As a vehicle owner, you’ll likely have to get a car inspection at some point.
If you’re wondering what you need for a car inspection, what the inspector will be assessing, or how to solidify passing inspection tests, we’ve got you covered.
This article will answer the question of ‘what do you need for a car inspection?’, go through ten things that are checked during the inspection, and review five frequently asked questions about car inspections.
This Article Contains
- What Do You Need For a Car Inspection?
- 10 Things That Are Checked During a Car Safety Inspection
- 5 Car Inspection FAQs
Let’s get started.
What Do You Need For a Car Inspection?
This might seem like a no brainer, but the most important thing you need for a vehicle safety inspection is… a car (as in bring your car, not someone else’s.)
When you take your vehicle for an inspection, make sure you take the following:
a. Driver’s License and Vehicle Registration
Driving a car requires a driver’s license. As such, you must bring your license for the inspection.
Your driver’s license must be valid on the date of your inspection. The technician won’t be able to assist any vehicle owner with an expired vehicle registration or license.
b. Proof of Insurance
Be sure to bring along proof of insurance when your car undergoes inspection. Your car insurance can be from any state if it’s valid and has full coverage.
c. Inspection Fee
It’s important to remember that you’ll have to pay the inspection fee whether your car passes or fails the inspection.
Luckily, if your vehicle fails the inspection, you’re granted a 30-day period to fix the issues and then return. However, if there’s another failed inspection or you miss your window, you’ll have to book and pay for another inspection.
The cost of the inspection can vary based on many reasons, such as:
- Your vehicle’s age
- Vehicle type
- Your vehicle’s emission requirement
- The county you’re in
Different vehicle safety inspection stations have different ways of accepting payment, so ensure you look into it in advance.
Now that you’re ready for the inspection, let’s look at what will be inspected.
10 Things That Are Checked During a Car Safety Inspection
Car inspection requirements vary by state. Some states have stringent requirements, whereas others can be lenient. Certain states might even request that you present your vehicle for emissions testing or a smog check.
Here’s a list of ten common things they might check during the inspection process at your chosen inspection station:
1. Tire Condition
To ensure vehicle safety the technician will inspect if you have a worn tire tread, or hazardous defects, like dry rot, bubbles, or other damage.
2. Brake Performance
Fully functional brakes are one of the most important elements to check for a car inspection. Your technician will check for excessively worn brake pads, rotors, and brake fluid leaks. They’ll also check your emergency brake.
If you’ve been experiencing spongy brakes or they’re slow to respond, have your brakes checked by a professional mechanic. Failing brakes can cause a car accident and personal injury, so always take them seriously. This’ll also give you a better chance of passing the inspection.
3. Light Functionality
To safely operate your vehicle, you need to clearly see your surroundings and be visible to other drivers on the road, especially at night. Per car inspection laws, every assessment should check for functioning headlights, taillights, brake lights, and others.
4. Windshield Condition
At the inspection station, they’ll often perform a windshield assessment. This assessment ensures you have an unobstructed view of the road. This prevents potentially significant problems later.
5. Windshield Wiper Functionality
When they check your windshield, they’ll also inspect your windshield wipers. Doing so will ensure the wipers aren’t streaking or failing to clear your windshield. Your vehicle needs windshield wipers to pass the inspection.
6. Mirror Condition
Both your side view and rearview mirrors must be present and in good condition to pass inspection. Your mirrors are essential to see what’s coming up behind you, when it’s safe to change lanes, or when to get out of harm’s way.
7. Seat Belts Functionality
During the inspection, they’ll check the seat belt auto-lock and retractability to ensure it functions and there’s no risk of personal injury.
8. Steering and Alignment
The inspector will check all steering components for safety hazards. Steering failure could be disastrous, so any worn parts discovered during the testing could result in a failed inspection.
9. Condition of Suspension
Your suspension gives you a smooth ride as your motor vehicle maneuvers over the bumpy, uneven roads. This assessment checks for damaged or leaking shock absorbers.
10. Overall Vehicle Condition
To ensure you’re passing inspection tests, look at your car as a whole.
Is your muffler scraping the ground, being held in place by a shoelace?
To avoid an immediate failure, don’t take your motor vehicle for inspection until all issues are fixed.
Note: You’ll receive an inspection sticker once you’ve passed your annual safety inspection. The valid inspection sticker needs to be displayed on your vehicle until the next inspection and renewal of the inspection sticker.
We’ve gone through the inspection process, let’s discuss car inspection FAQs.
5 Car Inspection FAQs
Here are the answers to five questions about vehicle inspection:
1. Are Vehicle Inspections Compulsory by Law?
In the United States, every state has jurisdiction over whether cars must undergo a state inspection. As such, only certain states require a car inspection on your vehicle.
However, because of the Clean Air Act (1990), states must conduct vehicle emissions tests in urban areas where air quality is below federal standards. As with the mandatory vehicle inspection, the specifics of the vehicle emissions test may differ by state.
Note: In New York, for example, diesel powered vehicles — that meet certain criteria — and have a gross vehicle weight rating (GVWR) of less than 8,501 pounds don’t have to present themselves at inspection stations for an emissions inspection.
2. What Are Car Inspection Requirements by State?
As mentioned, each state does things differently. That’s why it’s essential you consider the state inspection rules where you live.
Here’s a mini list showing what various states require when it comes to inspections:
North Carolina car inspection:
- Does require a vehicle safety inspection on all vehicles less than 35 years old
- Does require an emission inspection / smog check on all gas vehicles that are 3 to 20 years old
- Does not require a vehicle identification number (VIN) inspection
- Is an annual inspection
Texas State vehicle inspection:
- The Texas Department of Public Safety requires all vehicles to undergo a safety inspection at one of the Texas department approved inspection stations
- All gas vehicles 2 to 24 years old need to undergo an emissions inspection
- Doesn’t require a vehicle identification number (VIN) inspection
- Is an annual inspection
Missouri car inspection:
- All vehicles starting at 11 years old or with 150,000 miles are required to undergo safety tests
- Cars 4 years old or over 40,000 miles in St Louis, Jefferson, St. Charles, Franklin Counties, and St Louis City need emissions tests
- Does require a VIN inspection
- Inspection every two years
Louisiana car inspection:
- All vehicles need a safety inspection
- All gas cars year 1980 or newer in the 5 Baton Rouge parishes need emission testing
- No VIN inspection required
- Safety done every year or two with annual emissions testing
California car inspection:
- Doesn’t require an annual safety inspection
- Gas vehicles older than 4 years old for the year 1976 or newer, any diesel vehicle from 1998 or newer, need to undergo an emissions test
- May require a VIN inspection before registration
- Testing done every 2 years or upon registration renewal
3. What Are The Categories of Car Inspections?
There are typically three different types of car inspections:
A. Courtesy Inspection
This inspection usually involves a specialist visually assessing common car components like lights, oil, and wipers. Courtesy inspections are usually conducted when your car goes in for an oil change or new tires.
B. Insurance Inspection
Most states require a car inspection on vehicles ten years or older for car insurance purposes. It requires a specialist to determine your car’s roadworthiness and assess the risk of insuring your vehicle. During this inspection, they can check your brakes, exhaust, suspension, and more.
C. 12-Point Inspection
A 12-point car inspection is a complete examination of your entire vehicle. Technicians check your:
- Tire rotation and balance
- Tire wear
- Fluid levels
- Timing belt or timing chain
- Wiper blades and window tint
- Belts and hoses
- Shocks and struts
- Cabin filter
4. How Long Does a Car Inspection Take?
The basic car check should take about 30 to 45 minutes to complete. However, if you factor in filling in the necessary paperwork, it would probably take about an hour.
5. How Much Does a Car Inspection Cost?
A complete car inspection could cost between $150 and $250. But some criteria could impact the price, such as factors like the vehicle type, the state you live in, etc.
Car inspections will ensure potential vehicle safety issues are identified early and dealt with before they escalate into the worst-case scenario and expensive repairs. Always check your state’s car inspection laws and rules about an emissions test.
Need help ensuring your car’s in top condition?
Whether you’re getting your vehicle ready for a mandatory inspection or want to perform a pre-purchase car inspection, you can call AutoNation Mobile Service.