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Colorado Vehicle Safety Inspection Requirements

October 12, 2020

Vehicle emissions can greatly impact air quality, and many states across the country require vehicles to undergo regular emissions inspections. Colorado is no exception, but state laws about emissions testing can be confusing. Different vehicles are subject to different requirements, and failure to comply with these laws can result in fines and other penalties. Understanding these laws is important to avoiding these extra consequences.

Which Vehicles Require Inspections?

During a vehicle inspection, the testing center staff will check basic safety features, such as tire pressure, headlight condition, and any safety hazards like leaking fluid. Once your car is safe to test, they’ll perform various inspections on your visual emissions equipment, gas cap pressure, and other important components.

Not all cars need to undergo emission testing. If your vehicle is newer than eight model years old, you do not need an inspection. Vehicles that run solely on electricity, collector vehicles from 1975 or earlier, and non-automobiles like horseless carriages, motorcycles, kit cars, and farm vehicles are also exempt.

You will need a regular emissions inspection if you drive any of the below vehicles.

  • A heavy-duty vehicle weighing more than 8,500 pounds
  • A light-duty vehicle powered by gasoline weighing less than 8,500 pounds
  • A vehicle registered to a mailing address in Boulder, Broomfield, Denver, Douglas and Jefferson counties, or parts of Adams, Arapahoe, Larimer and Weld counties
  • A vehicle registered to a mailing address outside of the Automobile Inspection and Readjustment (AIR) program area, but drives within the AIR at least 90 days out of the year

When Do You Need to Take Your Vehicle for an Inspection?

Colorado requires older vehicles to undergo more inspections than newer ones. If your vehicle is a 1982 model or newer, you will need to get an emissions inspection every two years. If your vehicle was made before 1982, you will have to go in for an inspection every year. Vehicles that are seven model years or newer do not need to attend an inspection until they age out of this rule, and hybrid-electric vehicles need an inspection every seven years.

You will also need to take your car in for inspection when:

  • A change of ownership takes place
  • Your registration renewal requires an inspection
  • You move your vehicle to an area where emissions testing is required

A registration renewal will indicate you need an inspection if it says “Emissions Test Required” on your renewal card. You will need to complete this inspection before the end of the month your current registration expires.

How to Receive an Emissions Inspection

After you receive notice that you need to take your vehicle for inspection, you will need to find an emissions inspection center near you. There are multiple centers throughout the program area you can visit, with test locations including Denver, Aurora, and Fort Collins.

All emissions centers operate on the following schedule.

  • Weekdays from 8:30am to 5pm
  • Saturdays from 8am to 1pm
  • Closed on Sundays and state holidays

Remember to bring your license, registration renewal, and cash, credit, or debit to pay for the inspection fee. Emissions inspection centers charge a $25 fee for vehicles made in 1982 or newer, and $15 for vehicles made before 1982. Of course, always bring your car with you to the inspection.

During the COVID-19 pandemic, inspection centers are operating at limited capacity as they protect visitors from infection. Make sure to bring a mask or face covering with you to comply with these requirements — you may need to reschedule your appointment otherwise.

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