Cars in the United States undergo periodic motor vehicle inspections. This is to ensure that they conform to safety and emissions regulations. But how much are car inspections?
A standard vehicle inspection cost ranges between $150 and $250. The actual cost varies depending on several factors. Some of these include which state you live in, the make and model of your car, and the facility you choose to undergo vehicle inspection.
Read on to learn more about the cost of car inspections in the United States.
How Much Are Car Inspections? [Average Cost]
Estimated Cost of a Standard Car Inspection
The estimated cost of a standard car inspection ranges between $150 and $250. The actual cost depends on several factors, such as the make and model of your car, which state you live in, and the facility you choose to undergo vehicle inspection.
Government-run Facilities and Certified Mechanics Conduct
There are government-run facilities that conduct vehicle testing and inspections. But there are also certified mechanics qualified to conduct testing and inspections at private shops. Both sites have their advantages and disadvantages.
Government-run Facilities Offer Lowest Cost of Car Inspections
Government-run facilities offer the lowest cost of car inspections. But the downside is that getting a schedule and the waiting times are such an inconvenience to deal with.
More Expensive Car Inspections At Private Facilities
On the other hand, car inspections at private facilities are way more convenient. But the cost is higher than the cost of government-run facilities.
Car Inspection Cost Per U.S. State
U.S. states require vehicle inspections to ensure that vehicles are in good condition and are safe to drive. Vehicles must not cause any issues related to air quality and the environment.
Two Types of Car Inspections in the United States
There are two types of car inspections in the United States. One is the safety inspection, and the other is the emissions testing. Each U.S. state has its requirements in terms of car inspections. You must be familiar with this to ensure that you are legally driving your car.
Below is more information about car inspections in each U.S. state, including their related costs:
1. California Car Inspection
Vehicle Requires Inspection Every Two Years
In California, they require vehicles to undergo inspection once every two years. Failure to do so has a corresponding fine and penalty.
The car inspection cost in a government-run facility ranges between $30 and $70. But it also depends on your vehicle’s size, make, and model. Car inspection at an accredited private shop is possible too. But it is more costly, ranging between $160 and $320.
In a safety inspection, your vehicle must pass the following categories:
- Carbon Emissions
- Fluid Levels
- Mechanical Integrity
- Any Potential Leaks
Carbon Emissions Inspection Is the Most Crucial of All
The carbon emissions inspection is probably the most crucial of all. Carbon emissions, or smog, can produce dangerous air quality levels.
This is why it is a severe concern in California’s major metropolitan areas. So, make sure that your vehicle will meet all carbon emissions requirements established by the California state law and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).
Provide You with a Certification That Is Valid for 90 Days
They will provide you with a certification bearing your vehicle’s results following the inspection. Then, the inspection site will forward an electronic report to the California Department of Motor Vehicles.
This certification is valid for 90 days, which means that you have to complete your vehicle registration renewal within that time frame.
2. California Car Safety Inspection Exemptions
For sure, California requires most vehicles to get an annual car inspection. Interestingly, some are exempted. They are as follows:
- New Vehicles
- Electric Vehicles
- Selected Diesel Powered Vehicles
- Car Transferring Registration
Let’s briefly talk about this:
1. New Vehicles
Vehicles bought from 2016 to the present do not have to undergo an emissions test. However, vehicle owners have to pay a smog abatement fee of $20 every year.
2. Electric Vehicles
Electric vehicles and motorcycles are two types of vehicles that do not have to undergo an emissions test.
3. Selected Diesel-powered Vehicles
Diesel-powered vehicles older than the 1997 models do not have to undergo emissions tests. Similarly, natural gas-powered vehicles with weight ratings below 14,000 lbs are exempted too.
4. Car Transferring Registration
If you’re transferring the registration of a vehicle, you may not be required to get an emissions test. But you must ensure that the vehicle is less than four years old and does not run on diesel.
3. Texas Car Inspection
All Vehicles Have to Get an Annual Inspection
All vehicles are subject to an annual inspection in Texas, including a comprehensive safety inspection. But aside from that, the government may require an emissions test for certain vehicles. The cost may range between $25 and $40. But then again, the actual cost also depends on several factors.
To give you an idea, a One-Year Safety Inspection may cost $7. The same fee applies for the Two-Year Inspection, which requires newer vehicles. For Commercial inspection, the fee is $40. While for trailer/motorcycle and moped, the fees are $7 and $0.25, respectively.
The Safety Emissions Test in Williamson, Travis, and El Paso Counties costs $18.50.
Meanwhile, in Dallas-Fort Worth (DFW) and Houston, this service costs $25.50. For Emissions-only Vehicles, the fee is $11.50 in Williamson, Travis, and El Paso Counties. At the same time, it is $18.50 in DFW and Houston.
Summary of the Texas Car Inspection Cost
|Two-Year Safety (new vehicles)
|Trailer / Motorcycle
|Safety Emissions (El Paso, Travis & Williamson Counties)
|Safety Emissions (Dallas-Fort Worth / Houston)
|Emissions-only vehicles (El Paso, Travis & Williamson counties)
|Emissions-only vehicles (Dallas-Fort Worth / Houston)
Texas Car Emissions Test
The counties in Texas that strictly require car emissions tests are the following:
- El Paso
- Fort Bend
Gasoline-powered vehicles are subject to emissions inspection between 2 and 24 years old.
But if you live in an emission county, an emissions inspection is a requirement, regardless of how old your vehicle is. Even if your vehicle is less than two years old or older than 24 years old, it will undergo a safety inspection.
Again, how much are car inspections? In New York, the average inspection cost is around $21. This varies depending on the size of your vehicle. The Department of Motor Vehicles sets this cost. Also, inspection stations must follow the Inspection Groups and Fee Chart.
4. Florida Car Inspection
More Lenient Car Inspection Laws Than Other States
Florida has more lenient car inspection laws than other U.S. states. Nonetheless, there are still laws that all vehicle owners need to comply with strictly.
In July 2000, Florida Governor Jed Bush eliminated the state’s requirement for emissions testing. He claimed that its capability to help reduce pollution in the state is very minimal.
Environmental organizations opposed this. But vehicle owners chose to agree with the new law since the long lines and wait times had been way too inconvenient for them.
Are You Required to Get a Vehicle Inspection in Florida?
There are, however, two situations wherein the state government requires a vehicle inspection. First, if the car is newly bought outside Florida. Second, if you bought a used vehicle in Florida.
While the car inspection laws in Florida are lenient, they nonetheless have to be strictly followed. If not, you will not be able to register and insure your vehicle.
The car inspection cost in Florida ranges between $30 and $100 for the emissions inspection alone. However, the actual cost also depends on where the inspection site is.
Offers a Program That Rewards Eco-friendly Vehicles
Florida’s vehicle inspection laws may be lenient, but the state offers a program that rewards eco-friendly vehicles.
Low Emissions Vehicles (LEVs) Drivers Have Access to the High Occupancy Vehicle (HOV) Lane
An example of this is the privilege given to Low Emissions Vehicles (LEVs) drivers. They have access to the High Occupancy Vehicle (HOV) lane regardless of the number of passengers in the vehicle. Even hybrid vehicles are eligible to participate in this program.
If you are interested in participating in this program, there is an annual fee of $5. A 2-year pass is also offered for $10. Once paid, you must stick a decal on your vehicle. This allows you to become eligible to pass through the HOV lane.
Despite having relaxed laws, every driver still has the responsibility to maintain an environmentally friendly vehicle. If your car produces excessive emissions, it is still against the law, and the police can apprehend you.
5. New York Car Inspection
If you are from New York, the car inspection cost will be about $21. But it can also be as low as $11 if you are not from the metro area. However, the actual cost depends on several factors, including:
- Size, and
- Vehicle’s weight.
Car Inspection Cost Varies Depending on the Type of Vehicle
Suffice to say that the inspection cost for a trailer, a heavy vehicle, and a motorcycle greatly differs. It is best to contact the accredited automotive repair shop nearest you to get the exact cost.
Involves Standard Checks to Ensure That Vehicles Work Optimally
In New York, a safety inspection involves standard checks to ensure that vehicles work optimally in terms of visibility and brake mechanisms. Some of the car parts checked during a safety inspection are the turn signals, mirrors, horns, headlights, and windshield wipers.
Window Tint Inspection
The window tints are also checked to ensure that they are within the approved range. Checking the shocks, steering, tire treads, emergency brakes, and brake pads also forms part of the safety inspection.
Emissions Test Is Part of the New York’s Inspection Program
Emissions testing has formed part of New York’s inspection program since 1990 by the Federal Clean Air Act. This ensures that harmful emissions coming from vehicles are only minimal. If your vehicle failed an emissions test, you’d most likely have a problem with renewing your car’s registration.
On-Board Diagnostic Generation II (OBDII) Inspection
Gasoline-powered vehicles manufactured from 1996 are subject to an On-Board Diagnostic Generation II (OBDII) inspection. Experts will check the Malfunction Indicator Lamp and review the Check Engine light to ensure that the vehicle’s in good working condition.
Inspection of Car Systems’ Parts
It will also be determined if all your car’s systems still form part of original manufacturing through emissions inspections, including:
- Thermostatic air cleaners,
- Fuel inlet restrictors,
- Evaporative emissions controls,
- Air injection systems,
- Positive crankcase ventilation systems,
- Exhaust gas recirculation valves, and
- Catalytic converters.
If you take care of your vehicle and don’t abuse its use, you will surely pass the OBDII test. You have to bring your vehicle to a car care shop as soon as the Check Engine Light comes on. Experts will diagnose your car’s issues and conduct appropriate repairs.
6. Pennsylvania Car Inspection
Ensures That the State Meets Regional Air Quality Goals
Your vehicle must undergo a safety inspection and pass an emissions test every year if you are from Pennsylvania. This program ensures that the state meets regional air quality goals.
Ensures Passenger Safety
At the same time, it also ensures passenger safety. For the authorities to identify you as a law-abiding resident, your vehicle should bear a sticker that says you have passed the necessary inspections.
In Pennsylvania, the car inspection fee ranges between $50 and $100. But similar to other states, the actual cost also depends on several factors. Some of which are the make and model of your vehicle and the type of inspection facility.
Typically, a government-run facility charges cheaper fees than private ones. It is best to contact the car inspection site nearest you to give you an idea of how much budget you should allot for it.
Ensures Good Working Condition of Car Components
A safety and emissions inspection ensures that the following are in good working condition:
- Exhaust & Muffler
- Steering and Suspension
- Tires and Wheels
- Auto Electrical and Lighting
- Fuel System
- Defrosters & Windshield Wipers
- Horn, Headlight, Signal lights & Hazard Lights
- Speedometer & Odometer
Address All Car Issues
If your vehicle fails the inspections, you must address all car issues before subjecting your vehicle to a re-inspection. Accredited inspection sites conduct re-inspection for free as long as the initial inspection was conducted there.
Required for Renewal of Vehicle Registration
When you register your vehicle for the first time with the Pennsylvania Department of Motor Vehicles, you must pass the safety and emissions inspection. At the same time, you have to pass a similar inspection every year to renew your vehicle registration successfully.
7. Illinois Car Inspection
Mandatory and Free of Charge
Car inspection in Illinois is mandatory and, interestingly, free of charge. If you subject your vehicle to a voluntary smog check, this costs about $20.
Vehicle Inspection Requirements in Illinois Vary from One County to Another
Vehicle inspection requirements in Illinois vary from one county to another. There are places where On-Board Diagnostic (OBD) tests are required every two years.
Typically, this is for vehicles manufactured from 1996 to the present. With such inspection in place, it ensures that vehicles in Illinois comply with federal emissions standards.
Counties That Require OBD Tests
The counties required for OBD tests include:
- St. Clair,
- McHenry, and
The Illinois Air Team Vehicle Emissions Testing Program maintains a webpage where you can check if your vehicle’s due for an emissions inspection.
Frequently Asked Questions – Are There Car Inspections in the United States?
Here are several Frequently Asked Questions about car inspections in the United States:
Is There a Car Inspection in the USA?
There are vehicle safety inspections and emissions inspections in the United States. However, they are governed separately by each state.
What Is a US Car Inspection?
A car inspection in the U.S. is where vehicles are inspected to comply with safety and emissions regulations. While the U.S. maintains a general law about safety and emissions, each state has specific regulations.
How Much Does a Car Inspection Cost in California?
The cost of a car inspection in California ranges between $30 and $70 if it is conducted in a government-run facility. If done in an accredited private shop, the cost may range between $160 and $320.
How Much Is a Texas 2020 Inspection?
For a safety-only inspection, you have to pay at the station $7, and the registration cost is about $7.50. So, the cost is approximately $14.50, not considering other charges. Vehicles manufactured from 1995 to the present must undergo a safety inspection.
How Long Does a Car Inspection Take?
Ideally, a car inspection should take about 30 to 40 minutes. There are, however, other factors that make the duration longer. For instance, filling up forms may take you an extra 10 minutes.
But you have to wait for your queue, which might take about an hour. Another thing is if the mechanic finds an issue in your vehicle. It might take some time to identify the exact problem.
In Closing: Car Inspection Cost
To sum it up, the estimated cost of a standard car inspection ranges between $150 and $250. The actual cost depends on several factors, such as the make and model of your car, which state you live in, and the facility you choose to undergo vehicle inspection.
Vehicle testing and inspections are generally conducted at government-run facilities. But there are also certified mechanics qualified to conduct testing and inspections at private shops. Both sites have their advantages and disadvantages.
Government-run facilities offer the lowest cost of car inspections. In fact, in some states like Illinois, it is even offered for free. However, the downside is that getting a schedule and the wait times are inconvenient to deal with.
On the other hand, car inspections at private facilities are way more convenient. But the cost is higher compared to the cost of government-run facilities.
Whichever inspection site you choose, the bottom line is your vehicle has to undergo a car inspection whether you like it or not. It’s not only about complying with the requirements for vehicle registration. But it’s also all about caring for the environment and human life.