States require car inspections to ensure each vehicle is in good condition for safe driving and does not cause any issues with the environment and air quality. The two main types of car inspections are safety inspections and emissions testing, and each state has its own requirements.

It is important to become familiar with the car inspection requirements for your state to make sure your car is properly certified to drive. The following is an overview of which states require car inspections.

What is a Car Inspection?

A car inspection is a process in which a vehicle is inspected to ensure it meets all safety and emission regulations. Every state has its own regulations about what is required to pass the inspection. Most notably, states require them to ensure safety, ensure proper emissions and to check the vehicle identification number(VIN).

A safety inspection typically checks for essential components of the vehicle to verify proper function, including the headlights, taillights, wheel alignment, steering, seatbelts, brakes and tires. Emissions testing essentially checks for pollutant emissions. A car may fail an emissions test due to faulty injectors, oxygen sensors or other parts related to emissions.

If a car fails inspection, then a report is typically provided that outlines the reasons it failed, and the owner can make the changes and schedule another car inspection.

What States Require Safety Inspections?

As it stands today, 19 states require safety inspections. The frequency in which each state requires the inspection varies, although most states who require it mandate it annually. The following are the 14 states that currently require annual safety inspections:

  • Hawaii
  • Illinois
  • Louisville
  • Maine
  • North Carolina
  • New York
  • New Hampshire
  • Massachusetts
  • Pennsylvania
  • Texas
  • Utah
  • Vermont
  • Virginia
  • West Virginia

There are 5 other states that require either biennial safety testing or have special requirements. These states include:

  • Delaware
  • Illinois
  • Nebraska
  • Mississippi
  • Rhode Island

Delaware, Rhode Island and Mississippi require safety inspections every two years. For drivers in Nebraska, only vehicles that come in from out of state require safety testing. Alabama requires safety inspections for all vehicles prior to sale or transfer of ownership.

What States Require Emissions Testing?

There are 9 states that require emissions testing in all areas, and there are 22 other states that require emissions testing in certain cities/parts of the state. The states that require emissions inspection either annually or biennial regardless of specific location include:

  • Arizona
  • California
  • Connecticut
  • Delaware
  • Massachusetts
  • Rhode Island
  • New York
  • New Jersey
  • New Hampshire

Among these states, only New Hampshire, New York and Massachusetts require annual emissions testing, and the other six only require testing every two years.

The other states that require emissions testing in certain areas include: Colorado, Georgia, Idaho, Illinois, Indiana, Louisiana, Maine, Maryland, Mississippi, Oregon, Ohio, North Carolina, New Mexico, Nevada, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, Vermont, Virginia, Washington and Wisconsin. Be sure to check your area regulations if you live in a state that requires testing in limited areas.

What States Do Not Require Car Inspections?

There are certain states that do not require either safety inspections or emissions testing. This is typically the case in states with lower populations where traffic incidents are of lower risk due to fewer drivers. In fact, many of these states have the highest air quality despite a lack of emissions testing. These states include:

  • Alaska
  • Arkansas
  • Iowa
  • Michigan
  • Minnesota
  • Mississippi
  • Montana
  • North Dakota
  • South Carolina
  • South Dakota

There are other states that do not require safety or emissions inspections, but they do require VIN inspections. These states include the following: Florida, Kansas, Kentucky, Oklahoma and Wyoming.

Oklahoma and Wyoming require VIN inspections only for out of state vehicles. Additionally, Minnesota requires car inspections for all commercial vehicles, and the state of Mississippi requires inspections only for vehicles with tinted windows. All other states on this list do not require any testing.

What About VIN Inspections?

There are 19 states that require some form of VIN inspections. These states include: California, Colorado, Florida, Indiana, Idaho, Illinois, Kansas, Kentucky, Maryland, Nebraska, Nevada, New Mexico, Oklahoma, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Vermont, Washington and Wyoming.

Illinois requires VIN inspections for all vehicles every two years, and Pennsylvania requires them annually. For the other states, be sure to check for specific requirements. Some only require VIN inspections upon transfer of ownership or for vehicles that come in from out of state.

VIN inspections are easy and inexpensive. All you will likely need is your vehicle and supporting documents such as a bill of sale or registration.

How Do I Make Sure My Vehicle Passes Inspection?

A failed car inspection is never a fun experience. It is best to do your own inspection beforehand to minimize the risk of failing the test, having to make repairs after the fact and going through the process of another inspection. There are certain things that you can check to give yourself the best chance to pass.

First and foremost, be sure to make all the recommended repairs. If your car’s “check engine” light is on due to an issue, then the car may not pass.  In some instances, it can be as easy as changing headlight bulbs, whereas other instances may require more extensive repairs. Additionally, if there are any severe issues with the brakes or alignment, it may also lead to a failed inspection.

If there is damage or wear to your car’s headlights – which is a common cause of a failed inspection – then be sure to replace them. You can find all you need at Headlights Depot. If the issue requires more detailed repairs, then consult with a mechanic for assistance on what all improvements are needed to pass inspection.

The Bottom Line

By knowing your state’s requirements for safety inspections, emissions testing and VIN inspections, you can avoid fines from driving a vehicle that is not properly certified. Perhaps more importantly, knowing the requirements and making your car is in good condition to pass inspection allows you to stay safe while on the road and ensure your car allows for good air quality within your community.

Aaron Westbury
Aaron is a content writer with a passion for cars. He enjoys learning new things and loves to share what he learns with others. Aaron also has a Bachelor's in English and years of experience as a writer, and he constantly seeks to improve and make his writing more informative and helpful for readers. Although a writer by day, Aaron enjoys his free time by getting outdoors and staying active anyway he can.

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    1 Comment

    1. This is a very helpful list!

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