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new mexico car inspection laws

Since the mid-60s, states across the country have passed vehicle inspection laws to help reduce pollution.

As of 2021, more than 30 states require some form of emissions testing, including the state of New Mexico.

Here’s what you need to know about the emissions inspection for cars in New Mexico and whether they apply to your vehicle.

Current Inspection Laws for Cars in NM

Under New Mexico Administrative Code, vehicles registered or operating regularly in Bernalillo County must pass an emissions test every two years.

However, if the vehicle releases between 75% and 100% of its maximum carbon monoxide (CO) and hydrocarbon (HC) emissions, it must receive an inspection every year.

If a vehicle fails the inspection, the owner must have the vehicle repaired before they renew their registration.


While most vehicles must undergo an emissions test, there are a few exceptions to the rule. These exemptions include:

  • Farm equipment,
  • All diesel vehicles,
  • All fully electric vehicles,
  • Vehicles more than 35 years old,
  • Vehicles for legally sanctioned competition,
  • Vehicles operated only on private streets or property,
  • Vehicles with a gross vehicle weight rating of more than 10,000 lbs, and
  • New vehicles registered by the original owner for less than four years from the date on the manufacturer’s certificate of origin.

Be sure to check with your local MVD to see if your vehicle meets one of these exemptions. 

Does New Mexico Require Inspection for Cars in All Parts of the State?

No, New Mexico doesn’t require all registered vehicles to have an emissions test. According to the state’s Motor Vehicle Division, you only need to pass an emissions test if:

  • You are a resident of Bernalillo County or
  • You commute into Bernalillo County for 60 or more days during the year.

The good news is that a passing test lasts for two years for most gas-powered and hybrid vehicles. However, all cars manufactured after 1987 that are under 10,000 lbs must pass an emissions test at a change of ownership.

What the Smog Inspection for Cars Entails

When you bring your vehicle in for inspection, the technician checks for more than just emissions. In fact, there are several tests the vehicle must pass based on the model year.

For vehicles made before 1996, the inspection includes a two-speed test at both idle and 2,500 rpm, a pressurized gas cap test, and a tampering evaluation.

For vehicles with model years 1996 and newer, the inspection includes an onboard diagnostic test, a pressurized gas cap test, and a visible emissions evaluation.

These requirements may change if the vehicle has custom parts or conversions.

Where Can I Get an Emissions Test?

The city of Albuquerque has more than 130 testing stations available for those who need an emissions test.

Most of these sites are located in Albuquerque itself, with two additional stations in Sante Fe and Los Lunas. Testing fees vary, but most cost anywhere between $15 and $25.

In addition, the Vehicle Pollution Management Division provides one free retest within 90 days of a failed emissions test at their headquarters in downtown Albuquerque.

Injured in a New Mexico Accident? We Can Help

If you have any questions about car accident laws in New Mexico or sustained an injury in an accident, call Tawney, Acosta & Chaparro P.C., today.

Our New Mexico car accident attorneys know the devastating impact that injuries have on victims and their families.

To schedule a consultation, call us at 575-222-1000 or contact us online. We serve clients throughout New Mexico from our offices in Albuquerque, Carlsbad, and Las Cruces.

Author Photo

Daisy Chaparro

Daisy Chaparro was born and raised in El Paso, Texas. A graduate from El Dorado High School in 2008 and obtained a Bachelor of Arts in Political Science with a minor in Philosophy from St. Mary’s University in 2012. Daisy then obtained her Juris Doctorate (magna cum laude) from Texas Tech University School of Law in 2015.