It rolls around every year, just like a wedding anniversary. And just like a wedding anniversary, you can count on getting in trouble if you forget it. We’re talking about emissions testing and registration for your vehicle(s).
At any given moment, there’s a heap of responsibilities on your plate, and like your son’s birthday or your daughter’s big game, let alone the day you said “I do” to the love of your life, jumping through hoops to get fresh tags on all your vehicles is an important event that just might slip your mind or get lost in the shuffle. We’re here to take some of the pressure off you as you work to keep your life (and your car) running like a well-oiled machine.
We hope you can refer back to this article as often as necessary for quick facts on keeping all the relevant legal work on your car up-to-date.
What happens if I’m caught without proper registration for my vehicle?
First off, let’s talk penalties for those first-time vehicle owners or anyone just needing a refresher. (If you’re not a first-time driver, go ahead and scroll down. This isn’t your first rodeo.)
By the time you got your license, you’d probably seen police officers pulling people over on TV often enough that the phrase, “License and registration, please” started to sound like a cliché. But don’t take it for granted, as many new drivers do, if on the first time you’re ever pulled over in a friend or parent’s car, you manage to find that elusive piece of paper in the glove box. Someone had to go through the trouble of putting it there, and now that you have a vehicle of your own, that someone is you. Here’s what you stand to lose if proof of registration isn’t available when a police officer asks you for it.
As of May 12, 2015, driving without registration was classified in Utah as a class C misdemeanor with a minimum fine of $1,000! This fine can be reduced to $200, however, if proof of registration is given at the time of the hearing, and if the vehicle had not gone unregistered for more than a year. But why play those odds? That’s still $200 you could’ve spent on something else. Worst case scenario: you could have your car impounded.
How do I register my new car?
Whether you’ve just purchased your first or a new car, or you’re a new Utah resident (welcome!), making sure your vehicle is on the road legally should be at the top of your to-do list. For new residents, you have 60 days after establishing your residency to register and title your car at the DMV. If you purchase a car from a dealership, the dealer will give you a temporary registration to tide you over until the permanent one arrives by mail, but for a private sale, you’ll need to head over to the DMV as well.
Here are the typical things you’ll need to present at the DMV counter:
- The vehicle title
- Your driver’s license
- Proof of insurance
- Applicable certificates of inspection
You’ll need to be prepared to pay a registration fee as well, which will vary based on which county you live in as well as on the vehicle’s weight and year.
How much should I expect to pay to register my car?
In reference to passenger vehicles only, there is a “uniform age-based” fee that will be applied at the time of registration. The older the vehicle, the smaller the fee.
- 12 years and older: $10
- Less than 12 to 9 years old: $50
- Less than 9 to 6 years old: $80
- Less than 6 to 3 years old: $110
- Less than 3 years old: $150
This number is then added to whatever applicable weight-based fee or taxes that exist in your county. With your registration certificate, you’ll receive a sticker with the month and year to attach to your plates.
On average, we see the total registration fees range between $71 and $300.
After that, it’ll be up to you to pay the yearly renewal fees by mail, online (if eligible), or in person at the DMV in time to make sure there’s no lapse in the registration for as long as the vehicle is on the road. You should receive a renewal notice from the DMV a few weeks before the expiration date, but if you don’t, just remember that, ultimately, the state doesn’t recognize any excuse for not knowing when your car’s registration expires.
What is On-the-Spot (OTS) Registration Renewal?
Many inspection stations around Utah participate in the OTS program, which allows you to get your vehicle inspected, renew your registration, and receive your new plate decal in one visit. “On-the-Spot” means no more waiting in line at the DMV or waiting for decals to arrive in the mail. Most stations charge a minimal fee for this service. However, Dickerson Automotive currently provides this service free of charge.
What do I need to know about getting my certificates of inspection?
The possible inspections required for your vehicle may include:
- Safety Inspections
- VIN Inspections
- Emissions Inspections
Certificates for these inspections must be provided at the DMV as a prerequisite to registration, but with certain caveats for each. Here’s what you need to know:
Before January 1st, 2018, Utah was among 16 states that required annual safety inspections for personal passenger vehicles, but no longer. These inspections checked off the status of things like brakes, headlights, and windshields, but the legislation, passed in March of 2017, is projected to save Utah drivers as much as $25 million a year, since drivers are no longer required by law to get those things fixed in order to register their vehicles.
However, there are still certain vehicles that MUST be inspected for safety at an inspection station that’s been approved by the Department of Public Safety (DPS)*. These are:
- Salvage vehicles that need a rebuilt vehicle title
- Commercial vehicles (including buses and vans for hire)**
- Street-legal ATVs
- School buses
- Ground transportation service providers
- Vehicles with three or more axles
*The maximum fee to expect for a safety inspection is $20.
**While commercial vehicles must have a certificate of a safety inspection available for display and to show law enforcement, it’s actually not a prerequisite for registration.
Any vehicle being titled in Utah for the first time (unless it’s been acquired at an in-state dealer or manufacturer) has to have its VIN verified by a qualified agent and a Certificate of Inspection completed. Safety inspection certificates generally do the trick for cars, trucks, and motorcycles. However, all trailers, boats, off-highway vehicles, and snowmobiles require VIN or Hull Identification Number (HIN) inspections that are separate from safety and can be completed at a DMV office at no cost.
Who can sign a Certificate of Inspection?
- DMV employees, including out-of-state agents.
- Approved contractors.
- Utah (and out-of-state) peace officers.
- Licensed car dealers.
- Certified safety inspectors.
Many automotive facilities (Dickerson Automotive included!) offer emissions/smog checks as well as On-the-Spot Registration Renewal, but not all counties in Utah require an emissions inspection as a prerequisite to registration.
The counties that DO require emissions testing, with a few varying rules for each, are:
- Salt Lake
There are certain types of vehicles that are exempt from emissions testing entirely across these five counties. These are:
- Vehicles less than 2 years old.
- Diesel vehicles registered in Utah County.
- Vehicles made in 1967 or older.
In Davis, Salt Lake, Utah, and Weber counties:
- Vehicles under 6 years old must have an emissions test once every 2 years, according to their model year: odd-numbered model years must be tested on odd years, even-numbered model years on even years.
- Annual testing is required on all vehicles over 6 years old, up to vehicles with a model year of 1967 or older.
In Cache County, however, vehicles under 6 years old are exempt from emissions testing, while those that are 6 years old and older follow the above biennial pattern according to their model year: odd-numbered model years must be tested on odd years, even-numbered model years on even years.
As you can see, emissions testing and registration can seem pretty complicated. There’s a lot to know, so here are a few commonly asked questions specific to emissions testing and registration in Utah.
What should I expect to pay for an emissions test?
Regardless of the county, when you take your vehicle to an approved inspection station like Dickerson, an emissions inspection fee really shouldn’t exceed $40.00. But here’s a little more information to give you a frame of reference for what to expect.
Currently, Dickerson Automotive charges $35.00 for an emission test. However, we do not charge a convenience fee for On-the-Spot Registration Renewal.
- Cache County: limit $20.
- Weber County: limit $30.
- Utah County: no limit set, self-regulated.
- Salt Lake County: no limit set, self-regulated.
- Davis County: no limit set, self-regulated.
Self-regulated counties generally charge an average of $40.00, but call ahead so there are no surprises. These counties also require a fee of up to $3 at the time of registration.
When should I get an emission test?
This depends on when you need to register or renew your vehicle. After you get your emissions test, you have no more than two months to submit your certificate to the DMV for registration before it becomes void and you’d have to do it again.
How long should I expect an emission test to take?
Dickerson Automotive provides emissions testing and On-the-Spot Registration Renewal as a service to our time-crunched customers. We work to get you in and out in 10 to 20 minutes.
What if I buy a car from a dealer in a non-emission county?
There are 29 counties in Utah with only 5 requiring emissions testing as a prerequisite to registration. No matter where you buy your car, if you’re a resident of one of these five counties, the car dealer is required by Utah law to assure that the vehicle meets emission testing requirements before giving you a temporary permit. If the dealer, however, doesn’t have access to an emissions testing facility, the buyer has a limited exemption that lasts no more than 10 days after returning to the emission-county of residence.
Here’s what you do:
- Receive a temporary permit from the dealer, who must also provide you with an Exemption Affidavit for Utah Emission Testing.
- When you get home, get and pass an emissions test within 10 days.
- Take all paperwork to the DMV and send the emissions certificate and the exemption affidavit to the local Department of Health.
What happens if I fail an emissions test?
When the test fails, the inspection facility should be able to tell you why and offer options for repairing the issue and retesting the vehicle until it passes. If it continues to fail, however, you can contact the local county emissions office to see if your car can qualify for an exemption.
Do I need the title to register my car in Utah?
You WILL need the existing vehicle title, signed over to you, to register the car. But every car, like every title, comes with its own unique situation. For example, the title could be held by a lien holder as collateral in a financing agreement. Take any documentation you have to the DMV from the purchase of the vehicle (the original title or the bill of sale from the previous owner) and that should work to at least get you a temporary permit while you round up the rest of the necessary documentation. Here’s some more information from the DMV about transferring without a title.
How dark can I tint my windows in Utah?
For sedans, SUVs, and vans, any darkness can be used on the back side and rear windows. The front side windows must allow more than 43% of visible light transmission (VLT). For the windshield, non-reflective tint is allowed above the AS-1 line (top 4 inches). Below the line must allow more than 70% VLT.
- County Health Department Contact Info:
- Cache County: 435-792-6500
- Davis County: 801-525-5100
- Salt Lake County: 385-468-3837
- Utah County: 801-851-7600
- Weber County: 801-399-7140
- Cache County: 435-792-6500
- Emissions tests shouldn’t exceed $40.00.
- Safety inspections are no longer required for personal vehicles.
- Cars under 2 years old don’t need a smog check.
- Cars with model year 1967 and older are exempt from smog checks.
- Emissions testing is required in these five counties: Cache, Davis, Salt Lake, Utah, and Weber.
- Front side windows tint darkness must allow more than 43% VLT.