Car inspections are a fact of life if you don’t live in one of the 15 states (including our home state, Florida) where there are no formal car inspections of any kind for private vehicles.
There are 3 primary types of car inspection:
- Safety: Designed to inspect the vital systems of your car to make sure it’s drivable and safe to operate on the road.
- Emissions: Based on the 1990 Federal Clean Air Act, emissions tests were designed to improve air quality in a number of metropolitan areas.
- VIN: Vin inspections are generally designed to prevent fraud, including grand theft auto and parts fraud.
Currently, 15 states have a periodic safety inspection while 17 have a safety inspection of some kind. 33 states currently have emissions inspections, however several have plans to remove their testing in the near future.
A safety inspection is required prior to transferring ownership of a car. This includes buying a vehicle new or used from a dealer, selling your vehicle to another owner, or transferring ownership.
Once the vehicle is in your possession, you’re not required to get a yearly inspection.
You must have the inspection done at the Motor Vehicle Title and Tag office prior to registration.
If you have an out of state vehicle and plan on moving to Alabama, you’ll need to complete a VIN inspection, which will then allow you to continue to register your vehicle. You have 20 days to complete this process.
Alabama also does not have a law requiring statewide emissions inspections but does have a law in place for any city to enact emissions legislation, so stay up to date.
Alaska does not require drivers to have their vehicles periodically inspected for safety or emissions. There’s also no inspection needed if you have an out of state vehicle and plan on transferring it to Alaska.
However, state troopers may inspect your car if there’s a reasonable belief that your vehicle is unsafe.
More information can be found here.
Arizona does not require a period safety inspection or emissions inspection unless you live in Phoenix or Tucson.
If you live, work, or study in Phoenix, and your vehicle is a 1981 or newer and weighs less than 8,500 pounds, you’ll need to get an inspection every 2 years.
You may also need a yearly emissions inspection if your vehicle is:
- A model year between 1967-1980
- A diesel vehicle that’s 1967 or newer
- Over 8,500 pounds
- A 1981-1995 vehicle with 4×4 or traction control weighing less than 8,500 pounds.
If you live, study, or work in Tucson, and your vehicle is 1996 or newer, gasoline-powered, and weighs less than 8,500 pounds you’ll need to get an inspection every 2 years.
You may also need a yearly emissions inspection if your vehicle is:
- A 1967-1995 model year weighing less than 8,500 pounds
- A 1967 and newer model diesel-powered engine
- A heavy-duty vehicle that weighs more than 8,500 pounds
If there’s reasonable cause to believe that a vehicle is unsafe, department of public safety officials may stop a vehicle and require it be inspected.
There are no periodic safety or emissions inspection required if you live in Arkansas. One thing to be aware of is a police officer can stop a vehicle if he or she believes that vehicle is unsafe to operate. The officer can then issue a safety citation, and you’ll be responsible for repairing the vehicle.
California has long been recognized as one of the nationwide leaders when it comes to regulating automobiles, and their emissions policy generally paces the United States in that area.
While California does not require annual safety inspections, California Highway Patrol officers that believe a vehicle is unsafe to drive may require the vehicle to be inspected.
What California does have, is a robust emissions policy. To check if your vehicle needs to be inspected, you’ll need to visit the California Bureau of Automotive repair and enter your zip code to see if it’s required.
An inspection is currently required in some zip codes in 41 out of 58 counties. If an emissions test is required for your zip code, you’ll need to get an inspection every 2 years.
If you’re an out of state resident, you’ll also need to submit to emissions testing, even if your vehicle is from a state where emissions testing is also required.
Finally, you’ll also need a 1-time VIN inspection when you register an out of state vehicle.
Colorado does not have a statewide safety inspection requirement, although Colorado drivers should be aware that a uniformed police officer can stop a vehicle and require that an inspection be performed.
What Colorado does have is emissions laws, though none of them are statewide, and are only required for the following counties: Boulder, Denver, Broomfield, Douglas, and Jefferson, as well as sections of Adams, Larimer, Weld, and Arapahoe.
You can see the map of the counties that require testing here.
If your county requires testing, you’ll need to have it done once every 2 years.
Finally, you’ll also need a 1-time VIN inspection when you register an out of state vehicle.
Connecticut does not have a statewide safety inspection requirement for normal passenger vehicles. However, commercial vehicles with a gross vehicle weight rating over 18,000 pounds, trailers over 10,000 pounds, taxis, and imported vehicles all require a safety inspection.
Connecticut also has required emissions inspections, which must be performed every 2 years. Failure to renew your emission inspection results in an automatic late fine, so we’d advise staying up to date on the testing.
You’ll also be responsible for a one-time VIN inspection when registering an out of state vehicle.
Safety inspections in Delaware are performed when attempting to renew a registration. The six newest model years are exempt from safety inspections prior to registration, while all others will receive a two-year renewal with a passing inspection. For more information, visit the Delaware DMV site.
However, any authorized agent of the Department of Transportation or any police officer may stop and require the driver to submit the vehicle for safety inspection.
Delaware also has mandatory emissions testing which generally occurs once every 2 years, with the latest 7 model years exempt from testing.
District of Columbia
Washington D.C has no mandatory safety inspections for non-commercial vehicles. However, commercial vehicles are required to undergo safety checks every year.
That said it does have mandatory emissions testing which must be completed for non-commercial vehicles every 2 years. New commercial vehicles are exempt for the first 4 years of ownership.
There are no safety inspections in Florida – which we can personally attest to, as our headquarters is right smack dab in the middle of it, in sunny St. Petersburg Florida.
Florida also has no emissions inspections, or VIN inspections either. However, a police officer can stop and require you to submit your vehicle for inspection if they believe that your vehicle is unsafe, or otherwise unequipped to drive safely.
Georgia has no law that mandates a statewide, periodic inspection for safety reasons. However, a law enforcement officer can conduct an inspection of any vehicle that they suspect of being operated in an unsafe condition.
Georgia also has no statewide emissions testing requirement, except for some Atlanta counties. In Cherokee, Clayton, Cobb, Coweta, DeKalb, Douglas, Fayette, Forsyth, Fulton, Gwinnett, Henry, Paulding and Rockdale County, an emissions test is required once a year.
Hawaii drivers will need to have a safety inspection performed every year, as all vehicles with a gross weight rating of 10,000 pounds or less need one prior to registration. New cars are exempt from this requirement for 2 years.
Anything exceeding 10,000 pounds, as well as taxis, buses, and ambulances, must have a safety inspection every 6 months.
Just as well, any Hawaii police officer can require a vehicle be inspected. However, Hawaii has no state emissions inspection, or VIN inspection for new cars.
Idaho has no regular statewide safety inspection. What it does have, is a required 1 time VIN inspection for out of state vehicle registration. Idaho also has required emissions testing for the Ada and Canyon counties every 2 years. For more information, you can visit the Idaho Department of Environmental Quality.
Illinois has no statewide safety inspection requirement for most passenger vehicles. However, vehicles over 8,000 pounds or designed to carry more than 10 passengers must secure a safety inspection before being issued a certificate of safety to be allowed to drive.
While Illinois has minimal safety inspections, it does have a patchwork of other inspections including emissions inspections in the following counties: Cook, Dupage, Kane, Kendall, Lake, McHenry, Monroe, Madison, Clair, and Will.
Indiana has no statewide emissions testing. Only vehicles registered in Lake and Porter counties are required to undergo emissions testing, as well as tampering inspections every 2 years, assuming they have a gross vehicle weight of less than 9,000 pounds.
VINs are also inspected when registering an out of state vehicle in Indiana.
Iowa is one of the rare states that has no statewide emissions or vehicle safety inspection, except for vehicles with a salvaged title. Salvage title vehicles must be examined by a peace officer to verify that no stolen parts were used to rebuild the vehicle.
Kanas has no statewide safety or emissions inspection laws. What Kanas does have is a statewide VIN inspection to prevent the trafficking of stolen cars and parts. This inspection is required when an out of state vehicle is registered in state, or when a vehicle has been reconstructed from 1 or more vehicles.
Kentucky has no statewide safety or emissions inspection laws. What Kanas does have is a statewide VIN inspection to prevent the trafficking of stolen cars and parts. This inspection is required when an out of state vehicle is registered in state, or when a vehicle has been reconstructed from 1 or more vehicles.
Louisiana is a bit of an oddity on this list when it comes to safety inspections, which it does have statewide. Louisiana residents have the option of getting an annual vehicle safety inspection, or a biannual inspection (which costs double).
Louisiana has no statewide emissions testing, but the Parishes of East Baton Rouge, West Baton Rouge, Ascension, Livingston, and Iberville parishes enforce local emissions testing yearly.
Maine requires all motor vehicles to undergo a safety inspection once a year. Vehicles registered in Cumberland Country are also required to undergo an emissions test.
Maine drivers should expect a detailed safety inspection!
Maryland has no periodic statewide safety inspection. However, a safety inspection is required prior to registration after a sale or transfer.
Maryland does not have a statewide annual emissions testing program, although many counties do enforce their own testing. The following counties have emissions testing for vehicles 1995 or newer:
Anne Arundel County, Baltimore City, Baltimore County, Calvert County, Carroll County, Cecil County Charles County, Frederick County, Harford County, Howard County, Montgomery County, Prince George’s County, Queen Anne’s County, and Washington County.
Massachusetts has a detailed annual vehicle safety inspection, which covers components including brakes and taillights. There are also annual emissions inspections for cars that are less than 15 years old, which are inspected with an OBD-II code reader. Cars older than that will have their exhausts visually inspected.
Despite a protracted battle with federal regulators over air quality in western Michigan and near Detroit, Michigan currently has no laws regarding car inspections of any kind.
Minnesota has no inspection requirement for personal vehicles of any kind. What Minnesota does have are annual inspections for any commercial motor vehicle or special mobile equipment defined under Minnesota law section 168.002 subdivision 31.
Commercial motor vehicles include:
- Any vehicle with a gross vehicle weight of greater than 26,000 pounds
- A vehicle transporting hazardous materials
- A vehicle designed to transport 16 or more passengers, including the driver
School buses, or buses operated by the Metropolitan council transit do not have to comply with this rule.
After several years of debate, a 112-7 vote in the House abolished Mississippi’s yearly inspection and sticker.
What Mississippi does require is an annual safety inspection if your car has tinted windows.
A new Missouri law as of August 28th 2019 has officially made it so vehicles no longer need an inspection until they are 10 years old, or have more than 150,000 miles. Prior to this change, an inspection was required every 5 years.
For vehicles that are over this limit, they have to submit to biannual inspections at an authorized inspection facility.
Missouri also has biannual emissions inspections in the following counties: St Louis City, St Louis County, Franklin County, St. Charles County, and Jefferson County.
You’re free to drive whatever you want in Montana, considering the most rural state in America has no laws requiring any type of inspection.
Nebraska does not have an active vehicle emissions test inspection law at this time. However, Nebraska registered vehicles must have a VIN inspection and odometer check.
You’ll be required to have this inspection if you:
- Have an ATV, minibike, or trailer that you’ve moved to Nebraska from out of state.
- Have an ATV, or minibike that is not titled.
- Any vehicle that doesn’t have a VIN number or any other ID associated with it.
- Any out of state vehicle being registered in the state for the first time.
Nevada has a mandatory VIN inspection for out of state motor vehicles that wish to register in Nevada, along with an odometer reading.
However, there is no mandatory state inspection law for safety or for emissions. Emissions testing is only currently required for Las Vegas and Reno.
New Hampshire has several vehicle inspections laws that you need to be aware of. Your vehicle must under a safety inspection within 10 days of the initial registration. Afterward, your car will need to be re-inspected every year, no later than 10 days after the end of your birth month.
If a vehicle changes hands, it will also need to be re-inspected in the new owners name within 10 days of the new registration date even if the current registration sticker is still valid.
New Hampshire also stipulates that antique vehicles can only be inspected in April.
All vehicles less than 20 years old must also undergo an OBD-II vehicle inspection to test for emissions annually as part of the inspections process. If your car is 1996 or newer, this is required.
New Jersey had safety inspections for all vehicles, but that requirement was not kept after 2010. Currently, only commercial vehicles need to have annual safety inspections. That includes taxis, buses, and diesel vehicles, which must be inspected for emissions.
All non-commercial vehicles are required to get an emissions inspection every 2 years, where you may get an inspection up to 2 months prior to the date when your inspection sticker is due to expire. Vehicles that are less than 5 years old can get a 5-year inspection, which ends when the car is more than 5 years past the original model year.
New Mexico performs VIN inspections if you are registering an out of state vehicle in New Mexico. Otherwise, New Mexico has no statewide safety or emissions inspection laws on the books.
However, Bernalillo County does have a requirement for emissions testing, where all vehicles that are 1983 or newer, and have a gross vehicle weight of up to 10,000 pounds must pass an emissions inspection every 2 years, and again whenever the vehicle changes ownership, even if the previous emissions sticker is still valid.
Strictly electric vehicles, and diesel vehicles are exempt from emissions testing.
There’s something about New York – the sights, the smell, the government oversight watching everything you do and imposing some of the strictest vehicle inspection laws on this entire list.
New York requires that drives have an annual safety inspection, as well as an annual emissions inspection in most cases. The safety inspection is one of the most comprehensive on this list, and covers everything from tires and brakes to your seatbelt and windows.
As to the emissions inspection, if your car is 1996 or newer, or 1997 or newer (if it’s diesel) and has a gross vehicle weight rating of less than 8,501 pounds, you’ll get an OBD-II test. Older vehicles, or vehicles that weigh more than 8,501 pounds will be subject to a smoke opacity test.
The good news? Your emissions and safety inspections can usually be performed all at once, which should save you some time, which is great, considering that you’ll probably give most of that time back because you’re sitting in traffic.
Ahh, New York.
North Carolina has a statewide safety inspection law that requires all vehicles to pass an annual safety inspection before it can be registered in North Carolina or have the registration renewed.
North Carolina doesn’t have a statewide emissions law, but motor vehicles registered in 22 counties must also pass an annual emissions inspection which is to be conducted at the same time as your safety inspection. Emissions inspections are required in: Alamance, Buncombe, Cabarrus, Cumberland, Davidson, Durham, Forsyth, Franklin, Gaston, Guilford, Iredell, Johnston, Lee, Lincoln, Mecklenburg, New Hanover, Onslow, Randolph, Rockingham, Rowan, Wake, and Union Counties.
North Dakota has no statewide smog or emissions inspection laws. If you’re here, you’re in the clear.
Ohio has no statewide safety inspection law, which has lead to numerous tongue and cheek jokes, including this one from Brooke County Sheriff Chuck Jackson who said “If you see a car coming and it’s just a rattletrap or has fenders which duct tape on it, that car is from Ohio. I don’t even have to look at the plates to know that”
What Ohio does have, is emissions testing in some counties. The Cuyahoga, Geauga, Lake, Lorain, Medina, Portage, And Summit counties all conduct emissions testing.
All vehicles (gasoline, diesel, flexible fuel, and hybrid) that have a gross vehicle weight less than 10,000 pounds and are 25 years old or newer must get an OBD-II reader e-check every year. Odd-numbered model years must test in odd-numbered years, while even-numbered model years must test on even years. For example, a 2016 car wouldn’t test in 2017, but 2018.
Oklahoma has no statewide emissions or safety inspection laws on the books as of writing this. However, if you wish to register an out of state vehicle in Oklahoma, you’ll need a VIN inspection prior to securing your Oklahoma registration.
Oregon currently has no statewide vehicle safety inspection, but what it does have is a VIN inspection for out of state/new cars prior to registering in the state. If you happen to register within the Portland Metro Area or the Medford-Ashland area, you’ll also have to undergo an emissions inspection.
For residents of the Portland Metro or Medford Ashland area, you’ll have to undergo an emissions inspection every 2 years.
For Portland Residents eligible vehicles are:
- All gas-powered, alternative fuel, and hybrid vehicles that are 1975 or newer.
- All diesel-powered vehicles that are 1975 or newer and weigh 8,500 pounds or less.
For Medford-Ashland vehicles:
- All gas-powered, alternative fuel, and hybrid vehicles that are 20 years old or newer.
- All diesel-powered vehicles 20 years old or newer and weigh 8,500 pounds or less.
Pennsylvania is one of the stricter states on this list. New Pennsylvania residents must have their vehicle undergo a safety inspection as well as an emissions inspection (if you’re located in a county that tests emissions) within 10 days of registration, followed by a VIN inspection within 20 days.
For residents, you’ll need to get an annual safety inspection as well as a VIN inspection. For those living in counties that test emissions, you’ll also have an additional wrinkle to contend with. To get a safety inspection, your vehicle must have an emissions test certificate that’s valid for at least the next 90 days before you’ll be able to get your safety inspection.
The safety inspection has a laundry list of checks, which your car will need to pass.
If your emissions inspection is due to expire within 90 days, you’ll need to renew it first before you can get a safety inspection.
25 out of 67 counties in Pennsylvania currently test for emissions. These counties are: Allegheny, Beaver, Washington, Westmoreland, Berks, Cumberland, Dauphin, Lancaster, Lebanon, Lehigh, Northampton, York, Blair, Cambria, Centre, Erie, Lackawanna, Luzerne, Lycoming, Mercer, Bucks, Chester, Delaware, Montgomery, and Philadelphia counties.
The standard for testing in these counties is for all gasoline-powered cars, vans, and trucks, if they are a model year of 1975 or newer and have a gross vehicle weight of up to 9,000 pounds. Your vehicle is exempt if it’s brand new, (less than 1 year old) and has been driven fewer than 5,000 miles prior to registration.
Rhode Island has a patchwork of inspection laws, so bear with me here.
All newly registered vehicles (with the exception of new vehicles) must pass a safety and emissions inspection within 5 days of registration. A new vehicle is defined as a vehicle that’s within 2 years of the date of purchase, or until the vehicle accumulates 24,000 miles, whichever comes first.
Afterwards, safety and emissions inspections are required every 2 years for cars and trucks with a gross vehicle weight of less than 8,500 pounds.
Heavy-duty trucks over 8,500 pounds must pass a safety inspection every 12 months.
Out of state vehicles must also pass a VIN check prior to being registered.
Up until 1995, South Carolina had a vehicle safety inspection law, which was terminated. Today, there are no safety, emissions, or VIN inspections in South Carolina.
South Dakota has no safety, emissions, or VIN inspections. Considering how rural the entire state is, this makes sense.
Tennessee doesn’t have any statewide safety or VIN inspection laws, but many of the counties in Tennessee do practice mandatory emissions testing.
If you live in: Davidson, Rutherford, Sumner, Williamson, or Wilson county, you’ll need to have an emissions test performed annually. Exceptions include vehicles older than 1974, new vehicles (first time registering for a title) and antique cars.
Texas requires an annual safety inspection to ensure compliance with their safety standards. Motorists living in 17 Texas counties are also required to have an emissions inspection annually.
New cars are good for 2 years, after which you’ll need to get regular inspections. Vehicles more than 25 years old, motorcycles, and diesel-powered vehicles are exempt from emissions testing.
The 17 counties that test for emissions are: Denton, Collin, Tarrant, Dallas, Parker, Rockwall, Kaufman, Johnson, Ellison, El Paso, Williamson, Travis, Ft Bend, Brazoria, Harris, Montgomery, and Galveston counties.
Utah has a patchwork of inspections laws starting with new registrants. A VIN inspection is required prior to registering an out of state vehicle in Utah for the first time. However, a safety inspection is no longer required prior to first-time registration or renewing your registration as of 2018 as long as your vehicle is not a salvage vehicle, a street-legal ATV, or a commercial vehicle.
Emissions tests are required for vehicles in Davis, Salt Lake, Utah, and Weber counties. If your car’s model year is less than 6 years old, you’re required to have an emission test every 2 years.
Vehicles in this category are to be tested according to their model year. Odd number model years must be tested on odd calendar years, while even number model years must be tested on even calendar years.
Vermont has a long history of vehicle inspections, dating back to 1935 when the first safety inspection laws came into force. An annual safety inspection is required once a year, while new Vermont vehicles must be inspected within 15 days of registration. This check covers everything from body panels to brakes and windshields. You are also required to have a VIN inspection if registering a new, out of state vehicle in Vermont.
Vermont also performs emissions inspections, which take place at the same time as your safety inspection. These are conducted with a visual inspection of your Catalytic converter and an OBD-II reader for all vehicles 16 years old or newer.
Virginia law requires that vehicles are submitted for an annual safety inspection, with the exception of new vehicles that have been manufacturer inspected, which are exempt for the first year after purchase.
Antique vehicles that are older than 25 years are also exempt from state inspection, but these cannot be used for general transportation purposes.
Virginia does not have statewide emissions inspections, but it does conduct inspections in the following counties: Arlington, Fairfax, Loudoun, Prince William, and Stafford Counties.
The following cities also test: Alexandria, Fairfax, Falls Church, Manassas, and Manassas Park.
Virginia law exempts vehicles manufactured for vehicles that are 4 years old or newer, unless that vehicle is originally from another state and it was inspected there previously. Some hybrid vehicles are also exempt, and you can find more information here.
Washington is preparing to remove it’s vehicle emissions inspection law, starting December 31st 2019 based on increasing improvement in vehicle technology and air quality in Washington State. Vehicles that have expiring inspections in 2019 will require one last inspection.
There is no statewide safety inspection law, but there are VIN inspections for out of state vehicles as well as rebuilt titled vehicles.
West Virginia requires a routine safety inspection every 12 months. New residents have 10 days from the date when you title your vehicle to get a safety inspection.
West Virginia allows former residents of: Louisiana, Mississippi, Missouri, New Hampshire, New York, Oklahoma, Texas, Utah, and Wyoming to be valid in West Virginia until expiration.
There are no annual emissions inspections or VIN inspections.
Wisconsin has no statewide safety or VIN inspections. What it does have are emissions tests, which the Wisconsin Department of Transportation notifies car owners of when required. A test is required when license plates are renewed and when the car’s ownership changes.
Emissions tests are required in one of the seven southeastern Wisconsin counties of Kenosha, Milwaukee, Ozaukee, Racine, Sheboygan, Washington and Waukesha.
See here for more information.
Wyoming has no statewide safety or emissions inspection laws. What it does have is a 1 time VIN inspection for out of state vehicles being registered.
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While thankfully, most inspections here are inexpensive, the repairs that they identify can often be costly. Even worse, these are just repairs that you can ignore. Without doing them, it can become illegal to drive your car at the very worst or lead to financial penalties and tickets that can cost you hundreds of dollars.
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