How Long Am I Going To Be Waiting For My Car Inspection?

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The government expects two things of you and your car: money and safety. A state car inspection covers both items in one fell swoop, but not all states require them, so what’s up?

The value of car inspections is debated among enthusiasts and casuals alike. It’s easy to understand why emissions must be checked, but some people believe the inspections are just another way for the government to take your cash. We hate giving any more money to the government, but if we have to pay $40 for the peace of mind that the cars around us are slightly safer and pollute less, we’re all for it.

Because a vehicle inspection is typically required for registration, it’s crucial to have your car in good shape when you take it in. The editors at Car Bibles have gone through dozens of inspections, and we want to make sure yours goes as smoothly as possible, and as quickly. Heed this advice for a breezy inspection.

What Is a Car Inspection, and Why Does My State Require One?

A car inspection is a state-mandated checkup that allows a government to hold its participating citizens to specific safety and emissions standards. It is often part of the registration process, and it is not always required every year for every car.

Each state makes up its own rules regarding car inspection, and not all states require them. We know, we know, state governments are weird.

Which Cars Need Inspections?

Each state has different requirements, so you’ll need to check with your local government to determine if your car needs to be inspected. Different classes and ages of vehicles require different things. You can find those requirements through your state’s DMV.

How Much Do Car Inspections Cost?

A majority of inspections will cost roughly $15-50, but it could be more or less depending on the state.

What Do I Need To Bring To a Car Inspection?

Each state will vary, so be sure to check your state’s laws before making the trip. In general, you should bring:

  • The vehicle that needs inspection (duh)
  • Your car’s registration
  • Your car’s proof of insurance
  • Driver’s license
  • Payment

What Is Included In a Car Inspection?

Your state’s car inspection will likely include some of, if not all, the following checks.

  • Tires
  • Fluids
  • Fluid lines
  • Seatbelts
  • Air intake filter
  • Cabin air filter
  • Wheel assembly
  • Windshield
  • Windshield wipers
  • Windshield wiper blades
  • Defroster
  • Headlights
  • High beams
  • Taillights
  • Brake lights
  • Turn signals
  • Hazard lights
  • Fog lights
  • License plate light
  • Window tint
  • Horn
  • Parking brake
  • Door handles
  • Mirrors
  • Suspension, including shocks, springs, bushings, joints, bearings, pins, and rods
  • Body rust
  • Floorboards
  • Frame condition
  • Engine mounts
  • Fuel system
  • Air bags
  • Brakes
  • Steering
  • Gas cap
  • OBDII

Common Reasons for Failed Inspections

How Long Does a Car Inspection Take?

The time taken to inspect a car will vary depending on the state, the shop, and the technician, but as a general rule, block out at least 30 minutes to 2 hours of your day for an inspection.

How To Prepare For Your Car Inspection

A car inspection is one test you can cheat on. We just gave you the list of inspection items, so now you know what could potentially fail your vehicle. Use this as a checklist, and go through a total inspection at home. Fix anything that needs upgrades, and then take it to the shop.

The Car Bibles Car Inspection Glossary

Welcome to Bible School!

Emissions

Car emissions are the exhaust gases produced during the process of an engine’s internal combustion cycle and are run through, and spit out of, a vehicle’s exhaust system. Car emissions are considered to be a primary threat to the planet and a major driving force of climate change, which is why manufacturers are switching to electric vehicles that do not emit anything (at least, directly from the vehicle).

OBDII

OBDII stands for onboard diagnostics, and it is in reference to a car’s built-in program that detects and flags various problems or irregularities found in one of the vehicle’s numerous systems. These problems manifest in the form of a warning light that tells the owner or driver to check the vehicle with an OBD2 reader that plugs directly into a port inside the car.

VIN

VIN stands for Vehicle Identification Number. Every car has a unique VIN for identification and record-keeping purposes, and the VIN is always checked at vehicle inspections.

The Car Bibles Questionnaire

Your questions, our answers.

Q: What Happens When You Fail a State Car Inspection?

A: In most places, the shop will give you a detailed run-down of why your car failed. You then have roughly 2-3 weeks, depending on the state, to return to the test site and have your car retested. If it fails again, you might have to pay another fee, but again, it depends on the place.

Q: Where Are State Inspections Done?

A: Depending on the location, state inspections will be completed at government buildings specifically designated for these types of inspections, or they will be completed at private garages that are certified to do the job. A quick search should bring up a number of options in your area.

Q: Can I Drop My Car Off For a State Inspection?

A: Not really. You’ll usually be waiting in line, slowly moving your car through that line, then staying near or next to the car while it gets inspected. It usually doesn’t take long enough to leave anyway.

The Video Tutorial

The Products To Get

The only way to pass vehicle inspection is to make sure everything is in good working condition before you go. Use tools such as an OBD2 scanner, a tire pressure gauge, a tire tread gauge, and a flashlight to look over your own car.

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Tony Markovich
Tony Markovich

Tony has a thing for pop-up headlights. His first car was a $3,000 1996 Saturn SC2 Coupe, and his current project is a 1970 Opel GT junker. When he's not daydreaming about the Cadillac Sixteen, he's watching the Chicago Bulls go undefeated on TNT. Contact the author here.