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​Your classic car and fuel emission testing: What you need to know

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​Your classic car and fuel emission testing: What you need to know

​Your classic car and fuel emission testing: What you need to know

In 1970 the U.S. Congress passed the first Clean Air Act. This was a significant, aggressive step in setting goals for reducing auto emissions. It evoked an industry wide response as automakers added some of the first emissions control gear and detuned engines. It also initiated the end of the big horsepower era.

Big changes for passenger vehicles

It led to such changes as ethanol blended fuels and unleaded gasoline in vehicles and the end of motor oil that contained ZDDP. Early 1983 marked the first inspection and maintenance programs which were intended to target passenger vehicles in the most polluted areas of the country, ensuring that they were factory equipped with functional, appropriate emissions systems.

In 1990 the Clean Air Act was amended to provide the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) with broader authority over vehicles and emissions. It required that oxygenated gas, such as ethanol, was sold in the U.S. cities that were the most polluted. It also regulated tailpipe emissions.

State Implementation Plan

While the NAAQA lays out the goals, it is up to each state to create its own State Implementation Plan, or SIP to meet those goals. Each state does have some degree of autonomy, but the plan must meet the approval of the EPA. This has resulted in a rather wide degree of variance on gas emissions from state to state.

Emissions and classic or collector cars

Studies have shown that doing emissions testing on classic or collector cars has very little impact on the environment. There is no measurable benefit to be noted simple because there are so very few compared to modern vehicles. Additionally, classic and collector cars are typically very well maintained and are not driven very often. This has prompted most states to provide certain exemptions that are specific to cars that fall into this category – older cars.

The best way to find out what the laws are in your state is to reach out to your local DMV. They have information on what cars are required to have emissions testing and which are exempt.

Overview of state by state requirements


  • Testing in Pima and Maricopa Counties
  • Mostly statewide exemption that includes many classic and collector vehicles.


  • 1976 and newer required to be tested bi-annually in 34 counties
  • 1976 and newer required to be tested in 6 counties that are registered in specific ZIP codes – can be checked via smogcheck


  • Motorcycles, farm vehicles, street rods, and horseless carriages are exempt
  • Other exemptions and requirements vary by year


  • Cars 25 years or older are exempt


  • 1967 and older passenger vehicles are exempt.
  • 1968–1980 passenger vehicles must pass an idle tes
  • 1981 and newer, requirements vary

District of Columbia

  • All vehicles are required to pass one safety and emissions inspection. If a historic or classic car passes, they do not need to be tested again.


  • Does not have any current emissions testing requirements but awaiting state legislature approval to adopt California standards.


  • 25 years old or older are exempt.


  • 1965 and newer are required to be tested but this is in Ada County only.


  • 1967 or older vehicles as well as street rods, custom vehicles, antique vehicles, and motorcycles are exempt.


  • Vehicles built after 1975 are required to be tested (Lake County and Porter County only)
  • This rule is currently under review and revision.


  • Vehicles 40 years old or newer must pass a visual inspection, (includes viewing emissions equipment).
  • Vehicles 1996 or newer must pass an OBD-II emissions test (Ascension, East Baton Rouge, Iberville, Livingston and West Baton Rouge Parishes).


  • ALL cars registered in Cumberland County that are gasoline powered must be tested.


  • 1976 and earlier vehicles are exempt.


  • 1996 and earlier vehicles are exempt, but if the produce smoke that is visible, they will not pass the safety inspections.


  • 1995 and older are exempt.


  • Vehicles that are registered with old timer, classic rod, or classic vehicle license plates AND driven 2,500 miles or less per year are exempt.

New Hampshire

  • 20 years and older are exempt.
  • 1996 and older (but less than 20 years old) may be subject to a visual inspection during the safety inspection required by the state.

New Jersey

  • Vehicles registered as collector or historic are exempt.

New Mexico

1976 or newer are required to pass an emissions test (Bernalillo County only).

New York

  • Vehicles registered in the Upstate Area that do not require an emissions test:
    • With historical plates
    • Older than 25 years old
    • Homemade or custom vehicles

North Carolina

  • 1995 and earlier cars are exempt.


  • Vehicles permanently exempt from testing:
    • 25 years or older
    • Registered as historical and collector vehicles
    • Parade and exhibition vehicles
    • Motorcycles


  • 1975 and newer vehicles must pass an emissions test (Portland area)
  • 20 years old or newer are must be tested (Medford area).


Motorcycles and registered collectibles, street rods, and antiques are exempt.

Rhode Island

  • Vehicles exempt from emissions testing but must pass safety tests:
    • 25 years old or older with regular passenger plates
    • Registered with antique plates.


  • Vehicles older than 1975 and motorcycles and are exempt.


  • Vehicles 25 years and older are exempt.

Vehicles 1967 and older are exempt.


  • Cars that do not have OBD-II equipment are exempt.


  • Vehicles older than 25 years are exempt.


  • 25 years or older are exempt.


  • Pre-1996 cars are exempt.

Emissions testing is not currently required in these states:

North Dakota
South Carolina
South Dakota
West Virginia

At Woodside Credit we can’t change the laws on emissions testing, but we can make it super easy for you to add that sweet classic to your collection. Our easy terms and low payments put ownership well within your reach. Contact us today to learn more!


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