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Why do so many cars in Nevada have 'classic vehicle' plates?

Posted at 11:27 AM, May 15, 2018
and last updated 2018-05-16 18:54:35-04

Thousands of Nevadans may be using a legal loophole to avoid a smog check and potentially save a lot of money.

Currently, if a car does not pass a smog check, it can turn into an expensive repair. Owners can be required to spend several hundreds of dollars in repairs before they are allowed to apply for a waiver. Even then, some cars will not be approved.  

Vehicles that qualify as classic do not require a smog check. 

The definition of a "classic vehicle" according to the Classic Car Club of America is a vehicle that is considered "fine" or "distinctive" and between 25 and 50 years old. 

Since the Nevada legislature loosened regulations on "classic vehicle" license plates, the number of people getting those tags has skyrocketed.

Most people expect to see a vintage American rod when they see a vehicle with the special license plate. Not a car that isn't considered anything special except for its age (vehicles must be at least 25 years old to qualify for a "classic vehicle" plate). 


Since the rules for classic car plates was relaxed in 2011, the number of people getting the plates has gone through the roof from about 5,000 per year to more than 30,000 in 2016.

Owners of the car are supposed to drive less than 5,000 miles per year. However, the Department of Motor Vehicles relies on the honor system when it comes to reporting. They do not verify odometer readings.

Though the classic plate numbers did flatten out between 2016 and 2017, they remain at a level more than 5 times higher than 2011. 

Environmental officials haven’t seen a direct impact on air quality from these unsmogged vehicles and there are far fewer of them on the road than newer vehicles. But older cars tend to pollute more than new ones, so it’s a concern.

There was a move to close the smog check loophole during the last legislative session but the bill never made it past the committee. 

Classics or clunkers? You be the judge. Check out our photo gallery below.