How to Avoid Emissions Testing in Colorado

How to Avoid Emissions Testing in Colorado

You are in Colorado and having emissions difficulties? Let’s say you own a 2010 Jeep with high mileage that unfortunately doesn’t pass emissions testing. You want to explore legal options to avoid emissions testing in Colorado, especially considering that the cost of repairs, particularly a new catalytic converter, can be expensive. Moreover, you can’t legally register or sell the vehicle if it is not registered. And it does not matter whether you paid the registration but failed smog or not. Are you left with no option other than junking it? Not really – you have options.

How to Avoid Emissions Testing in Colorado

The average person will say “meet a mechanic” but we both know that means some hole in your pocket after you spend on the repairs. So, what are these options you can use to avoid emissions testing in Colorado?

1. Sell Your Car in an Area that Doesn’t Require Smog Check

You could take it to places like Colorado Springs where emissions requirements are not required, outside the front range area. Remember to disclose the necessary repairs and its inability to pass emissions tests in the front range area. Over the years, we have bought many cars “as is” that didn’t meet the metro area’s emission standards, even from dealerships.

Perhaps, you have a 2010 high-mileage Jeep, that could still hold some value, depending on the model. If you’re thinking of purchasing a new vehicle soon, trading it in might be a viable option. The dealership will either fix and resell it, or more likely, auction it off.

Don’t consider your vehicle as “junk”. Any operational car is worth something. If a buyer from outside the front range (Springs, Western Slope, out of state, etc) purchases it, you won’t even need an emissions certificate. Try listing it on Craigslist or Facebook Marketplace, with full disclosure about the necessary repairs and emission status, and see the response.

2. Donate It to Colorado Public Radio

A donation can be a way to dismiss the thought of emissions testing in Colorado. The process is straightforward. You can donate to the Colorado Public Radio. They accept most cars, trucks, and motorcycles. You can either start the donation process online or by calling 866-415-0005.

They’ll either sell your vehicle at an auction or send it to an auto recycler, and a portion of the proceeds will benefit Colorado Public Radio. You will need the certificate of title under your name, some information about the car’s location, and condition to arrange for towing. They will arrange for your vehicle’s pickup. A tow company will reach out to you to schedule this. You’ll need to provide the vehicle’s keys and your signed title. Some additional paperwork may be necessary.

The value of your car is determined by its auction sale price unless it sells for less than $500. In the latter case, you may deduct no more than $500. If your vehicle sells for more than $500, they’ll need additional information to send you IRS form 1098C. Consult your tax advisor about your deduction.

Yes, your donation is tax-deductible. Colorado Public Radio is a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization and all donations qualify for a charitable deduction on your federal income tax return.

3. Consider Registering Your Vehicle in a Different County

Well, while you can register your cat in a different county to avoid emissions testing in Colorado, you should not do this! But some people register their vehicles in a different county and present a piece of mail with their name on it from a county that doesn’t require emissions. Again, you shouldn’t do that! It’s a way to avoid emissions requirements based on your vehicle’s county, and while it works, you really “shouldn’t” do it.

Or perhaps consider Wyoming, as it seems many Wyoming plates are in Denver – if you have noticed that too. Of course, don’t do that either. Or don’t consider swapping on street-legal parts just for the emissions test in Colorado.

South Dakota lets you register a car in their state as an out-of-state resident, but Colorado isn’t a big fan of this practice. They require residents to register their cars in Colorado within 60 days of becoming a resident. Law enforcement might question you when they see a South Dakota title in your name, but you’re a Colorado resident.

Then there’s insurance. You are insuring a car titled to a state it is not driven in, which can cause your insurance claims to be denied. Remember, insurance companies are businesses looking to make money, not lose it.

Setting up Montana LLCs can also work but can get tricky in case of an insurance claim, since technically you don’t own the vehicle, an LLC does. You’d have to make sure your insurance accepts this, as many of them don’t.

4. Obtain a waiver

A waiver is a certificate of emission control that allows you to register a vehicle and avoid emissions testing in Colorado. If granted, it is valid for one emission cycle. There are 3 types of waivers:

  1. Repair
  2. Diagnostic and
  3. Economic hardship

However, waivers are not issued for vehicles that smoke, have missing or altered emission components, or failed the emission test due to a gas cap failure. You can verify this at the Colorado State website. Other aspects that secure you a waiver include:

Waiver TypeVehicle TypeRequirementsDenial Conditions
Economic Hardship WaiverGasoline Powered Vehicles only1. One failed emissions test.
2. No minimum repairs necessary.
3. Vehicle owner must be receiving assistance from an approved public assistance program.
1. Visible smoke.
2. Missing or tampered emissions equipment.
3. Failing gas cap.
4. Incomplete/Not Ready or Unable to Test results.
Repair WaiverDiesel Powered Vehicles (Light-duty – 14,000 GVW or less)1. Failed emissions test.
2. $750 in emissions-related repairs.
3. Second failed emissions test
1. Missing or tampered emissions equipment.
2. Incomplete/Not Ready or Unable to Test results
Repair WaiverDiesel Powered Vehicles (Heavy-duty – 14,001 GVW or more)1. Failed emissions test.
2. $1500 in emissions-related repairs.
3. Second failed emissions test
1. Missing or tampered emissions equipment.
2. Incomplete/Not Ready or Unable to Test results
Gas and Diesel WaiverVehicles from 1968 and newer1. Failed emissions test.
2. $715 in emissions-related repairs.
3. Second failed emissions test.
1. Visible smoke.
2. Missing or tampered emissions equipment.
3. Failing gas cap.
4. Incomplete/Not Ready or Unable to Test results
Gas and Diesel WaiverVehicles from 1967 and older1. Failed emissions test.
2. $75 in emissions-related repairs.
3. Second failed emissions test
1. Visible smoke.
2. Missing or tampered emissions equipment.
3. Failing gas cap.
4. “Incomplete/Not Ready” or “Unable to Test” results.

Please note that diesel vehicles are not eligible for hardship waivers.

5. Sell an Inoperable Vehicle in the Emission Program Area

If your vehicle is inoperable, it can still be legally transferred or sold in the emissions area under certain criteria. For assistance in determining if your vehicle qualifies, contact at 303-205-5603 or visit https://dmv.colorado.gov/emissions.

The Notice of Emission Non-Compliance form is likely not applicable if your vehicle is still operable.

Regarding the exempt sticker on your windshield, vehicles are currently exempt from the emission inspection for the first seven (7) model years, after which they are inspected biennially. Contact at 303-205-5603 for assistance in determining if your vehicle needs an inspection. There’s no need for a new sticker if you’re replacing your windshield.

6. Obtain Collector Plates

Vehicles model years 1975 and older can be registered as “collector’s items” without an emissions inspection requirement or mileage restriction. However, if not specifically registered as a “collector’s item,” an annual emissions inspection is required.

7. Check if Your Vehicle is Exempt

Certain vehicles are exempt from an emissions inspection in Colorado. Gasoline vehicles are exempt for the first 7 model years, and diesel vehicles are exempt for the first 4 model years.

There’s an exception, though. If a gasoline vehicle’s ownership is transferred in the last year of the 7-year exemption, an emissions test will be required. For example, in 2023, a test will be required if the ownership of a model year 2017 is transferred. Likewise, for diesel vehicles, if ownership is transferred in the last year of the four-year exemption, an emissions test will be required. For example, in 2023, a test will be required if the ownership of a model year 2020 is transferred.

Also, the following vehicles are exempt from emissions inspections:

  • Kit cars
  • All-electric vehicles
  • Motorcycles and autocycles
  • Horseless carriages
  • Vehicles registered as street rods
  • Farm vehicles

Read also: Can You Get Insurance Without Registration?

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