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Colorado Car Inspection Laws

January 31, 2019

If you operate a vehicle in Colorado, you may need to receive a vehicle inspection for smog emissions. Our Denver car accident lawyers know these inspections are important to protect the safety of other drivers and the environment. However, the regulations for Colorado car inspections may be difficult to remember – different vehicle types, model years, and counties are subject to different inspections requirements.

Does Colorado Require Emissions Tests?

Yes. Colorado does require emissions tests but not for all vehicles. For example, the state requires emissions tests for many vehicles that are more than seven model years old. If the year is 2019 and you have a vehicle that is a 2011 model or earlier, you may have to receive an emissions test.

Vehicles that meet the following criteria and are older than seven model years old must have an emissions test.

  • A heavy-duty vehicle weighing more than 8,500 pounds
  • Registration in any of the following counties: Boulder, Broomfield, Denver, Douglas, and Jefferson. Some vehicles in parts of Adams, Larimer, Arapahoe, and Weld counties may also require an emissions test.
  • A light-duty vehicle that is less than 8,500 pounds and runs on gasoline
  • A registration renewal card that indicates a required emissions test
  • Registration to an address outside the Automobile Inspection and Readjustment program area but that regularly travels into the area for work or school

The state requires emissions inspections each time a vehicle changes ownership. In some cases, registration renewal cards will require emissions tests. If you have a vehicle that is older than seven model years and from 1982 or newer, you must receive an emissions test once every two years. Vehicles from model year 1981 and older need annual inspections.

What Does a Car Inspection Check For?

The type of inspection that your vehicle will receive depends on your model year and the type of fuel you use. Colorado administers five types of emissions tests.

  • Onboard diagnostics. You will receive this test if you have a gasoline or hybrid vehicle between 8 and 11 years old.
  • RapidScreen Roadside test. You will receive this test if you have a low-emissions vehicle, such as a hybrid electric car. You do not need to visit a testing location to receive this test.
  • Two-speed idle test. You will receive this test if you have a gasoline-fueled vehicle older than 1982.
  • I/M 240 dynamometer test. Also known as the treadmill test, you will receive this emissions test if you have a vehicle that is at least 12 years old but is newer than 1982.
  • Diesel emissions test. If you operate a diesel-powered vehicle, you will need to receive this test. However, you must seek an independent provider since diesel vehicles are commercial vehicles.

Does Colorado Have any Exceptions to Inspections?

Your vehicle is exempt from emissions inspections in Colorado if you meet any of the following criteria.

  • You drive a vehicle that is less than seven model years old
  • You drive an all-electric vehicle
  • You drive a collector vehicle from 1975 or older
  • Your vehicle is a farm vehicle, horseless carriage, street rod, kit car, or motorcycle

How Do You Receive an Emissions Test?

To receive an emissions test in Colorado, you will need to visit an emissions testing location throughout Colorado. You can find the closest location to you by visiting the Air Care Colorado website. You will need to bring your vehicle and your registration renewal card with you to your appointment.

All emissions inspection locations are open during the following hours.

  • Monday through Friday: 8 am to 5:30 pm
  • Saturday: 8 am to 1 pm
  • Sunday and Colorado state holidays: Closed

An emissions test for gasoline-powered vehicles from the model year 1982 and older is $25. For vehicles older than 1982, the cost is $15. Emissions testing stations accept multiple forms of payment, including cash, check, and many credit and debit cards.