be based on data from the vehicle’s onboard diagnostic system (OBD), an idle test, or a dynamometer test. OBD systems became mandatory for all vehicles in 1996 and are the easiest way to test exhaust system performance. Idle and dynamometer tests are usually for older vehicles. Idle tests actually evaluate the exhaust leaving the tailpipe. Dynamometer tests also evaluate tailpipe exhaust, but inspectors drive the vehicle on a dynamometer to simulate road conditions. A check for gas cap leaks is also part of most state emissions tests.




Q: Are there any vehicles that are exempt from emissions inspections?

A: Some states exempt historic, farm and off-road vehicles. Others exempt cars older than 25 years, diesel cars, or cars without an OBD system.




Q: Why do states have auto emissions programs?

A: Auto exhaust is a major contributor to air pollution and global warming. The federal Clean Air Act requires certain areas with air quality problems to conduct inspection and maintenance programs.




Q: I have a brand new car. Why do I need an inspection?

A: In some case, you don’t. Several states exempt new cars: Delaware and New Jersey, safety and emissions, five years; Missouri, safety only, five years; New York and Virginia, emissions only, two years.





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