Which vehicles are exempt from emissions testing?
Several states don't require emissions testing at all, but in states that do, vehicles are exempt from emissions testing when they don't produce any greenhouse gases, including fully electric cars and hydrogen fuel cell cars. New and much older cars may also be exempt from emissions testing, but rules will vary by state, county, or metropolitan area.
Which cars are always exempt from emissions testing?
Do electric cars and hybrid cars need emissions tests?
Older electric cars have an on-board diagnostics system that's accessed through a diagnostic port (OBD2 port). The OBD2 port may be used for many purposes, including emissions testing. If your check engine light comes on in your older electric vehicle, the diagnostic system tells your mechanic that you've failed an emissions test. If this occurs, your electric vehicle still doesn't need an emissions test because it doesn't produce any greenhouse gases. The OBD2 port has been discontinued in many newer electric cars.
Some states still require testing for hybrid cars because they have internal combustion engines (ICEs) that produce pollutants and greenhouse gases. Some states group hybrids together with electric cars as exempt from emissions testing, but the exact rules will vary by state, county, and municipality.
How old does a car have to be to not need emissions testing?
For states that require testing, age exemptions vary widely. Some states exempt all cars over a certain age, and others go a step further and exempt grandfathered "middle-age" cars that are not quite as old but had followed a previous, less strict version of an emissions law. Historic cars with specialty registrations, including classic cars, antiques, and parade vehicles, are usually exempt from emissions testing.
Some classic vehicles may require proof of classic car insurance to qualify. Check with your state's department or bureau of motor vehicles (DMV or BMV) for exact vehicle age requirements.
What other attributes can make vehicles exempt from emissions testing?
Emissions testing exemptions are commonly granted for the following reasons, although exact rules vary widely by state.
In many states, brand new cars and cars that are only a few years old may be exempt from emissions testing because they run relatively cleanly.
Gross vehicle weight rating (GVWR)
This measures how much weight your vehicle can carry, unrelated to towing capacity. Vehicles over a specific GVWR may be exempt.
Some states exempt diesel cars entirely from emissions testing. Learn more about the pros and cons of diesel cars.
Kit cars, dune buggies, hobby cars, street rods, and "gray market cars" — imported cars that weren't originally sold in the U.S. — are some examples of non-conforming cars. Instead of getting an automatic exemption, you may have to apply for an emissions exemption.
These include farm trucks, farm tractors, and other vehicles limited to farm use.