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New Mexico Car Inspection Laws

Posted in New Mexico Laws

In 2017, 45,906 reported motor vehicle accidents occurred in New Mexico. As is the case in all states, New Mexico has laws in place to reduce the risk of auto accidents. These laws include general traffic safety rules, such as drivers must obey speed limits and follow roadway signs, as well as rules requiring vehicle owners to properly maintain their vehicles. What some drivers do not realize, however, is that new Mexico also has vehicle laws that focus not on the safety of the roadway, but the safety of the environment. You must pass New Mexico’s car inspection laws and emissions tests to operate a motor vehicle in the state.

Man inspecting car

Emissions Testing Requirements

Since California first started testing emissions in 1966, state lawmakers across the country have passed bills requiring citizens to keep up with regular vehicle emissions tests in an effort to reduce the impact vehicles have on the planet. Emissions tests, also called smog checks, can help control the level of pollution each vehicle in the state releases. This can ultimately improve air quality and reduce damage to the environment from emissions. New Mexico is one of 32 states that require emissions testing.

An emissions test checks if the vehicle releases more nitrogen oxide, carbon monoxide, carbon dioxide, hydrocarbons and evaporation emissions than state law permits. If the vehicle’s emissions are under the legal limit, the vehicle will pass the inspection and the driver does not need to take any further action before registering and operating the vehicle. If, however, the vehicle has an issue that causes it to fail the smog check, the driver must pay for repairs before he or she can register or drive the vehicle.

Each state has different requirements as to which vehicles must pass smog checks before registration. In New Mexico, eligible vehicles that must complete emissions testing are those in Bernalillo County whose owners will drive more than 60 days per year. Vehicle owners will receive notices via mail when it is time for another emissions test. Bernalillo County has 130 inspection stations. The fee for an emissions test typically ranges from $15 to $25, not including the costs of any repairs to pass the smog check.

How to Pass a Smog Check in New Mexico

The vehicles in Bernalillo County that must get emissions testing are those that are more than four years old. Vehicles manufactured in 1984 or later that weigh less than 10,000 pounds must pass smog checks every two years and for changes in ownership. Gas-electric hybrid cars must pass vehicle emissions tests every two years. You can find out if you are in a zip code that requires emissions testing in New Mexico through the Motor Vehicle Department’s website. If your vehicle does require a smog check, find out what factors could affect your score.

  • Your vehicle’s age
  • Fuel type
  • Vehicle’s weight
  • The catalytic converter
  • Old oil
  • Recent battery replacement
  • Need for repairs

If your vehicle fails a smog check, the mechanic that performed the test will recommend the required repairs to pass the test. You can either agree to pay for the repairs and then pay for a follow-up smog check right away or schedule your repairs for a different day. If you do not undergo the necessary repairs to pass a smog check, you cannot re-register your vehicle or lawfully operate it in the state of New Mexico.

Additional Inspection Requirements

On top of emissions testing, new residents in New Mexico must also bring in their vehicles for vehicle identification number (VIN) inspections. A VIN inspection is a physical assessment of your vehicle to verify that it matches the documentation of the vehicle according to VIN paperwork. If you are registering a new vehicle in New Mexico, you will also need to bring proof of insurance, your purchase agreement, a manufacturer’s certificate of origin and money to pay the registration fee.

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