Dear Consumer Ed:

I purchased a vehicle from a private seller that had currently not passed emissions testing. When I asked the seller at the point of sale about the vehicle passing emissions, he stated that the car was in passing order. When the vehicle subsequently failed the emissions test, I contacted the seller about returning my money or paying for the repairs needed to pass emissions, but he refused. I don't know if I have rights in the state of Georgia concerning this, and have no idea who to get in touch with or how to file a complaint or possibly get my money back.

Consumer Ed Says:

In Georgia, all sellers of gas-powered cars and light-duty trucks (those with a gross vehicle weight rating or GVWR of 8,500 pounds or less) must sell a vehicle with a current, valid, passing emissions inspection if the seller is located in one of the 13 counties comprising the Atlanta metro area -- Cherokee, Clayton, Cobb, Coweta, DeKalb, Douglas, Fayette, Forsyth, Fulton, Gwinnett, Henry, Paulding or Rockdale -- and if the vehicle will be registered in that 13-county region.

If the seller is not located in one of these metro-Atlanta counties, then the vehicle being sold is not required to have an emissions certificate. This is not usually a problem, however, since an emissions certificate is not required in order to register your vehicle outside of metro-Atlanta.

However, if the seller and the vehicle registration location are in one of the 13 metro-Atlanta counties specified above, it is the seller's responsibility to provide evidence of a passing emissions inspection. The unexpired Certificate of Emissions Inspection should be displayed on the vehicle at the time of sale. If the seller is required to sell the vehicle with an emissions inspection but fails to display a valid, unexpired certificate at the time of sale, the seller may be guilty of a misdemeanor and can be fined $100.00 for the first offense, $500.00 for the second offense, and $1,000.00 for each subsequent offense.

There are a few exceptions (see below), but this law applies regardless of whether the seller is a private party, dealership or auctioneer. Also, cars sold "as is" are not exempt-they too must be sold with a current, valid, passing emissions inspection if the seller is located in one of the 13 metro Atlanta counties indicated above.

However, the seller is not required to provide the buyer with a copy of the Vehicle Inspection Report (VIR), which is generated during the inspection and gets reported electronically to Georgia tag offices. So before purchasing a vehicle, potential buyers should always look for the Certificate of Emissions Inspection on the vehicle and check the vehicle's VIR before purchasing. Simply ask the seller for it or, if you know the vehicle identification number (VIN), you can download a copy of a vehicle's most recent VIR for free on the Georgia Clean Air Force (GCAF) website by visiting:

If you bought a vehicle in metro-Atlanta that does not have a current passing emissions inspection, you have several options:



Exceptions & Exemptions 

There are a few exceptions and exemptions to this law. An emissions inspection is not required if:  


  • The vehicle runs only on alternate fuel or diesel;
  • The vehicle has a GVWR over 8,500 pounds;
  • The vehicle is from the three most recent model years (for example, in 2014 that means vehicles of model years 2012, 2013, or 2014);
  • The vehicle is 25 model years old or older; or
  • The vehicle was sold as "parts only" or "salvage" and the title was appropriately identified as such with the Department of Revenue, Motor Vehicle Division.


Senior Exemption: If  you are a senior citizen selling your vehicle you may qualify for an exemption if you are at least 65 years old, your vehicle is 10 model years old or older, you do not drive the vehicle over 5,000 miles per year, the vehicle's odometer is in working condition, and you are the primary registered vehicle owner. However, you must apply for a Senior Exemption. You can print and mail in the completed form or submit it online by visiting  

Non-Conforming Status: Gray market vehicles, kit cars, hot rods, and vehicles for which the owner is unable to obtain parts (parts are no longer manufactured) to repair the vehicle so it can pass the emissions inspection may qualify for an exception. Owners of these types of vehicles would have to apply for Non-Conforming Status and each request is evaluated on a case-by-case basis. For more information on Non-Conforming Status and to apply online, visit:

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