State safety inspections not only ensure that you’re safe while driving but that everyone else is safe as well. Vehicles that pass are provided a sticker with the month punched out and a large number for the year you’re approved for. Like other car maintenance, you’re required to get this done every year, adding up to hundreds in out-of-pocket expenses.
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What Is A Safety Inspection?
A safety inspection ensures your car is in a safe operating condition when on the road. Some States have safety inspections that require the vehicle to be thoroughly examined by a trustworthy mechanic, while others only need periodic emissions tests.
When looking at safety inspection requirements throughout the United States, eighteen states require a full safety inspection periodically, and Maryland requires one if the car’s ownership is transferred. Sixteen states require emissions tests.
Typically, a vehicle safety inspection consists of the following checks:
- Lights (headlights, interior lights)
- Windows and windshield wipers (including tinting levels)
- Steering mechanism
- Right and left-hand turn signals
- The exhaust system (if an emissions test isn’t required)
The technician will then attach a small computer to your onboard diagnostic II port near your steering column. This diagnostic tool helps track multiple systems to see if they’re running correctly, and the test is usually pass/fail. Cars made before 1996 are typically not subject to this test.
States That Require Safety Inspections
States that require an annual vehicle inspection bundle it with vehicle registration renewal, while others require inspections on a biennial basis (every other year).
We’ve compiled a helpful list to check your state’s requirements and see what you need to do.
- District of Columbia—publicly owned vehicles must be tested every other year.
- Delaware—new cars are exempt from safety inspections for five years unless the vehicle is sold. Safety inspections for other vehicles are required annually or biennially.
- Louisiana—annual tests are required, but most jurisdictions offer vehicle stickers for two years.
- Hawaii—annual vehicle inspections are required unless the vehicle is new. Newer vehicles get an inspection done that’s good for two years. Vehicles used in public transportation, emergency vehicles, school vehicles, and rental cars must be inspected every six months.
- Massachusetts—annual vehicle inspections required.
- Maine—annual vehicle inspections are required.
- Missouri—requires inspections every other year, based on the vehicle’s model year. Odd-numbered models must get inspected in odd-numbered years and vice versa. As of August 2019, vehicles with less than 150,000 miles on the odometer that are less than 10 years old are exempt. Vehicles with historical plates are also exempt.
- New Jersey—annual inspection is required for commercial vehicles like taxis, limos, and buses. Passenger vehicles are exempt as of August 2020.
- New Hampshire—annual inspections are required annually. When a new vehicle is inspected, or a vehicle is being transferred, the inspection is adjusted to expire the registrant’s birthday month.
- North Carolina—annual inspections are required until a vehicle is 30 years old.
- New York—annual inspections are required for all vehicles, except those used for farming. If your vehicle was registered out of state, you’re exempt until the registration expires or for one year after registering in New York (whichever is sooner).
- Pennsylvania—annual inspections are required for most vehicles. School vehicles are required to be inspected every six months. Antique vehicle license plate holders are exempt, but classic cars may still be subject.
- Rhode Island—inspections are required every other year unless the vehicle is new. Newly registered vehicles are exempt for two years after purchase. Antique vehicles must be safety tested also.
- Vermont—annual inspections are required, and they’re due at the end of even-numbered months only.
- Texas—after purchasing, new vehicle owners don’t need an inspection for two years, but then they are required annually.
- Virginia—annual inspections are required, and even newly registered vehicles from out of state are not exempt. As soon as a vehicle is registered in Virginia, a safety inspection is required.
- West Virginia—inspections are required annually.
- Alabama and Maryland—safety inspections are required whenever your car is sold, or ownership has recently been transferred.
- Nebraska—safety inspections are only required for cars brought from another jurisdiction.
Each state that requires annual inspections has exceptions and quirks, so be sure to check your State’s DMV website for requirements.
What Is Needed for Safety Inspections?
While you will always need to bring things with you, you should make sure to double-check your State’s DMV website and with the safety inspection provider to be extra sure. Typically, safety checks require:
- Your state ID or driver’s license
- Proof of insurance (requirements vary by state, but most require liability coverage by law)
- Proof of ownership for your vehicle
- Payment for the inspection—the cost varies, but typically an inspection is between $150 and $250.
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