What You Need to Know About Emissions Testing in Maryland

A few counties in Maryland, including the Baltimore area, require any vehicle 1996 and newer to undergo emissions testing every two years.
Written by Bonnie Stinson
Reviewed by Melanie Reiff
There are a few counties in
—including the
area—that require any vehicle model year 1996 and newer to undergo emissions testing every two years in order to renew vehicle registration.
Whether you’re just moving to Maryland or you’ve been a long-time resident, figuring out how and when to get an emissions test for your vehicle can be a little stressful. And it definitely doesn’t help when emissions testing regulations vary from county to county.
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Maryland emissions testing regulations

Maryland doesn’t require statewide emissions testing, but several counties do depending on the type of vehicle you drive. We’ve broken down Maryland’s emissions testing regulations so you can know whether and when you need to get your vehicle tested.

Which counties in Maryland require emissions testing?

First, you’ll need to get emissions testing done if you reside in a county that requires it. The following Maryland counties require emissions testing for all vehicles registered there:
  • Anne Arundel
  • Baltimore
  • Frederick
  • Montgomery
  • Prince George’s
  • Calvert
  • Carroll
  • Cecil
  • Charles
  • Harford
  • Howard
  • Queen Anne’s
  • Washington
You may also be subject to emissions testing if you frequently commute to one of these counties for work or school. 

Which cars need emissions testing in Maryland?

Compared to some other states, Maryland has fairly simple requirements for which types of vehicles need to undergo testing. 
Put simply two vehicle categories are required to submit to emissions tests:
  • Any passenger and light-duty vehicles that are model year 1996 or newer 
  • Any heavy-duty vehicle (up to 14,000 pounds) that is a 2008 or newer model 
The state of Maryland charges a $14 fee for the first initial emissions test. If you don’t get your vehicle tested before the deadline, you’ll be charged an additional $15 fee for every 28 days the owner fails to get the vehicle tested. 

Exemptions from Maryland emissions testing

If you drive a historic vehicle, then you’re exempt from Maryland’s emissions testing requirements. But what exactly does the state of Maryland consider a historic vehicle?
Luckily, the definition’s simple. Any vehicle that is 20 years old and hasn’t been significantly altered from the manufacturer's original design is considered a historic vehicle and is exempt from emissions testing. 
Your vehicle is also exempt if it’s:
  • Solely
  • Solely electric-powered
  • A motorcycle
  • A registered farm vehicle

How does Maryland emissions testing work?

If your vehicle needs to be tested, here’s what you need to do:
  • Locate a testing center. You can check
    online here
    to see where the nearest testing center is. 
  • Bring your vehicle to a testing center or self-serve kiosk. Put it in “park” but keep the engine running.
  • An emissions inspector performs a visual examination of your vehicle to check for leaks or excessive smoke.
  • Pay the testing fee of $14.

Types of emissions tests

Maryland requires three different types of emissions tests depending on how old your vehicle is and its size. 
All vehicles model years 1977 to 1995 have to undergo a Gas Cap test. Your gas cap will be placed on a testing adaptor and then gently pressurized to make sure it seals tightly.
Vehicles that are model year 1996 and newer along with heavy-duty vehicles that are 2008 model year and newer will have an On-Board Diagnostic (OBD) test done. An inspector will plug a scanning tool directly into your vehicle’s diagnostic system to see if there are any issues with the emissions control components. 
Vehicles that are model years 1977 through 1995 plus heavy-duty vehicles that are 2008 and newer will also have to do a Tailpipe test. For this test, an inspector will monitor the vehicle’s emissions while the engine is idling.

What happens if you fail emissions testing in Maryland?

At the end of your vehicle’s emissions test, the inspector will give you a certificate that shows whether your vehicle passed or failed the inspection. If your vehicle failed, they’ll give you the due date for your emissions retest
If your vehicle fails the emission test, you’ll be referred to a station representative that will go over why your vehicle failed and provide you with a list of Certified Emissions Repair Facilities.
After your vehicle is repaired, you can get it retested for free. However, if your vehicle fails another emissions test, all other retests after the first free retest will be subject to additional fees. 
MORE: Maryland electric vehicle incentives

How to save on car insurance in Maryland

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Any vehicles that are required to undergo emissions testing will only have to test every two years to renew their registrations.
There are several types of vehicles that are exempt from testing, and several counties that don’t require emissions testing either. However, if you do live in a county that requires testing, it’s best to go ahead and get it done, especially since it's required to renew your vehicle’s registration.
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