Requirements to Have a Car Inspected in Georgia

Only certain counties in Georgia require owners to have their cars inspected each year in order to be registered. Vehicles required to be tested include gas-powered cars and light-duty trucks. There are exemptions to that rule, including antique cars and those using alternative fuels.

When you own a car, it’s common practice to have it regularly inspected as part of the state registration process. While many states require an annual inspection for all cars before allowing them to be registered, Georgia only requires an annual inspection in certain instances. Inspections are intended to ensure that vehicles operating on Georgia roads are safe and legally obtained, and to help maintain good air quality in metropolitan areas. Vehicles must pass an inspection before the state issues a title and registration.

Where You Must Get an Annual Car Inspection

Georgia does not have state-wide requirements for car inspections. Only certain counties in the metropolitan Atlanta area require owners to have their cars inspected each year. The 13 counties that require annual vehicle emissions testing are:

  • Cherokee
  • Clayton
  • Cobb
  • Coweta
  • DeKalb
  • Douglas
  • Fayette
  • Forsyth
  • Fulton
  • Gwinnett
  • Henry
  • Paulding
  • Rockdale

If you just moved to one of those counties, you must typically have your vehicle tested and registered within 30 days of moving.

These counties are generally densely populated with congested traffic, so curbing vehicle emissions is of high importance. The inspections test for ozone-forming pollutants and particle pollutants that are being released from the vehicle, and are part of Georgia's efforts to meet federal clean air standards. Any issues leading to emissions above federal certification levels must be fixed before the owner will receive proof of inspection.

Vehicles Required to Get Annual Inspections

If you live in one of the 13 counties in Georgia that require emissions testing, all gasoline-powered cars and light-duty trucks with a model year more than three years and less than 25 years older than the current calendar year are required to have an annual emissions inspection. In 2019, for example, this range covers vehicles from 1995 to 2016.

While most cars and light-duty trucks must get an annual inspection, there are exceptions to that rule. For example, seniors age 65 or older who own a car more than 10 years old and who drive fewer than 5,000 miles per year are exempt from emissions inspections. Exemptions may also be given for cars that use alternative fuels and for antique collector cars that are 25 years or older. And not every vehicle must be inspected annually. Motorcycles, RVs, motor homes and diesel vehicles do not need to get emissions testing in order to be registered in the state.

Where to Get Car Inspections in Georgia

If you live in one of the required counties and have a car that must get an annual emissions test, Georgia’s Clean Air Force suggests getting the test done about a month before your car’s registration renewal date. That way you have sufficient time to make any necessary repairs and get your car retested before the registration expires.

Vehicle testing locations are located throughout Atlanta where you can get your car inspected. Newer cars can get emissions testing at any station, but cars from model years 1995 and older can only be tested at certain stations. The price for car inspection varies. The car inspection includes an on-board diagnostic to check the vehicle’s emission control history; a fuel cap inspection to make sure it’s adequately sealed; and a catalytic converter inspection. Older cars must also undergo an idling test to check tailpipe emissions. If your car fails any part of the test, you must get the car repaired and retake the test.

If you are new to Georgia or one of the 13 counties that require emissions testing, be sure to get your car inspection done in plenty of time to get your car registered. Cars both new and used must have their registration renewed annually on the car owner’s birthday.

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About the Author

Leslie Bloom earned a J.D. from U.C. Davis’ King Hall, with a focus on public interest law. She is a licensed attorney who has done advocacy work for children and women. She holds a B.S. in print journalism, and has more than 20 years of experience writing for a variety of print and online publications, including the Journal of Juvenile Law and Policy.