What Is A Smog Check?

Dustin Hawley | Sep 28, 2022

You will undoubtedly need to have your vehicle serviced throughout its lifetime. Mechanics will perform routine maintenance, with some mandatory procedures along the way. One of these procedures or inspections is a smog check. While relatively intuitive and easy to pass, the responsibility for failure lies solely on the owner.

what is a smog check on a vehicle

In this article, we will talk about smog checks, explaining what the process entails, pricing, and the frequency in which they should be performed. Let’s get started. 

What Is A Smog Check?

Smog checks came about with different emission laws appearing and entering into force. The process differs from state to state but usually involves the same steps. A smog check is a multi-part inspection that analyzes a vehicle’s exhaust and pollution control systems. It may involve a visual inspection of the system and its components, a functional check to evaluate the operation, and an examination of the vehicle’s computer diagnostics.

After this inspection, the owner receives a copy of the Vehicle Inspection Report (VIR), which shows the results. If you pass, you receive a certificate of compliance. Failing involves losing the car’s registration stickers and renders you unable to drive the vehicle. In this case, you will also have to do a repeat inspection and the necessary repairs, while the test center will hand out a report with possible reasons.

How Much Do Smog Checks Cost?

It can be challenging to establish an accurate estimate of inspection costs. In general, it’ll cost you somewhere between $30 and $80, but other states may have different processes and price points. In some states like California, smog stations are DMV-authorized private businesses, so the prices can fluctuate. 

The requirements also differ. Some states perform diligent or comprehensive smog checks. During these assessments, your car’s brakes, steering, tires, and safety tech may be inspected. This due diligence may also increase the cost of the procedure. 

How Often Should I Do Smog Checks?

Just as with the cost, it also depends on the state. In certain states, you must do checks as often as twice per year, whereas, in others, this takes place yearly for the owner. It is also possible that you are not required to do one at all. 

Do your maintenance at least yearly to avoid any costly issues with your vehicle. It is also a good idea to always keep your vehicle in top-notch condition. Smog checks are not that expensive, but other repairs required to pass the test may be. 

Where Can I Get A Smog Check?

You can get it done at any franchise dealership or privately owned auto shop. Businesses qualified to do the inspection are usually certified and should advertise this information on their site. However, there is a significant difference between smog check and smog test stations. 

Smog tests are never about thoroughly inspecting your vehicle. The personnel checks your car and determines if the results comply with standards. Repairs are not part of the process, so you must drive from the facility to an auto shop or dealership. To avoid this inconvenience, ensure that the stations actually perform smog checks and don’t just run tests.


Smog checks are about ensuring your vehicle produces an acceptable amount of emissions. They involve a thorough multi-step inspection to identify reasons for non-compliance and issue repair recommendations. If you fail a smog check, you may not be able to register your vehicle, and you cannot legally drive it until you pass. 

To avoid any issues with the inspection, make sure to do yearly maintenance at a dealership or auto shop to prevent costly repairs. Stay on top of state laws and do smog checks as often as required. It will help keep your vehicle’s condition in check and save you from the repercussions of failing the inspection. 

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