Vehicle inspections are mandatory in most states. It’s necessary to ensure vehicles on the road are up to standard. But this adds to the cost of owning a car, and understandably, it burdens some people. So, what states do not require vehicle inspections?
We’ll list those states in this post, along with the details on what kind of inspections are necessary. Some require safety inspections, some require emissions testing, and others require both. Here’s all you need to know:
What States Do Not Require Vehicle Inspections: What’s An Inspection For?
In case you’re not familiar with vehicle inspections, let’s discuss it first so you know what it’s for and what the process entails. Of course, if you’re already familiar, you can skip to the list.
We’ll mention the states that require inspections for commercial vehicles, but we’ll focus on personal vehicles in this post. Anyway, there are three types of vehicle inspections in the United States: safety, emissions, and VIN verification.
A safety inspection, as the name suggests, checks the car’s roadworthiness in terms of its safety. The things they check and guidelines often vary by state, but in general, they check the condition of multiple safety devices in a car according to the standards of the Department of Transportation (DOT).
This includes the conditions of things like seatbelts, brakes, tires, windshield wipers, and fuel system conditions amongst others. Some states, such as Louisiana, have a more comprehensive checklist including speedometer, bumpers, hood latch, and even the suspension components.
The test is usually done at auto repair shops that are certified by the DMV. A lot of national chains can do this, most notably Jiffy Lube and Firestone Auto Care. Some local-owned repair shops may also be able to do this. If you’re due for one, you can check your state’s DMV website to learn where you can do an inspection.
Afterward, you’ll get a Vehicle Inspection Report or VIR signed by the inspector. Make sure that you don’t lose it as you will need to provide it when you’re renewing your car’s registration. Some states will also issue an inspection sticker that you will need to put on your windshield. New York, for example, is infamous for ticketing drivers without this sticker.
Final note, motorcycles also need to undergo safety inspections in some states. They will usually check for cracks in the frame, loose footpegs, fluid leaks, brake conditions, and the handlebar amongst others.
As the name suggests, emissions testing will inspect the emissions your car produces. As you know, cars produce pollutants and harmful gases, such as carbon dioxide (CO2) and nitrous oxide (NOx).
Of course, we try to keep these to a minimum to limit our cars’ damage to the environment best as we can. That’s why carmakers need to fit their cars with emissions control devices, and why many states require a test to ensure those devices are still working well and meeting the standards. The process typically entails one of three tests:
- On-Board Diagnostic (OBD) test. Cars after 1996 have a universal OBD-2 system that can register trouble codes when a component isn’t working right. This will let the inspector know if any of the emissions control devices are faulty (to learn more, head over to our explainer on do all cars have a catalytic converter).
- Acceleration Simulation Mode (ASM) test. This measures the emissions that your car produces by running it on a dyno and attaching a sensor to the tailpipe.
- Two-Speed Idle (TSI) test. This test measures the emissions while the engine is idling and revving the engine.
The ASM and TSI test is usually reserved for older cars without the OBD-2 system. The OBD-2 system is generally reliable and accurate, and as long as it passes that test, then the car can be considered to have met emissions standards.
As for the emissions level that is acceptable, this depends on the vehicle model year. The standard varies depending on the model year as it has changed over time. And since there’s no federal standard, the testing procedure often varies by state.
Much like the safety inspection, you can emissions test at a certified auto repair shop. National chains like Jiffy Lube can also perform the test. Best to call ahead before you visit a branch.
What States Do Not Require Vehicle Inspections: VIN Inspection
The Vehicle Identification Number or VIN is a unique 17-digit alphanumeric code that contains information about the car. Such as the make, model, production year, and even the factory location. Think of it as a birth certificate for your car.
As you’ll learn later on, some states won’t require safety or emissions testing, but will still require a VIN check. But it’s usually only done when you first register the car in the state.
Anyway, VIN is necessary to keep track of every car and helps to ensure that registration is neatly organized. A VIN inspection is usually necessary when registering an out-of-state vehicle. For example, if you live in Indiana but want to buy and bring a car from Florida, you’re going to need to do a VIN inspection to register the car in Indiana.
A VIN inspection has to be done by the DMV. Although car dealers can do it as well if you’re buying the car from them. In any case, best make an appointment first so you don’t waste time waiting in line. But it’s quick and easy, and you have nothing to worry about as long as you’re the rightful owner of the car.
Anyway, this process is necessary so that the DMV can crosscheck with police reports of stolen vehicles. The VIN also has benefits for you; you can search a car or motorcycle’s VIN (vehicle identification number) before buying them and look at the reports.
You typically need to pay for the reports. But it’ll allow you to see whether the vehicle has been in an accident or not and how many owners it had in the past along with other information. It will help you to make an informed decision before deciding to buy the vehicle.
Vehicles Exempt From Emissions Testing
Safety inspections are mostly non-negotiable, but there are exemptions for emissions testing. Again, this varies by state. But hybrid cars and cars more than 25 years old are often exempt from testing.
Additionally, you can get a repair waiver if you meet the following criteria:
- Fail a baseline emissions test.
- Spend $300 on repairs related to the reason why the vehicle failed.
- Fail a second test after the repairs.
As an example, let’s say you have a car with an OBD-2 system and you fail the test due to a faulty EGR valve. You then spend $350 on repairs but then your car still fails to pass the test. This means you are eligible for a waiver. Check the Air Quality Board website for more information about waivers.
What States Do Not Require Vehicle Inspections?
Here are the states that don’t require a vehicle inspection. Note that this is accurate at the time of writing, and we’ll mention details regarding commercial vehicles:
- Iowa doesn’t require vehicle inspection except for salvaged cars and commercial trucks.
- Michigan doesn’t require vehicle inspection at all.
- Minnesota only inspects commercial vehicles annually.
- Mississippi only inspects commercial vehicles annually.
- North Dakota.
- South Carolina doesn’t require inspections but applies property tax to vehicles.
- South Dakota.
So, those states do not require a vehicle inspection. Not even a VIN checkup upon registering your vehicle there. Except for commercial vehicles in certain states. Anyway, if you find the cost to do an inspection a burden, then you can avoid it by living or registering your car in those states.
States Requiring Both Safety & Emissions Inspection
Here’s a list of states requiring both safety and emissions inspections:
- Connecticut requires a biennial emissions test. Safety inspections are only mandatory for commercial vehicles.
- Delaware requires biennial safety and emissions tests, but cars less than five years old are exempt.
- Illinois requires both inspections every two years in certain zip codes.
- Louisiana requires annual safety and emissions tests.
- Maine requires both annually.
- Maryland requires a safety inspection before ownership transfer, and emissions are mandatory every two years in 13 counties
- Massachusetts requires annual safety and emissions inspections.
- Missouri requires a biennial safety inspection except for cars less than 5 years old. And the biennial emissions test is mandatory only in certain counties.
- New Hampshire requires annual safety and emissions tests.
- New York requires annual safety and emissions tests.
- North Carolina requires annual safety and emissions tests.
- Pennsylvania requires annual inspection but emissions only apply in 25 counties.
- Rhode Island requires biennial safety and emissions tests.
- Texas requires an annual emissions test in 17 counties. A safety inspection is also required annually and applies to all areas.
- Utah requires a safety inspection when a vehicle reaches four, eight, and ten years old. Afterward, it’s required annually. Meanwhile, the emissions test is biennial until the vehicle is six years old, afterward, it needs an emissions test annually.
- Vermont requires annual safety and emissions tests.
- Virginia requires safety inspection annually and a biennial emissions test. If you register your car while you still have a valid inspection sticker from another state, you’re exempt from the inspection.
Since there’s no federal guideline in safety and inspection tests, the requirements—and often the testing method—often vary by state. This list is meant to make you aware of the requirements in your state. For more details, we recommend asking your local DMV.
States Requiring Only Safety Inspection
If you live in these states, then you only need to worry about the safety inspections:
- Alabama only requires a safety inspection when there’s a transfer of ownership.
- Hawaii requires an annual safety inspection. But brand new cars are exempt for two years.
- Nebraska requires a safety inspection only when registering an out-of-state vehicle.
- West Virginia requires an annual safety inspection.
Note that the inspection methods vary by state. Some states, such as Hawaii, have a more comprehensive inspection. The components they check include the fuel system, seat belts, and doors among others.
States Requiring Only Emissions Test
These states require emissions testing but don’t require a safety inspection:
- Arizona requires an emissions test every two years only in Phoenix and Tucson.
- California requires a biennial emissions test in certain areas. Hybrid, electric vehicles, motorcycles, diesel vehicles before 1997, and vehicles from before 1975 are all exempt.
- Colorado requires an emissions test every two years for vehicles in Boulder, Denver, Broomfield, Douglas, and Jefferson.
- Georgia requires an annual emissions test in Atlanta. Cars less than three years and older than 25 years old are exempt.
- Idaho requires biennial emissions tests in Ada and Canyon counties.
- Indiana requires biennial emissions tests in Lake and Porter county
- Nevada requires annual emissions tests in Las Vegas and Reno. Vehicles from before 1968, motorcycles, hybrids less than five years old, and new cars within two model years are exempt.
- New Jersey requires a biennial emissions test except for cars within the first five model years.
- New Mexico requires a biennial emissions test only in Bernalillo county.
- Ohio requires emissions tests based on even or odd model years and only in Cleveland. Cars less than four years old and vehicles over 25 years old are exempt.
- Oregon requires biennial emissions tests in Portland and Medford. Cars from before 1975 are exempt.
- Tennessee requires an annual emissions test in certain counties.
- Washington requires emissions testing in Clark, King, Pierce, Spokane, and Snohomish counties. The interval varies depending on the model number.
- Wisconsin requires biennial tests in Milwaukee, Ozaukee, Kenosha, Racine, Sheboygan, Waukesha, and Washington.
Again, the lack of a federal guideline on safety causes the interval and details on testing to vary by state. Check with your local DMV for the full details.
States Requiring VIN Check
Most states only require a VIN check when you’re registering an out-of-state vehicle, with Illinois, Pennsylvania, and Washington being the exception. Here’s more detail about them and the list states requiring a VIN check:
- Illinois checks the VIN biennially along with the emissions testing.
- New Mexico.
- Pennsylvania checks the VIN annually during the annual safety inspection.
- Rhode Island.
- Washington requires a VIN check if it’s a rebuilt vehicle or registering an out-of-state vehicle.
You’ll notice some states overlap with our previous lists. The states marked in bold are states that also require safety or emissions inspection or both. VIN checks are fairly simple and more straightforward, but they can’t be done at a shop and you’ll have to make an appointment at the DMV.
What States Do Not Require Vehicle Inspections: Costs
If you live or your car is registered in a state where inspection is mandatory, you’re probably wondering about the costs. Since testing methods vary by state, the cost also varies.
Most authorized shops and certified stations will charge between $30 to $100 for an inspection and the sticker. But it’s likely more for commercial vehicles, especially ones that exceed a Gross Vehicle Weight Rating (GVWR) of 10,000lbs.
It’s best to ask your local DMV about the inspections necessary and where to do those inspections. If they tell you to do it at a certified shop, call ahead to the shop so you can prepare the fee.
What States Do Not Require Vehicle Inspections: Tips To Pass
If your vehicle doesn’t pass the first time, then you’re going to have to fix whatever the problem was and then get a re-inspection. This means you’ll have to pay the inspection fee again. So, best to keep your car in good shape and pass the inspection the first time. Here are our tips:
- Keep up with general maintenance. Regular oil and spark plug changes will help to keep your engine and its emissions control devices remain in good shape.
- Check your tire tread depth. You can use a tread depth gauge, and if the tread is less than 2/32 inches then the inspector won’t pass the car, best replace the tires first.
- Ensure various “safety” devices work, such as the bulbs for the headlights and turn signals, the horn, and your wipers work.
- If you have a check engine light on, address the issue first otherwise it won’t pass the inspection.
- Listen for weird and loud exhaust noises. This indicates a leak in the exhaust system, and you won’t pass emissions testing.
Again, the components they check vary by state. Some states only check the essentials, others have a more comprehensive test. We recommend researching what your state checks during an inspection, and making sure those components are in good shape.
This ensures that you pass the inspection the first time, and you won’t have to get a re-inspection. Some states allow you to get a free re-inspection within 60 days, but after that, you’re going to have to pay the fees again. Sure, it doesn’t cost that much, but wouldn’t you prefer to spend that money on something else?
Facts: What States Still Require Car Inspection
- Car inspections are required by states to ensure the vehicle is safe for driving and does not harm the environment.
- Safety inspections check for essential components, while emissions testing verifies pollutant emissions.
- Every state has its own regulations for what is required to pass inspection, with most requiring annual safety inspections.
- 19 states require safety inspections, including 14 states that mandate annual inspections and 5 other states with biennial testing or special requirements.
- 9 states require emissions testing in all areas, and 22 others require it in certain cities/parts of the state.
- Among these states, only 3 require annual emissions testing, and the other 6 require testing every two years.
- Some states do not require safety or emissions inspections, but they do require VIN inspections.
- 19 states require some form of VIN inspection, which is easy and inexpensive.
- To avoid a failed inspection, make sure to make all recommended repairs, such as replacing damaged headlights, and consult with a mechanic if needed.
- By following state inspection requirements and ensuring your vehicle is in good condition, you can stay safe on the road and contribute to good air quality in your community.
What States Do Not Require Vehicle Inspections: FAQs
If you have any more questions about vehicle inspections, these answers might be helpful:
How Much Is An Inspection For A Car
Most certified stations and shops charge around $35 to $100 for an inspection. This includes the cost of the inspection sticker (if the state requires it) but not the re-registration cost. Additionally, large commercial vehicles are likely to cost more.
What Is An Emissions Test
An emissions test inspects the emissions that your car produces. Some states only check the OBD-2 system for trouble codes to ensure that all emissions control devices, such as the catalytic converter and the EVAP, are working well. However, others will perform a test by running the car on a dynamometer and measuring the emissions coming out of the tailpipe. The standards vary by state and the car’s make and model.
Where To Get Car Inspected
Many auto repair shops are certified to do a safety and emissions inspection, including some national chains such as Jiffy Lube and Firestone Auto Care. If there’s a branch near you, call ahead and see if they can perform an inspection for you.
Where To Get Inspection Sticker
This depends on what state you live in, some states will provide the sticker at the DMV. Others will have the county tax office issue it such as in Texas. Check with your local DMV for more information.
How Long Does An Emissions Test Take
An emissions test takes around 15 to 30 minutes. It’s best to do the test during the middle of the month at the middle of the week, or on Saturday afternoons. Wait times are typically the shortest during these times.
How To Pass Emissions Test
Ensure that you don’t have a check engine light on and the engine isn’t misfiring. Even small faults that aren’t directly connected to the car’s emissions control devices can affect its emissions output and fail the test. To increase your chances, warm up your car before taking the test and use new fuel in the tank. Final note, the most important device is the catalytic converter. Ensure that there are no leaks on it or any other part of the exhaust system.
What Year Vehicle Needs Emission Test
The requirement varies by state. But most states will require cars between 5 to 25 years old to do an emissions test every 1-2 years. Along with brand new and classic cars, hybrids and motorcycles are often exempt from testing. You should contact your local DMV office to get more information.
What States Do Not Require Vehicle Inspections: In Conclusion…
So, there are currently only 10 states that do not require vehicle inspections. Not even upon registering a car in the state. This includes Alaska, Arkansas, Iowa, Michigan, Minnesota, Mississippi, Montana, North Dakota, South Carolina, and South Dakota.
Note that some states such as Iowa, Minnesota, and Mississippi still require an annual inspection for commercial vehicles. Something to note if you run a business or are an owner-operator trucker. Additionally, South Carolina applies property tax to vehicles.
If you find inspections to be a burden, you can consider moving to those states or registering your car there if it’s feasible. We think these inspections are necessary, but modern cars are so reliable that doing it annually or even once every two years does seem a bit much.
In any case, we hope this has been helpful for you. We can’t list the details for each state as it will take too long, but now you know what inspections are necessary for your state and when to do them. Again, check with your local DMV office for more details.