RELEASE: Emissions Inspections Exempt 20-Year-Old Vehicles Starting Dec. 1


RALEIGH – Beginning Dec. 1, North Carolina’s vehicle inspections requirement will exempt vehicles 20 years old from obtaining a yearly emissions test in the 22 counties which emissions testing is required.

For example, a 1999 model year vehicle would be exempt from obtaining an emissions inspection starting Dec. 1. The following year, a 2000 model year vehicle would be exempt from obtaining an emissions inspection. 

The change came about as a result of the passage of Senate Bill 131 (Regulatory Reform Act of 2016-2017). The bill was signed into law in 2017 and then approved by the Environmental Protection Agency.  Based on a study of county-level emissions and current ambient air quality data, the Department of Environmental Quality concluded that changing the vehicle model year coverage did not interfere with continued attainment or maintenance of any applicable National Ambient Air Quality Standard in North Carolina. The 20-year rolling inspection is outlined in N.C.G.S. 20-183.2(b)(3).  

By law, a motor vehicle must pass an annual safety inspection before it can be registered in North Carolina or the registration can be renewed. All North Carolina counties still require the safety inspection. 

Emissions inspections are still required in 22 counties and will still be required for vehicles under 20 years old, starting Dec. 1. Those counties requiring emissions inspections include Alamance, Buncombe, Cabarrus, Cumberland, Davidson, Durham, Forsyth, Franklin, Gaston, Guilford, Iredell, Johnston, Lee, Lincoln, Mecklenburg, New Hanover, Onslow, Randolph, Rockingham, Rowan, Union and Wake counties.

For more information:

Division of Air Quality Inspection and Maintenance page:

Division of Motor Vehicles:


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